Writer and Broadcaster Simon Fanshawe is pictured. He says the work he poured into founding the LGBT organisation Stonewall in the 1980s ‘is now in danger of being wrecked’
My jaw hit the floor during the Stonewall discrimination trial this week when the LGBT charity’s ‘head of trans inclusion’ Kirrin Medcalf took the stand and declared: ‘Bodies are not inherently male or female. They are just their bodies.’
But as those words sank in, my heart sank to my boots too. I was one of the six co-founders of Stonewall in the 1980s. Along with the others, I poured all my energy into making the organisation a formidable force for gay and lesbian rights.
All that work is now in danger of being wrecked, Stonewall’s reputation discredited, and its credibility squandered, by trans activists — not all trans people, I hasten to add — who believe they can dictate what everyone is allowed to say and think.
People such as Kirrin Medcalf imagine that reality can be reshaped to fit their requirements. Asked whether there is a difference between biological sex and gender preference, Medcalf denied it.
According to the official Stonewall position — and to disagree is to be regarded as a heretic or, in the current lingo, ‘transphobic’ — people are literally whichever biological sex they choose to be.
JK Rowling is pictured with her friend Allison Bailey. Ms Bailey claims that the LGBTQ charity convinced her employer Garden Court Chambers to investigate her support of gender-critical beliefs and is suing both the charity and the chambers for discrimination
Kirrin Medcalf, head of trans inclusion at Stonewall, is pictured. The Stonewall employee took the stand at the court during the defamation trail this week to declare: ‘Bodies are not inherently male or female. They are just their bodies’
Medcalf appears unaware of the screaming contradictions in this position.
One barrister asked pointedly about whether there are any circumstances where it would be OK to treat someone according to their biological sex.
The Stonewall employee offered that this would be OK ‘at a cervical screening service’.
So it seems that even in Stonewall’s world, there are still occasions when the reality of sex stubbornly resists the pretence.
But it is Stonewall’s trans activists, apparently, who have the privilege of choosing those occasions.
Other people don’t — and, in particular, the definition of what ‘a woman’ is must never be left up to women themselves.
This trial has become a spectacle of ludicrousness. The barrister Allison Bailey is suing her legal chambers, Garden Court in London’s Lincoln’s Inn Fields, for allegedly curbing her work and her income because of her view that there are only two sexes.
She says she has been punished for speaking out against Stonewall’s trans policies and arguing that it is undermining the hard-won rights of gay, lesbian and bisexual people in its determination to promote its trans doctrine.
The trial descended into confusion before Kirrin Medcalf even took the stand. The activist’s mother, solicitor and dog all had to be present at the tribunal to provide ‘support’ — requirements that were apparently sprung upon the court without warning.
When the hearing finally got under way, the statements became ever more baffling. Medcalf claimed that Stonewall had no choice but to advise people to avoid Garden Court Chambers, for fear of meeting Allison Bailey.
Her statements were supposedly so virulent and hateful that any trans person who encountered her would be ‘at risk of physical harm’.
This is simply nonsense. Allison Bailey has never physically threatened anyone.
She doesn’t believe transwomen are actually women, and this enrages Stonewall, but it’s a world away from physical violence.
Medcalf appears to believe that words are the same as actions, that to say ‘I don’t like you’ is the same as punching you in the face.
A difference of opinion is being painted as a physical threat. According to Medcalf, any trans person encountering Bailey is at risk of attack. This is a completely imaginary scenario.
Stonewall was set up in 1989, as a response to legislation known as Section 28 that prohibited the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ in schools. Now the lawyer, who is a lesbian, founded the LGB Alliance group, in 2019, which argues there is a conflict between the rights of lesbian, gay and bisexual people, and transgender people – and opposes many of Stonewall’s policies, including the assertion that ‘trans women are women’
Nothing of this kind has happened in real life. Yet Medcalf talks as though saying these things out loud somehow makes them true. It was former U.S. president Donald Trump who first gave us ‘alternative facts’.
When people challenged his version of reality, he used any form of coercion he could to shut them up. But it breaks my heart to see Stonewall adopt the same sort of tactics.
I helped set up the campaign group in 1989, as a response to legislation known as Section 28 that prohibited the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ in schools.
At that time, horrible bigotry was rife. James Anderton, the recently deceased former chief constable of Greater Manchester, had described people with Aids as ‘swirling in a human cesspit of their own making’.
A TV reviewer on one newspaper accused Ruby Wax, Julian Clary and me of ‘seeping through broadcasting like the Aids virus’.
Stonewall was born in an era of hostility, and we had to find a way of breaking down prejudice and building alliances with our critics.
The best way to do this, we discovered, was not by screaming abuse or attempting to lay down the law. Instead, we used data and research to construct a wall of credibility.
A reveler flutters a rainbow flag during the 22nd LGBT Pride Parade. Ms Bailey has previously received backing from Harry Potter author JK Rowling, who tweeted a picture of her ‘inspirational’ friend to mark Lesbian Visibility Week last month, sparking a trans row online
By amassing evidence about the effect of bullying and exclusion on gay teenagers, we were able to show how dangerous Section 28 was. We argued about the reality of prejudice and we forced Parliament to consider the facts, not the rhetoric.
And then we did it again, on issues such as allowing gay people to serve in the Armed Forces.
We did it so well that the social mood changed completely, enabling gay and lesbian people to enjoy real equality — with same-sex couples eventually being given the right to marry, for example.
The problem is now the reverse of what Stonewall faced three decades ago. Society is so keen to be inclusive and to respect diversity that it is open to manipulation. Everyone is terrified of appearing prejudiced.
Any business that signs up to Stonewall’s Diversity Champions programme, at £2,500 a year, would certainly think long and hard before quitting it.
The wrath of Stonewall is not a thing to be lightly provoked, as Allison Bailey has found out. Her lawyers have described this as a protection racket. I wouldn’t go that far, but it highlights a serious problem with Stonewall’s approach.
Most Britons are very happy to see trans people treated fairly and equally, with decency and tolerance. Most trans people welcome that.
Members and supporters of the LGBT community take part in a Pride parade in London. Last week Ms Bailey began giving evidence on Wednesday but a row broke out with Ijeoma Omambala QC, Stonewall’s barrister, who was cross-examining her. The judge in the case had to intervene an hour into the hearing when Ms Bailey accused Stonewall’s barrister of making fun of her with a colleague
But a small minority of activists, including those who have taken over Stonewall, do not want to extend that decency and tolerance to the rest of the population.
Equality, to them, means imposing their views on everyone else, without debate. That should concern anyone who believes freedom of speech is sacrosanct.
It is especially alarming to women who see their safe spaces breached by transwomen with intact male bodies.
Sexual violence against women must never be ignored or belittled, yet Stonewall is saying that no one has the right to question the presence of a naked and obviously male interloper in a female changing room.
Equally, women are told they cannot object to transwomen competing in their sports, despite copious data showing that cyclists, tennis players, swimmers and others with male bodies are at a colossal advantage when competing against females.
Women who do speak out, even those as highly regarded as J.K. Rowling or Martina Navratilova, are told with vehemence to shut up.
It often feels as though the trans debate has plunged us back into an era before feminism, when women were often treated as airheads with nothing to contribute to social discourse.
Protesters hold a banner during a rally at Parliament Square. Bailey said the charity used its scheme ‘to embed the concept of gender identity’ within Government departments and the voluntary sector in a way ‘outside the law’
By polarising the debate, and treating their version of trans rights as non-negotiable, Stonewall has opened up divisions.
That makes me deeply frustrated and sad. I’ve spent my life trying to bridge those divides and build coalitions.
Now people such as Kirrin Medcalf are taking a wrecking ball to that work and squandering Stonewall’s hard-won credibility.
I wish trans activists could see they don’t need to force their views on everyone else. Their greatest strength is in diversity.
When we marched in the first Pride demonstrations, we weren’t asking to be straight — we sang that we were ‘Glad to be gay!’
Let’s celebrate our differences, not wipe out our diversity.