UK: LGBT+ group Stonewall names new CEO

Nancy Kelley, who takes over as chief executive of StonewallUK, on June 1 – Handout courtesy of Stonewall

British LGBT+ advocacy group, Stonewall, has named a replacement for Ruth Hunt, who quit as chief executive last year, after a tenure marked by controversy over her decision to lobby for transgender rights alongside lesbian, gay and bisexual equality.

Nancy Kelley, a social policy researcher, who is currently deputy chief executive of the National Centre for Social Research, will join the organisation on June 1.

Under her predecessor, Stonewall was criticised by some feminist and LGBT+ campaigners, who think trans rights can conflict with those of people born as women.

The controversy flared as the British government debated whether to make it easier for people to legally change gender.

Hunt, who led the organisation from 2014, acknowledged opposition to her “trans women are women” message when she left.

“Recognising the diverse experiences and needs within LGBT communities … has not always been a comfortable conversation for Stonewall to have but it has been a vital one,” she said in a statement at the time.

Kelley said in a statement that “amazing strides” had been made on LGBT+ equality in Britain in the past 30 years, but that more remained to be done.

“The benefits of progress haven’t been equally felt by all LGBT+ people,” said Kelley, who will also have to contend with fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-19, she said, had exposed “deep inequalities” faced by LGBT+ people, particularly those living in poverty and ethnic minorities.

The crisis is “creating existential risks for organisations in the LGBT+ charity sector”, including raising enough funds to survive, a group of British LGBT+ advocates said in a recent opinion piece for the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Leading figures within Britain’s LGBT+ community hailed the change of leadership at Stonewall.

“It’s really exciting to see a new vision for Stonewall that inevitably she will bring, coming from a really strong social justice sector background,” said Jonathan Cooper, an international human rights lawyer at Doughty Street Chambers.

Linda Riley, the publisher of lesbian and bisexual women’s magazine, DIVA, said she backed the charity on trans rights.

“I would look at broadening Stonewall’s remit (abroad) … as well as continuing their great advancement of trans rights,” Riley told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“She’s walking into a hot-seat with lots to do.”

-Rachel Savage @rachelmsavage and Hugo Greenhalgh – Thomson Reuters Foundation

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