10 June 2021
Left by the tide.
By Robert Kilconner
The news that the Ministry of Justice is preparing to leave the diversity scheme designed by Stonewall has a curious smell of nemesis about it. Back in the day, and Stonewall was formed in the 1970s as a charity campaigning for LGBT rights, there were big dragons to slay and successes such as the introduction of legislation dealing with anti-gay hate crimes in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 marked important milestones in gender politics. The problem is that Stonewall succeeded too well and that a change in public attitudes has hugely reduced the type of official discrimination against which it was so effective a campaigner. No doubt there is still plenty of it about but, where it is identified, instant apologies and changes of the rules make any campaigning superfluous. There is still a great deal of private discrimination but where that is rooted out those responsible are immediately castigated and there is no reason for Stonewall to stir.
So, job done more or less or as far as it can usefully be done by organisations of this type; but what happens to the warriors, those who committed their lives to the struggle and now find themselves wondering what to do next? If Stonewall were to simply pack up and go home their careers would be destroyed. New objectives had to be found.
There were a number of possibilities. One was to focus on LGBT rights abroad, certainly a big dragon and a fierce one, but perhaps calling for different skills from campaigning in the UK. Another, promoted by Simon Fanshawe, one of Stonewall’s founders, was to “support gay issues at a local level”. Worthy perhaps and something the charity already does but hardly the stuff of the front pages. Then there was a third, to get involved in the nuttier side of the trans debate. That is where they seem to have gone and why the Minister of Justice is backing away from their courses. As a source put it:
“The department will be just as welcoming to LGBT people as before but we really shouldn’t be paying thousands of pounds for controversial advice about pronouns and gender-neutral spaces.”
That certainly reflects a growing public dislike of the bullying of those seen to be politically incorrect, and the tide which justified such behaviour as a legitimate extension of real concerns is now turning, leaving Stonewall, so long in the vanguard of progress, high and dry. Others will follow the Ministry of Justice and before long a contract with Stonewall will be a source of embarrassment. The charity must be very exposed. You do not force organisations to succumb to a wave of puritan intolerance which many of them secretly resent without making enemies. Scapegoats must be found for what now look like feeble decisions to surrender to wokery. There is blood in the water and a whole industry in the crosshairs but if Stonewall go under it will be little consolation to them to know that a whole cohort of awareness advisers will be going too.
It is really very hard to see where they go now. Pastoral areas such as counselling will remain important and there is plenty to do at a practical level. The day of the big issues must be over though and any attempt to prolong it by embracing issues whose main merit is that they can be campaigned about is surely doomed. Slowly setting, their sun lights up the monuments to their achievements and, glorious as those monuments are, maybe they cannot live off them for long.
Tile photo: Jennifer Bonauer on Unsplash