Barrister Robin Moira White of Old Square Chambers is a masterful illusionist, as can be seen in this interview. Illusion relies on diverting attention to what the magician wants you to see, and away from what else could be seen. A closer look below, but first the aspersion cast by White on me and my organisation AEA (Authentic Equity Alliance).
White said that I am an “anti-trans-campaigner” in an “anti-trans movement”. Neither I nor AEA are anti-trans. While AEA’s founding aim is to promote the interests of women and girls, our consultancy and training is based on the law and thereby impartial. The 2010 Equality Act (EA2010) single-sex exception permits exclusion of transwomen from women’s services, provided it is a proportionate means to achieve a legitimate aim.
AEA is not a campaigning organisation
The single-sex exception is a bane for transwomen like Robin White. Clashes of interests around single-sex services can be a quagmire. AEA helps organisations navigate a route through the swamp. To apply the single-sex exception, service providers need to weigh the rights of all relevant protected characteristics. In its May 2022 guidance, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) set out legitimate grounds for exclusion: “for privacy, for decency, to avoid trauma, to ensure health and safety”.
AEA is not a campaigning organisation though we do respond to government consultations, correspond with government departments and occasionally sign joint lobbying letters and statements. We also scrutinised EHRC’s EA2010 guidance (aimed at all sectors but predominantly the business sector) and found that 25 documents contravened the EA2010 single-sex exception. Following protracted correspondence with AEA, the EHRC either amended or removed the guidance from its website in July and August 2020. See AEA’s “Equality Matters” booklet for further detail. The guidance stood for 10 years and is the source (along with misguidance from the Government Equalities Office) of the current outcry from transgender people that their “rights are being taken away”.
Let’s look at White’s illusionist sleights of hand and the diverting of attention.
Referring to online observers of the Allison Bailey v Stonewall and Garden Court Chambers hearing, White (junior counsel for Stonewall), swishing the illusionist’s cloak and signalling certain proof of an anti-trans collaboration, said that myself, Green Party member Shahrar Ali and Maya Forstater were observing. The hocus pocus hides all the transgender people and trans allies also in attendance.
White knows that for tolerant, though largely unknowing, Joe Public (JP), the term “anti-trans” triggers sympathy for transgender people and antipathy toward those supposedly opposed. With a sweep of the magician’s wand, White bundles the white rabbit into the hat and declares:
I wouldn’t say there is coordination in the sense of an “anti-trans [command centre]”, but there is certainly a degree of working together among the individuals and groups involved.
Which leaves JP in little doubt about a heinous anti-trans collaboration. But hidden beneath the white rabbit is Stonewall, Gendered Intelligence, the LGBT Foundation, the Trans Equality Legal Initiative, to name but a few, who share an agenda and work together. In homage to White, I won’t mention a:gender — the LGBTQ+ network for civil servants.
White deploys the terms “anti-trans movement” and “anti-trans campaigners” to vilify non-transphobic organisations, groups and individuals, who are solely concerned with women’s rights and engaged in areas where proportionate and legitimate exclusion is lawfully permitted. In using such terms, White casts an invisibility cloak (thank you, JK Rowling) over potential and actual detriments to women.
With wand aloft, White directs attention and spins gossamer into eyes:
These people [anti-transgender campaigners] don’t think accommodating trans people is consistent with their rights.
What they seek to establish is that trans people should not be accommodated as they are, or allowed to play a full part in society, and that people promoting those views should not be disadvantaged in the workplace.
How unkind, thinks JP, poor transgender people and those awful misguided women. Pity rises. Women always make way for others, so why not in this instance? Pity rises higher. Why should those cruel anti-trans women not be disadvantaged? Pity soars yet higher. With a twirl of the cape, White draws an equivalence between being “accommodated” and playing “a full part in society”. Pity rockets into the stratosphere. But what does “accommodation” refer to? Why should women be disadvantaged? Since when did being part of society — its institutions, businesses and centres of entertainment, and all the variety of activity that takes place therein — boil down to (for what else could White mean by “accommodation”) a choice of toilets and changing rooms?
A recent Parliamentary motion on single-sex hospital wards was withdrawn, but our smoke and mirrors illusionist makes good use of it:
…you should only be treated on an NHS ward consistent with your natal sex or, in some completely separate ward, away from all the “normal” people.
…they couldn’t be accommodated on a ward consistent with their gender identity — they would either be on a ward according to their natal sex or in some trans person’s ghetto, miles away.
Weeping and befuddled by now, JP completely forgets adjacent single rooms and separate bays in hospital wards. In other words, strip away the gossamer and, lo! — no “miles away”, no “ghetto” and no “normal” people, just people in all our variations. To add to the flummery, White tags an illusionary tour de force (neatly slipping into receptive minds): “It would have segregated trans people and non-trans people.”
Hey presto, the majority of the population are now not women and men but non-trans people!
White advises employers to protect against an employee’s transphobic comments by taking all reasonable steps to avoid liability. Trouble is, EA2010 doesn’t define “reasonable”. Free speech, protected by the Human Rights Act, also comes into play. Moreover, because of Forstater, gender critical beliefs are protected and transphobia no longer so easily defined.
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