The last two weeks have truly exposed a worrying level of Transphobia currently faced today within the UK.
It started with The Council of Europe approving a report condemning “extensive and often virulent” attacks on LGBT+ rights in Europe with the worst offender of these human rights being named and shamed. Because there was pre-knowledge of what was on the agenda to debate and vote on, the UK sent a delegation to attempt to have the UK removed from this ‘LGBTI hall of shame’, but to no avail.
The Council of Europe (which was set up after World War 2 specifically to uphold Human Rights across all its member states), passed this report by a huge majority vote of 72 to 12, stating: “The Assembly condemns with particular force the extensive and often virulent attacks on the rights of LGBTI people that have been occurring for several years in, amongst other countries, Hungary, Poland, the Russian Federation, Turkey and the United Kingdom.”
Given all the issues currently under scrutiny in the UK regarding Trans Rights you’d think that the UK delegation would be from Tory MP’s, but no, symptomatic of the whole issue is the fact that it was Labour MPs Tonia Antoniazzi, Kate Osamor and Ruth Jones who attempted to have the inclusion of the UK removed from the resolution, but this vain attempt was defeated by 61 votes to 23.
There was even an attempt to totally remove any mention of “gender critical” ideology but this was removed before it went to vote. The bottom line is that the damning report named the UK as notable for how toxic narratives about gender lies "at the heart of attacks on trans people's rights".
The role of the UK media was also condemned within the report stating that "trans rights organisations have faced vitriolic media campaigns, in which Trans women especially are vilified and misrepresented. Arguments defending freedom of expression have been – and are still being – used as a tool to justify transphobic rhetoric, further penalising and harming already marginalised trans people and communities."
Within the report, the Council referred to Kemi Badenoch, MP and Minister for Equalities, stating in 2021: "We do not believe in self-identification." The report stated that this rhetoric "denies Trans identities" and "is being used to roll back the rights of Trans and non-binary people and is contributing to growing human rights problems."
As evidence of the worsening issues, they pointed to the UK hate crime statistics which show a sharp increase in transphobic crimes since 2015. The condemnation of the current UK position under this Government was literally damning.
The report alone should have sent shock waves across the UK, but it hardly registered a mention on any mainstream media and no Political Party picked this up – maybe the most telling point was that the UK delegation sent to bury this report was made up of Labour and not Tory MP’s – the level of UK transphobia is quite unbelievably cross-party.
This report was so damning, you’d think that those at the sharp end of regulating UK Human Rights, specifically the UK’s Equalities and Human Right Commission (EHRC), would take stock of the report and look to see why the rest of Europe was coming down so hard on the UK’s recent record on LGBTI+ rights, and specifically Trans Rights, but no – the very next day The EHRC Chair Baroness Falkner delivered two statements of monumental importance to two separate issues attempting to inflict highly negative impacts to the lives of trans people in the UK.
These statements openly sought to remove or restrict Trans Rights.
The first was in relation to plans to legislate for a ban on Conversion Therapy in England and Wales, where unbelievably the EHRC is seeking to exclude transgender people from the ban. How any Organisation that is in a position of power to uphold Trans Rights can possibly campaign for abhorrent Conversion Therapy to continue for Trans people is simply incomprehensible.
Their second statement delivered on the same day was in relation to the Gender Recognition Act reform in Scotland where they seek to halt the process, stating “we consider that more detailed consideration is needed before any change is made to the provisions in the Act” – more time needed for a process which has already been running for 6 years! This request was roundly condemned by Nicola Sturgeon who made clear reference to the complete change of policy from the ERHC who, under the governance of the previous Chair, had been totally in favour of the GRA Reform. She stated: "In response to the 2017 consultation it said this - ‘the Gender Recognition Act 2004 is far removed from reflecting best practice and has a significant negative impact on the lived experience of Trans people. In the 2019 consultation on the draft Bill, it said, ‘the Commission considers that a simplified system for obtaining legal recognition of gender would better support Trans people to live their lives free from discrimination and supports the aims of the draft bill’
Sturgeon also noted that the justification given by the EHRC for their ‘concerns’ were factually incorrect stating "What the Bill seeks to do or will seek to do is simplify an existing process. It doesn’t confer any new rights on Trans people, nor does it change any of the existing protections in the Equality Act, so it doesn’t change the current position on data collection or the ability of sports organisations to take decisions for example”
So with the issuing of these two statements the EHRC is seeking to exclude Trans people from improved rights and protections just one day after the Council of Europe’s clear condemnation of the UK’s position on Trans rights! You really couldn’t write it!
Given the Council of Europe report, this was a brazen act of utter defiance or complete contempt shown by the EHRC.
The reaction in the UK was immediate – or at least it was from the main UK LGBT Rights Organisations who all came out with statements making clear their utter disgust at the clear attack on the Trans community. But as for the UK media and the political Opposition Parties – hardly a whimper, and this will become the continuing theme.
At this point, there may have been some scratching their heads wondering why the UK’s standing on LGBT Rights had fallen so low and what was the true position and motivations within the EHRC who appear so instrumental in this. Well thanks to the brilliant investigative work of Steph’s Place Co-Editor's, and in particular Claire, this was fully exposed.
Claire’s work and the dossier were passed onto Ben Hunte (amongst others), who together with the extensive investigations he had undertaken, broke this story - Ben is a senior reporter for VICE World News, investigating stories about LGBTQ people, race, and inequality from across the world having previously been BBC’s first LGBT Correspondent.
So far (there are more exposes to come, in particular from Steph's Place) - Ben has released two articles exposing that the EHRC. The first, Britain’s Equalities Watchdog Met Privately With Anti-Trans Groups, delivered a damning insight into leaked documents giving truly damning evidence of the EHRC forming close relationships with widely acknowledged Anti-Trans organisations, seeking to ‘work together' to form policy directions in relation to Trans Rights, yet no such invitations were extended to organisations Steph’s place contacted representing the rights of Trans people. There is no issue in meeting with Organisations claiming to be protecting Cisgender Women’s rights, the issue is that these were the only views they sought. This becomes especially concerning when it is clear that the Gender Critical views expressed by these groups do match the views and opinions of Baroness Falkner and Liz Truss, who personally appointed the Chair of the EHRC. There is no belief at this point that this appointment failed to follow all the independent and correct legal protocols of selection, but clearly, the final decision is a personal choice and there is evidence that every single appointment by Liz Truss in Equalities or Human Rights positions shares her Gender critical beliefs. This cannot be a coincidence.
When Truss was interviewed by the Women and Equalities Committee, hosted by Caroline Noakes, into the Governments own GRA Reform consultation, Truss openly stated that she had disbanded the LGBT Advisory Panel which had been set up by a different administration, so was not her choice and they didn’t share her views (Gender Critical beliefs) on Trans Rights and Conversion Therapy. So she confirmed she was going to replace the panel, quite clearly with those that did now share her views. As stated, her track record and appointment requirements on filling key Human Rights and Equality positions are clear to see.
The second main expose of this article was a clear reference to undeclared Conflicts of Interest which we await any kind of response, as this appears to have been swept under the carpet and needs a response and explanation from the EHRC. The leaked documents clearly show that there was an internal acknowledgement of a conflict existing on Transgender issues, yet our opinion is this was either ignored or simply not declared when it lawfully should have been.
Under the barrage of LGBT Organisation's condemnation and reports of major UK LGBT Organisations cutting ties with the EHRC, the EHRC issued a statement disclaiming any internal issues or bias and insisting on their commitment to supporting all LBGT rights – however in Ben’s second article, Staff Are Quitting Britain's Equality Watchdog the EHRC Due to ‘Transphobia’ Ben reveals information and statements from whistleblowers either still working with or having felt no alternative but to leave the EHRC. They confirmed to Ben the precise reasons which included internal anti-trans policies and actions, and following the release of the article, Ben has reported receiving a barrage of calls from those inside the EHRC backing up these claims.
The position couldn’t be clearer, but now we come to the crux of the problem, as identifying an issue is one thing, but now what are we actually going to do about it? Where is the backlash and demand for change? Is pointing it out good enough, as this in itself changes nothing?
Since the release of the Ben’s articles, the media and Political coverage has yet again been, as Ben today described, ‘tumbleweed’ - the media silence has been deafening.....
To have the Council of Europe reduce UK’s rating on LGBT Rights alongside Russia, Hungary, Poland, and Turkey, and to have clear and blatant anti-Trans policies and interventions by a UK Equality Commission being condemned universally by LGBTI Groups resulting in the cutting of ties – how can this not be national headline newsworthy story? When these are policies being pushed and supported by a Tory Government, how can there be no Political Opposition up in arms demanding action? This alone would surely ensure the Media are left with no option but to take up this story.
This weekend only two media outlets have given interviews to Ben on this subject. Owen Jones is a well-known supporter of Trans rights, and he interviewed Ben and Trans Women/activist, Katy Montgomerie, on his YouTube Channel to discuss the issues and the impact. They both went into great detail regarding the issues and the misinformation, specifically about the GRA Reform, which is simply about the amendment of an EXISTING law and not the introduction of anything new, as Trans people can already legally obtain a GRC (Gender Reform Certificate) to change the Sex marker of their Birth Certificate – the Reform is simply seeking to make that process easier and more humane – it has NO impact on the Equality Act 10, therefore, NO impact or change to the way Single-Sex Spaces are legally used .
As an easy analogy, let’s imagine that the law introducing same-sex marriage had come with such onerous restrictions that very few gay couples had been able to benefit from the law. A Reform to make the process easier would therefore be proposed so the benefit of the existing right was available to a greater number of same-sex couples. So this reform wouldn’t change any laws, and clearly wouldn’t impact on any other groups rights - except those who oppose Same-sex marriage! - Well this is exactly the same scenario with the GRA Reform and the objections are only raised by those who refuse to accept the lawful reality of being Transgender, and that is simply not a valid and justifiable reason. Transphobia should never be deemed acceptable. So contrary to the misinformation and commonly quoted lie, this has NEVER been about one right being more important than the other as these issues simply have NO impact or effect on Cisgender Women or any of their existing Rights.
The only other media coverage was on Saturday night when LBC’s Natasha Devon also spoke with Ben, and this delivered the most telling and worrying insight into the whole position we find ourselves in. I must first state I have nothing but great respect and thanks for Natasha for airing her position very clearly live on radio with unquestioned support for Trans Rights, and she must be roundly applauded for being the lone radio presenter to highlight this issue. Any media presenter prepared to do this knows the hatred that will come their way due to the overly toxic nature of those holding Gender Critical beliefs, so to do this is genuinely appreciated by the Trans community. Natasha then followed this up the following night with another segment on this issue (listen here) delivering a very strong and really accurate description of the facts relating to everything highlighted within article. So thank you Natasha!
This issue simply must be elevated into the public domain, and to do that it needs the right level of coverage and we really need more media voices simply telling the truth.
The genuine problem that the Trans Community face is not what has happened, we cannot impact what the EHRC or this Government has done to date, but more what they intend to do. Within their statement to the Scottish Government on Gender Reform they included a chilling statement that will send the fear levels soaring of all Trans people in the UK:
“We will write to you shortly to update you on our forthcoming guidance for single-sex service providers”
Given everything we now know about the EHRC and what their clear intentions are, if ever published these ‘guideline’ will undoubtedly seek to further the myth that Trans Women pose a ‘danger’ to Cisgender Women and offer organisations operating single-sex spaces their backing to introduce blanket bans that the Equality Act 2010 never sought to impose – the opposite, it clearly states that those transgender have the legal protection of their gender identity at any stage of their transition, but with the clear exception when there is a genuine ‘legitimate aim’ to discriminate and exclude, but this was expected to be on rare occasions. These exemption, which work perfectly well, gives the likes of Prisons and Women’s Refuges the important legal right to exclude on a case-by-case basis – it does not permit a blanket ban, but they can legally exclude whenever they need to, and this is rightly in place (it’s another Gender Critical lie that anyone in a prison can simply Self ID and demand placement – they can’t, the EA10 Exemptions ensure that). So the genuine fear is that the EHRC is looking to change the way this is interpreted. They will give their green light for organisations to introduce full bans and for no genuine reason, just based on ‘concerns’ that cannot be identified or qualified – just ‘concerns’. Wherever they are seeking to introduce, this guidance will be removing Trans People from spaces they currently and legally use, so no matter to what level, this will be a removal of Trans Rights. And rest assured, this will be just the start.
I would like to highlight one comment made by Natasha Devon on her Saturday night LBC show; she referred to a conversation she had had where she stated that in 20 years we will look back on this time with abject horror at the way Trans people had been treated, in exactly the same way we currently look back decades with unbelievable horror at the way Gay people were treated and how this could possibly have been allowed to happen. Only in the last couple of weeks has work undertaken by Lord Michael Cashman successful ensured all historic gay sex convictions will be pardoned stating: ‘The UK did so much wrong’
And yet here we are on the precipice of a similar scenario.
It has taken this long to undo those awful wrongs for gay people and it took 12 years to remove the hateful and harmful Section 28 legislation, so PLEASE let us not simply sit back, say how awful the EHRC are, but do nothing.
Surely we want to look back in 20 years on a period where the rights and lives of the most marginalised section of our community were protected and improved not targeted and destroyed.
We must act now – we must STOP the EHRC from pushing further with their plans and the first action must be to stop these guidelines ever seeing the light of day – ultimately the replacement of Truss and Falkner is the only way to move forward, and quite clearly neither have the right to hold any power over the rights of a group of people they actively seem to want to destroy.
Just by saying they support Trans Rights is totally meaningless – actions ALWAYS speak louder than words and their actions are undeniable. The EHRC have stated: “The current polarised debate is causing much harm and distress to people on all sides. Everyone’s concerns should be discussed and addressed carefully, openly and with respect, to avoid further damage and division” and yet it is their chosen path that is creating and adding to this whole hateful position!
There needs to be a constant concerted call for the UK Media to highlight exactly what is going on and for UK Politicians that genuinely care about Trans rights and human lives to now stand up – remaining silent will mean being complicit so please, we need to hear from you now more than ever.
Please act now so we don’t ever Look Back in Anger.
Opinions of Steph's Place Co-Editor Paul - (14:00 7th February 2021)