Picture credit: Allison Bailey/Twitter
Artillery Row

Allison Bailey’s fight

A victory for independent-minded women

Allison Bailey wanted to believe the best in people. When the criminal barrister raised concerns within Garden Court Chambers, her place of employment, about the campaigning methods of trans lobby group Stonewall, she expected a fair exchange among her colleagues. 

What she got instead was a harrowing witch hunt that saw Garden Court work with Stonewall on how best to discipline her. What started almost four years ago culminated this week in an employment tribunal decision that found that her chambers discriminated against her — while exonerating Stonewall from any responsibility in the victimisation Bailey was subjected to. 

We can expect there to be countless legal analyses and political commentary, not to mention feminist rejoicing at the much-awaited vindication of Allison Bailey, but what I see in her case is yet another story in which colleagues dehumanise an errant woman in an attempt to put her back in her place. There is a crisis of kindness running through the core of “gender identity” proselytising. 

In December 2018, Bailey objected to her chambers’ decision to become part of Stonewall’s Diversity Champions scheme by writing an earnest email to her colleagues. Almost 1000 organizations, from governmental departments to universities and banks, have been paying thousands of pounds so Stonewall can dictate their diversity and inclusion policies, oftentimes going against the Equality Act 2010

In her heart-wrenching Witness Statement, Bailey states that she didn’t understand that sending that email had marked her cards within Garden Court: 

I had no idea about the extent to which Garden Court had already adopted a pro trans rights, Stonewall, activist ethos, which had at its heart viewing women and feminists who questioned self ID and who were opposed to it as bigots and transphobes. I knew this was happening outside in the Twittersphere and in the real world but I was naive in not anticipating that I would also be subjected to immediate condemnation.

One of Bailey’s biggest objections was to the concept of the “cotton ceiling,” in which trans activists advocate that the sexual boundaries of lesbians represent a discriminatory practice that must be overcome by males. She objected to the fact that Stonewall had hired male campaigners whose work focuses on persuading young lesbians to sleep with heterosexual men. This is textbook homophobia.

Far from supporting a plurality of opinion within Garden Court, many of her colleagues singled her out as a problematic woman who had stepped out of line. Her white and male colleagues recorded her private conversations and shared them with her management. A whispering campaign was fomented around her, with colleagues dismissing the concerns she raised with them about her security, including death threats, she was receiving when she would comment publicly on this issue. 

To her credit, she did not react in the manner expected of a woman facing shunning at work. Instead, she went public.

Stonewall became concerned and filed a complaint against Bailey within Garden Court, claiming that “her actions… threatened the positive relationship that Stonewall and GCC have built with the trans community”. 

The Head of Trans Inclusion, Kirrin Medcalf wrote in an email: 

For Garden Court Chambers to continue associating with a barrister who is actively campaigning for a reduction in trans rights and equality, while also specifically targeting members of our staff with transphobic views on a public platform, puts us in a difficult position with yourselves: the safety of our staff and community will always be Stonewall’s first priority. I trust that you will do what is right and stand in solidarity with trans people.

Why would such a massive lobby group go out of its way to single out a barrister, let alone a lesbian lawyer, whose main concerns related to sexual orientation? Garden Court didn’t question whether their response was disproportionate, they just followed Stonewall’s advice, announcing publicly that Bailey was being investigated for her views. In the end, they upheld the complaint and sided with Stonewall.

Decades of progressive work were obliterated

People working with Allison Bailey must have known about her decades-long history as a campaigner for human rights and as a community activist. This is a woman who spent a night in Santa Rita Women’s Jail following the murder of Rodney King at the hands of Los Angeles police officers. Bailey is also a lesbian committed to ending racial inequality and upholding the right to same-sex attraction without violence and discrimination. In the eyes of her colleagues, all that background and decades of progressive work were obliterated the second she challenged the unquestionable.

On July 27th 2022, Allison Bailey won her legal case after the Employment Tribunal found that Garden Court Chambers had discriminated against her and victimised her for defending sex-based rights. In their verdict, the Central London employment tribunal found that by upholding Stonewall’s complaint, her chamber has victimised Bailey and that tweeting that she was under investigation amounted to discrimination. 

Bailey was awarded aggravated damages “to compensate the distress caused by high-handed, insulting or oppressive behaviour, or by conduct motivated by spite, animosity or vindictiveness.” This high-handed, insulting and oppressive behaviour was meted out by her colleagues, who knew her for almost 20 years, at the behest of Stonewall’s advice.

While a legal victory is a legal victory, the greater gain from this trial was the massive interest and awareness her court case generated amongst member of public. Her blockbuster trial saw hundreds of people log into the Employment Tribunal court video transmission, and the live-tweeting reached hundreds of thousands every say. The overwhelming goodwill from the public helped Bailey raised over £500,000 in donations. 

Countless people were exposed to the frankly bizarre and anti-scientific arguments that lie at the heart of trans orthodoxy. During Allison Bailey’s Employment Tribunal, one of Stonewall’s employees argued: “It is a matter of biological reality that sex changes over a person’s life cycle.” Another argued that without an inner sense of gender identity a human being is “just a corpse.” Corpses in fact retain a biological sex — but Stonewall’s point is that without gender identity, human beings amount to nothing. 

This week, the Employment Tribunal found that Bailey’s belief that gender identity theory as proselytised by Stonewall is severely detrimental to women, and especially to lesbians, is a perfectly lawful on. She may not have won the legal arguments against Stonewall but she brought the philosophical arguments to light, to be challenged and debated properly.

Before scrutiny, trans lobby groups such as Stonewall had the luxury of imposing their niche worldview upon an unsuspecting society. Their Diversity and Inclusion schemes appeared untouchable. Through mechanisms like this, the trans lobby managed to situate themselves above the rest of us, with any criticism considered heresy. 

The reason why Allison Bailey is the woman of the hour is because in December 2018 she complained about the undue influence of an external lobby group. In her Witness Statement, Allison wrote: 

I have fought against injustice all my life, overcoming personal adversity to do so. Had it not been for the truly astonishing levels of support from women and men from around the world, I think the stress of the past two and a half years would have destroyed me. I did not expect to have to litigate against my own chambers and Stonewall, but I was left with no choice. I hope through this process to obtain justice for myself and an acknowledgement of what was done to me.

Somewhere hidden at the epicentre of the celebrations for the well-deserved legal victories of women like Sonia Appleby, Maya Forstater and Allison Bailey, there is grieving for the faith that each woman joined organisations that were tasked with supporting them, yet ended up disposing them once they became inconvenient to the status quo. Each woman had, at some point, faith that their integrity, background and competency would have earned them a fair hearing inside their own places of employment. Each of them was surprised to learn that in the debate between sex-based rights versus “gender identity” theories, good faith is replaced by a visceral appeal to dogmatic creeds. 

In defeat, as the world applauded the long-time coming vindication of one of their barristers, Garden Court Chambers showed her no humanity, no respect and zero acknowledgement that they were found guilty of discriminating against one of their own. “Our primary aim throughout has always been to uphold our values and maintain a workplace that is inclusive and welcoming to all,” they said in a statement — neglecting to point out how exclusive and unwelcoming they have made Allison Bailey feel inside their chambers. They may seek an appeal.

Gracious in victory, Bailey spoke of the deep sorrow that accompanies a decision to take your place of employment to court, and rather than boast, she showed kindness while opening a door to Garden Court so they could step back from the brink: 

One of the proudest days of my life was being accepted into Garden Court Chambers. It was in the vanguard of sort of law I set out to practice: socially conscious, enlightened and determined to represent those who most need the law’s protection, encapsulated in its motto: Do right, fear no one. I have spent nearly twenty years at Garden Court. Even among some of those who are named in the judgment there are many whom I respect and admire. Like many organisations that have mistakenly taken Stonewall’s proselytising as gospel, Garden Court has taken a wrong turn. But they can turn back. This judgment will help that to happen.

Proponents of “gender identity” policies often boast about tolerance and compassion, but every legal case about sex-based rights reveals that there is a crisis of kindness at the heart of the “gender identity” juggernaut. Rather than accept that a veteran human rights campaigner like Allison Bailey should be allowed to express dissenting views, her opponents sought punishment. 

Did Stonewall care?

When Stonewall suggested to Garden Court Chambers that they ought to “do the right thing” and discipline Bailey, did they stop to think about the almost insurmountable challenges that a black woman from a working-class background face to get a job, let along achieve recognition, at the bar? There are less than 5 black female QC barristers in the UK, compared with 17 black male barristers. Black and Asian women at the Bar are 4 times more likely to experience bullying and harassment while doing their jobs. Black female barristers earn the least of all their colleagues and are offered the least lucrative work in their field. In such a challenging context, did Stonewall care about ruining Allison Bailey’s chances?

Anyone who witnesses wrongdoing and is willing to publicly stand up against their own institution is taking a leap into the unknown, risking reputational suicide, loss of income and the potential death of a once cherished career.

By pursuing a legal case against her own chambers, Allison Bailey must have known that she risked ruining her legal career. This week she won a legal outcome that will always vindicate her. More than that, she has been embraced by the court of public opinion because she has taught both her arrogant chambers and the trans lobby that doing right and fearing no one is an action, not a creed. And that a sense of steadfast dignity and graciousness gets you farther in life than threats and intimidation. 

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