So, 18 days after Vice News broke the first story about what appears to be blatant conflict of interest and collusion at the UK’s now rather ironically named Equality and Human Rights Commission, EHRC Chair Baroness Kishwer Falkner has finally responded and made a public statement on Sunday (20/2/22) in the Guardian / Observer.
This comes after a series of contentious ‘statements’ from the EHRC on Twitter and their website trying to downplay, minimise and deny the recent revelations - revelations that are still coming.
Her statement yesterday can best be described as little more than an attempt to rewrite history, to gaslight the UK population into thinking that the evidence and events from recent weeks is a non-issue, and it has been received by the trans community and allies with the derision it deserves.
How much privilege, how much sheer, unmitigated gall, how much arrogance must you have to even think of attempting to try this? And in a national newspaper that's known for its anti-trans stance and freely platforming trans hostile voices, no less.
So, let's take a look at yesterday’s statement, dissect it and reveal whats really going on behind these words.
Sorry, it's going to be long.
I and my co-editors laughed in ironic amazement, just from the title - surely we were not alone?
The first paragraph attempts to set the scene for the EHRC as a benign, unbiased body working for everyone. The EHRC was a creation of Labour back in the 1990s, but the EHRC we have today appears to be a far cry from that envisioned originally. Successive Conservative governments have politicised and neutered it beyond recognition.
The second paragraph here is where the rewriting of history starts.
When it comes to LGBTQ+ Stakeholders, and especially Transgender ‘Stakeholders’ - they have none that we are aware of.
Because the EHRC have pushed them away, marginalised and ignored them.
Virtually all the major LGBTQ+ & trans specific organisations have cut ties completely with the EHRC - that’s something like 19 different, mostly major organisations including Europe’s biggest LGBTQ+ charity - all refusing to work with closely with them due to the trans hostile actions of the current Chair and Board.
And let’s not forget who appointed them - Liz Truss, the Minister for Inequality.
And that Falkner sees, as evidenced by her own words, that the pursuit of equality and human rights is an attempt at ‘pleasing everyone’ is particularly telling. It’s a phrase that shows just how deeply unsuited she is for the role into which Truss catapulted her into.
Human rights are about equality, about addressing injustice and discrimination, not ‘pleasing everyone’.
Indeed, given the evidence we’ve seen over recent weeks, the only people that the EHRC’s Chair seems to be intent on ‘pleasing’ are trans hostile lobby groups that she appears to be working hand in hand with.
‘Some’ is doing Herculean level heavy lifting here, as is ‘perceive’.
The integrity of the EHRC and Chair has come in for criticism because of the evidence that the UK’s completely unfit for purpose Human Rights body appears to be actively working against those whose rights it was set up to protect and promote, not because of a shift in stakeholder perception.
The claims of being ‘independent’ are utterly laughable given the political nature of the Chair and Board appointments, aligning them with a right-wing culture war agenda.
Impartiality got tossed out of the window the second the EHRC commissioned a ‘Board Briefing’ on ‘Transgender Issues’ on the 9th Feb 2021.
For it appears that they did not approach a single trans led or trans specific organisation to provide evidence for this - but instead asked several trans hostile groups to contribute instead, as well as Stonewall - the same Stonewall they then dumped a month later.
Who provided the third video for that briefing? We still dont know. Steph my co-ed emailed Melanie Field (EHRC Executive Director) and asked but to date she has not personally replied. More time-wasting tactics.
The claim to ‘evidence-based decision making’ is similarly laughable, given the whistleblower testimony of the EHRC Board and Chair ignoring legal expertise and re-writing guidance and reports to suit their own apparent biases. Where are the legal cases over the last 12 years that show the Equality Act is not working? Nowhere, because they don't exist.
And ‘Resist undue influence from any quarter’ actually had me spitting my coffee out, given the evidence in the public domain showing the apparent collusion and back-channel communications between Falkner and ‘Fair Play for Women’ who ILGA classed as an ‘anti-trans group’.
And let’s not forget the trans hostile ‘charity’ LGB Alliance who appeared to get the wording around the whole GRA reform debacle on the official EHRC ‘human rights tracker’ changed on a whim following a quick email to the Chair on her parliamentary email.
Long after it had been published, and with no indication that it had been changed - an astonishing lack of transparency and accountability.
This is little more than an attempt to downplay the scale of the current problems.
As mentioned previously, this isn't just ‘some stakeholders’. The EHRC have alienated almost the entire LGBTQ+ sector by themselves - a situation that’s unprecedented since its inception, and on the back of attempting to alienate the disabled community through inaction, and the entire Black / Ethnic Minority sector in denial of the systemic and massive racism problem in the UK.
But hey, at least Falkner manages to grudgingly acknowledge that there are 9 protected characteristics - although if we continue as we are under her tenure then I’m sure we could see Gender Reassignment disappear in the not too distant future.
Splitting the T from the LGB is the aim of right-wing Christian extremists, and one the EHRC appear to be playing into with some gusto.
Wow, where to even start with this?
The first part of the sentence is right, but it’s a shame that's not what’s been actually happening though, is it?
The EHRC appear to have been doing exactly what they claim they have not been doing - allowing their decisions and actions to be swayed by the loudest voices - and they appear to have been listening to those voices exclusively.
The trans hostile voices.
The very definition of bias.
As to being held accountable and ‘exacting standards’?
Well, any standards that allow a sitting Commissioner, on the one hand, to be actively working against the rights of those they are supposed to protect, then continue to work at the EHRC in the same area - and be allowed to claim they are upholding equality for all?
Such actions are both morally and ethically indefensible by any normal standards, but we have not just one Commissioner indulging in such activities - but two.
And they appear to be allowed to do so and continue in related EHRC work despite the clear and evident conflict of interest present, in direct contradiction to the EHRC’s own guidance.
So much for 'standards'.
Meaningless waffle designed to try and appear impartial and not responsible for the actions the Chair has been revealed to have been indulging in. Little more than an attempt to deflect blame.
My nan had an expression for this type of brazen misdirection - ‘More Front than Selfridges’.
The EHRC have contributed towards these fabricated ‘polarised debates’ by intervening in Forstater vs CGD, by actively listening to and amplifying those on the trans-hostile side, and by parroting those very self same talking points in direct contradiction to their established mandate.
It’s my personal opinion that the EHRC engineered and used Forstater vs CGD to ‘enshrine GC beliefs as protected’ as a way to make their anti-trans activities precisely part of their mandate.
And doing so while using the barriers trans people face to changing legal sex and the abysmal state of trans healthcare as a shield for their trans hostile bias is a new low, even factoring in the recent revelations.
And let’s talk about that ‘upholding rights of transgender people at work’ for a moment. Let’s put aside the fact they've made every workplace, social media and public place more hostile by throwing in on the side of the trans hostile lobby in Forstater vs CGD.
The article they link to here is from 9th August 2012!
So are they’re openly admitting they’ve done nothing to protect trans people for the last 10 years?
Indeed, the biggest advance recently has come independently - from the Taylor vs Jaguar Land Rover employment tribunal case which confirmed that EA2010’s protected characteristic of Gender Reasssignment does indeed cover Non-Binary people.
A case that was prosecuted by the inestimable trans barrister Robin Moira White, who has done more for trans rights on the legal side in one case than the entire EHRC has done since it was instituted.
In regards to Falkner's article Robin said:
‘After 30 years of working to advance equality, diversity and inclusion for all protected
characteristics, as a manager in industry, as a charitable trustee, and as Britain’s only trans
discrimination barrister, I have learned that true advance is a tide that floats all the boats. Those
who represent equality as a cake to be divided, so that if one group has more, another has less, are not true supporters of advancement.’
Just as there were no ‘reds under the beds’ during the Cold War, the myth that every toilet or
changing room door has a trans woman hiding behind it waiting to pounce would be laughable if it had not been so effectively weaponised by those who work against equality and their supporters in the press and elsewhere.’
The words I really want to use for this are absolutely unprintable.
The EHRC have performed a swift one hundred and eighty degree turn not based on any factual ‘evidence’, but by buying into trans hostile manufactured hysteria - hook, line and sinker - and doing so because it’s a position they appear to want to take, a position willingly taken because it appears to align with the values of the Board (especially we would suspect the newer members) and the Chair.
Falkner here compounds this by once again claiming there are ‘competing rights’ - an idea that’s been pushed by trans hostile lobby groups posing as ‘sex based rights’ groups - a conspiracy based ideology that has no reliable, empirical evidence, but lots of anecdotes, twisted facts, bare-faced lies and highly dubious ‘studies’.
’Public responses’ have come from the self-same trans hostile lobby groups who are run by the same very small cadre of anti-trans activists - an obsessional cult, with dubious backers linked to far-right ideologies.
The same activists the EHRC Chair appears to be actively colluding with while shutting trans people out of the conversation and then claiming that's not what they're doing.
No. Just no.
Last month Falkner wrote to the Scottish Government to try and interfere in devolved legislative affairs, for legislation that has had six years of ‘debate’ and not one but two huge public consultations that both came out in favour of significant reform, as did the recent Women & Equalities Select Committee Enquiry on the GRA Reform failure in England - with basically the same outcome as their first enquiry back in 2016.
And we have more regurgitation of trans hostile arguments, which like every other ‘interview’ the Chair has produced shows just how firmly the Chair is in the pockets of trans hostile activists.
Let’s take the spurious claim about data accuracy as a case in point. In data collection, there is always a margin of error - a margin that the trans community (estimated at 1% of the population for the whole trans & non-binary community) always falls within. The 1991 England and Wales Census had a response rate of 98%, so even if every trans person in England didn't fill it, it would have made precisely zero impact on ‘data accuracy’.
But arguments about data accuracy aren’t really about that. They’re about delegitimising transgender people. They're about putting trans people in harm's way. They're about making life completely intolerable for transgender people, in an attempt to push us forcibly back into the closet.
The only thing that’s changed here is the composition of the leadership at the EHRC, the underlying situation remains absolutely unchanged, just as it has for the last 6 years of faux ‘debate’ and media scaremongering.
The real question is why the EHRC chose to intervene?
Many in the trans community believe that it’s because if reform is successful in Scotland, it shows up the whole trans hostile hysteria for what it is - lies and scaremongering.
Because in some seventeen countries with a total population of 700 million self-determination of legal identity has been introduced.
And we know from their experience the sky doesn’t fall in and none of the hyperbolic claims by the trans hostile lobby will hold water. But if it passes, it’ll do so on the same landmass, and under broadly the same legal system as England - showing that it works.
Do you really want to go there? Really?
The letter the EHRC wrote about conversion therapy explicitly called for the ban on conversion therapy to exclude the transgender population, despite the evidence, results and methodology being exactly the same as for sexual orientation.
It also suggested unevidenced hyperbolic claims from the trans hostile lobby stating that LGB people are being ‘transed’, and equating gender-affirming healthcare, especially for trans people, were true.
In effect, the UK’s so-called human rights body has called for the continued torture of transgender people, including trans young people and children
- one of those protected characteristics they are supposed to uphold.
It’s just dressed up in polite language and superficially valid sounding excuses to hide prejudice, and again doing so while hiding behind the abysmal state of trans healthcare as a shield.
And we finish again on misinformation.
That ‘debate’ about people’s lives and rights is viewed as entirely valid, is a thoroughly repugnant position for a human rights organisation to take, let alone equating that to the one-sided ’debate’ the UK trans community has been subjected to, but actively excluded from.
It’s not a ‘minority’ who seek to undermine the EHRC, more herculean linguistic heavy lifting going on here.
The EHRC have undermined themselves.
By appearing to be allying with what many trans people see as hate groups - by appearing to be working at their beck and call, by appearing to break their own rules around conflict of interest and collusion, and by appearing to actively work against those they are employed to protect.
As to ‘who’ will protect and advance equality? Given the repeated, documented failures at the EHRC an amoeba would fare better at the job.
In our opinion you should all resign, or better yet be sacked.
What should happen to the EHRC?
It should be completely reformed with a Board & Chair that is truly independent, composed only of those with the protected characteristics, a balanced board with minorities, with full financial and political autonomy, with regular and direct oversight by the Women & Equalities Select Committee to ensure its mandate is upheld.
Because as it stands, the EHRC, it's Chair and it's Board are helping this government turn the UK into a human rights backwater, an international laughing stock.
The UK has been called out by the Council of Europe and ILGA within the last four weeks and within the last ten days reported to the UN by nineteen LGBT+ organisations.
The EHRC has much to be ashamed for, and compounding it with statements that are little more than gaslighting with a sideline in rhetorical smoke and mirrors really isn’t helping rebuild the credibility it’s completely trashed.
Go, and go quickly.
This opinion piece is authored by Claire - our co-ed and lead investigator.