“Fit” comes under further criticism

Events have moved pretty rapidly since I wrote my previous entry about an inappropriate scene within a DVD produced and distributed by Stonewall.

Natacha Kennedy wrote an article on the Guardian website for Comment is Free, in which she addresses many of the recent missteps from Stonewall.

Interestingly, a user under the name of “Stonewall UK” responded to her article in the comment section, stating the following:

Just to clear up a few inaccuracies in this article:

1) Stonewall categorically does not oppose same-sex marriage. We’re currently analysing the results of a consultation with thousands of our supporters on our priorities, which we’ll be reporting back on. These include tackling homophobic bullying in schools, ensuring gay asylum seekers get fair case hearings, and whether the term ‘civil partnership’ should be changed to the word ‘marriage.’ Civil partnerships offer exactly the same rights and responsibilities as marriage – including the right to have a ceremony in a place of worship (Stonewall lobbied for this in the Equality Act 2010). We recognise there are a range of issues on this subject and we’ll be reporting back on our supporter survey soon.

2) It is untrue to say Stonewall does not allow trans people to join. JessicaReed is right to ask – trans people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual are – of course – represented by Stonewall. Anyone can join Stonewall. As a charity it is our objective to represent lesbian, gay and bisexual people. When we were set up in 1989, there were discussions around whether Stonewall should also represent trans people, and it was decided that, for lobbying purposes, the two issues were separate. In England and Wales, there are very effective trans lobbying and campaigning organisations – including Press for Change and The Gender Trust to name but two – who represent trans people and who Stonewall keeps dialogue open with.
In Scotland, Stonewall represents LGBT people because historically there were gaps in provision for trans people when it was set up. There are of course now several organisations campaigning on these issues in Scotland, which we feel is important in progress towards full equality.

3) FIT, Stonewall’s anti-homophobia film for schools, has in fact already been sent to every school in Britain (in February this year). This is public knowledge. It’s also public knowledge that this is an anti-homophobic bullying resource, fitting in with Stonewall’s charitable objectives to tackle homophobia and campaign towards equality for lesbian, gay and bisexual people. We, of course, support equality for trans people and we beleive the trans campaigning organisations are doing very effective work on this, which we fully endorse.

A pretty damn good response to this can be found here on the Why The Silence blog.

I find it pretty telling that in point three, Stonewall don’t even really address the criticisms made by Natacha.  Yes, the DVD has been out for some time (given the issues with it, that’s not necessarily a good thing), and yes, it’s focused on homophobia.  So why have a trans bit at all?  Why “support” our equality and undermine it by being stupid and Othering when talking about our issues?  Why state that trans organisations are doing very good work in the area when – if you had a clue – you’d realise that they have barely any funding at all?  We’re weakened, not strengthened by being divided in this way.

To be perfectly honest, I feel the inappropriate part of the DVD speaks for itself:


4 thoughts on ““Fit” comes under further criticism

  1. The reason Stonewall Scotland campaigns on T issues (or rather, tokenistically includes T in their name) is because the Scottish Parliament outright told them that unless they included trans people, they wouldn’t be getting a single penny of government money. And that came from someone who works for Stonewall. So, you know, more lies.

  2. Comment on Facebook from Rikki Beadle-Blair, writer and director of FIT:

    “I didn’t consult any transgender activists about FIT. I do know transgender people and they use the term ‘tranny’ very
    casually – I now know that there is a massive diversity of opinion about
    this … I’m learning. It certainly is not my intention to be at war
    with people I love and support. I’m really glad that you asked me about
    this and wish that the people objecting to it would do the same. In
    terms of how transexual people are presented I have a lifelong
    commitment to that – I wrote the movie Stonewall for instance and fought for trans characters to be centre-stage. I have gone on to make
    several films and plays with leading trans characters – I want to do
    more and I want to get better at it. And I will do my best. I dont’
    want to in-fight. I want to focus on getting a FIT made one day for
    trans characters and issues. That is my pledge and my goal.”

    • Thanks for sharing this.

      I can see where Rikki is coming from. I don’t think he’s a bad guy: quite the opposite in fact. Having seen the rest of “Fit”, I think it’s a great piece of work. The problem is with how the brief trans bit is so gloriously inappropriate, in complete contrast with the careful writing throughout the rest of the episodes.

      I’m entirely in favour of working with Rikki in the future rather than against him, but I feel it was important to criticise this particular screw-up. I’m glad Rikki admits that he didn’t consult any trans people about this, and I’m also glad that he’s prepared to admit that he wants to get better at representing trans people in his work.

      Ultimately though, I feel the nature of this issue highlights just how important it is to consult people if you’re going to speak out on their behalf. This also goes beyond Rikki’s role as writer (and actor) within this particular project: Stonewall have a massive responsibility for the material that they distribute and this mistake has occurred against a backdrop of general indifference towards trans issues.

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