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Sex and Gender

Simon Callow is right: Stonewall’s position on self-identification for trans people is ‘dangerously prescriptive’

Callow is right, Stonewall has indeed taken a ‘dangerously prescriptive position’. But, worse, it is a position that tramples over the rights of vulnerable groups.

Stonewall was established in 1989 to oppose the now-infamous Section 28 – which prohibited local councils from intentionally promoting homosexuality. It then spent 25 years campaigning for lesbian and gay equality.

But, speaking to The Times, actor and gay rights campaigner Simon Callow said that the charity has taken a ‘a strange turn to the tyrannical’. Callow was talking about Stonewall’s push for self-identification for transgender people . He added that an ‘extraordinarily unproductive militancy’ now surrounded its position.

Callow claims that the organisation’s stance on self-identification for transgender people risks infringing women’s rights and ‘could put pressure on young gay people to transition’.

Transgender people like me became part of Stonewall’s remit as recently as 2015 but we rapidly took over the agenda. In its 2019 annual report, ‘trans’ had 22 mentions, ‘lesbian’ had three, and ‘gay’ only two.

Stonewall has also become big business. It now pulls in over £8 million annually, with much of it coming from their Diversity Champions programme. Hundreds of employers each hand over thousands of pounds every year. In return Stonewall offer to review their policies for ‘LGBTQ+ inclusion by our in-house team of experts’. Important, presumably, to write policy the Stonewall way, in order to rank highly on Stonewall’s own Workplace Equality Index.

It sounds like a racket to me, and a dangerous one at that. Stonewall promotes the message that ‘Trans women are women’ on Twitter and insists we all ‘get over it’. But the rhetoric lacks any explanation, probably because it is nonsense. Transwomen like me are biologically male, while women are biologically female. I am transgender but I am also a science teacher, and I know that male and female are not the same.

However, if you keep saying it enough, people will eventually come to believe it.

But the consequences of this – that biological sex does not matter – are potentially devastating to three vulnerable groups.

Callow identified two of them: women and children. He added that he felt nervous about the reaction he would stir up, simply for expressing his views. ‘I shouldn’t have to fear in that way,’ he said. ‘This is just tyranny and that’s what we’ve fought against all our lives, people saying, ‘this cannot be discussed’. Yes, it can be discussed.’

I would say that these things must be discussed. The self-identification campaign calls for anyone to be able to change their legal sex just because they want to. That might sound very liberal but boundaries – established to protect the vulnerable – become meaningless when anyone can step over them.

Stonewall were explicit that this is what it wants in its submission to the Women and Equalities Select Committee on Transgender Equality in 2015: ‘Remove exemptions, such as access to single-sex spaces’, it said, as well as calling for ‘a process for people under 18 to access legal gender recognition’.

The third vulnerable group are transsexual people, like me. I use that word deliberately, rather than transgender, because it implies that we actually do something when we transition. In 2010 ‘gender reassignment’ was established as a protected characteristic within the equality act so that, for example, we could no longer be dismissed from our jobs or denied services because we had transitioned or were perhaps considering transitioning.

Stonewall wants to risk those protections also. To that same inquiry it called for gender reassignment to be replaced with gender identity. Our right to do something – without being treated less favourably as a result – was to be replaced with our right to identify with a gender, whatever that might mean.

Callow is right, Stonewall has indeed taken a ‘dangerously prescriptive position’. But, worse, it is a position that tramples over the rights of vulnerable groups. They now need to take another turn: turn back to what they once did well or turn off the lights and shut up shop.


Debbie Hayton

Debbie Hayton is a transgender British secondary school science teacher and political activist.

* This article was first published by Mail+ on 27 August 2021: Simon Callow is right: Stonewall’s position on self-identification for trans people is ‘dangerously prescriptive.’

By Debbie Hayton

Physics teacher and trade unionist.

One reply on “Simon Callow is right: Stonewall’s position on self-identification for trans people is ‘dangerously prescriptive’”

Only just discovered what they do, how when they changed direction. Now gays lesbians not accepted unless agree to trans! That’s not same sex. So stonewall is a bt+ society not LG… the founders having started their own charity.. again.  Cant understand how someone could have taken their charity away from them, changing the basic beliefs to the exact opposite.  Now all gays lesbians join the ladies in trying to stop this age of fear and cruel cancellation. 

The deception of bringing in sex = gender has sneakily clouded debate, though i notice they dont debate, only hurl abuse. Telling institutes to change policy, putting into leaflets gender identity instead of sex, completely changes the meanings of laws.  But we will see more lawsuits reversing decisions made by places doing as Stonewall told them to. Esp re toilets, parents outcry, theatre goers… thus law reaffirmed. People will boycott companies, i know i am. But most people i hope know this is extremists doing it for money, not the average person, at least the transwomen i know are horrified by it all, not doing them any help re public opinion. Once the public voiceis angry and loud enough and compsnies3go bankrupt, disrepute via sued, government produces legislation adding the word ” biological, born” before the words woman man etc in past laws… hopefully the people who spread this fear cancel hate will be held to account for the pain they caused and we can all go back to normal.

I dont understand why they had to mess with things bar the root of all evil is love of money, because so many things are better than times gone by. Women (well we hope to get them back) can go out cos are female conveniences, no smoking in public places (i know me included, really ill, even died from passive smoking years ago), disabled and mother & baby loos… unheard of years ago, i made sure i went out between feeds cos only loo cubicles then. So things are millions better. As an old person used to say.. “you dont know how good you have it, when i were lass we didnt have…..”

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