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Artillery Row

Against a stone wall

The gender debate has already been won

Today, LGBT charity Stonewall has the jaded air of a once popular 1970s DJ — despite a glamorous past, it is now regarded as slightly suspicious. On Sunday the group’s new chair, Iain Anderson momentarily revived hopes of a return to sense. In his first media appearance since being appointed, the former government LGBT business champion told viewers of Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg that he takes a “big tent” approach to divisive issues and was keen to meet with women’s groups. But he is too late — whilst it might have been largely absent from the pages of the Guardian, for the past four years a national debate about the impact of trans-inclusive policies has been raging. The government listened, and Stonewall lost.

Stonewall has never publicly discussed its decision to add the “T” to the LGB. Despite being propped up by the taxpayer, the charity blocked dissenting voices on social media, declining any broadcast appearances where opposing positions would be presented. Last year, chief executive Nancy Kelley went so far as to compare gender critical beliefs, i.e. that sex is real and that it matters, to antisemitism.

To date, no pronoun-related deaths have been recorded

The “anyone who disagrees with me is a Nazi” tactic will be familiar to users of Twitter, but it is a less than edifying stance for an established charity. Arguably, the aversion to public debate and the smearing of opponents happens because Stonewall’s stance on “trans issues” balances on such a shaky premise. The “proof” that we each have an innate gender identity is apparently to be found in the minority of people who identify as trans, those who claim their feelings about “who they are” are at odds with who they are physically. The rest of us are expected to acknowledge that we all have gender identities that we are simply unaware of. 

Stonewall developed an infrastructure to spread these controversial ideas across workplaces, embedding them as “best practice” through the Diversity Champions scheme. Last year’s ruling protecting gender critical beliefs broke the omerta, allowing employees to ask questions and prompting many employers to withdraw their support. Considered in this context, smearing critical thinkers as extremists was a tactic designed to keep both the lid on debate and the coffers full. 

There is also an ideological driver for Stonewall’s debate-dodging approach. The charity’s stance is informed by Foucauldian ideas about language. To transgenderism’s true believers, words construct reality. Stonewall and its adherents hold that the phrase “I identify as” can magically change a man into a woman and vice versa. Indeed, language is considered so powerful that “misgendering”, (or “correctly sexing” as it might otherwise be described), can cause harm to an individual. As such, silencing and refusing to debate with those who might use hurtful words becomes a moral duty (though to date, no pronoun-related deaths have been recorded).

This is why Anderson’s suggestion on Sunday that he would open a dialogue with the charity’s critics was surprising. It looked like the return to reason that many of the people Stonewall purports to represent have been pleading for.

Bev Jackson is a co-founder of LGB Alliance — the UK’s only charity to exclusively advocate for same-sex attracted people. It was founded in part because Stonewall “stonewalled” gay, lesbian and bisexual people who asked for a discussion on trans-inclusion, that LGB Alliance was formed in the first place. She tells me the “only way to resolve differences is through dialogue” and that the charity “has consistently called for open discussion on policy and the law and in the workplace — and that offer still stands”.

The charity has scuppered the goodwill it once had

Predictably, within 24 hours Anderson had “clarified” his comments on Twitter, explaining that for him “a Big Tent for #LGBTQ+ rights … means a real conversation with people who share common values”.

A conversation with those who already share Stonewall’s values might leave participants feeling warm and fuzzy, but it will do little to change the mood of the public. 

Anderson himself has had a tumultuous year. In September 2021 he was appointed as the government’s LGBT business champion, a voluntary and largely pointless post. He publicly resigned in April when the government announced it was scrapping a proposal to ban conversion therapy. The U-turn followed warnings that the new law could potentially criminalise any therapist who tried to reconcile a gender dysphoric patient with their sexed bodies. The decision not to proceed with a ban ultimately led to the collapse of the government’s first ever global LGBT conference, Safe to Be Me, after hundreds of LGBT organisations withdrew in protest. On Sunday, despite having had a hand in organising it, Anderson boasted to Kuenssberg of “collapsing” the conference and of taking a principled stance by resigning from his government post.

The destruction of the conference was not a show of power by Stonewall and their partner organisations — Safe to Be Me was simply caught up in their death throes. The public mood had shifted. The government has finally caught up, and the nonsense “gender identity” is being drained from civil society. 

Whether Stonewall’s new chair goes on to have the conversations his predecessor and the chief executive have swerved is now a moot point. The charity has scuppered the goodwill it once had. It is now a zombie organisation — in need of brains and reactively lurching about on social media. Stonewall lost the debate it was too scared to have.

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