LSE managers leave Stonewall because of LGBTQ+ rights ‘agenda’

Published On: November 8th, 2022

Minutes from the meeting at which the SMC discussed and decided to disaffiliate from Stonewall show just one agreed reason for their decision: they found the Stonewall LGBTQ+ rights charity to have “a political/activist agenda”.

The minutes below were obtained from the LSE via a Freedom of Information Act request.

Disaffiliation from Stonewall for its ‘political/activist agenda’

In September 2022, the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion division at the LSE informed senior managers that the School’s annual participation in the Stonewall programme cost a mere £2,500 + VAT. Participating in Stonewall cost the LSE less than a third of a single student’s annual undergraduate tuition fee.

Nevertheless, on 11 November 2022, it was finally agreed that the LSE would disaffiliate from the Stonewall charity. Its agreed reasons are indicated in the FOIA-obtained minutes from a School Management Committee meeting.

The minutes show just one agreed reason given for disaffiliating with Stonewall, “that it is untenable to partner with an organisation with a political/activist agenda”:

Noted: that the School’s relationship with Stonewall should end on the grounds that it is untenable to partner with an organisation with a political/activist agenda. That representatives from SMC had met with members of Faculty and the LGBTQ+ community and had extensive discussions.

That the importance of external benchmarking tied to UCL, King’s and Imperial is endorsed and will help inform future prioritisation and activity.

That School’s Transgender policy will be reviewed alongside other London Universities referenced above and additional legal advice sought to ensure that it is fully compliant with the Equality Act 2010.

The importance of dialogue with key stakeholders in advance of written communication.

That there is an opportunity to produce a new EDI strategy that will consider internal development in this area.

Agreed: To not renew Stonewall partnership and to develop communication handling plan for this announcement Action: Ben Plummer-Powell, Imogen Withers and Fiona Metcalfe

What is Stonewall’s LGBTQ+ ‘political/activist’ agenda?

The Stonewall charity was indeed founded in 1989 with a “political/activist agenda”, to repeal Section 28: a brutal Thatcher-era law that prohibited the “promotion of homosexuality” in the UK. Back then, promoting human rights in this way was similarly referred to as “political”.

Today, Stonewall continues to actively support LGBTQ+ rights, including the right for trans people to exist, to be treated with respect, and and to receive equitable treatment in the workplace. The LGBTQ+ policy goals stated on Stonewall’s website are entirely normal in political contexts outside the UK, such as in the American left.

However, amidst the current right wing-led trans panic in the UK, supporting LGBTQ+ human rights is once again being described as a ‘political/activist’ agenda, as Stonewall co-founder Lisa Power has recently noted in an article for openDemocracy:

As someone who went through Section 28, I know when I see a moral panic being whipped up by the mainstream media. People who hated us in the 1980s characterised lesbians and gays as paedophiles who wanted to convert children – the so-called “gay agenda”. And that claim is back, with news stories today about “the trans agenda” and trans people.

I also see other similar tactics being used: exaggerating things, taking single incidents as though they indicate widespread issues, or even just making things up. In the 1980s, it was false stories about nursery rhymes being banned; today it’s entirely made-up claims that kids are identifying as cats.

Trans rights, like all LGBTQ+ rights, are simply human rights. Calling them a ‘political/activist agenda’, as LSE senior managers have done, is not a neutral position given the long and sad history of the phrase.

In later public communications, such as in their internal and external statements and meetings, the School Management Committee explained they found this ‘LGBTQ+ agenda’ to be nothing more than some well-known anti-trans talking points.