I am suing Stonewall to stop them policing free speech

My story 

The need for a new lesbian, gay and bisexual organisation: the birth of the LGB Alliance

In 2019, I helped to set up the LGB Alliance with other campaigners and activists who felt, like me, that organisations such as Stonewall had seriously lost their way in recent years: they had conflated sex with gender, meaning that same sex attraction – the fundamental basis of lesbian and gay attraction, and therefore the fundamental basis of lesbian and gay rights – was no longer recognised. The impacts of this have been several and severe, and in order to campaign properly for gay and lesbian rights, we felt that a new organisation was required. 

Gender non-conforming children and young people, who would otherwise overwhelmingly grow up to be happily LGB, are vulnerable to the new trans activism‘s ‘born in the wrong body’ narrative, leading to an explosion in medical and surgical procedures on healthy young bodies, especially female bodies, so as to conform to 1950s gender stereotypes.

There is now growing evidence that this movement is being driven by homophobia: children and young people who do not want to be labelled LGB in a homophobic society, and parents who do not want LGB children.

Disproportionate numbers of trans identified girls and young women experience body dysphoria because of histories of sexual abuse, depression, anxiety, mental ill-health and autism, and because they are in turmoil about being same-sex attracted — lesbian, yet they are sent down a trans medical pathway. 

These young women have had years on testosterone and double mastectomies. They report that their mental ill-health and same-sex attraction was not addressed; they were encouraged instead to view their body dysphoria as a trans identity issue and medical transition as a panacea, a cure all.

These brave young women are detransitioning and speaking out. Their voices and their stories point to an unfolding medical scandal.

It is a terrible indictment of the new trans activism, that one of the greatest threats to LGB people today, especially young lesbians, is Stonewall, and its spin-off trans child and youth organisations. These organisations have been allowed to label gender non-conforming children, aged as young as 8 years old, transgender. 

I had been concerned about Stonewall for several months. In December 2018, my chambers had become a member of Stonewall’s Diversity Champions scheme, and I had voiced my concern about this within chambers. I felt troubled by the scheme, because I felt that it allowed Stonewall to police the opinions and views of individuals whose organisations (such as mine) had joined the scheme.

Leaving women with no legally enforceable boundaries against men: Stonewall’s Acceptance without Exception policy

The opinions in particular that I felt that Stonewall were policing were those which conflicted with Stonewall’s approach to discussions around sex and gender. Stonewall’s mantra is “acceptance without exception“, particularly of people who were born as men but who then identify as women: as a woman, a lesbian, a criminal defence barrister and someone who has had extensive experience of male violence, abuse and oppression of women, I believe that there should be some exceptions to males being admitted into female spaces.

These exceptions are already recognised and are contained in the Equality Act 2010. The removal of those exceptions, and a change in the law to allow them, is one of Stonewall’s explicit campaigning aims. I do not believe that this is consistent with campaigning for LGB rights; indeed one of the matters about which Stonewall later complained about me to my chambers was my vociferous objection to a Stonewall advocate lecturing on the “cotton ceiling” – the term used to encourage lesbians to have sex with males. This is in my view abusive, coercive and fundamentally homophobic. It ought to be absolutely anathema to any organisation which labels itself as a gay rights organisation as Stonewall does.

I have been abused as transphobic and bigoted. This is absolutely not the case. I have always been an advocate for transgender rights. I believe passionately that transgender people must enjoy protection under the law from discrimination and abuse. I abhor all attempts to strip transgender people of the full rights of citizenship; and in the USA the horrific killing of black trans identified males, trans women (by other males). However, I do not accept, for one moment, that in order to secure protections for trans women, including from male violence, women must lose a single one of the the hard won rights and protections they have from men, however males identify.

The label of transphobic has been applied to me and to others like me who recognise that sex is immutable. A person may identify as they identify, and they should be protected and respected for their identity. However, a person’s identity is not a license to cause distress or intimidation to others, and can never legitimately be used to put others to harm. There are necessary exceptions to the acceptance of males in female spaces, and those exceptions are necessary to protect women.

These injustices arise as a result of the misguided insistence that gender has somehow replaced sex as a fundamental aspect of human identity. It is for that reason that I am gender critical. This is not to say that gender is not a genuine aspect of identity for some people. But it is separate and does not (and cannot) replace sex.

The result of Stonewall’s “acceptance without exception” mantra is to put women at risk of harm. The insertion of self-identifying trans women into the female prison population has resulted in the sexual assault and rape of women. Women would be effectively excluded from the top echelons of women’s sport if male-bodied athletes are entitled to compete alongside them. The acceptance of male-bodied people in female-only public spaces such as changing rooms and medical settings excludes women whose religious beliefs prevent them from sharing space in a state of undress with males. The acceptance of male-bodied people in female-only spaces will cause trauma, fear and distress to many survivors of male violence.

Perhaps most specifically from my point of view, that Stonewall unilaterally and without any mandate whatsoever, and to further its lobbying ambitions, redefined homosexuality as same-gender and not same-sex attraction was an especially egregious betrayal of LGB people, especially lesbians. The inclusion of male-bodied people into the class of lesbian women means that lesbians are excoriated for bigotry and transphobia simply for being same-sex attracted. This is base homophobia.

It was because of these injustices – and the role as I and others saw of it of Stonewall in promoting these injustices – that the LGB Alliance was set up, in order to fill the void in LGB campaigning that Stonewall had left when they decided to campaign for “acceptance without exception”.

Stonewall (a registered charity) throwing its weight around & trying to police & silence its critics

In October 2019, I tweeted about the launch of the LGB Alliance. My chambers contacted me to say that they were concerned by some of the replies that they were receiving on Twitter, and asked me to remove reference to chambers on my twitter bio. I did so.

However, chambers also tweeted that they were investigating me, implying that I had somehow done something wrong. They did not tell me before they issued that statement, and it does not appear that they were in fact investigating anything when they initially said that they were.

Over a week later, I was informed that a complaint had been received from Stonewall and that this was now under investigation. When the complaint was provided to me, I saw that what Stonewall had written was misleading and disingenuous. The complaint included a threat that Stonewall’s relationship with chambers would be damaged unless chambers took action against me.

I engaged fully with the complaint, providing a lengthy response to the investigation. Nevertheless, the investigation upheld complaints against me.

I felt that the way in which this had been done validated the concerns that I had expressed the previous year, and which Nicholas Hellen reported in The Sunday Times, and that Stonewall were in effect policing me through my chambers simply for being critical of their work and for raising concerns about their work. I felt that chambers were intimidated by Stonewall into reaching a finding against me, mindful that Stonewall are a significant and (to many people) ostensibly benign organisation.

Stonewall: nothing to disclose — until there was

I lodged Subject Access Requests to my chambers and to Stonewall, asking for the data they held on me. My chambers replied with 4 lever arches of documents; Stonewall initially denied that they had any documents at all, despite the fact that their complaint to my chambers had already been provided to me so I knew that they had this document at least – and the absence of that document in their response indicated that there were other documents to which I was entitled and which they were withholding from me.

When I raised with Stonewall that I knew that they were withholding documents from me in breach of their legal obligations, and the possibility of a referral to the Information Commissioner, they responded by providing me with some documents. These show that:

– Individuals within my chambers were liaising with Stonewall in the days following the launch of the LGB Alliance, 

– Stonewall were involved in eliciting complaints against me from third party organisations and directing them to my head of chambers.

– The process by which chambers was deciding how to deal with me was being shared with Stonewall, and Stonewall were strategising on how to shape its outcome, including in relation to specific internal meetings at chambers.

– “Roundtable” and “data gathering” meetings appear to have been held between my chambers and Stonewall in which I was discussed.

None of this was known to me at the time, and none of it was known to me until Stonewall provided its second response to the Subject Access Request.


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