Politicians and senior LGBT+ figures have rushed to defend Stonewall in the wake of a BBC “investigation” into the charity.
On Friday (15 October), the BBC published an article headlined Stonewall’s influence on BBC and Ofcom revealed“.
Based on a 10-part investigative podcast by the Stephen Nolan programme released on Wednesday (13 October), its purported revelations are that Ofcom continues to submit information to the charity’s Workplace Equality Index program, despite having exited its Diversity Champions Scheme; and that the BBC’s Diversity and Inclusion department has worked closely with Stonewall, Europe’s largest LGBT+ charity.
It noted that a “senior figure in the [BBC] Diversity and Inclusion department described Stonewall as ‘the experts in workplace equality for LGBTQ+ people'”, with concerns allegedly raised “about Stonewall being regarded as ‘the’ experts, given the diversity of opinion among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people over Stonewall’s policies”. A former BBC journalist was quoted as saying that she thinks some remaining employees “are frightened to speak out to say what they really think about Stonewall”; there is no mention of the BBC staff who, as reported by Vice recently, feel the BBC has become “hostile” for trans people and those who support trans rights.
The investigation has been viewed by many as just another attack on Stonewall, which is currently being targeted by the media and right-wing politicians in “an opportunistic hate campaign“, Scottish minister Patrick Harvie said this week.
Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner was among those who were critical of the BBC. “There is what appears to be a campaign in some parts of the media,” Rayner tweeted Friday, repeating her words from a recent speech. She shared a link to the BBC article. “The coverage of trans rights and trans issues is terrible… So I stand with Stonewall.”
LGBT+ Labour also tweeted in support of Stonewall, saying: “Solidarity with Stonewall today and everyday.”
“The attacks they are facing are not random. They are not happening by chance. They are co-ordinated by those who seek to play with fire, by those who mean us harm, and by those who know better.
“Don’t let them win.”
As I said 2 weeks ago in my speech to @LGBTLabour:
“There is what appears to be a campaign in some parts of the media. The coverage of trans rights and trans issues is terrible… So I stand with @stonewalluk and what you said about the treatment of these issues in the media.” https://t.co/CLxv1EEMvV
— Angela Rayner (@AngelaRayner) October 15, 2021
Solidarity with @stonewalluk today and everyday.
The attacks they are facing are not random. They are not happening by chance.
They are co-ordinated by those who seek to play with fire, by those who mean us harm, and by those who know better.
Don’t let them win.
— LGBT+ Labour (@LGBTLabour) October 15, 2021
Labour MP Zarah Sultana also lent her support, tweeting that it “beggars belief” that the BBC is “using public money to amplify such a hateful campaign, reminiscent of homophobic moral panics”.
“Relentless attempts to vilify Stonewall, simply because they stand up for trans rights, are shameful and frightening,” she added.
Relentless attempts to vilify @stonewalluk, simply because they stand up for trans rights, are shameful and frightening.
That the BBC is using public money to amplify such a hateful campaign, reminiscent of homophobic moral panics, beggars belief.
— Zarah Sultana MP (@zarahsultana) October 14, 2021
Do I stand with an organisation @BBCNews that has a biased view against trans people and has informed current affairs staff they cannot attend marches like Pride or do I stand with @stonewalluk #IStandWithStonewall Easy. @stonewalluk
— Michael Cashman (@mcashmanCBE) October 15, 2021
If the campaign to destroy Stonewall is successful, don't kid yourself it will end there. This will eventually threaten every organisation, community group, and campaign which has struggled for decades to achieve LGBTQ+ human rights.#IStandWithStonewall https://t.co/yWqmw71bGD
— Patrick Harvie 🇪🇺🌈 (@patrickharvie) October 14, 2021
It shouldn’t be surprising that continuous public attacks against @stonewalluk, the largest LGBT+ rights organisation in Europe, correlate with increasing public attacks against LGBT+ people. #iStandwithStonewall
— Tash Oakes-Monger (@tash_om) October 14, 2021
Stonewall co-founder Lord Michael Cashman, an ex-MEP and former global envoy on LGBT+ rights for the British government, also backed the organisation he helped found on Twitter.
“Do I stand with an organisation, BBC News, that has a biased view against trans people and has informed current affairs staff they cannot attend marches like Pride or do I stand with Stonewall?” he asked.
“I Stand With Stonewall. Easy.”
Tash Oakes-Monger, LGBT health officer for NHS England, also tweeted their support for Stonewall, writing: “It shouldn’t be surprising that continuous public attacks against Stonewall, the largest LGBT+ rights organisation in Europe, correlate with increasing public attacks against LGBT+ people.”
Stonewall subject to unrelenting attacks
In recent years Stonewall has been subject to frequent attacks in right-wing media, with The Times and The Telegraph regularly platforming its critics. Some of the strongest criticism has come from The Times columnist Matthew Parris, one of Stonewall’s original founders, who renounced the charity in 2020 due to its trans-inclusive focus.
While many look to the BBC to provide an impartial counterpoint to such coverage, the judgement of its editorial team has been repeatedly called into question, most recently by a number of senior MPs and LGBT+ activists who claim BBC News is “institutionally transphobic”.
In an open letter published in June, the group of 150 raised “serious concerns” about a decision to “balance” an article about support for trans rights with a comment from feminist author Joan Smith, who has previously shared content by organisations labelled “transphobic hate groups”.
“You are treating the lives and existence of a significant minority not as a matter of dignity or human rights, but as a culture war within which your anti-trans journalists – and we are well aware that such exist at the BBC – are given free rein to take potshots at trans people,” the letter stated.
The BBC denied claims that its coverage is biased, with a spokesperson replying at the time: “Our reporting of the consultation of the Gender Recognition Act and JK Rowling’s transgender comments both contain opposing viewpoints, as would be expected in stories where there is a public debate. The BBC approaches every story with the same rigorous impartiality.”
The Stephen Nolan podcast and accompanying article are among the latest to critique Stonewall’s Diversity Champions scheme, an initiative described as “the leading employers’ programme for ensuring all LGBT+ staff are accepted without exception in the workplace”.
In March it was reported that the government’s Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) had withdrawn from the scheme, citing cost concerns. However, it was noted that the decision to cut ties came amid bitter clashes between Stonewall and the government commission over trans rights.
The news of the commission’s withdrawal from the scheme was reported days after Stonewall and several other LGBT+ groups delivered an open letter criticising the commission’s “deeply damaging” messaging on trans people, as well as its LGBT+ record as a whole.
Shortly after this several other government bodies, including the House of Commons and the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency, chose to follow the EHRC in withdrawing from the Stonewall scheme; in May Liz Truss recommended that all government departments do so as well.
The BBC is reportedly due to exit the scheme this month, according to Vice.
The report quoted an employee with 20 years experience at the BBC as saying: “I’ve never known a worse time to be LGBT+ at the BBC.
“There is deeply engrained institutional transphobia at the heart of the BBC, exacerbated by promotion of anti-LGBT+ views in the name of “balance”. I no longer feel safe as an LGBT+ person within the organisation.”
Stonewall’s work more vital than ever amid spiralling UK hate crime
Last week, Vice World News also reported that reports of transphobic hate crimes have quadrupled in the last six years, while reports of homophobic hate crimes have tripled in the same time period.
Stephen Doughty, a Welsh Labour MP, pointed out that the work Stonewall does is more vital than ever given the rise in anti-LGBT+ hate crimes.
#LGBTQ+ people here (and globally).
“Not least when our lives + existence seem yet again to be up for ‘debate’, and hate crime on rise.”
Dr Michael Brady, the national government adviser on LGBT+ health, also made clear his support for LGBT+ charity Stonewall.
“I am forever in awe of the kindness, warmth, wisdom, all round excellence and absolute commitment to LGBT+ rights I see whenever I work with anyone from Stonewall,” Brady tweeted. “Thank you for all you do for our community #LGBTHealth.” >#IStandwithStonewall.”
Deborah Gold, chief executive at the National Aids Trust, who thanked Stonewall “for everything that you do” and tagged Nancy Kelley, Stonewall’s chief executive, saying “I am in awe of you and your colleagues”.
Adam Langleben, the national secretary for Jewish Labour, shared a link to the BBC article and said he found the “campaign against Stonewall” to be “quite frightening”.
I find this campaign against Stonewall quite frightening. https://t.co/U6y5gq0i9Y
— Adam Langleben (@adamlangleben) October 14, 2021
— Deborah Gold (@deborahagold) October 14, 2021
#iStandwithStonewall and proudly so! While the LGB Alliance have only one solitary hate-fuelled purpose, @stonewalluk gives us a fighting chance for a better, stronger, more inclusive future. https://t.co/R8JkK3P1A1
— Clara Vulliamy (@ClaraVulliamy) October 14, 2021
Not least when our lives + existence seem yet again to be up for “debate”, and hate crime on rise #IStandWithStonewall
— Stephen Doughty MP (@SDoughtyMP) October 15, 2021
I am forever in awe of the kindness, warmth, wisdom, all round excellence and absolute commitment to LGBT+ rights I see whenever I work with anyone from Stonewall.
Thank you for all you do for our community 🙏 #LGBTHealth 🏳️⚧️🏳️🌈 #IStandwithStonewall https://t.co/HPzrtCgIKN
— Michael Brady (@drmbrady) October 14, 2021
The BBC did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but in a statement to the i newspaper, a spokesperson said: “The ‘Nolan Investigates’ podcast deals with issues of legitimate public interest. It explores policy-making within public bodies, including the BBC, and the role of Stonewall in particular.
“The podcast reflects a range of viewpoints, acknowledges the complexity of the debate about gender identity, the sensitivities involved and also the strength of feeling about it. Stonewall declined to take part in the series. The response they provided was carried in full.”