Friday, 10 June 2011

Is Stonewall Institutionally Transphobic?

Organisations can be institutionally racist, sex discriminatory, homophobic by their very structures and procedures. This is when the way it functions in terms of its structures or systems acts against the interests of one particular group.

I am currently trying to see if I can get Ofsted to change its standards for assessing teacher training providers because I believe they are institutionally racist. This is not to suggest for one moment that Ofsted intends to discriminate against black people or Asians who want to become teachers but that the unintended consequence of the way it functions can cause teacher training providers to be less likely to choose black or Asians students to come on their courses. Black and Asian teacher trainees are more likely to need to take time off from the course for family reasons, either having family responsibilities or relatives abroad. Yet Ofsted penalises teacher training providers if too many students interrupt their courses. If this continues teacher training providers will become less likely to admit black and Asian students onto their courses, and the teaching profession will remain dominated by white teachers.

This is not what Ofsted intends but it is the unintended outcome of one of Ofsted’s systems.

The unintended outcome resulting from structures or systems within an organisation is what causes most institutional racism, homophobia, sex discrimination etc. It now appears that the unintended consequence of Stonewall’s activities is transphobic. Stonewall may well be institutionally transphobic.

The problem comes as a result of its activities as a provider of diversity training for teachers. It provides training for teachers and other education professionals in diversity issues about Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual (LGB) people. So far so good, but most people these days don’t talk about LGB people, they talk about LGBT people, so when Stonewall sends its trainers to train teachers, despite the fact that nothing is said about trans children, the senior managers of the school are very likely to tick the “done LGBT equality” box, some may even consider that T has been covered.

But this is not all. Stonewall’s conference this year is a huge event entitled, without a hint of irony, "Education for All" and has attracted some big names including Gok Wan, Sue Gregory, one of the heads of Ofsted, and the hideous Nick Gibb, the Schools Minister. The event is being held in the sumptuous surroundings of the British Library.

This highlights the problems with the way funding and such like, from charities and other sources finds its way to Stonewall but not to other groups which are inclusive of trans people. As a result, whilst Stonewall can attract big name individuals and hold conferences which people who have power over schools will attend, trans organisations have neither the funding nor the visibility to do this.

Now Stonewall will obviously counter that they are simply campaigning for their people and are not involving themselves in trans issues. They probably do not wish to involve themselves in trans issues. The problem is that in both these examples, their activities result in problems for trans people, in that issues of transphobia in schools are not included in training for teachers and that issues of transphobia are not raised with people like Nick Gibb and Ofsted who have an increasing amount of power in the increasingly centralised education system. This may not be Stonewall’s intention but it is the outcome of Stonewall’s actions. It is institutional transphobia.

So what could Stonewall do about this? It is clear that for an organisation which promotes diversity to be institutionally transphobic is a serious blow for their credibility, as such they need to find ways of ensuring that trans people are not specifically disadvantaged by their actions.

Firstly, Stonewall could agree to permit a percentage of its funding, from those donors who do not object, to be channelled to trans organisations. Or it could ask those donor organisations to donate, say 5% of what they donate to Stonewall, to trans organisations. This would enable trans people to set up education conferences and attract top names like Stonewall does as well as start to build up an element of visibility and acceptance in the way Stonewall has done.

Secondly they could make it clear, as part of their diversity training to teachers, that they do not cover issues of discrimination of trans children and to provide schools with contact details of organisations which can.

I know Stonewall is an organisation which does not include trans people but that does not mean that they are absolved of all responsibilities for trans people. The BNP is an organisation, which acts against the interests of black people yet it was forced to alter the way it does things to avoid being institutionally racist. The fact that Stonewall’s actions, indirectly but concretely, are discriminatory against trans people in general and trans children in particular, means that it is time they took steps to rectify this.


  1. I don't believe it's unintentional. Stonewall have an agenda and they've set it against the trans community by sucking almost all funding out of the area whilst huge numbers of people continue to associate LGB with T, the issue of abuse in education based on gender presentation as being a dual LGB + T thing, and so on. I think it's cynical, I'm pretty sure the history agrees. Not that it really matters whether it's cynical or not, the way they behave is the real issue. To which end (and given recent debates around the subject of "-phobia" as a term) maybe there's some milage to be gained in stepping away from terms describing personal prejudices, and towards dealing with systems which create disadvantage generally (which exist with or without explicit prejudice quite often, and are more involved than just one person's opinion).

  2. Quite ironic, considering how many of the actual individuals who rioted at the Stonewall inn were young trans people of color.

  3. Stonewall in Scotland actually has a T in its description and is meant to be LGB+T, however when I asked Stonewall if they could supply me with the name and office of the Equality & Diversity Manager (or equivalent) at the Prudential, who i was in dispute of their deliberate policy of misgendering me, I was told, we don't give out that kind of information about "our clients". The Prudential are listed in Stonewalls Gay friendly Employer guide. Clearly they worry more about pissing off their sources of funding than supporting the people the claim to my impression is that Stonewall is now a soulless big business organisation who knows if they are changing hearts and minds, they are all about fancy expensive receptions in capital cities. Maybe when the are there with there snout in the trough they change the hearts and minds of the other piggies. Perhaps that is pragmatism, but the Prudential still refuse to recognise my gender unlike the UK passport office

  4. Interesting blog, Natacha, and I'm afraid you are all too correct in your conclusion.

  5. It's deliberate. I'm in Australia, I have no stake in the issue. But it's deliberate, and obviously deliberate. Why that is, I'm not sure.

    At least they don't *pretend* to be trans-inclusive, they're all-GL(b), all the time.

  6. @IR: Yes, my thoughts exactly.