Editor of Lesbian lifestyle magazine DIVA Jane Czyzselska (who has also written for the Horse and Hound!) with help from fellow pen pusher Ben Summerskill of “gay equality group” Stonewall have dedicated an entire page in the Guardian’s Comment is Free to launching a rather scathing and hollow attack on fellow trooper Peter Tatchell entitled “Take Pride in Gay Respectability”.
She has decided to compare the likes of money-mad Stonewall to the legendary American gay rights personality and the subject of a new Hollywood film – Harvey Milk. She believes “if he were alive now he’d be rooting for more “smug marrieds” – meaning complacent gays and lesbians who sit on the fence when it comes to the rights.
In reality, if Harvey Milk were alive today he would notice how different the world is. He won’t be sitting smug in a swanky office on London’s Southbank. He’d be wondering why married doesn’t mean civil partnered and why police still spend vast resources on persecuting gay men who have sex in the woods. He’d be questioning why an organisation named Stonewall, has consistently alienated so many marginalised groups he spent his life (and eventually was killed fighting for both within the LGBT Community on it’s fringe such as sex workers.
Harvey Milk was heavily involved in the founding of many frontline, radicalised activist movements including the San Francisco Coalition on Prostitution, one of the first such “sex-workers unions” in the world. Yet it’s European cousin which still exists today was protesting in unison with angry transgender people outside the Stonewall Awards only last November in protest at the nomination of Julie Bindel (another controversial Guardian Comment is Free journalist).
He’d be asking why the annual turnover of the LGBT voluntary sector in Britain is just £10 million – with about 20% of that going into Stonewall’s wallet with the remaining estimated 1,500 other LGBT groups left to fight for the rest. This may sound like a lot of money the size of the pot available to LGBT community groups – the type of organisations pioneered by queer activists such as Harvey Milk in the 1960’s and 70’s equates to just 0.03% of the income of the entire charitable sector.
It’s also worth pointing out that Czyzelska’s employers Millivres Prowler Group are one of Stonewall’s biggest private sponsors. According to it’s chairman, Chris Graham Bell the company “has historic roots in gay and lesbian rights campaigning and has strong values and beliefs regarding the support of civil rights for our community.”Offering more proof of private business interfering with an apparently independent lobby group.
Even though Summerskill already has his own regular column in the same newspaper, in which he often makes similar attacks on Peter Tatchell and grassroots campaigning this week Stonewall’s highest paid member of staff was given another opportunity to dismiss the work of pretty much anyone who isn’t in the gay rights game for the money. As Jane Czyzelska’s article starts off it quickly descends into appearing to be a platform for Stonewall’s work and yet another outlet for Summerskill and his gay mafia friends to make false claims about the success of their work.
The picture Summerskill paints of his “radicalism” is a fraud. What he describes isn’t radicalism, it’s fraud. Note his nod to the “radicalism”of companies in the FTSE 100. Many of these big players in the stock-market along with a number of institutionally homophobic institutions recently did paid Stonewall in excess of £1,500 in exchange for a place in the group’s own prestigious “stock-market of inequality”.
Stonewall’s work with young people around homophobic bullying gets a regular cash boost from it’s annual “Equality Dinner” where wealthy members of the public make donations in return for spending an evening with celebrities at the Dorchester Hotel. What a shame this cash isn’t reaching the places that really need it.
In August 2008 Stonewall received criticism from the gay community in Liverpool after it failed to speak out after the homophobic murder of gay teenager Michael Causer. In October a planned recruitment day in Liverpool run by Stonewall for the youth volunteering project mentioned in Czyzelska’s article had to be canceled because hardly anyone had registered. The local gay youth group “GYRO” which recently launched it’s own homophobic bullying resources complained they weren’t even told about the event. Another questionable claim made in the article is that Stonewall has seen it’s “active” supporters double and them under 30 is higher than ever causing Czyzelska to blindly state “this is hardly a sign of apathy and complacency”. The truth is – lending one’s support to an organisation like the Stonewall of today is exactly that – apathy and a sign of being complacent. Czyzelska her self describes Stonewall of representing “apathetic conformity” at the start of her article.
Summerskill has a rather contorted view of what activism is. According to Summerskill activism is either “politicised” (the camp he places the likes of Peter Tatchell firmly in) or “smug” (much like himself) – but argues both are equally as radical.
He may well be right, but the terminology is wrong, and it’s designed to confuse people.
Most people will hear the word “political” in this way and instantly assume he’s talking about smiley politicians and out of touch political parties – boring, moaning, infighting and lacking in integrity. But in truth Stonewall itself and those who founded it (Labour Party activists) are no less political, and probably more so.
“Politics” is close to Stonewall’s heart. It courts with representatives of all parties inviting them to debate gay issues whilst leaving fringe activists standing out in the cold like it did at it’s recent Awards ceremony at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.
Tony Blair was the guest of honour at last year’s Stonewall Equality fund-raiser. Ben Summerskill himself used to be a Labour politician. His predecessor, Angela Mason now works for the Labour government as the Director of the Women and Equality Unit. It is Stonewall who are in the politicised camp that has a narrow agenda not set by the community they work for but political think tanks and business men with lots of opinions.
Most of the “radicals” he tries so hard to tarnish through his use of clever wording are grassroots campaigners who focus on thorny issues Stonewall itself finds hard to grasp (and it’s financial backers wouldn’t touch with a barge pole) such as transphobia, laws around sexual offenses and international human rights abuses (which Stonewall’s funders such as Barclays Bank and Lloyds TSB have been accused of providing finance to).
While Stonewall are leaving by the back door of Lloyds TSB with a nice fat suitcase of money, the real Human Rights activists are banging down the front door in anger at the bank’s decision to block money going to humanitarian charities based in Gaza. This year Stonewall decided to put Lloyds TSB at the very top of it’s “Diversity Champions” index.
No wonder Ben Summerskill just loves brandishing his knife at the real activists like Peter Tatchell who not only tackle domestic issues without asking for the world on the plate, but also around the world. OutRage! has stood up for the human rights of LGBT people in Palestine. Whilst Stonewall smug in to bed with the perpetrators of human rights abuses., happily taking the cash and doing whatever their master tells them – there’s a name for that.
Although she makes many valid points and even provides some balance in her padding of yet another out of touch Summerskill rant, as Czyzelska implies in the title and as the 80’s pop duo once Mel and Kim once sung, – “we ain’t never gonna be respectable”
– well Jane we don’t need your respect any more than Harvey Milk need buy your trashy magazine.