Stonewall: a champion or a bully?

Britain’s largest LGBT charity is in deep trouble because of its stance on gender identity

Trans Pride protest
London's second Trans Pride protest, held in September 2020
(Image credit: Wiktor Szymanowicz/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

Stonewall, Britain’s largest LGBT charity, is in deep trouble, said Josephine Bartosch in The Daily Telegraph. For many years it has run a Diversity Champions programme: more than 850 organisations, from Amazon to the NHS to MI6, pay annual fees to ensure that their policies are LGBT inclusive. But now many of its customers, including the Equality and Human Rights Commission and Channel 4, are leaving.

Why? Because of its extreme stance on gender identity. Stonewall supports the view that people ought to be able to self-identify as the gender they choose. And it regards those who disagree with that – including feminists who oppose, say, biological men competing as women in sports competitions, or entering women’s refuges – as “transphobic”. A damning recent report found that Stonewall had given misleading legal advice on this issue to the University of Essex – which had unlawfully banned “gender-critical” feminists from speaking at the university.

Here we go again, said Stephen Paton in The National. The British press is “relentlessly hostile” to transgender people, and now anti-trans activists, politicians and journalists are trying to “bring down Stonewall” for supporting them. The issue of the supposedly misleading legal advice is actually “a semantic gripe that has been blown out of all proportion”. The “most right-wing British Government in recent history” is using it as a cover to attack Stonewall: Equalities Minister Liz Truss has advised all government departments to withdraw from the Diversity Champions scheme.

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The truth is that Stonewall has become a bit of a bully, said Sonia Sodha in The Observer. Disagreement on what it means to be a woman – whether it is solely based on a feeling or whether it is related to biological sex – is one thing. But trying to silence and browbeat those who disagree with you is another. Last week, Stonewall’s chief executive, Nancy Kelley, actually compared gender-critical feminists to anti-Semites. Women arguing that same-sex spaces should be preserved is not “hate speech”: abusive men really do go to great lengths to reach female victims. By its dogmatism on this issue, Stonewall is losing support fast. “I hope there is a way back for it.”

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