Emily Burt: NSPCC, take down your rainbow flags

If the children's charity is going to discriminate against a trans woman of colour during Pride Month, the LGBT community doesn't want its 'solidarity'

Emily Burt
Emily Burt

It’s Pride Month, and once again LGBT people are facing their annual round of aggressive marketing from organisations pasting rainbow flags all over their products, shop windows and social media pages, even though many of them are apathetic about the challenges faced by the community every other month of the year.

It’s the kind of lazy slacktivism we have come to expect from large private companies. But in a shock twist, the award for Most Hypocritical Ally has now gone to the NSPCC after its decision to cut ties with the transgender activist Munroe Bergdorf mere days after it was announced that she had been hired as the first LGBT+ ambassador for Childline.

No clear reason has been given for the about turn, but reports have suggested the charity retracted its connection with Bergdorf after pressure from gender-critical people, including The Times columnist Janice Turner, who tweeted the NSPCC suggesting the decision to bring Bergdorf on would result in cancelled direct debits.

In a statement released on Friday, the NSPCC wrote: "At no point has [Bergdorf] been an Ambassador for the Charity. She will have no ongoing relationship with Childline or the NSPCC. The NSPCC does not support, endorse or authorise any personal statements made by any celebrities who contribute to campaigns."

The crux of Turner's argument appeared to be that Bergdorf’s decision to pose for the adult magazine Playboy in 2018 renders her unfit to support a children's service. But the same argument – or response from the NSPCC – is yet to be extended to former ambassadors Melinda Messenger and Abby Clancy, both of whom participated in risqué shoots in the past, or the bisexual YouTuber Melanie Murphy, who pointed out that she had both created content for Childline and featured in a nude modelling shoot without any repercussion.

The gay YouTube star Calum McSwiggan was another Childline partner who took to social media to ask: "Will you be deleting all the videos I gave my time for [...] because I'm also LGBT+?"

At the beginning of June the NSPCC revealed that it had carried out more than 6,000 counselling sessions through its Childline service about issues relating to gender and sexuality, with a reported 80 per cent increase in the number of views of its gender identity website over the same period. As a charity that offers vital support services to vulnerable children, this was a clear opportunity to prove that its support for LGBT people extends to every member of the community and goes beyond a colourful filter for one month of the year.

With this decision it is sending a clear message to trans, non-binary or otherwise gender-questioning children and young adults that Childline is not a safe or supportive resource for them.

Before the NSPCC considers its motivations for this choice and figures out how to rebuild trust among LGBT people, it should take down all of its Pride Month iconography. The first person to throw a brick at the Stonewall riots was a trans woman of colour – so, while buckling under transphobic pressure at any time would be an ill-thought-out choice, doing so during Pride Month while flying a rainbow flag from your Twitter page is hypocrisy beyond belief.

Pride is not about picking and choosing which members of this community you find acceptable. If you behave badly towards one of us, you're behaving badly to us all.

Emily Burt is deputy editor of Third Sector

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