PinkNews Gives Award to Anti-Trans Politician, Only One Trans Judge on Award Panel

The inaugural PinkNews Politician of the Year award, announced on Wednesday, has attracted controversy as one of its recipients – Tina Stowell, a Conservative member of the House of Lords – has been called out for her anti-trans stance over the course of the passage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. The award was shared with Labour MP Yvette Cooper, the Shadow Home Secretary.

Tina Stowell, Baroness Stowell of Beeston, MBE and former Head of Corporate Affairs for the BBC via The Guardian

Tina Stowell, Baroness Stowell of Beeston, MBE and former Head of Corporate Affairs for the BBC
via The Guardian

Liberal Democrat politician Sarah Brown and activist Natacha Kennedy were among the first to point out Baroness Stowell’s staunch anti-trans defence of the “spousal veto” amendment in the equal marriage legislation.

Under the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act, trans people require the permission of their spouses to obtain a full Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) that allows the holder to change their gender on official documents. What their spouse is agreeing to is the conversion of their “heterosexual” marriage into a “homosexual” one, codifying a distinction between the two in spite of the popularity of the phrase “equal marriage.” Without it, they can only obtain an interim GRC unless they divorce their spouse

Placing the legal rights of trans people in the hands of their spouses has deeply damaging consequences. According to the 2013 survey “Spouse Reactions to Transsexuality” by Zoë Kirk-Robinson, commissioned by T-Vox.org, only 49% of trans people who came out to their partner or spouse received positive responses in the long term. Only 46% of those with children are allowed to see them upon divorce or separation, and 26% of respondents stated that a spouse has made a divorce difficult, while 44% of partners or spouses have actively attempted to prevent their partner from transitioning.

This event is not without precedent: in 2008, Stonewall gave its Journalist of the Year award to Julie Bindel, in spite of her infamous transphobic 2004 article “Gender benders, beware” for The Guardian. While Bindel has apologised for that article, she has published yet more damaging pieces since and has been making transphobic remarks up to just a few months ago. However, unlike Stonewall, an LGB charity which has always excluded trans people – if not steamrolled over their interests altogether – PinkNews does address the trans community in its aim to be the “premier LGBT news outlet in the UK and beyond.”

The Politician of the Year honour was one of two judged awards, the other being Business Network of the Year. The remainder of the awards (Community Group of the Year, Advertising Campaign of the Year and Parliamentary Speech of the Year) were voted on by readers.

Here is the list of the judges for the Politician of the Year award:

  • Iain Dale, Presenter LBC
  • Mike Freer, MP for Finchley and Golders Green
  • Tom Copely, London Assembly Member (Labour London wide)
  • Baroness Olly Grender
  • Anna Doble, Head of Online, Channel 4
  • Paris Lees, Columnist GT (Gay Times), Diva and the Independent
  • Simon Topham, Managing Director GT and Diva
  • Donna Halkyard, Head of Diversity, BAE Systems (Business network award)
  • Tom French, the Scottish Equality Network
  • Corinne Pinfold, former reporter, PinkNews, policy officer, School Leader Support Service

Of the panel of 10, only one (Paris Lees) is a trans woman, which PinkNews mentioned in defence of the outcome.

PinkNews has yet to make any further comment on the matter. Lees has apologised for what she calls her “ignorant mistake.”

It seems this decision arose out of oversight rather than malice, and it is, of course, unfair to place the blame squarely on Paris Lees. The judging process highlights the difficulty of appreciating the nuances of what support for the same-sex marriage legislation really means: unless you were following the passage of the Bill closely, you would see little cause to question Baroness Stowell’s advocacy of it.

This does not, however, let PinkNews off the hook. Having only one trans person on the panel of judges, especially one that had multiple straight allies, placed an unfair amount of pressure on one individual to represent a core part of the LGBT community. Furthermore, as Lees acknowledged, she isn’t “terribly political.” In a vote for a political award in the same year that a significant piece of LGBT legislation passed, one which had different consequences for different groups under the LGBT banner, it is puzzling why PinkNews did not select someone who did follow the passage of said Bill closely.

Cllr Sarah Brown, Britain's only openly trans politician and just one of many people in the country who would have fulfilled both criteria of "trans" and "knowledgeable about politics" via @auntysarah

Cllr Sarah Brown, Britain’s only openly trans politician and just one of many people in the country who would have fulfilled both criteria of “trans” and “knowledgeable about politics”
via @auntysarah

In response to this, activist Zoe O’Connell is accepting nominations for an alternative Politician of the Year award, recognising those who have championed the rights of trans people.

The rules are simple. Nominations are open for any politician elected to public office, who people feel have made a positive difference to the lives of trans people, covering the whole period of the equal marriage consultation and subsequent legislation. Initially, nominations were to be restricted to allies only as otherwise it could end up being divisive, but after discussion on twitter nominations will be allowed for anyone. Unless someone else feels like coming out, this is a very short list.

Nominations will be open until 5pm on Friday, 1st November and can be made by commenting [on her post], via twitter (@zoeimogen) or EMail ([email protected]). Nominations may be anonymous – please indicate if this is the case – and you may nominate more than one person. “Trans” in this context is as people self-identify.

Shortly after nominations close, the final result will be decided by public vote.

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Politiqueer, student and future cubicle drone-person fond of trees, bicycles, and strawberry sponge cake. Abuses en-dashes. Undecided about the Oxford comma. Follow her on Twitter or her occasionally updated blog.

Fikri has written 51 articles for us.

4 Comments

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    Fikri, good article… sad situation. Lees is a terrific activist and a great spokesperson for the trans community. But… just because someone is well-spoken, presentable (from a mainstream media standpoint… AKA passable) and energetic doesn’t mean they are, therefore, total experts on their communities’ history and political situation (I see Janet Mock being in a similar situation in the US). This is what happens when there is one crowned ‘go to’ person who’s welcomed by mainstream LGB when so many other activists are ignored.

    Yes, this also reminds me a lot of the Julie Bindel situation (although I don’t think Pink News is quite as bad as Stonewall—who were completely unapologetic for their messup) and also when the LAMBDA Literary Foundation nominated the book “The Man Who Would be Queen” for a transgender award with little understanding of how completely transphobic it and its author were. Whoopsie!

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    It’s alright, Fikri. Paris Lees is easy to forgive. Despite being targeted at the absolute centre of homophobic and transphobic attacks, trans people worldwide have become accustomed to being given facetious, token representation in GLb organizations, when we aren’t explicitly shut out and shouted down.

    It’s apparent at this point, even from my far remove in the savage wilds of North America, that the UK GLb establishment is just as giddily happy to throw the trans populace to the wolves. The entire GRC regime is unjust and should be challenged on the basis of EU treaty law, if the UK’s so-called “constitution” is not up to the task. Is there any political will to do so?

    It’s a terrifying cauldron y’all have brewing over yonder. Spousal veto joins the recent decision by an appeals court which forces trans people to disclose their trans status before forming any romantic or sexual relationship with a cis person on pain of felonious incarceration. Both decisions legally enshrine cissexism, condescending to turn trans people into a subject caste dangerously vulnerable to the capricious whims of the often hostile cis people in our lives. The cultural context just as bad, with regular media trans hunts conducted to destroy people’s lives with impunity. Someone has to pay for the decline of the UK, and it seems trans people join immigrants to hold the chosen lot. Better us than, say, bankers and the political class.

    I was seriously planning a camping jaunt through the UK with a friend next year. But given the current state of transphobic hysteria, I’ve since decided such an excursion would be woefully imprudent. Maybe Ireland could use my economic contributions…

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