News, Culture & Society

National Trust asks volunteers to disclose their gender

The rainbow badge that the National Trust previously made employees wear

The National Trust was at the centre of a new political correctness row last night after asking volunteers to disclose their sexual and gender orientation.

In an online survey, the charity is asking them to reveal their ‘gender identity’, giving them the choice of ‘male, female, trans, non-binary or intersex’.

The survey, sent to all of the Trust’s 65,000 volunteers, then asks them: ‘Is your gender identity the same as the gender you were assigned at birth?’

It also asks them to identify whether they are gay, bisexual, lesbian or straight.

The Trust last night insisted that the survey was voluntary and completely anonymous – and that volunteers were given the option of ‘preferring not to say’. 

However, some volunteers and critics labelled the study ‘intrusive’ and ‘completely unnecessary’, and warned that it risked alienating many of the Trust’s core supporters.

It comes weeks after the charity sparked fury by forcing volunteers at one of its properties, Felbrigg Hall in Norfolk, to wear gay pride badges. The Trust was also criticised for ‘outing’ Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer – the late writer who gave Felbrigg Hall to the Trust in 1969 – as gay.

The controversies have come during the tenure of Dame Helen Ghosh, the outgoing director-general, who has been accused of promoting a politically correct agenda.

The charity has recently been accused of being so Left-leaning it’s like ‘the Blair government in exile’ and of becoming obsessed with a tick-box culture of ‘the disabled, the aged, LGBTQ [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer] and ethnic communities.’

Last night, former Tory minister Ann Widdecombe said: ‘The National Trust has lost its way completely. These questions are intrusive and above all unnecessary. It shouldn’t be asking them and it’s no wonder some people are feeling offended.’

National Trust asks volunteers to disclose their gender

One National Trust volunteer, who asked not to be named, told the Mail: ‘I was horrified to be asked for my gender identity and sexual orientation.

‘What on earth has that got to do with volunteering?’ The questions came in the Trust’s annual survey of its 65,000 volunteers. A link to the survey, conducted by a market research company, has been emailed to all volunteers and is also promoted at the charity’s properties.

It contains a series of questions in its ‘personal profile’ section, asking respondents whether they are gay, bisexual, lesbian or straight, and then if they are male, female, trans, non-binary or intersex.

Volunteers can skip the ‘personal profile’ section of the optional survey, sent out this week.

Respondents are told their answers are anonymous and will be shared only with senior staff to help the Trust’s work on ‘diversity, equality and inclusion’.

But some were unhappy with the survey yesterday, saying the questions were ‘completely unnecessary’. The volunteer said: ‘The National Trust management is risking the good name of the National Trust, built up over decades, and need to think things through more carefully.

‘Do they really need to know that type of information about their volunteers?

‘Through their actions they are highlighting the differences, rather than simply accepting their volunteers for who they are, not what they are.’

Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen said: ‘I’m beginning to lose trust in the National Trust, and I think so will many of their members. It’s clear with recent revelations the direction the management wish to take the organisation. They are in danger of leaving their volunteers behind.’

The volunteer survey been running for over a decade, but this is the first year it has included questions about gender identity and sexual orientation.

Dame Helen and a series of controversies 

Politically correct: Dame Helen Ghosh

Politically correct: Dame Helen Ghosh

The Trust has been embroiled in a string of rows during Dame Helen Ghosh’s time director-general. They include:

March 2015: Dame Helen says that she wants its stately homes to have fewer exhibits because rooms often have ‘so much stuff’ that it puts off all but the middle classes.

April 2015: The trust enrages heritage experts by replacing antique furniture dating back to 1820 from the library at Ickworth House in Suffolk and replacing it with four beanbags.

September 2016: The charity is accused of using ‘Mafia tactics’ by buying Lake District farmland at an inflated price, thwarting locals who had hoped to keep it as a working farm.

April 2017: It is accused of ‘airbrushing faith’ after posters at National Trust houses asked children to ‘Join the Cadbury Egg Hunt’. In previous years the conservation charity called it the ‘Easter Egg Trail’.

August 2017: Volunteers mutiny after the National Trust makes them wear gay pride badges to mark 50 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality. The Trust is also accused of seeking ‘cheap publicity’ for ‘outing’ Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer – the late writer who gave Felbrigg Hall to the Trust in 1969 – as gay.


Asked about it last night, a Trust spokesman said: ‘These questions help us to understand who volunteers with us so that we can make the Trust a more relevant and accessible place to volunteer.

‘We know that some groups are underrepresented in Trust volunteering and this data will help us to attract and retain a wider range of volunteers.

‘Questions about gender identity and sexual orientation are an optional part of our annual volunteers’ survey, which is in itself optional…

‘The data collected is anonymous and stored confidentially.’ 

The Trust was also criticsed for 'outing' Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer - the late writer who gave Felbrigg Hall (pictured) to the Trust in 1969 - as gay

The Trust was also criticsed for ‘outing’ Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer – the late writer who gave Felbrigg Hall (pictured) to the Trust in 1969 – as gay