By now I’m sure many of you will have heard about the new anti-gay laws coming into effect in Brunei, the subsequent condemnation around the world and boycott of hotels owned by the Sultan of Brunei, and then Stonewall’s refusal to back such a boycott. I must say I was hugely disappointed with Stonewall… And I still am.
Acting CEO of Stonewall, Ruth Hunt, has now released a statement saying that the organisation will no longer be using the Dorchester hotel for events and she has apologised for their initial position on this issue. Although I think that Stonewall are now doing the right thing, I feel that it shouldn’t have come after outrage from their supporters. Stonewall is meant to be the leading LGBT charity in the UK, but it has become clear from this incident that they may not necessarily be best placed to be that leading charity. In fact it is my opinion that they have followed where others have led on this issue.
Stonewall have been holding events at the Dorchester for some time now and that is something that has always bothered me, before the disagreement over boycotting Sultan of Brunei owned hotels. Firstly because only people with a large income can afford to attend anything at the Dorchester, but also because I feel it’s inappropriate for a charity to put on events at such costly venues in the first place. I run my own LGBTQ charity, Push Projects, and would never consider putting on an event at such a place.
Everything is done at a low cost and takes place at affordable venues. The expense of putting on an event at such pricey places would be better spent directly helping the people the charity exists to represent. But I digress…
I believe the boycott of hotels owned by the Sultan of Brunei is a positive thing. Although I am all for conversation and working things out by talking, I also feel that boycotts can send powerful messages. This particular boycott is not on a small scale; it is a worldwide campaign that many high profile people and organisations are supporting. With so much backing for a boycott, Stonewall got it completely wrong by stating they would not support it. It demonstrates that they do not represent the majority or LGBT people and their allies. It shows that they are out of touch. The superior tone of Ruth Hunt’s article in the Telegraph certainly gave that impression.
Today’s announcement that Stonewall will no longer be using the Dorchester hotel is a case of too little, too late. It feels more like damage limitation rather than a sincere gesture. Something appears to be wrong at Stonewall and it’s clear they need to take a hard look at themselves and how they represent the LGBT community. Perhaps a change at the top is in order. They claim to be listening. Will they listen to this?
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Opinions expressed in this article may not reflect those of THEGAYUK, its management or editorial teams. If you'd like to comment or write a comment, opinion or blog piece, please click here.