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The Stonewall CEO on work­ing for the whole LGBT com­mu­nity

Since tak­ing on the lead­er­ship of Stonewall in Au­gust 2014, Ruth Hunt has rev­o­lu­tionised the or­gan­i­sa­tion, mak­ing their work more com­mu­ni­ty­fo­cused and spear­head­ing its com­mit­ment to trans equal­ity. She spoke to Jac­qui Gavin about her achieve­ments so far.

DIVA: We are cel­e­brat­ing 250 is­sues this month – DIVA launched in 1994. What were you and Stonewall do­ing back then?

RUTH HUNT: Stonewall was founded in 1989, so not all that long be­fore DIVA, in re­sponse to Sec­tion 28. For those un­fa­mil­iar with Sec­tion 28, it was a piece of leg­is­la­tion that was in­tro­duced to pro­hibit schools from “pro­mot­ing” same-sex re­la­tion­ships. This meant, for ex­am­ple, that a teacher was not legally al­lowed to sup­port a stu­dent that may have come out to them in need of help. And while Stonewall was fight­ing for the re­peal of Sec­tion 28, I was at school and liv­ing it! Grow­ing up and be­ing aware of the work Stonewall was do­ing, lob­by­ing so that peo­ple like me could be our­selves, is just one of the rea­sons I had al­ways so wanted to be a part of the or­gan­i­sa­tion. Fast-for­ward to 2017, Stonewall is al­most 30, and we are con­tin­u­ing to cam­paign for equal rights for les­bian, gay, bi and trans folk. While many laws may have been in­tro­duced or re­pealed to pro­tect our com­mu­nity, there’s cer­tainly still lots to do, and af­ter 10 years of work­ing at Stonewall I am still so happy to be a part of that.

Stonewall was an L and G char­ity when it was founded, only re­cently evolv­ing to LGBT. What do you think about this evo­lu­tion, and do you see any more let­ters be­ing added dur­ing your ten­ure as CEO?

When I be­came chief ex­ec­u­tive, it was an ab­so­lute pri­or­ity of mine for Stonewall to reach out to trans peo­ple in Bri­tain to ask how we could best sup­port their com­mu­nity. Af­ter around 50 meet­ings with over 700 trans peo­ple, it was agreed that the best way to achieve this would be by Stonewall be­com­ing fully trans-in­clu­sive. I’m de­lighted that trans peo­ple across Eng­land, Scot­land and Wales have since let us in, and have helped sup­port us on the jour­ney that we’ve made as an or­gan­i­sa­tion. Today, I can say I’m proud of what we have achieved so far along­side the trans com­mu­nity, which in­cludes our trans staff and stake­hold­ers, who we con­tinue to learn so much from on a daily ba­sis. We use “ac­cep­tance with­out ex­cep­tion” as a means of talk­ing about our com­mu­nity, that we feel is not just in­clu­sive of all iden­ti­ties, but also cap­tures ex­actly what we are try­ing to achieve as an or­gan­i­sa­tion and as a move­ment.

Why is trans in­clu­sion im­por­tant to the or­gan­i­sa­tion and to you gen­er­ally?

As an LGBT or­gan­i­sa­tion, Stonewall can truly work to­wards its vi­sion of a world where each and ev­ery one of us is ac­cepted with­out ex­cep­tion. We must not for­get that, de­spite our di­ver­sity and dif­fer­ent lived ex­pe­ri­ences, to­gether we form a won­der­ful com­mu­nity. Some­times that sense of com­mu­nity is lost and, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing


times of ad­ver­sity and un­cer­tainty, we must do what we can to pre­serve it. Whether that means stand­ing by the side of butch women, dis­pelling myths about the bi com­mu­nity, be­ing al­lies to trans peo­ple or call­ing out racism that we wit­ness on the scene, it’s a re­spon­si­bil­ity that we should all wear with pride.

Tell us more about the for­ma­tion of the Stonewall Trans Ad­vi­sory Group and the Vi­sion for Change doc­u­ment.

The Stonewall Trans Ad­vi­sory Group (STAG) is made up of 16 peo­ple who are not em­ployed by Stonewall, but over­see our work around trans in­clu­sion. STAG formed in 2015 and de­lib­er­ately rep­re­sents the broad range of iden­ti­ties, back­grounds and ex­pe­ri­ences that make up the trans com­mu­nity in Bri­tain. Peo­ple were cho­sen to en­sure they could leave their per­sonal am­bi­tions out­side the room and work to­gether for the goal of all trans peo­ple. One of the pieces of work STAG has pulled to­gether since form­ing two years ago is the doc­u­ment A Vi­sion for Change, which will set out what we be­lieve should be the pri­or­i­ties for trans in­clu­sion over the next five years. We have held var­i­ous con­sul­ta­tions around Bri­tain with trans folk so that they can feed into and be a part of the doc­u­ment, which launches in April. So keep your eyes peeled.

2016 was hailed by many as the “trans tip­ping point” but life for many trans peo­ple, par­tic­u­larly those of colour, is not im­prov­ing as fast as we need it to. What are Stonewall do­ing to speed up change?

Since be­com­ing trans in­clu­sive, we have en­sured that our events and pro­grammes are fully trans in­clu­sive, whether that is a Work­place Con­fer­ence for 2,000 peo­ple or a Young Cam­paign­ers pro­gramme for 50 peo­ple aged 16–21. We have since pro­duced re­ports and guid­ance for a range of au­di­ences that are trans in­clu­sive, in­clud­ing a tool­kit for grass­roots sports groups, school guid­ance on trans­pho­bic bul­ly­ing, a se­ries of trans in­clu­sion at work guides and a re­port on at­ti­tudes among health and so­cial care pro­fes­sion­als to­ward LGBT peo­ple. Our part­ner­ship work with Gen­dered In­tel­li­gence has meant that, in­ter­nally, all Stonewall staff can talk con­fi­dently and ac­cu­rately on trans is­sues. All other as­pects of work to­ward trans in­clu­sion and equal­ity should be led by the trans com­mu­nity, with Stonewall be­hind it and sup­port­ing it fully. This is why the pri­or­i­ties out­lined in A Vi­sion For Change, by our ad­vi­sory group and the hun­dreds of trans peo­ple who have con­trib­uted to it, will be what Stonewall cam­paigns on and around for years to come.

What are the spe­cific is­sues trans peo­ple face in the work­place and how is Stonewall work­ing with em­ploy­ers to ad­dress these?

LGBT in­clu­sion at work is an enor­mous part of the work we do at Stonewall. We work with over 700 or­gan­i­sa­tions in the pri­vate and public sec­tor, from health­care providers, to banks, to univer­si­ties, to law firms or con­struc­tion com­pa­nies. Our in­ter­nal team who works along­side and ad­vises these or­gan­i­sa­tions are ex­perts in work­place in­clu­sion for les­bian, gay, bi and trans em­ploy­ees. To­gether, they help busi­nesses to de­velop poli­cies and im­ple­ment changes that en­sure all LGBT em­ploy­ees feel able to be them­selves and are wel­come and in­cluded in their or­gan­i­sa­tions. For trans and non-bi­nary staff, this could mean in­tro­duc­ing gen­der neu­tral fa­cil­i­ties, en­sur­ing that all staff have trans in­clu­sion train­ing or per­haps cel­e­brat­ing days like Trans Day of Vis­i­bil­ity. This is in ad­di­tion to more gen­eral is­sues that af­fect all les­bian, gay, bi and trans em­ploy­ees, such as cre­at­ing net­work groups or hav­ing a se­nior spon­sor within an or­gan­i­sa­tion who cham­pi­ons LGBT equal­ity. Stonewall is ex­tremely proud to have worked with Trans*for­ma­tion on a se­ries of guides to sup­port trans peo­ple at work. This part­ner­ship has al­lowed us to en­sure that non-trans col­leagues and man­agers know how to sup­port and em­power the trans folk they work with.

What do you think are the big­gest chal­lenges fac­ing the LGBT com­mu­nity, par­tic­u­larly those with in­ter­sect­ing iden­ti­ties, in 2017?

Civil rights move­ments can only suc­ceed when all those in­volved un­der­stand that in­di­vid­u­als ex­pe­ri­ence prej­u­dice in dif­fer­ent ways. As a di­verse com­mu­nity, les­bian, gay, bi and trans folk must not for­get that. While we share in our ex­pe­ri­ence of op­pres­sion, there are some forms of dis­crim­i­na­tion that af­fect les­bians. Oth­ers that specif­i­cally af­fect trans peo­ple. Dual dis­crim­i­na­tion for LGBT peo­ple of colour. And count­less other ex­am­ples. Recog­nis­ing this is a chal­lenge that our com­mu­nity faces. As progress for les­bian, gay, bi and trans equal­ity be­comes in­creas­ingly about so­cial rather than le­gal change, it can be easy to get caught up in the daily dis­crim­i­na­tion that specif­i­cally af­fects our­selves and peo­ple like us. To achieve full equal­ity, we must be ac­tive al­lies to ev­ery part of our com­mu­nity, and con­sider their spe­cific fights as much ours as our own.

What has been your proud­est mo­ment as Stonewall CEO so far and what would you still like to achieve?

All the work that the team do here at Stonewall is so im­por­tant, and I take im­mense pride in be­ing in­volved with each and ev­ery part of that work. Whether that’s watch­ing our Young Cam­paigner of the Year Si­rina- Monique per­form at UK Black Pride, shar­ing pan­els with in­spi­ra­tional women like Amelia Lee from The Proud Trust or Chloe Cousins from Rain­bow Noir at our Stonewall Sea­son launch, hir­ing our new Head of Trans In­clu­sion Bex, or meet­ing ac­tivists from around the world to talk about the dif­fer­ent ways in which we can learn from one an­other. Work­ing in part­ner­ship with huge in­flu­en­tial busi­nesses like Lloyds Bank­ing Group, Manch­ester United and Sky has also been a hugely im­por­tant part of Stonewall’s work while I have been here as chief ex­ec­u­tive. These mean­ing­ful col­lab­o­ra­tions with global or­gan­i­sa­tions that be­lieve in les­bian, gay, bi and trans equal­ity are al­ready cre­at­ing real change for LGBT peo­ple, which is some­thing that we are all very proud of as an or­gan­i­sa­tion. I’m proud of all of these things, and per­haps most proud of the real sense of to­geth­er­ness we hold while do­ing it. Not just at Stonewall, but also as a com­mu­nity. What I would love to achieve, of course, is ac­cep­tance with­out ex­cep­tion for all les­bian, gay, bi and trans peo­ple every­where. And while I’m work­ing as Stonewall’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, I will do all that I can to get us as close to that point as pos­si­ble.

De­spite our di­ver­sity and dif­fer­ent lived ex­pe­ri­ence, to­gether we form a won­der­ful com­mu­nity

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