National Trust volunteers around the country have been asked about their “gender identity” and sexual orientation, sparking another row over the organisation’s values.
Questions include, “Is your gender identity the same as the gender you were assigned at birth?”, and asking whether volunteers are “Trans” or “Non-binary”.
The probing is part of an annual survey that goes to tens of thousands of volunteers. While optional, critics say the questions are unnecessary.
In the online questionnaire respondents are asked to signal whether they are “Female”, “Male”, “Trans”, “Non-binary”, “Intersex” or if they would “Prefer not to say”.
On sexual orientation, they are asked if they are “Bisexual”, a “Gay man”, a “Gay woman/lesbian”, “Heterosexual/straight” or again if they would “Prefer not to say”.
The volunteers’ survey is optional and has been running for over ten years – but this is the first year such controversial questions have been included.
Former Conservative minister Ann Widdecombe said the questions were “intrusive and above all unnecessary”.
“It shouldn’t be asking them and it’s no wonder some people are feeling offended,” she added.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, one anonymous National Trust volunteer said they were left aghast at the questions.
“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.”
The Trust defended its questions, saying they helped the organisation “understand who volunteers with us so that we can make the Trust a more relevant and accessible place to volunteer”.
It added: “Questions about gender identity and sexual orientation are an optional part of our annual volunteers’ survey, which is in itself optional.”
Over the summer, the National Trust caused controversy when it pressured some volunteers to wear an LGBT ‘rainbow’ badge.
Some helpers at Felbrigg Hall in Norfolk reportedly declined to wear the item – and were told they could not be on duty in “a visitor-facing role”.
The General Manager of the Hall had claimed the rainbow lanyards and badges sent a “clear message of welcome to all of our visitors”.
But Simon Calvert, Deputy Director at The Christian Institute, said he thought the move told many people who hold to traditional morality: “you’re not welcome”.
In August the organisation U-turned, saying wearing the badges was “optional and a personal decision”.