WATCH: Rowley – Mordaunt has ‘questions to answer’ about her position on self-identification

17 Jul

The post WATCH: Rowley – Mordaunt has ‘questions to answer’ about her position on self-identification appeared first on Conservative Home.

Profile: J.K. Rowling, striving to stop Starmer nailing his colours to the fence on trans

16 Mar

When J.K. Rowling was 14 years old, she heard about Jessica Mitford, who “had run away at the age of 19 to fight with the Reds in the Spanish Civil War”, and “charged a camera to her poor father’s account to take with her”.

By Rowling’s account, “It was the camera that captivated me.” Mitford the upper-class Communist became her heroine, and many years later, in 2006, she reviewed Decca: the Letters of Jessica Mitford, for The Daily Telegraph.

The idol of a 14-year-old cannot always withstand the mature and sceptical gaze of a 41-year-old, as Rowling by then was. But in this case there was nothing to worry about:

“Decca’s letters sing with the qualities that first made her so attractive to me. Incurably and instinctively rebellious, brave, adventurous, funny and irreverent, she liked nothing better than a good fight, preferably against a pompous and hypocritical target.”

People who have not been following Rowling’s battle against Sir Keir Starmer and other Labour politicians on the vexed question of trans rights might suppose this to be a case of a famous author who dabbles for a day or two in Twitter without understanding what she is getting herself into.

Such a view would be gravely to underestimate Rowling. Like Mitford, she likes nothing better than a good fight. She has been deliberately, not accidentally, provocative, for she enjoys danger and is convinced of the justice of her cause.

At the end of last week, Sir Keir visited British troops in Estonia. While there, The Times reported, he said that “trans women are women”, and when asked to define a woman, replied:

“A woman is a female adult, and in addition to that trans women are women, and that is not just my view — that is actually the law. It has been the law through the combined effects of the 2004 [Gender Recognition] Act and the 2010 [Equality] Act. So that’s my view. It also happens to be the law in the United Kingdom.”

This provoked a series of furious tweets from Rowllng:

I don’t think our politicians have the slightest idea how much anger is building among women from all walks of life at the attempts to threaten and intimidate them out of speaking publicly about their own rights, their own bodies and their own lives. 1/3

Among the thousands of letters and emails I’ve received are disillusioned members of Labour, the Greens, the Lib Dems and the SNP. Women are scared, outraged and angry at the deaf ear turned to their well-founded concerns. But women are organising. 2/3

Now @Keir_Starmer publicly misrepresents equalities law, in yet another indication that the Labour Party can no longer be counted on to defend women’s rights. But I repeat: women are organising across party lines, and their resolve and their anger are growing. 3/3

Rowling speaks as a woman of the Left. She is a friend of Sarah and Gordon Brown, and gave the Labour Party a million pounds when he was leader.

Nobody could accuse her of being pro-Tory. Harry Potter, her most famous creation, spends his holidays being persecuted by the ghastly Dursley family, who live in Privet Drive and read The Daily Mail.

She has said that in 1994-95 – when as an impoverished single mother, having fled with her daughter, Jessica (named after Mitford) from her short and abusive first marriage, she was writing her first Potter book – it was Labour’s proposals for lifting single parents out of poverty which appealed to her, and Tory moralising about marriage which disgusted her.

Before the 2010 general election she wrote a piece for The Times in which she said that since becoming rich, as she did soon after her first book was published in 1997, she had not changed her mind. She still could not stand the Tories.

During the Barnard Castle affair in May 2020, when Boris Johnson stuck by his adviser Dominic Cummings, the official Civil Service Twitter account published a tweet which described the Government as “Arrogant and offensive”, and asked: “Can you imagine having to work with these truth twisters?”

Rowling wished to know the name of the official who had posted this rapidly suppressed tweet, so she could pay him or her a year’s salary. She denounced Cummings’ “indefensible hypocrisy” and described Johnson’s behaviour as “despicable”.

While the trans row is not at the front of the public’s mind, it poses a mortal danger for Labour, opposing as it does two groups which believe themselves to be in exclusive possession of the truth, while their opponents are plunged in unforgiveable error.

Trans activists maintain that men who know themselves to be women should be able on their own authority to declare themselves women. They are inclined to accuse anyone who disagrees with them of being transphobic, an offence placed on a level with racism, i.e. unforgiveable.

Rowling and co hold that sex is a biological given, and say it would be intolerable to allow access to women-only spaces to men who claim to be women. Many traditional feminists are outraged that their hard-won women-only spaces might be invaded in this way.

The majority of public figures, confronted by such a contentious issue, where one is liable to be denounced in bitter terms if one adopts a clear position, try to keep their heads down. (So too many commentators. Here is a ConHome interview with James KIrkup, one of the few journalists to have followed the story.)

No less a figure than Tony Blair has warned, “Keeping your head down is not a strategy.” He went on to say:

“On cultural issues, one after another, the Labour Party is being backed into electorally off-putting positions. A progressive party seeking power which looks askance at the likes of Trevor Phillips, Sara Khan or J.K. Rowling is not going to win.”

Yvette Cooper, Shadow Home Secretary and one of Labour’s most experienced frontbenchers, nevertheless sought, the other day, to keep her head down, saying when asked to define a woman:

“I think people get themselves down rabbit holes on this one… I’m not going to get into rabbit holes on this… As you can see I’m avoiding going down rabbit holes because I just think this is pointless.”

If Cooper’s view had prevailed, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland would never have been written.

Such evasiveness infuriates Rowling. On Tuesday 8th March, International Women’s Day, Anneliese Dodds, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, was asked on Woman’s Hour on Radio 4 to define a woman, and said:

“There are different definitions legally around what a woman actually is . . . you’ve got the biological definition, legal definition, all kinds of things.”

Pressed for Labour’s definition of a woman, Dodds replied:

“I think it does depend what the context is, surely. You know, there are people who have decided that they have to make that transition. Because they live as a woman, they want to be defined as a woman.”

Rowling tweeted:

“Someone please send the shadow minister for equalities a dictionary and a backbone.”

She also tweeted a picture of Joanna Cherry, an SNP MP who agrees with her on the trans issue, and provided the caption for it:

“This is what a woman who owns a dictionary and a backbone looks like.”

And as it was International Women’s Day, she tweeted:

“Apparently, under a Labour government, today will become We Who Must Not Be Named Day.”

My literary adviser (I have not read the Potter books) points out that Voldemort, the villain, is most often referred to as He Who Must Not Be Named.

Rowling has 13.9 million followers on Twitter, Sir Keir 1.2 million and Dodds 73.3K. Of the three, Rowling is undoubtedly the most entertaining.

For she is not just an avoider of questions or a creator of soundbites. She is prolific and audacious. Some authors, having sold 500 million copies of their most famous series and seen it translated into 70 languages, might be tempted to rest on their laurels.

Rowling would be bored to death by such a life. Rather than emigrate to some sunny tax exile in order to preserve as much of her fortune as possible, she married a Scottish doctor, bought a house outside Perth, had two more children, went on writing books, and set up charities devoted to such causes as multiple sclerosis (from which her mother died), social deprivation and orphanages in Ukraine.

In June 2020 she wrote a piece about her reasons for speaking out on sex and gender issues, in which she said of her decision to support Maya Forstater, a tax specialist who had lost her job for what were deemed “transphobic” tweets:

“I expected the threats of violence, to be told I was literally killing trans people with my hate, to be called cunt and bitch and, of course, for my books to be burned, although one particularly abusive man told me he’d composted them.

“What I didn’t expect in the aftermath of my cancellation was the avalanche of emails and letters that came showering down upon me, the overwhelming majority of which were positive, grateful and supportive. They came from a cross-section of kind, empathetic and intelligent people, some of them working in fields dealing with gender dysphoria and trans people, who’re all deeply concerned about the way a socio-political concept is influencing politics, medical practice and safeguarding. They’re worried about the dangers to young people, gay people and about the erosion of women’s and girl’s rights. Above all, they’re worried about a climate of fear that serves nobody – least of all trans youth – well.”

Rowling was born in Gloucestershire in 1965. Her parents had been in the Royal Navy, and were both 19 when she was born. This was not a gilded, Mitford world, but the house was full of books. She went to Wyedean comprehensive school, where she was head girl, and from there to Exeter University, where she read French, which included a year in Paris.

She always wanted to be a writer, but like most people with that ambition, doubted whether it would be possible. After various unsuitable jobs, such as bilingual secretary, she found the first Harrry Potter story taking shape in her mind on a train journey.

There is a directness in Rowling’s manner which is found in few politicians. She goes for things, and on the trans question she has gone for the whole lily-livered Labour leadership.

If and when she gets them to stop nailing their colours to the fence, she will have done them a service.

Sue Pascoe: Conversion therapy needs to be banned for gender identity

14 Feb

Sue Pascoe was a candidate for Yorkshire and the Humber in the 2019 European elections.

The consultation to ban so called “conversion therapy” closed on February 4. The Government Equality Office will now analyse the responses before preparing legislation which is expected before the Government’s flagship global LGBT+ “Safe to be Me” London conference commencing June 29.

The Prime Minister has called this an abhorrent practice and the UN regards it as a practice of “torture”. So what is it? It is when someone tries to exert coercive pressure over another to try and suppress, cure or change their sexual orientation or gender identity. It can range from pseudo-psychological treatments, deliverance prayer, to in extreme cases, electric shock treatment and “corrective” rape.

In my case I was six when my mother tried to crucify me to prove that God did not believe what I was telling her; that I was a girl and not a boy. I was 15 when my mother and the doctors ignored what I was telling them about my innate feelings and operated on my variation in sex characteristic condition to make me more functionally male.

I was 20 when I went to see a therapist asking for help to change my gender and I was given “conversion therapy”, and made to be totally ashamed of who I was. So I went into the world as best I could hiding my true self, deep inside suffering life-long pain resulting from these “conversion practices”.

I’m 61 now and finally after many years I have managed to fully transition to be Sue. I’m at peace with myself having aligned all my sex characteristics as best I possibly can.

I’m not alone having suffered conversion therapies. In 2017, the Government launched the largest national survey of LGBT people in the world to date of over 108,000 people.

It found “Five percent of respondents had been offered ‘conversion’ therapy (but did not take it up) and a further 2% had undergone it. These figures were higher for trans respondents (e.g. 9% of trans men been offered it and 4% had undergone it). Faith organisations were by far the most likely group to have conducted conversion therapy (51%), followed by healthcare professionals (19%)”, then parent, guardian or other family member (16 per cent). The survey showed that “Transgender respondents were more likely to have reported having undergone or been offered conversion therapy (13%) than cisgender respondents (7%).”

This information was reported by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to the UN in 2019. This formed submissions from countries all over the world all showing similar results.

One study of 27,000 transgender respondents in the US found of the nearly 80 per cent that had discussed their gender identity with a religious adviser or secular therapist, 20 per cent had been subject to conversion therapies – and these had “shown that gender identity conversion efforts are associated with adverse mental health outcomes, including suicide attempts.” As therapists and religious practitioners are all online nowadays, what happens globally can now come into our front room or bedrooms.

So it’s really not surprising that the Scottish Human Rights Commission issued a statement to the Scottish Parliament in August 2021, based on the UK being a signatory to the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Ratified by the UK in 1988, it said: “the UN Committee Against Torture has expressed its grave concern in relation to reports about the existence of “conversion therapies.” Based on the obligations set forth in the Convention, the Committee has determined that States are required to:

a. Take the necessary legislative, administrative and other measures to guarantee respect for the autonomy and physical and personal integrity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons and prohibit the practice of so-called “conversion therapy,” and other forced, involuntary or otherwise coercive or abusive treatments against them”

With this evidence and the EHRC being described as the UK’s “National Human Rights Institution, we monitor the UK’s compliance with the seven United Nation’s human rights treaties it has agreed to follow.

It was quite extraordinary to find the EHRC submitting a statement on conversion therapy which said that due to “the lack of evidence about conversion therapy in relation to being transgender and the importance of any ban not preventing appropriate support for individuals with gender dysphoria”, no ban should take place for gender identity at the same time as the ban on conversion therapy for sexual orientation.

What is perverse is that Minister Freer will be steering this legislation through Parliament, and as the consultation document itself makes clear, therapeutic support for people with gender dysphoria will be unaffected and that it is right and proper that exploratory therapies and consultations are required in order to determine if someone is or isn’t gender dysphoric.

What is also very strange is the EHRC ignored the qualitative study commissioned by the Government Equality Office from Coventry University and the Stonewall Gender Identity Conversion Therapy Study of 2020, both of which evidenced conversion therapy harms against transgender people happening in the UK now.

So what’s going on? Frankly, how much evidence of harm do you need? Are we also to ignore our UN treaty obligations? The call for more evidence by the EHRC appears to be just a way of trying to put the gender identity part of the ban into the long grass. For our human rights organisation to do this is shameful.

But the EHRC then gets itself into very dangerous territory. It says: “The Government should make clear that psychological, medical and healthcare staff can continue to provide support to people experiencing gender dysphoria; this should include support to reduce distress and reconcile a person to their biological sex where clinically indicated, including for children and young people aged under 18 if this is in their best interests.”

I’m not sure if the EHRC realises that if a person has been diagnosed as gender dysphoric and you then try to “reduce distress and reconcile a person to their biological sex”, as it suggests, this could be tantamount to trying to cure, suppress or change a person’s gender identity if a pre-determined outcome is set by a clinician to do this – and that is conversion therapy!

I am deeply troubled with the breakdown in trust that has now occurred with large swathes of the LGBT+ community and the EHRC as a result of its statements on conversion therapy and Scottish gender recognition. There have also been significant allegations of bias against transgender people made against the Commissioners in the online magazine Vice, with whistleblower revelations and staff leaving the organisation as a result.

Major LGBT+ charities are now refusing to work further with the EHRC. This is not sustainable especially not with the Government’s “Safe to be Me” conference to be held soon. I too have lost trust and confidence in the leadership of the EHRC to act to properly protect the rights of LGBT+ people.

I retain trust in Lord Herbert, the PM’s LGBT+ Envoy and Minister Freer. I was pleased with his response to everyone’s concerns about the EHRC statement where he posted on twitter:- “Everyone should be free & safe to be themselves. No one should be subjected to conversion practices because of who they are or who they love. Trans people will be protected by the upcoming Bill to ban conversion therapy practices.”

I trust and pray the legislation will reflect this and we will get a comprehensive ban on all types of conversion therapy practices covering both sexual orientation and gender identity.

Charlotte Gill’s Podcasts Review 3) Julie Bindel with Kathleen Stock, Christopher Hope with Matt Hancock

10 Nov

Every fortnight, ConservativeHome will compile a handful of podcast recommendations – content that has been published in the weeks preceding – for its readers. Although these will mainly focus on podcasts for conservative listeners, we will try to include other options – should they be particularly interesting. Sometimes this feature will contain other types of media.

Title: UnHerd
Host: Julie Bindel
Episode: Kathleen Stock: I won’t be silenced

Duration: 49:29 minutes
Published: November 3

What’s it about?

It’s been a hellish few weeks for Kathleen Stock, who was hounded out of Sussex University, where she was a professor of philosophy, for the crime of believing sex and gender are different things. During the course of this interview, she sits down with Julie Bindel to discuss the events at the university, from students’ campaign of intimidation against her, to her ultimate departure. Stock, as always, is intelligent, measured and full of common sense, during the exchange.

Some teaser quotes:
  • “All these posters, all the way along the length of the tunnel, had my name on them: “Fire Kathleen Stock,” “Kathleen Stock’s a transphobe,” “We’re not paying our fees for the transphobia of Kathleen Stock”.
  • “Gender identity theory is egregiously false: it’s terrible philosophy. I cannot emphasise that enough. It sits on this bed of pseudo-philosophy coming out of poststructuralism; it’s a bad interpretation of poststructuralism… It would fail a first year essay.”
  • “I can see why they had a vested interest in shutting me down. And my God, they went for it. And they still do.”
Verdict:

A must-see for conservative readers and anyone with concerns about the direction of travel in regards to gender identity theory. It will leave you under no doubt that cancel culture poses a huge threat to the West, contrary to the claims of some of the Left.

Title: Chopper’s Politics
Host: Christopher Hope
Episode: Matt Hancock on trolling, Tony Blair and ‘Tory scum’

What’s it about?

Last week Matt Hancock made the headlines, after he revealed he had been taking tips from Tony Blair about how handle vitriol on social media. The scoop came from this interview with Christopher Hope, where Hancock and Rupa Huq from the Labour Party introduce their new initiative, which aims to start a dialogue on the abuse MPs face.

Some teaser quotes:
  • “I do think there has to be a way of tackling anonymous abuse because freedom of speech – which I believe in very strongly – and freedom of the press is not freedom to abuse; it is freedom to discuss, and have a discourse, which by its nature you need to know who you’re talking to for the value of that.”
  • “The way libel operates doesn’t work any more, because online, you may only have a few hundred followers and that could still be incredibly damaging and poisonous to the way that discussion happens.”
  • “If we don’t put a stop to this decline and debasement, then politics itself – and therefore democracy itself – is at risk.”
Verdict:

A light-hearted dive into more serious issues. You sense how much Hancock has missed being in the thick of things.

Title: UnHerd
Host: Freddie Sayers
Episode: Covid doctor: no UK lockdown this Christmas

Duration: 27:36 minutes
Published: November 8

What’s it about?

Since the Coronavirus crisis began, ConservativeHome has been delighted to have Dr Raghib Ali, a clinical epidemiologist from Cambridge University, offer his expertise to the site. Frequently Ali contributes Twitter threads to bust myths about Covid and lockdowns, more recently against those who “assume that more restrictions are the answer“, in a post that went viral. In this interview, Sayers quizzes Ali on the possibility of another lockdown at Christmas, as well as whether booster jabs have been rushed through.

Some teaser quotes:
  • “I don’t think we’re going to have any new restrictions between now and Christmas.”
  • “The mask mandate has been maintained in Wales and Scotland, and hasn’t been shown to be particularly effective. If you look at their case rates and hospitalisation rates and death rates since July 19th, when we diverged, they really haven’t been very different to England.”
  • Often, interventions are brought in – multiple interventions are bought in at the same time, or we’re released at the same time. And it’s hard to figure out which one has been the main cause of falling cases or rising cases.”
Verdict:

As always, a measured and in-depth perspective on Covid from a world expert.

When did PSHE grow so big and become so woke?

2 Nov

Last week, Girlguiding, the leading UK charity for girls and young women, caught my attention – and many other people’s – when it tweeted in celebration of Aceweek, “a time to raise awareness and understanding of the asexual community.”

It paid tribute to “all” of its “asexual volunteers and members” in a post that raised a lot of questions about the purpose of the organisation. What is Brown Owl doing, after all, lecturing on this matter – as opposed to teaching girls about, say, how to put up a tent?

Forget camping trips and frolics with friends, though, it seems that girls are learning about a whole host of psychosocial matters when Mum and Dad drop them off at Brownies. Indeed, Girlguiding’s Twitter page is littered with posts about “microaggressions” and diversity and inclusion, among other things.

In one post, Girlguiding warns that “88% girls aged 7-21 feel it’s urgent that we do more to protect the environment.” But why are children as young as seven even being polled on eco policy? You might ask. Is this what we want after-school clubs to focus on?

Unfortunately, Girlguiding’s Twitter feed seems emblematic of a wider trend, which is the PSHE-ification of Western society. Organisations increasingly believe it’s their role to lecture children on the birds and bees (or neither, in the case of asexuality), and everything in between.

PSHE, as many will know, stands for Personal, Social and Health Education. Back in my day that was learning about sex, drugs and eating disorders, among other interpersonal issues. Lessons lasted an hour maximum and were not the dominant feature of a child’s education.

In 2021, however, the number of social issues a child is supposed to know about goes much further, and delves into completely fringe territory. A BBC film to support PSHE in schools, for example, taught children that there are 100 or more gender identities.

Schools are also expected to teach kids about mental health and emotional wellbeing – something I fear leaves them more confused than empowered. How will young children be able to tell the difference between normal sadness, or if they have this thing their teacher told them about – depression?

Furthermore, children are learning about climate change, with no consideration for how scary some of this information is. So in depth is their knowledge, apparently, that a group of eight to 12-year-olds were recently sent to Downing Street for the “Children’s Climate Conference”, where they grilled Boris Johnson on his policies. 

It’s hard to believe that we have a Conservative government while this PSHE-ification phenomenon intensifies. We seem to talk more about these matters than traditional parts of education, and it’s become the default for the state, teachers and organisations – essentially anyone other than parents – to take ownership of personal development.

At the risk of sounding like Mary Whitehouse, I should point out that I’m not against PSHE lessons, per se; for some children, sex education is vital in homes where parents don’t want to talk about it. But it’s the extent to which PSHE now dominates education, the scope of what it covers and its lack of political neutrality – especially in the case of climate change – that is troublesome.

The PSHE-fication of our society goes further than schools, though; it now seems that in almost every area of our lives we are offered some sort of pastoral care. As Andrew Gimson recently wrote for ConservativeHome, one of the areas the nation is most bossed around over is climate change.

And, indeed, with the advent of COP26, I have been amazed at the amount of moral guidance I have received by way of adverts. My Twitter feed has had many from eco conscious companies, telling us all to do more. Eastenders and other TV shows have even embedded environmental lessons into their storylines. Industries seem to have forgotten their primary functions – to sell, entertain, and the rest, appointing themselves the teacher at school to our childhood selves.

Sadly the public does not seem resistant to this occurrence. The pandemic, in fact, reinforced people’s urge to be parented, from whether they should wear a face mask to the politics of eating a scotch egg in a pub. The apocalyptic warnings from COP26, where attendees can only wash their hands in cold water (for sustainability purposes), hint at how the state – and others – could next direct our lives.

Either way, we are heading in the wrong direction. That Girlguiding now opines on asexuality should be a wake up as to what is now prioritised in education. It’s time to let kids be kids, and for the adults to grow up.

Jo Bartosch: The BBC’s trans propaganda is alienating licence fee payers

14 Aug

Jo Bartosch is a journalist and campaigner for the rights of women.

If you knew that a teenager was buying potentially dangerous drugs online would you send in a film crew or call social services? The BBC have made their stance clear; vulnerable kids injecting themselves with hormones is televisual content to educate, entertain and inform the nation.

Aired earlier this month, a programme called Transitioning Teens, presented by young “trans activist and influencer” Charlie Craggs, set out to meet “young trans people” who have taken the “dangerous route of using unregulated medications and starting their transitions themselves.” Earlier this year, a suspiciously similar programme entitled DIY Trans Kids, also presented by Craggs was due to be broadcast; it was pulled following backlash on social media from those concerned that the programme’s synopsis glamourised harmful practices.

Undoubtedly, the colossal rise in children and young people identifying as trans is a newsworthy topic. Rates of referral to gender identity services (GIDS) have soared over the past decade; from 138 children and teenagers in 2010/11 to 2,383 from 2020/2021. But rather than a careful examination of what might be termed a social contagion, 23-year-old Craggs makes the case for quicker access to puberty blockers, potentially sterilising cross-sex hormones, and cosmetic surgeries.

There is a passing nod to impartiality. A ‘detransitioned’ young woman is interviewed, though the meeting is prefaced with a warning from Craggs that “destransitioners are used as a stick to beat trans people with”. The case of Keira Bell is also briefly referenced: Bell has been at the centre of a legal battle about children’s ability to consent to beginning the process of sex reassignment. Bell’s ordeal included the removal of her healthy breasts and possible sterility due to the administration of puberty blockers followed by testosterone.

But the suffering of destransitioners is glossed over, presented as collateral damage, an exception to the rule that ‘teens know best.’

The BBC’s transgender activist agenda extends beyond programming. It’s on social media where the gulf between Aunty Beeb and her reluctant licence-paying nephews and nieces is most apparent.

Earlier this week, BBC Sport tweeted to its 9.3m followers that they would block those who “bring hate” to its social media pages, encouraging other users to report offending comments the “relevant authorities”.

It seems the ‘hate’ they were referring to was from people who objected to fawning coverage of Olympic weightlifter Laurel Hubbard. Touted as the “first openly transgender athlete” the BBC championed the achievements of the 43-year-old, using female pronouns throughout articles. Those who dared to suggest Hubbard’s participation in the women’s category was unfair were branded ‘hateful’ and accordingly blocked.

Whilst the observation that Hubbard is a male might lead to dropped macchiatos in BBC editorial meetings, to the wider world it is simply a statement of fact.

Not to be outdone, on Tuesday, BBC Woman’s Hour tweeted asking listeners: “What’s the best way to inform teenagers about porn? Should there be age-appropriate porn as has been suggested so they can learn about consent and what’s respectful and what’s not?”

Whilst the programme itself was relatively sober, this clickbait tweet was the final straw for many listeners who expressed their anger online.

Tanya Carter, spokeswoman for the safeguarding group Safe Schools Alliance UK, said she was “disturbed the BBC’s lack of understanding of safeguarding.” She added:

“This has been a bad week for the BBC, from their bizarre tweets about ‘age-appropriate’ porn (making no mention of the fact that showing under 18’s porn is in fact child sexual abuse), their censorship of pro-women comments on Laurel Hubbard stories to their sanitising of the sexual abuse of children by describing it as ‘having sex. We expect better from our public broadcaster.”

Having once led the world with impartial, brave public broadcasting, the BBC is now shedding support. The bludgeoning of licence fee payers with the block button, and crass attempts to re-educate a sceptical public through trans propaganda, risk turning this once respected organisation into an irrelevant laughingstock.

Victoria Hewson: The NHS single sex accommodation policy is a dire reflection on how far gender ideology has travelled

13 Aug

Victoria Hewson is a solicitor and co-founder of Radical, a campaign for truth and freedom in the gender recognition debate. She and Rebecca Lowe, her co-founder, alternate authorship of this column on trans, sex and gender issues.

It has been heartening to see some positive developments in the sex and gender debate recently. Prominent and respected individuals like Baroness Jenkin and Nimko Ali have made considered comments questioning gender ideology.

While the inclusion of Laurel Hubbard in the women’s weightlifting competition at the Olympics was regrettable (not least for the young woman whose place at the games was taken by Hubbard) it has prompted a more informed consideration of trans participation in sports by governing bodies and in the media. 

But a quick scan of relevant stories from the past couple of weeks shows that troubling policies and lobbying are still widespread. 

The Telegraph reported that hospitals across England accommodate patients on wards on the basis of gender (including self-identified gender) rather than sex. This has led to males, including sex offenders, being treated on women-only wards 

Looking back at the origin of the legally binding commitment to single sex wards, it is clear that Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary at the time, was unequivocal that patients would be separated based on biological sex, for reasons of privacy and dignity, as well as safety.

This seems obvious when one considers the vulnerable state of many people being treated in hospital, including the elderly and those who are in mental health wards, who often unable to leave.

The applicable NHS guidance on meeting the commitment is indeed unequivocal on single sex sleeping, bathing and toilet facilities. Until it comes to the Annex on trans patients and gender-variant children. Which undermines the entire policy by mandating that ‘Trans people should be accommodated according to their presentation: the way they dress, and the name and pronouns they currently use’ – even if they have not legally changed their name or gender and even if their transition is only temporary.

Moreover, ‘Non-binary individuals, who do not identify as being male or female, should also be asked discreetly about their preferences, and allocated to the male or female ward according to their choice.’ Transgender-identifying children are also to be accommodated in line with their gender identity, even if the parents disagree: ‘the child’s preference should prevail even if the child is not Gillick competent.’ 

The guidance claims that the NHS is required to manage wards in this way, and can only carry out risk assessments to exclude transwomen from female wards on a case by case basis. This is, of course, the preferred interpretation of the Equality Act put forward by Stonewall and other activists, and it fundamentally undermines the premise of single sex wards when any man can simply assert that they identify as a woman and must be taken at their word.

Carrying out individual risk assessments on trans patients would entail a significant burden on clinical staff and ward managers, and it is unclear what risks are to be assessed, if fears and threats to the personal dignity of fellow patients who do not wish to sleep and undergo medical and care procedures alongside members of the opposite sex are effectively excluded as a consideration. As with the case of prisons, if this is truly what the Equality Act requires, it is surely time for the law to be changed. 

We have written in this column before about the disproportionate influence that LGBT charity Stonewall seems to exert, in both public and private sectors. The deference to its legal advice and guidance was criticised by barrister Akua Reindorf in her report to the University of Essex on the ‘no platforming’ of certain speakers at the university.

A number of organisations have subsequently distanced themselves from the charity. Now research by the Taxpayers’ Alliance has revealed that over just a three year period, Stonewall received at least £3,105,877 from 327 public sector organisations for its Diversity Champions scheme, conferences, events and training programmes. This included almost half a million pounds from the NHS.

The TPA has rightly noted that Stonewall’s privileged (and well-funded) position has allowed it to lobby and campaign at the taxpayers’ expense. The TPA has called for this taxpayer-funded lobbying to come to an end so that public money is not being used to distort political decision making and to advance policy positions which many taxpayers may seriously disagree with. 

The vision of gender identity activists has been allowed to infiltrate public life for a generation, either because politicians and activists did not understand the implications of phasing out references to ‘sex’ to replace them with ‘gender’, or because they thought it was the right thing to do to support transgender people. In either case, the practical consequences for women and girls and for fairness and accountability in public services have not been properly considered.

Unwinding these consequences seems likely to be the work of a generation too, and greater transparency about the relevant policies in bodies like the NHS and the pernicious influence of Stonewall is essential for that purpose. We await with interest the outcome of current Health Secretary Sajid Javid’s review of the NHS single sex accommodation policy. 

Radical: Women are the casualties when judges capitulate to gender ideology

16 Jul

Victoria Hewson is a solicitor and Rebecca Lowe is the former director of FREER, and a former assistant editor of ConservativeHome. Together they founded Radical, a campaign for truth and freedom in the gender recognition debate.

No doubt you sometimes think the things we write about in this column are esoteric — debates about pronoun policies seem far removed from real life. But sadly, quite frequently, there’s a development in the sex/gender debate that brings it to life in an immediate and visceral way. The story of Keira Bell, the young woman whose judicial review centred on the puberty blockers she’d been prescribed, and surgery she’d undergone to try and transition her to the male gender, was one such case.

And now we have the story of “FDJ” — a woman (whose anonymity is protected by the courts) who was held in a women’s prison alongside male prisoners. FDJ sought a judicial review of the Prison Service policy that allows co-habitation to happen. Earlier this month, we learned that she‘d been unsuccessful, and the policy was found to be lawful.

We wrote recently about the Care and Management of Transgender Individuals policy, set by the Prison Service and the Ministry of Justice. This policy provides, broadly, that transwomen prisoners with a gender recognition certificate (GRC) will be housed automatically in the women’s prison estate (irrespective of any physical transition), unless risk assessment shows that the risk to women is “particularly high” (note that this accepts some risk is to be tolerated). Male prisoners who self-identify as women but do not have a GRC may be moved to a women’s prison after assessment by a specialist board.

FDJ’s legal action revealed that:

  • There are 34 transwomen prisoners without GRCs in women’s prisons. It’s unknown how many transprisoners with GRCs are in women’s prisons.
  • Many of these transwomen prisoners are sex offenders, convicted of assaulting women and children. It seems transwomen prisoners are more likely to be sex offenders than the male prison population as a whole, but again, prison service and MoJ data is incomplete and opaque.
  • There’ve been a number of sexual assaults on women prisoners by transwomen prisoners, but, yes, data on this is unclear, too — not least because the Prison Service doesn’t generally appear to record transwomen with a GRC as trans.
  • This situation causes many women prisoners (who’ve often had hard lives outside of prison, and been victims of sexual and domestic abuse by men) great anxiety and fear.

The court found, however, that the policy that led to this situation is lawful: the infringement of the rights of women prisoners can be justified by the “balance of rights” that favours respecting the gender identity of the transwomen prisoners. The provision of the Equality Act that allows trans people to be excluded from single sex spaces is permissive, not obligatory, so minsters are not required to apply it. Even if they did, excluding transwomen from women’s prisons might not be proportionate and legitimate: by existing case law, it is “impermissible” to exclude all transgender women prisoners from women’s prisons.

So, what can we draw from this case? First, it is striking that from the opening paragraph of the judgment, the judges use the contested and politicised terminology of gender-identity activists. Lord Justice Holroyde described the case as relating to “persons who identify as the opposite gender from that which was assigned to them at birth”. The outcome of the case will have come as no surprise, therefore, to any reader familiar with the capture of institutions by gender ideology.

Second, the haphazard data collection on transgender prisoners is troubling, and the court considered it “unsatisfactory”. This failing seems to stem in large part from the assumption that transgender prisoners with a GRC must automatically, and in all cases, be treated as biological women, and therefore they do not generally have data recorded about them in their capacity as trans.

Third, the judges considered that risk assessment and management is enough to safeguard women prisoners from the risks presented to them by the presence of males imprisoned alongside them.

In reality, the assumption that a “Complex Case Board” will always be able to weed out individual prisoners who are not sincere in their gender expression seems naïve. Evidence from Scotland shows that transwoman prisoners have reverted to their male identity as soon as they were released from women’s prisons, to the distress of the women prisoners who had been held alongside them. It would be interesting to know how many prisoners who claim to be transgender but do not possess a GRC are found by these boards not to be “sincere”, or to be too dangerous to be moved to the women’s estate.

The judges were satisfied that these processes of risk assessment and management are enough to discharge the duties of the Secretary of State in respect of the human rights of the women prisoners, even if it leaves them feeling distressed and afraid, and places them at increased risk of violence or sexual assault. The judges accepted all of these adverse consequences for women. And under the current legislative framework and case law, this may well be the legally “correct” conclusion. But this does not, of course, make it the right thing morally; the law can, and often has been wrong. And it is hard to think of a better example of UK law being blatantly wrong than this.

Beyond moral outrage over inevitable outcomes, there are concerning inconsistencies in the current policy. If risk assessment and management is thought to be enough to protect women from male violence, surely the same could be applied to the protection of transgender prisoners on the male estate? The sad truth is that the first “headline requirement” of the policy — “All individuals in our care must be supported to express the gender with which they identify” — leads to a burden of risk being placed on some of the most vulnerable women in our society.

This burden is not aimed at protecting transgender prisoners from violence, but at supporting them in expressing their gender identity. The cost to women, whether in physical attacks or simply in fear and distress is, by the formulation accepted by the judges, and by judges in cases before them brought by trans prisoners seeking relocation to the women’s estate, simply part of the “balance of rights” that has been deemed appropriate. Even within the constraints of the law as currently understood, though, it must be possible to frame a policy more respectful of the rights and interests of women prisoners.

Kate Coleman, director of Keep Prisons Single Sex, who supported this judicial review, emphasised to us that:

“This judgement is not the end of the matter. Our group of supportive and active MPs and Peers is growing and this week we have emailed out 30 PQs to be asked across both Houses. Going forward, Parliament will be a focal point for our efforts: if it is lawful to house a male prisoner convicted of rape alongside female prisoners who have been the victims of sexual assault, then the law needs to change.”

You can contribute to the KPSS crowdfunder here.

Caroline Nokes, Chair of the Women and Equalities select committee, once flippantly remarked that concerns about transgender prisoners were an overblown reaction to one high profile case. We hope, in light of the case bravely pursued by FDJ, that Nokes and her committee will take urgent renewed interest in the rights and wellbeing of women prisoners.

Radical: As the EHRC leaves Stonewall’s diversity scheme, how many other organisations will follow?

26 May

Radical is a civil-rights campaign for truth and freedom on matters of sex and ‘gender’, committed to free expression and equal respect, founded by Rebecca Lowe and Victoria Hewson. This Radical piece is written by Rebecca, the former director of FREER.

There are some organisations that are typically presumed irreproachable: “You can’t criticise x… it’s a national treasure!”. Certain famous charities, and the NHS, come to mind. Yet to think that any person or group is beyond criticism is unhelpful — not least to them. Fair criticism helps us all.

For organisations, however, accountability is often more than a matter of improvement. Accountability keeps organisations focused on the good, and is a prerequisite for many. Any organisation taking taxpayer money, providing core services, dispensing important public information, working with children, and so on, must be formally held to account.

Doing so isn’t to show bad will towards them; it’s required. This isn’t just a matter of improving outcomes, in other words. Being accountable is an essential part of state (and various related kinds of public) behaviour, deriving from obligations to do with respect and transparency, correlative to basic rights.

Nonetheless, it’s easy to revert to assuming the best, particularly about organisations with laudable aims. This kind of thinking is bad enough on an individual level, but devastation can ensue when it’s embedded into the structures that are supposed to ensure accountability. Think of Kids Company. And the Oxfam Haiti scandal. Not only did individuals working within these charities do serious wrong, so did the people charged with holding them to account. Helping others comes with important obligations, not a free pass on how you behave.

With this in mind, let’s turn to the big “sex and gender” news of the week. Regular readers will be aware of our longstanding concerns about institutional capture. We’ve written again and again about how the UK’s core institutions — schools, universities, police forces, healthcare services, prisons — have been ruthlessly captured by a set of “charitable” organisations pressing the ideology of “gender identity”.

This involves not only denying the importance of biological truth, and putting women and children at risk of serious consequent harms, it also often involves the purposeful misrepresentation of law. This has been revealed many times. It’s been revealed by groups such as Fair Play for Women and Sex Matters. It’s been revealed in the fallout of judicial reviews. And none of it is surprising: it’s all there in the policy documents of your local core service providers. Just run a search for tell-tale words — “assigned at birth”, for instance — and you’ll find the evidence, no problem.

On one hand, therefore, it’s great news that the Equality and Human Rights Commission isn’t going to renew its membership of the Stonewall Diversity Champions Scheme. As the leading employment and discrimination lawyer Naomi Cunningham has neatly and extensively catalogued, “submitting to Stonewall” is not only extremely expensive and time-consuming for organisations, it also also puts them at serious risk of moral and legal wrongdoing:

“If you are a public body, it will distort your policies and decision-making in ways that will expose you to judicial review, and embarrassing and expensive climb-downs of the kind already performed by Oxfordshire County Council, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Office for National Statistics. But worst of all, depending on the nature of your functions, it may cause you to infringe liberties, mis-state the law, commit or condone criminal offences, and put children and vulnerable adults at risk of serious harm”.

But you have to ask (yet again) why organisations like the EHRC didn’t realise this for themselves, sooner. You don’t have to be a brilliant lawyer to recognise, for instance, that, as Cunningham points out, Stonewall’s standard presentation of the law regarding self-identification and single-sex spaces is severely lacking:

“Stonewall constantly pushes the idea that self-identification already has legal consequences, and self-identifying trans women (without a GRC) are automatically entitled to access women-only spaces. Employers that accept this and permit self-identifying trans women to use women’s toilets, locker rooms, or changing or washing facilities, etc may face indirect discrimination claims. This is a provision, criterion or practice that is applied to the whole workforce, but which is likely to put women at a particular disadvantage compared to men: the employer will be required to show that it is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. If women suffer sexual harassment as a result of these policies, employers are likely to be vicariously liable for that.” 

This should be obvious to anyone who’s read the Equality Act. Yet many of the Stonewall “Champion” organisations will not only have access to top lawyers, they’ll also have their own legal and specialist HR departments! After all, these organisations (the names of which are now hidden behind a membership paywall on the Stonewall website) include government departments, local authorities, and some of the most successful UK companies. The Times reported late last year that they included:

“Thirty police forces, 57 local authorities and 50 NHS organisations […] along with John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, the Post Office and dozens of universities [and that the] Cabinet Office, Foreign Office, Department for Education and Crown Prosecution Service are also signed up”. 

It’s not only the EHRC that’s currently reassessing membership, however. Last week, Essex University published the Reindorf Review — barrister Akua Reindorf’s inquiry into two serious “no-platforming events” that happened at the university.

Among the review’s 28 comprehensive, and often effectively damning recommendations, are the following: a) that the “University’s equality, diversity and inclusion policy documents, Charter and Strategic Plan should be standardised so that they all accurately describe the protected characteristics in the Equality Act 2010”; b) that the “Supporting Trans and Non Binary Staff policy and Harassment and Bullying Zero Tolerance policy should be amended to accurately state the law, in particular with a view to ensuring that they are an authoritative source of information for the purposes of the external speaker review process”; and c) that the “Supporting Trans and Non Binary Staff policy should be reviewed by a specialist lawyer and if necessary amended to ensure that it offers adequate protection and is lawful”.

The review’s final recommendation focuses on Essex’s relationship with Stonewall, suggesting the university should “give careful and thorough consideration to the relative benefits and disbenefits of its relationship with Stonewall, bearing in mind the issues raised in this report”.

This is noted particularly regarding how “this relationship appears to have given University members the impression that gender critical academics can legitimately be excluded from the institution”. But it’s clear the review’s findings reflect generally on the legal advice regarding sex and gender that Stonewall has presumably persistently provided to Essex as a member of the Champions programme. As yet, Essex hasn’t renounced its membership — but surely this will come soon.

Not soon enough, however. And that stands for the vast number of public organisations that have also been blindly following Stonewall’s guide. It’s not only matters of law on which the public has been misled, after all. Just think about Stonewall’s general unconditional evangelism of “gender-identity” ideology.

The way in which this ideology has taken hold has not only put some of the most vulnerable children in our society on a medical pathway towards to infertility and long-term health risks, but also to the homophobic assertion that it’s wrong for a gay woman to refuse to have sex with a male-bodied transwoman. Yet Stonewall still claims to be a leading gay-rights charity — as, of course, it once was.

It’s devastating that a charity that has done so much good has fallen so far. But it’s not unthinkable. It never is. Whenever we assume that charities are beyond reproach, we leave unprotected those people they claim to protect, and are at risk of violating basic rights.