Stonewall is at centre of a poisonous debate on trans rights and gender identification | Transgender

Since its inception in 1989 in response to a school and council ban on “promoting homosexuality” under Section 28 of the Local Government Act, Stonewall has been part of every major struggle for LGBT rights in Britain. But in the past few weeks it has gotten tangled up in a poisonous series.

A founding member accused her of taking an “extremist stance”, a report accused her of providing false advice on equality law, and a cabinet minister urged all government departments to withdraw from their Diversity Champions program, which the Equality and Human Rights Commission runs (EHRC) resigned last month.

Every controversy has been linked, directly or indirectly, to their position on transsexual rights, which critics believe is too aggressive and is meant to end the debate which the charity and its defenders believe will get them on the right side of the world History represents.

The right to change the legal gender was enshrined in the UK in the 2004 Gender Recognition Act, but it was only six years ago that Stonewall announced its advocacy for transsexual equality and apologized for the past failure. Their change of attitude coincided with a time when the debate between trans rights activists on the one hand and gender-critical feminists – who do not believe that gender identity should take precedence over biological sex – on the other became increasingly tense. and polarized.

A year ago, in her first interview after taking over as CEO of Stonewall, Nancy Kelley told the Observer that after criticizing her predecessor, the organization would no longer try to get its critics to accept their views on gender, rather, focus on “changes that” would make the lives of transsexuals easier “.

Twelve months later, Kelley and Stonewall are at the center of a storm. Last Saturday, Matthew Parris, one of the 14 founders of Stonewall, wrote in the Times that the charity had been “pushed into an extremist position” on transsexual rights. He argued that Stonewall should stay out of the subject and cling to LGB rights without the T, which stands for trans.

Dissenters point out that LGB and T issues have long been intertwined, with trans activists Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P Johnson being major figures on the gay rights scene at the time of the 1969 New York Uprising from which Stonewall derived its name.

Parris’ column followed a report by a University of Essex attorney who found the institution unlawfully banned a female speaker after allegedly accused of transphobia.

Nancy Kelley, CEO of Stonewall, is confident about Stonewall’s advice on gender identity. Photo: Andy Hall / The Observer

Akua Reindorf’s report did not suggest the charity was directly involved in the decision to expel Prof. Jo Phoenix, but said that the university, which is part of Stonewall’s Diversity Champions Workplace Integration program, annually issued its policy Charity staff submits in support of trans and non-binary, and Stonewall appeared to have missed the university’s “wrong summary of the law”.

Reindorf said the mistake was that the policy said “gender identity or trans status” is protected by law while only sex reassignment is protected, and concluded that the university should look into its relationship with the campaign group. Kelley said the distinction was semantics.

Headlines focusing on Stonewall’s role in the controversy were followed by others suggesting employers were leaving the Diversity Champions program because of unrest over transgender inclusion training. The Telegraph reported that six public sector organizations of around 850 members listed on the Stonewall website had opted out, although those exits had been in place since 2019 and none had publicly cited the issue of trans rights as a motivation for leaving.

Reports came on Monday that Gender Equality Minister Liz Truss is calling on all ministries to abandon the program. When the EHRC left last month, the watchdog said its decision was based on costs, but it was only days after Stonewall and other LGBTQ + groups used an open letter to express their “frustration and disappointment” with “recent LGBTQ + records – To explain to people “the rights of the EHRC and in particular the rights of trans people”.

The letter was in response to the EHRC defending gender-critical beliefs, suggesting that they were “protected beliefs” within the meaning of the Equal Opportunities Act, a position that the signatories said was a “kick in the teeth for trans- People”.

In an interview with the BBC, Kelley incited more shame by comparing gender-critical beliefs to anti-Semitism.

“All beliefs, including controversial beliefs, have the right to express those beliefs publicly, and if they are harmful or harmful – be it anti-Semitic beliefs, gender-critical beliefs, beliefs about disability – we have legal systems that are put in place for people, who are harmed by it, ”she said.

Kelley, who said Stonewall believes in freedom of expression but “not without limitation,” said the comparison was fair because people are protected based on their gender identity as much as people are protected on the basis of race.

Veteran gay rights activist Peter Tatchell was a target for some advocates of transgender rights after signing a letter in support of free speech quoting attempts to ban Germaine Greer and Julie Bindel, both of whom raised concerns about predatory men Get access to women’s rooms. Even so, he told the Guardian that recent criticism of Stonewall was way off the mark.

“Stonewall is confirmed,” he said. “It is ethically correct to stand up against the marginalization and hate crime of trans people.

“Bans and no platforms suppress bigoted views, but do not question or change them. Bad ideas are most effectively refuted by good ideas that show why they are wrong and gather counter-arguments and evidence. However, there are two standards of race and transsexuals. Why do many people who support rejecting racist speakers reject rejecting those who have similarly biased opinions about trans people? “

People hold posters that read Trans Fabulous and other slogansTransgender people and their supporters protest outside Downing Street during the second Trans Pride March for Equality in September 2020. Photo: WIktor Szymanowicz / NurPhoto / PA Images

On Kelley’s anti-Semitism comparison, he said. “Those who deny the existence of trans people, give them the wrong gender and advocate anti-trans discrimination reflect the prejudices of racists and homophobes.”

But Prof. Kathleen Stock, a professor of philosophy at the University of Sussex, who wrote a book criticizing gender identity theories, said Stonewall promoted a far too broad definition of transphobia.

“Through its Diversity Champions program, it spreads this very popular idea that attacking the theory – or attacking its interpretation – of identity is an attack on trans people. And that really made the whole discourse incredibly toxic, given its enormous reach within national institutions, ”she said.

She added that as a gay woman, she has benefited in the past from the advances in equality that Stonewall had made in the past, but has now surpassed it. “They got what they wanted in terms of gay marriage and a lot of other of their original goals, so they needed a new agenda, they needed new revenue, new streams and rationale, and they found one through what is now trans – Rights is called – but it is a tendentious interpretation of what trans rights are.

“Of course I believe that trans people should have absolutely every right not to be attacked or discriminated against at work … but they got this new project and immediately the t-shirts say ‘Trans women are women, get over it’ – that can’t be more aggressive …

“You came in under the guise of EDI [equality, diversity and inclusion] but they go well beyond education, research, language control and hate crime legislation in my opinion. “

Kelley said, “We are very proud of the work we are doing with workplaces, schools, and community organizations to help everyone in our communities thrive.”

She said the Diversity Champions program continued to grow in number and that she was “confident” about Stonewall’s advice on gender identity, which was recently upheld in the Supreme Court.

The Stonewall controversy suggests the two sides are as far apart as ever, but Tatchell urged them to focus on each other’s similarities rather than their differences.

“All women, including trans women, are victims of misogyny, discrimination, violence and sexual assault,” he said. “That gives them a common interest in working together. Trans women are different from other women, but being a different type of woman is perfectly legitimate and not a reason for the venomous slander they endure.

“Many women’s agencies have been accepting trans women for a long time without any problems. They screen every trans woman and accept her unless there is evidence that she poses a threat. This review protects women and has long been proven in many women’s services.

“You cannot base transpolitik on the actions of a handful of bad apples. That would be grossly unfair to the vast majority of trans women who never pose a threat to other women and will never pose a threat. “

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