They’ve given the LGB Alliance a big grant
In a statement released on Friday, the LGB Alliance announced that it had “been successful in its application for a grant from the National Lottery Community Fund to plan and scope a helpline for young lesbian, gay and bisexual people and their families and friends”.
The LGB Alliance states that the service, which is targeted at young people aged between 13 and 25, will eventually have the capacity to respond to up to 60,000 calls a year. While the group claims that “there is no dedicated national service of this type for young LGB people” in the UK, this isn’t strictly true: there are a number of dedicated helplines which cater to this demographic, including the Trevor Project, Stonewall, The Proud Trust, Switchboard, and many, many others.
However it would be the only service of its kind specifically intended to exclude young trans people, which hardly seems like something worth bragging about, or a project which should be funded using public money. Why would a young gay teenager looking for help feel additionally supported knowing the service they were accessing was denied to someone else? Why would we assume that teenagers share the niche, bizarre politics of this group and its largely middle-aged supporters?
“It’s abundantly clear that this isn’t about the LGB Alliance wanting to support the community, it’s about them wanting to specifically exclude a section of the community,” Cleo Madeleine, communications officer at trans youth charity Gendered Intelligence tells Dazed. “All of the support services that already exist for the community support everyone because that's the way it’s always worked; it’s always been inclusive. There’s nothing sacrificed in our ability to support LGB people by also including support for trans people,” she says.
The LGB Alliance would presumably argue that it’s catering to specific groups with specific needs, but in truth ‘lesbian, gay and bisexual’ and ‘trans’ aren’t categories that can be neatly separated. There is a huge crossover between them and it’s highly common for teenagers to struggle with their gender and sexual identities simultaneously. The idea of a young person like this being mistakenly referred to a helpline run by people who support conversion therapy for trans people is stomach-churning.
“At Gendered Intelligence we welcome everyone regardless of whether they consider themselves trans or non-binary or questioning,” says Madeleine. “It’s not the case for us that it’s a positive outcome if someone turns out to be trans; we don’t have any vested interest in how someone’s identity ultimately settles or if it even settles at all. What we want is there to be safe spaces for people to ask these questions about sexuality and gender identity. Lots of people who ultimately describe themselves as cis get there after a process of asking questions about gender identity, lots of people who ultimately describe themselves as straight get there by a process of asking questions about sexuality. My concern is that the LGB Alliance helpline will have a vested interest in people identifying in a certain way.”
“It’s abundantly clear that this isn’t about the LGB Alliance wanting to support the community, it’s about them wanting to specifically exclude a section of the community” – Cleo Madeleine
The LGB Alliance’s entire raison d’etre is to oppose trans rights; advocating against gender identity education in schools, gender recognition reform, gender-affirming healthcare, and basically any policy you can think of that would improve the lives of trans people. But even when it comes to ‘LGB’ issues, it tends to take a conservative and reactionary stance. Certainly, throughout its existence, it has given very little indication of caring about the welfare of young people. Co-founder Malcolm Clark once argued that LGBT clubs in schools are “unnecessary and dangerous” and “encourage predators”, while its Irish wing tried to encourage schools to withdraw from an anti-bullying campaign aimed at helping LGBTQ+ children. The group has links with evangelical far-right organisations such as the Heritage Foundation and the Witherspoon Institute, both of which have campaigned against gay rights. Tellingly, the LGB Alliance has also argued that it’s not homophobic to oppose gay marriage.
In response to the recent monkeypox outbreak, the LGB Alliance called for the closure of gay saunas, leather bars and clubs with dark rooms, a demand which recalls the most draconian, fear-mongering and stigmatising responses to the AIDS crisis. The group’s biphobia is also well-documented, with the organisation railing against bisexual people with “partners of the opposite sex” from attending queer spaces, on the basis that it’s “showing a lack of respect that many of us find offensive” (who cares!!!). It’s bad enough that this organisation is virulently transphobic, but it is clearly unfit to serve even the ‘LGB’ constituency it claims to represent, which is evidenced by the fact that a significant proportion of its supporters are straight. We can’t allow vulnerable young people into the crosshairs of a hate group, the priority of which will always be promoting its own bigoted agenda. If this helpline goes ahead, it will cause serious harm.
If there’s any cause for optimism, it’s that the LGB Alliance recently had public funding pulled after a public outcry (they’d planned to make a documentary film called Queens to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee; sadly, what would no doubt have been a masterpiece of queer cinema will never see the light of day.) This shows that these decisions can be subject to reversal, and as such it would be extremely worthwhile to contact The National Lottery Community Fund to complain. “We should also take positive action around existing support services, such as the LGBTQ+ Switchboard who have been doing this kind of work since the eighties and always need support,” Madeleine says. “That would be our main call to action. We don’t want to get bogged down in a fight with the LGB Alliance as we think this would just draw attention to their agenda. What we want to do is ensure that all young people are safe and supported – that’s what’s paramount for us.”