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Artillery Row

By stealth…

How the trans lobby took over the British establishment, and the effort to fight back

When Baroness Falkner, Chair of EHRC Board of Trustees, recommended that the government consider an amendment to clarify that sex in the 2010 Equality Act (EA2010) means biological sex, uproar ensued. Transactivists protested about their “rights being stripped away”. Press coverage referred to an “elite group of EHRC people (‘Gold Command’) conspiring” to oust Falkner and an “activist-inclined staff” in thrall to “groups like Stonewall”. Ian Acheson, former COO of EHRC said, We cannot have Britain’s rights regulator and its legitimate board authority subverted by ideological activism from within.”

The conflict with Falkner has an entangled history, and it effectively hinges on two issues.

One is the EA2010 single-sex exception (SSE). Prior to Falkner’s tenure, much of EHRC’s guidance on applying SSE was unlawful. This may be difficult to believe, but it is true. An example: “Where someone has a gender recognition certificate [GRC] they should be treated in their acquired gender for all purposes and therefore should not be excluded from single-sex services.” Yet EA2010 allows exclusion, with or without a GRC, from single sex services (e.g. domestic abuse refuges, public toilets and changing rooms) — provided it is a proportionate means to achieve a legitimate aim. As confirmed in the legal case AEA v EHRC May 2021 by EHRC’s KC: “Persons with a GRC can be lawfully excluded from single-sex services and spaces. A policy which states that trans people must be allowed access to single-sex services/spaces of their choice is directly inconsistent with the law”.

The Cabinet Office continues to position itself beyond the law

The other issue concerns gender critical belief (GCB) — that sex is biological, binary and immutable. The legal case Forstater v CGD May 2021 confirmed that GCB is included in the EA2010 protected characteristic “Religion or belief”. It means that a GC person cannot be compelled to act contrary to their belief, i.e. accept that birth sex can be changed, use preferred pronouns or, arguably, share toilets with a person of the opposite sex irrespective of presentation. Since Forstater, there have been two other successful standout GCB cases: Bailey v Garden Court Chambers May 2022 and Fahmy v Arts Council UK July 2023.

Recently leaked Cabinet Office (CO) draft-guidance acknowledges GCB: “ … some employees believe that a person’s biological sex is immutable … and must be treated with respect and dignity”. However, the guidance retains an unlawful element which undermines its GCB stance: “If the employee has a GRC, they are legally entitled to access toilet facilities in their acquired gender … it is the individual’s legal right and forms an important part of gender transition.” Thus, despite clarification in AEA v EHRC and revised EHRC guidance, the CO continues to position itself beyond the law. It doesn’t stop there.

A civil service (CS) source said, “ … there’s a lack of understanding about the Equality Act, and the effect of a GRC, in the Cabinet Office and throughout the civil service.” This begs the question, is the Government Legal Department — which trains other departments — also in thrall to trans ideology? Another source said, “the Government Legal Department is permeated with transgender ideology. Lawyers who are sympathetic to gender critical views are afraid to speak out.” Yet another CS source referred to a staff LGBT network in which, “outrage was expressed about women having any say at all in which facilities trans people use. Only trans people should be consulted”. A fourth CS source, who was accused of harassment for merely questioning the use of pronouns, spoke of an oppressive work environment: “not knowing who to trust and having to think before speaking. It’s like being back in the closet. They refer to bringing the whole self to work but I, as a same-sex attracted person, can’t bring my whole self.”

How did all this come about? How did civil servants and departments become embroiled in trans ideology? It didn’t happen overnight.

The first gender clinic for adults opened in 1966. GIDS clinic, for gender dysphoric children, opened in 1989. Early 1990s saw transgender studies instated in universities. In 1992, female-born Stephen Whittle co-founded Press for Change (PfC). Mermaids followed in 1995. 2008 saw the emergence of Gendered Intelligence. Monolithic Stonewall adopted the “T” in 2015 and — with a government grant to promote “lesbian, gay, bi and trans people” in primary and secondary schools — fostered trans ideology. Gen Z was steeped in trans ideology for much of their formative years; Gen Alpha is now undergoing the same. Many entered the civil service (named as top graduate employer in 2019) to become, directly or indirectly, trans ideology activists. It’s not just junior civil servants though. Amongst the fervent are senior figures in pivotal positions, who will mostly remain unnamed.

Advocates in the “Corridors of Power”

David Isaac was Vice-Chair and Chair of Stonewall for 14 years (1998–2012) and EHRC Chair for four years (2016–2020). Some have speculated, but no evidence has emerged, that Isaac was involved in the promotion of trans ideology beyond the remit of his EHRC role. Regardless, unlawful guidance was issued on Isaac’s watch.

Though not a civil servant, Stephen Whittle stalked the “corridors of power” as co-founder of PfC, which was described by Lord Alex Carlile as “one of the most successful lobby groups seen in the last 25 years”. Whittle was included in the EA2010 Codes of Practice Consultation and almost certainly had the ear of key people prior to enactment of the Gender Recognition Act. Some claim Whittle’s Engendered Penalties: Transsexual and Transgender People’s Experience of Inequality and Discrimination, 2007 was instrumental in the drawing-up of EHRC’s remit.

The trans community relies on allies to boost its cause

In deepening or inculcating trans ideology in civil servants, one Whitehall insider was exceptionally prolific. Male-born Jacqui Gavin’s civil service career began June 2009 and ended May 2019. Via a series of diversity and inclusion roles, Gavin advised on policy, gave talks on trans issues and delivered trans-training in major departments: Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), Financial Conduct Authority (closely associated with HM Treasury), Dept of International Trade and the Cabinet Office. An interview with Civil Service World reveals Gavin’s further reach: “I look forward to working closely with my colleagues in the Government Equalities Office and the Ministry of Justice … ” Gavin founded the DWP Transgender Network and held lead positions in the cross-department trans network a:gender. Terry Moran, then 2nd Permanent Secretary at DWP, spoke of Gavin’s influence: “There can be few people more suitable, passionate or committed to equality interests than Jacqui. She is a tireless supported [sic] and thought leader not afraid to challenge preconceptions or prejudice. A role model always.”

Trans allies

Being small in number, the trans community relies on allies to support and boost its cause. The influence of Gavin and others on fellow civil servants is evident in Civil Service People Survey 2019 — Results by Gender, which broke ground with the inclusion of “cisgender”: a trans term coined to denote biological sex, with adoption an indicator of allyship. Of 252,667 male respondents, 125,410 self-described as “cisgender man”. Of 293,072 female respondents,145,169 self-described as “cisgender female”. Almost half of biological females and males regard themselves ascisgender”, rather than their birth sex, which testifies to successful trans ideology induction. What impact did this have?

One effect of allyship was the horrendous attack on Baroness Falkner. Another was the legal case Thomas v DWP 2023, in which Anna Thomas successfully sued her employer for breach of Civil Service Code impartiality requirement. Thomas (echoing my sources) revealed an intimidatory workplace: staff afraid to voice opinions, with non-attendees at trans-training branded de facto transphobic. Another outcome, with far-reaching consequences, was rendering EHRC guidance on EA2010 unlawful.

Means to an end

In late 2019, I searched EHRC guidance and found the earlier referred to extract — “Where someone has a gender recognition certificate [GRC] they should … not be excluded from single-sex services” — in 17 pieces of guidance, and linked-to in 12 other items. Even when technically correct, a plethora of guidance was manipulatively-worded to induce alarm, with emphasis placed on inclusion. Reasons to exclude “must be compelling”, for example. Spectres of fear were coercively evoked: “Businesses and their staff should take care to avoid a decision based on ignorance or prejudice, as this may lead to unlawful discrimination.”

EHRC guidance was disseminating trans ideology. AEA made official complaint to EHRC CEO Rebecca Hilsenrath (who resigned two months later), copied to David Isaac (who resigned six months later), and commenced legal proceedings. A follow-up FOI revealed staffers acting autonomously, differences of opinion (presumably between trans allies and those not) and a poor grasp of the law:

“Let’s say that a broader review of web content is currently taking place … I would definitely rather not pull that guidance. I think it’s correct.

“It’s being allocated in order for someone to take the lead on agreeing a corporate line in respect of access to single sex services for those who have a GRC — it’s an issue on which we are not all agreed.

“Did you see my email this morning? Melanie [Melanie Field, EHRC Executive Director] doesn’t want a caveat as to what we think of the term (she didn’t know there is already one on our website … ).”

Incorrect statements and actions without sanction of senior staff are bad enough, but the notion of “agreeing a corporate line” is extraordinary. It is as if the issue were finessing an awkward situation, rather than correct application of the law.

The wider world

Few read EA2010 or EHRC guidance (even rectified EHRC guidance). Instead, there is a reliance on training organisations or trusted entities which, for 10 years, could point to unlawful EHRC guidance. Thus was trans ideology spread far and wide.

Direct reach-outs from EHRC staffers were not unknown, as when this school was incorrectly informed that “if they did not allow pupils to use the single-sex facilities which matched their true gender identity, it would constitute an act of discrimination”.

Lawfulness clashes with desired retention of a wedded-to ideology

All sectors were penetrated. In the legal profession, for instance, “The certificate [GRC] ensures that transsexuals cannot be excluded from single-sex services.” In the security industry, “If a trans person says that a particular toilet is appropriate for them, then that is the appropriate toilet for them”. See also leading food retailers. Trans ideology even seeped into the judiciary. Barrister Thomas Chacko critiqued the “Equal Treatment Bench Book” because it “attempts to give an authoritative explanation of what transgenderism is and problems trans people face … and does this in a partisan and didactic fashion”. It flowed into local councils. Male-born Councillor Sarah Brown tabled a motion: “Transgender people will not be excluded from gender-appropriate single-sex/sex-segregated facilities operated by the Council”. Brought to my attention in 2018, this led to my resignation from the council.

Major organisations such as Deloitte no longer prominently display the nuts and bolts of policy on their websites. However, its Support for Trans & Gender Diverse Applicants” stipulates “choice to use the building facilities staff are comfortable with”. Deloitte is part of “Interbank”, “The Financial Services LGBT Forum”, as are 31 other leading financiers — most likely, all with similar policies.

Even when aware of revised guidance and clarifications in AEA and Forstater, many organisations are in stasis. Lawfulness clashes with desired retention of a wedded-to ideology. It’s an untenable position. More GCB cases are in train, with others in the pipeline. The status quo cannot hold. Critical mass, with the tumbling of an edifice built on distortion, is just over the horizon.

Transactivists claim that if sex is clarified as meaning biological sex, it will strip away “long-exercised rights”. That is a red herring. Trans people are free to wear what they want, call themselves what they like, and they are rightly protected in law from discrimination, harassment and victimisation, with full employment rights. Nonetheless, they do not have, nor ever had, an automatic right to access single-sex services or spaces. It is women’s rights that have been encroached on and eroded. These are the rights that Baroness Falkner sought to restore. Under her leadership, in April 2022, grounds for SSE application were made explicit: privacy, decency, avoidance of trauma, and health and safety. Howls of protest followed. Now Falkner recommends consideration of an amendment to clarify that sex really does mean sex — and much of Whitehall is jumping in fury.

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