How Stonewall turned against gay rights

How Stonewall turned against gay rights

With friends like this, who needs homophobes?

Andrew Doyle

Andrew Doyle

Topics Free Speech Identity Politics

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If Stonewall isn’t yet dead, it must surely be on life-support.

This week the UK’s foremost LGBT charity was found not to have induced the Garden Court Chambers to discriminate against one of its members, the barrister Allison Bailey. At the same time, the court found that having followed Stonewall’s advice, the chambers had acted unlawfully, and awarded Bailey £22,000 in damages. If this is a victory for Stonewall, it is certainly of the Pyrrhic kind.

In the wake of this judgement, there can be little doubt that other institutions will begin to understand that the risks of signing up to Stonewall’s ideology are too great. Some will be surprised to learn that a supposedly pro-gay charity took it upon itself to demonise a black lesbian with a long history of social-justice activism, but many gay people now feel that Stonewall not only fails to represent them, but also works actively against their interests. Even some of its co-founders, such as Matthew Parris and Simon Fanshawe, have expressed concerns that the charity is losing its way.

So how is it that an organisation that was so instrumental in the struggle for equality has morphed into what many perceive to be a serious threat to gay rights? The trouble began in 2015, when Stonewall suddenly pivoted into new ideological terrain. Up until then, it was committed to the rights of lesbians, gay men and bisexuals, but having won all its major battles – such as equal age of consent, same-sex marriage and partnership rights – it decided to prioritise gender identity as its new cause.

Not that there’s anything wrong with groups lobbying on behalf of trans people, or providing support for those who are affected by anti-trans discrimination. But sexual orientation has nothing to do with gender identity, so this was a completely different direction for Stonewall. LGB had mutated into LGBT, but few stopped to ask why two very different causes should be yoked together in this way.

Some people have argued that, having achieved all its goals, Stonewall was suffering a crisis of purpose, and needed to find a new cause in order to justify all the money it receives. I don’t claim to know the reasons, and whenever I have invited representatives from Stonewall to appear on my weekly GB News show, Free Speech Nation, they have refused. Stonewall has a policy of ‘no debate’, which is of course very convenient for those whose ideas cannot withstand scrutiny. Instead, it prefers to dismiss all legitimate concerns as ‘hateful’ or ‘transphobic’, an infantile response that only perpetuates the toxicity surrounding these issues.

Like many activist groups, Stonewall presents its regressive ideas as ‘progressive’. So while most of the general public still believe that Stonewall exists to support equal rights for gay people, the truth is that in its current form it promotes highly contested views on gender and sexuality as though they are fact. In other words, it continues to rely on a reputation forged when it was a very different organisation, and much of the goodwill toward the charity is sustained due to a general misapprehension of its aims. It has become increasingly clear that gender-identity ideology is incompatible with gay rights, and so any group that attempts to promote both is destined for self-destruction.

Stonewall’s ideological mania has opened it up to repeated accusations of misrepresenting the Equality Act 2010. After the University of Essex rescinded invitations to two visiting speakers falsely accused of transphobia – professors Rosa Freedman and Jo Phoenix – the barrister Akua Reindorf produced a report that said this was due to Stonewall’s influence, and that the charity had ‘stated the law as Stonewall would prefer it to be, rather than the law as it is’.

Naomi Cunningham, barrister and chairwoman of Sex Matters, has outlined how this works:

‘Stonewall sells its Workplace Equality Index as a scheme to help organisations comply with equality law. But what it offers is lobbying – it presents its own highly contentious understanding of what the law should be… as “training” on what the law is. It tells organisations to treat anyone who identifies as the opposite sex as if they have changed sex, and are therefore automatically entitled to use spaces such as toilets, changing rooms and showers that others rely on for privacy. That’s not the law. But Stonewall presents it as if it is and encourages organisations to treat any objections as a disciplinary matter.’

Documents uncovered by The Times revealed that Stonewall has sought to control what NHS trusts, government departments and local councils post on their social-media accounts. If these bodies publicly support Stonewall’s stance on gender-identity ideology, they are rewarded with points towards its Top 100 Employers index. For instance, a government department will earn more points if it decides to use the term ‘birthing parent’ instead of ‘mother’. The index has become, in the words of Stonewall co-founder Simon Fanshawe, ‘a way of coercing employers in their language and structure, instead of encouraging them to embrace the different needs of their LGBT staff’.

Then there is the question of the risks that Stonewall’s ideology poses to children, which in the light of Dr Hilary Cass’s ongoing review into gender-identity services have become all too apparent. As a consequence of Cass’s findings, revealed in an interim review from earlier this year, and a letter published this week, the Tavistock Centre – a paediatric gender-identity clinic run by the NHS – is now to close. Whistleblowers had revealed how the clinic adopted an ‘affirmative’ approach to gender dysphoria, meaning that children were encouraged on a pathway towards transition without proper assessments of their psychological and social circumstances. Gender nonconformity in childhood is a very reliable predictor of homosexuality in later life, which is why an affirmative approach to gender confusion in youth often amounts to the medicalisation of gay children. This explains why there was a running joke among the staff at the Tavistock that soon ‘there would be no gay people left’.

One would have thought that a pro-gay charity would be troubled by the implications of such a policy, and yet this week Stonewall tweeted out the following: ‘Research suggests that children as young as two recognise their trans identity. Yet, many nurseries and schools teach a binary understanding of pre-assigned gender. LGBTQ-inclusive and affirming education is crucial for the wellbeing of all young people!’

The details of this ‘research’ remain unspecified, but I have read some of the studies that make similar claims, and they are invariably ideologically driven. A common trick is to take evidence that shows a child’s burgeoning awareness of differences between men and women and how these manifest according to social conditioning and then call this a ‘gender identity’. But children do not have a gender identity. Nor do most adults, for that matter. It is akin to what Helen Joyce has described as a ‘sexed soul’ – a quasi-religious belief.

When a little boy prefers to play with dolls, or a little girl prefers blue to pink, surely the best response is to let them get on with it. Yet many have taken the view that such children ought to be ‘fixed’ to better accord with gender stereotypes.

This happens in one of two ways. The first is best exemplified by a video that went viral several years ago of Sean Harris, a pastor at a Baptist church in North Carolina. This is what Harris had to say about gender nonconformity in childhood:

‘Dads, the second you see your son dropping the limp wrist, you walk over there and crack that wrist. Man up. Give him a good punch… And when your daughter starts acting too butch you rein her in. And you say, “Oh no sweetheart. You can play sports. Play them to the glory of God. But sometimes you are going to act like a girl and walk like a girl and talk like a girl and smell like a girl and that means you are going to be beautiful, you are going to be attractive, you are going to dress yourself up.’

The other way that adults try to ‘fix’ gender nonconforming children is through the transitional process. In the BBC documentary Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best? (2017), there is an interview with a father in which he discusses his experience of raising a child as transgender. ‘I saw her run off to camp after she transitioned’, he says. ‘And ah! That’s just like a girl running, instead of looking at my son who runs like a girl.’ It is clear that the prospect of a feminine son is the real concern here.

Gender-identity ideology encourages parents to take a reactionary view of tomboys, or boys who prefer traditionally ‘girlish’ pursuits. Any who remain unconvinced might wish to consult the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) which provides criteria for the diagnosis of gender dysphoria in childhood. Most of these are related to the extent to which children adhere to sex stereotypes. For boys, these include ‘a strong preference for cross-dressing or simulating female attire’ and ‘a strong rejection of typically masculine toys, games, and activities and a strong avoidance of rough-and-tumble play’. And for girls these include ‘a strong preference for wearing only typical masculine clothing and a strong resistance to the wearing of typical feminine clothing’ and ‘a strong rejection of typically feminine toys, games, and activities’.

In other words, religious fundamentalists and gender ideologues share the deeply conservative view that gender nonconformity is a problem that requires intervention. The gay novelist Simon Edge explained the problem succinctly in a recent tweet. He posted an image of himself as a little boy and wrote:

‘This is me as a kid. I was studious, bad at any kind of sport and far from conventionally boyish. I’d have been transed before breakfast if Stonewall had been in charge. Anyone now backing Stonewall is pulling up the ladder to stop kids like me growing up as gay men. For shame.’

None of this is to deny that some people experience gender dysphoria and in order to be happy must undertake procedures to present as the other sex. Nor is it to suggest that such people don’t deserve our support and protection from discrimination and harassment. But pushing through a policy of gender affirmation in infancy, a policy that will disproportionately affect gay people, is not progressive. I have spoken to numerous gay men and lesbians who have little doubt that in today’s climate they would have been encouraged to transition, and later lived to regret it.

Since 2010, the number of teenage girls referred to the Tavistock clinic has increased by 5,000 per cent. Teenage girls are particularly susceptible to social contagion, as studies into eating disorders and self-harm have shown, so this sudden rise in young girls claiming not to be female is clearly a concern. These individuals are not old enough to vote or buy cigarettes, and yet we are assured that they should be able to make life-changing decisions about their own bodies.

This is why so many people who were continually affirmed in their belief that they were trans are now in the process of ‘detransitioning’. Ritchie Herron, a 35-year-old civil servant from Newcastle, is currently suing the NHS for encouraging him on to a path that ended with the removal of his genitals. And there will be many more of these lawsuits to come.

In order to stem this dangerous anti-gay trend, it is essential that Stonewall’s influence is diminished. Its tentacles reach into all major areas of public life, with major corporations, public bodies and governmental departmental departments signed up to its schemes. An investigation by the TaxPayers’ Alliance last year found that a total of 327 public bodies were paying into Stonewall’s Diversity Champions scheme. Between 2018 and 2021 Stonewall received over £3million of taxpayers’ money.

The Department for Education paid Stonewall £600,000 during a five year period from 2016 to 2021. And although Liz Truss as equalities minister in May 2021 urged all government departments to withdraw from Stonewall’s employment scheme, many have still not done so. The Department for Work and Pensions, the Department for International Trade, the Department for the Environment, the Home Office, the Foreign Office, the Treasury, HMRC, the House of Lords, the Scottish government, the Welsh government, the Labour Party, the Green Party – all of these bodies and many more are still signed up to Stonewall.

For those who are genuinely concerned about gay rights, it is worth remembering that Stonewall’s CEO, Nancy Kelley, has compared lesbians who don’t want to include men in their dating pool to ‘sexual racists’ and those with gender-critical views to anti-Semites. This is the charity that has redefined the word ‘homosexual’ on its website and promotional materials to mean ‘sexual orientation towards someone of the same gender’. In truth, gay people are same-sex attracted, and a recognition of the biological reality of sex differences has always been at the heart of the historical struggle for gay liberation.

With friends like these, who needs homophobes?

Andrew Doyle is a satirist, broadcaster and the author of Free Speech and Why It Matters.

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Free Speech Identity Politics


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