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Why the LGB Alliance had to win

This is a victory for free speech, gay rights and scientific truth.

Joanna Williams

Joanna Williams
Columnist

Topics Identity Politics UK

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The LGB Alliance, the UK’s only charity dedicated to defending the rights of same-sex-attracted people, has emerged victorious from its legal battle with Mermaids. Mermaids, a charity for young transgender people, took the LGB Alliance to court in an unprecedented bid to have its charitable status removed. This was a case that had far-reaching implications for the rights of gay, lesbian and bisexual people, for freedom of association and for free speech. Thankfully, tribunal judges today ruled that Mermaids had no right to bring this challenge. The LGB Alliance can keep its all-important charitable status.

Backed by Jolyon Maugham’s Good Law Project, Mermaids’ case claimed that the LGB Alliance was ‘impeding the work of registered charities that work for the benefit of transgender people’. When the case came to court in September and November last year, Mermaids accused the LGB Alliance of ‘promoting the view that [trans groups] spread disinformation’ and ‘seeking to deprive them of funding’. Essentially, Mermaids was angry that a group defending the interests of lesbian, gay and bisexual people had dared to oppose its views on gender.

The LGB Alliance has good reason to criticise gender ideology. According to this worldview, biological sex has nothing to do with whether you are a man or a woman – and if there is no such thing as sex then surely there is no such thing as same-sex attraction. Indeed, gender ideology has led to a revival of homophobia in a new guise. When self-declared gender identity supersedes biology, we soon end up with males declaring themselves to be lesbians. Actual lesbians who do not want to date ‘women with penises’ are then written off as transphobic. And so men and women who are only attracted to people of the same sex are effectively pushed back into the closet.

For gay and lesbian children, the impact of transgender ideology can be catastrophic. Girls reluctant to accept themselves as lesbians know that they will be celebrated if they identify as a transgender boy. They then find themselves on a conveyor belt towards breast-binding, puberty blockers and, eventually, life-changing surgery.

It is entirely possible to raise these concerns about gender ideology without expressing any hatred or bigotry towards trans people. The LGB Alliance does exactly that. Nevertheless, a campaign to discredit it as ‘anti-trans’ began immediately after its launch in 2019. Even now, Mermaids claims the LGB Alliance is ‘focussed on hostile anti-trans activism’. The group has also been smeared as far right and even homophobic. These claims have been amplified by high-profile figures, while Mermaids has received celebrity endorsements from the likes of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Harry Potter star Emma Watson and US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. With celebrities, large parts of the media and public institutions all backing Mermaids, the LGB Alliance’s victory today was never guaranteed.

In its bid to have the LGB Alliance stripped of its charity status, Mermaids was attempting to delegitimise a group that holds an alternative viewpoint to its own. In a democratic society that values free speech, charities must be able to represent different perspectives and interests. There are charities representing the meat trade and vegetarians, abortion rights and pro-life groups. But for the likes of Mermaids, only one view on gender is acceptable. Its legal action was an attempt to silence the alternative view and to undermine free speech.

Today marks an important victory for the LGB Alliance. But, in many ways, a much bigger battle has been won here. Mermaids’ key witnesses repeatedly proved themselves to be uncooperative and ignorant. Mermaids’ chair of trustees, Dr Belinda Bell, told the court: ‘I’m not sure that people come out of the womb with a sex.’ When confronted with the fact that a disproportionate number of children who present as trans later turn out to be gay or lesbian, she said this was ‘too niche and specialist’ for her to comment on. Paul Roberts, the chief executive of the LGBT Consortium, acknowledged that he had not read last year’s Cass review, which led to the closure of the Tavistock gender-identity clinic. He also claimed he was unable to comment on the human-rights implications of the gender-identity debate, because he was ‘not a legal expert’. Transgender ideology itself seemed to be on trial in this case – and it did not come out of it well.

The case has led to much greater scrutiny of Mermaids. Members of its board of trustees have since been investigated and its practices – including allegedly sending breast-binders to children without parental consent – have been exposed. In a delicious irony, Mermaids’ bid to have the LGB Alliance stripped of its charitable status prompted an initial Charity Commission investigation into Mermaids in November last year. This led its then CEO, Susie Green, to resign. In December, as yet more concerns about governance and management emerged, the Charity Commission launched a full statutory inquiry into Mermaids, which is ongoing.

All of this is to be welcomed. Supporters of the LGB Alliance can take delight in Mermaids being tripped up by its own malicious legal case. But the bigger problem we now face is that the ideas about gender pushed by Mermaids are still being promoted to children in schools, in popular culture and through the endorsement of celebrities and multinational corporations. This is the fight that still needs to be won.

The LGB Alliance has had to wait a long time for today’s court ruling. Fighting this unnecessary case has no doubt been expensive and emotionally gruelling. Kate Harris, co-founder of the LGB Alliance, broke down in court when she was asked to define the word ‘lesbian’. She should never have been put in this position. Time and resources that could have been better spent campaigning to improve the lives of LGB people have instead been spent on this legal defence.

Still, today’s verdict is worth celebrating. This is not just a victory for the LGB Alliance – this is also a victory for free speech, sex-based rights and scientific truth.

Joanna Williams is a spiked columnist and author of How Woke Won, which you can order here.

Picture by: Getty.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Identity Politics UK

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