A letter sent to PCS union members at the V&A says the decision to remove a poster advocating for trans rights and two illustrated books on queer identities was made by the museum’s director.
A poster supporting transgender rights and two books discussing LGBTQ+ identities have been removed from the Young V&A (YVA) ahead of the museum’s reopening on Saturday (1 July).
According to an email sent to Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union members at the V&A, shared anonymously with Arts Professional, the decision to remove the poster and books was made by V&A Director, Tristram Hunt, last week.
The poster was produced by charity Stonewall and read: ‘Some people are trans, get over it!’. The books removed from the YVA bookshop - Seeing Gender and Here and Queer - are illustrated books, the first on expressing and understanding the complexities of gender and the second a guide aimed at girls to educate on aspects of queer life, such as coming out and Pride.
The letter says PCS union has been working with the V&A Staff LGBTQ Working Group and fellow trade union Prospect to explore ways to have the objects returned to display before the museum reopens.
It adds the working group, Propsect representatives and several PCS representatives met with Hunt to discuss the issue on Monday afternoon.
In the meeting, the request to return the poster and books was rejected.
“The unified message from all attendees was that we do not support the decision to remove the object, that this decision undermines the V&A’s ability to expand our audiences, that the decision is not in line with the V&A’s values, it is not in the public interest, the decision undermines the editorial independence of curators, which may very well lead to self-censorship, is of a disservice to the visitors we serve, and a direct affront to trans visitors and staff,” the letter states.
PCS has told its union members it is continuing to work alongside the LGBTQ working group, MASS action group, Prospect representatives and branch members to explore options to further pursue the issue.
Meanwhile, union members have been advised to discuss the issue among themselves and with their representatives, while feedback is presented directly to the Directorate Board.
The extract of the letter seen by Art Professional concludes by saying members will kept updated with the situation as it progresses.
'Unwavering support' from PCS
Asked for comment, Steven Warwick, PCS Culture Group Secretary, said: "PCS is absolutely clear that we oppose the removal of these objects and urges the V&A to reverse this decision. The poster was simply a statement of fact that 'Some people are trans'. That the director of the V&A considers this to be a controversial statement is disappointing.
"Seeking to hide the existence of Trans people contributes to the idea that being Trans is somehow unacceptable and adds to the current climate of transphobia and trans-erasure, putting trans people, particularly young trans people, at risk. It is particularly galling that this decision was made during LGBTQ+ History month.
"PCS gives our unwavering support to our trans and non-binary members and to the larger trans and non-binary community."
A 'complex decision'
A spokesperson from the V&A told Arts Professional the museum “made the complex decision to remove several objects from this gallery – not just the Stonewall poster – as having reflected on the interpretation, the senior team felt more consultation was necessary with young people and teachers on how to present these topics, to ensure their perspectives were more fulsomely represented” .
“Young V&A’s mission is to foster children’s creativity, and our new galleries include displays that illustrate how design is used as a creative tool to campaign for social issues,” the spokesperson added.
“We are fully committed to supporting and representing LGBTQIA+ across the V&A, from collecting new works by trans and non-binary artists, to our events programme, LGBTQIA+ tours, and exhibitions such as Fashioning Masculinities and DIVA to create an inclusive programme that reflects the diversity of society today.”
This article was updated on 30 June to include comment from PCS union.