“Childline had the opportunity to lead by example and stand up for the trans community, not bow down to anti-LGBT hate and overt transphobia.”
For every bit of progress the world makes towards equality for LGBT+ people – from the casting of TV’s first transgender superhero through to gender-neutral changing rooms in clothing shops – it seems to take three steps back.
This month alone has seen a lesbian couple being physically attacked on a London bus for refusing to kiss for a gang of men, and a Southampton theatre cancelling a play about an LGBT+ couple after two of the actors were attacked on the way to work.
And activist and model Munroe Bergdorf has been targeted by transphobic groups, resulting in the NSPCC saying it will no longer work with her on a campaign.
Bergdorf announced on her Twitter last week that she had been announced as Childline’s first LGBT+ campaigner.
She wrote: “The wellbeing and empowerment of LGBTQIA+ identifying children and young people is something that I have been passionate about throughout my career as an activist.
“I’m excited to have the opportunity to let more kids know that they are not alone in their how they feel. There are people who care, people who can help and people who have been through the same things as you, so PLEASE don’t suffer in silence.”
But just days later the NSPCC, which runs Childline, released a statement saying it was cutting ties with Bergdorf. It said: “Munroe Bergdorf has supported the most recent phase of Childline’s campaign which aims to support children with LGBTQ+ concerns. Munroe has been referred to as a Childline Ambassador. At no point has she 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. Childline is available to children without condition to provide support whatever the nature of their concerns.”
The NSPCC’s statement followed a tweet by Janice Turner, a journalist for The Times, who tweeted at the NSPCC and asked them to “explain why a children’s charity has hired a porn model as a Childline ambassador”. She continued: “It’s an astonishing decision. Is it worth the cancelled direct debits?”
Bergdorf fought back, pointing out that she had “never shot porn in my life” and the NSPCC’s decision has been criticised by many, who have accused the charity of giving in to transphobia, and have also called it out for continuing to use the Pride logo on its Twitter account.
Among the critics are The Good Place actress Jameela Jamil, who described Bergdorf as a “brilliant, important young woman”, and writer Juno Dawson, who said: “Really sad that @NSPCC @childline have bowed to transphobia and cut ties with spokesperson @MunroeBergdorf. I urge you to think about what message that sends to young LGBTQ people who desperately need your service. If you’re not there for trans women, you’re not there for them.”
Others who spoke out in support of Munroe include How to Get Away with Murder actor Matt McGorry and the founder of UK drag troupe Denim, Amrou Al-Kadhi.
Munroe responded to the NSPCC’s statement on Twitter by saying that “Childline had the opportunity to lead by example and stand up for the trans community, not bow down to anti-LGBT hate and overt transphobia”.
She continued: “But instead they decided to sever ties without speaking to me, delete all the content we made together and back-peddle without giving any reason why.”
We reached out to the NSPCC, and were told they had no further response at this time.
Supporters of Bergdorf pointed out that the NSPCC has previously fostered working relationships with models who have done glamour shoots or posed for photos similar to those taken of Bergdorf.
As many have pointed out, the signal the NSPCC is sending by severing ties with Bergdorf is that it doesn’t support trans people. That’s of course damaging for Bergdorf and other trans activists, but it has wider consequences too, for those LGBT+ children the NSPCC and Childline serves, who may need support and advice. And that’s worrying.