Artillery Row

Stonewall is being true to itself

Their focus on trans rights is just a logical step forwards

Stonewall seems to be sliding ever deeper into absurdity. Its embrace of transgender ideology has led to the promotion of patently bizarre and disturbing policies: rebranding mothers as “birthing parents”, the right of rapists who self-identify as women to be kept in women’s prisons, even the decriminalisation of “sex by deception”. In response there has been first a trickle, and now a rush, of organisations deciding to withdraw from Stonewall membership. How one particular political campaigning group came to exercise such a level of influence in both public and private sectors is something which will no doubt need to be looked into; but that its grip is loosening is surely a very good thing.

It has been suggested that when Stonewall adopted a focus on transgenderism, from 2016 onwards, it performed something of a handbrake turn. Simon Fanshawe, one of Stonewall’s founders, argued last week in the Daily Mail : “gathering all of us under one big “LGBT” umbrella failed to recognise that sexual orientation and gender identity are two entirely different things.” Transgenderism and all the absurdities it brings in its wake was, Fanshawe argued, a departure from what Stonewall had always stood for. And as a result, an organisation that had been all about tolerance has become monstrously intolerant. He speaks of the “doctrinaire guardians of Stonewall”, who “see disagreement as about prejudice or even hate”. The charge is clear: Stonewall, once noble and good, has turned bad.

The problem is not in transgenderism’s logic. The logic is watertight

But has Stonewall really been captured by an ideology alien to its original vision? It is not so obvious that it has. First, the idea that Stonewall, pre-2016, was a bastion of tolerance and inclusivity will bring a wry smile to the lips of Christians of all denominations who hold to the historic Christian understanding of what it means to be human. Fanshaw and others who are “gender critical” may have only recently found themselves compared to anti-Semites, but Christians have been slandered by Stonewall as motivated by “prejudice and hate” for years. Let us not forget that this is the organisation that used to name a “Bigot of the Year” at its annual awards ceremony. Stonewall has always been highly intolerant of those who question its views; Fanshawe and others have simply discovered what it is like to be on the receiving end.

But more importantly, Stonewall’s transgender agenda is fundamentally consistent with its founding principles in ways that Fanshawe doesn’t seem to, or perhaps want to, recognise. For the LGB movement was founded on the conviction that rather than having a human nature which is externally given, instead we each have an identity which is internally discovered. Sexual orientation, not sex itself with its distinction of bodies and their functions, is the determining truth of who we are. Who I am is something I get to decide, not something already there that I have to accept.

What was being rejected here was the Christian concept of a human “essence”: the design and purpose for which God made us. Secularism, with its deification of liberty as the highest of all goods, rejected this idea precisely because it implies that who we are, and how we are to live, is something we cannot choose and must conform to. LGB thinking applied that particularly to the question of male and female: it rejected a belief that there is an essential nature to sex, for that would imply that being male and female have a purpose and a goal, and therefore how we should act sexually is partially determined by our biology, not by our inclinations. Rather, our identity is simply something from inside us; partly a discovered orientation, partly a constructed identity.

But if this is accepted as true, why consider sex as fixed at all? If sex means nothing, then it is nothing; and how I feel about my sex is all that is left. And so it is far from obvious that Fanshawe is right when he says that “sexual orientation and gender identity are two entirely different things.” If sexual feelings are sufficient to establish who a person is, then why not feelings of sex? Once psychology has been elevated above biology, it is very hard to see how any other conclusion could be reached. The only way for the LGB movement to resist the Transgender step is to fall back on an Essentialist view of human sexuality which from the outset it set itself to destroy.

The LGBT movement has always been set on the eventual abolition of man and woman

Now this conclusion, that sex does not exist, is as manifestly false and ridiculous as stating that grass is blue or triangles have four sides. And its moral application is not funny but appalling. The destruction of the concept of a “woman” carries with it — as has become tragically obvious — massive exposure of women and girls to exploitation by abusive men. The enforced falsification of language to accommodate transgender beliefs brings with it an incalculable society-wide loss to our belief in truth and reality. And leading large numbers of teenagers to permanently poison or mutilate their bodies (or both) is a crime that future generations will look back on with bewilderment, horror and fury. What Stonewall now represents is absurd in the true meaning of the word, and absurdity carried into the moral realm is indistinguishable from evil. Stonewall’s current fall from grace is something which all intelligent and compassionate people should rejoice in.

And yet the problem is not in transgenderism’s logic. The logic is watertight. If what we are is not given to us from outside, but is an identity we discover on the inside, then this is where we end up. If sexual difference is not allowed to say anything about how we should live, then ultimately sex must go. Once you board the identity-not-essence train, then you cannot expect it to stop at the LGB station. It has to go on to T, and probably beyond, whatever horrors may lie there. Stonewall’s patent nonsense is not because, as Simon Fanshawe argues, it has “lost its way”. It has not reversed off into a siding, but continued resolutely straight down the same tracks.

If the logical pursuit of a given starting-point ends in nonsense, then the problem is not the logic but the starting point. Stonewall’s slide into absurdity is a reductio ad absurdum of the principle of self-defined identity, of replacing human essence with human psychology. If we do not like what Stonewall has become, it is that principle which we will have to change. 

It is most welcome that as a society we are perhaps realising that we cannot, after all, do without believing that there is an essential difference between male and female. Of course we cannot; it is a basic given of human existence which cannot be denied, and must be accepted. It is ironic that this has become so clear just as the government has committed itself, under the cover of a ban on so-called “conversion therapy”, to making it illegal to say so. The LGBT movement has always been set on the eventual abolition of man and woman; Stonewall has begun to demonstrate for all to see the terrible human cost that this brings.

The problem of course did not originate with LGBT. The belief that we find ourselves exclusively in our feelings and choices, rather than in a nature given us by God, has been permeating Western culture for three centuries as Christianity has been pushed aside. It is a belief just as religious as Christianity itself, and held with just as deep commitment and devotion. Yet if we are to avoid the absurdity Stonewall now represents, it is that belief which we are going to have to change.

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