The Mail on Sunday - 2021-11-21



China In The Dock


For years Stonewall was the unflinching champion of gay rights. Now it’s utterly in thrall to the trans lobby. The result: it’s at war with an unlikely opponent – lesbians who’ve raised serious concerns about being pressured into having sex with transgender women who still have male genitals. It’s even labelled them... FOR many, it was a brave and long-overdue airing of an important and distressing subject: a painstaking investigation into claims that predatory trans women have been pressuring lesbians for sex, published on the BBC News website. But a leaked email shows that the influential trans lobby group Stonewall attempted to suppress the investigation before it had even been published – and made the extraordinary claim that debating the issues was equivalent to ‘sexual racism’. This latest move to try to stifle free speech will add to growing concerns about the influence of Stonewall, which is paid millions of pounds for advising public bodies – including Government departments, police forces and universities – plus a range of private companies. Stonewall started as a campaign group for gay rights and has been widely applauded for its vital work. Today, however, it is dominated by the campaign for trans rights and controversially sets out to promote self-declared ‘gender identity’ – the doctrine that people are whatever gender they say they are – ahead of biological sex. It supports the belief, for example, that people with penises can be lesbians and those with vaginas can be gay men. Those who disagree, says Stonewall, are bigots. Such is Stonewall’s influence that a former aide to Boris Johnson has claimed the group has been allowed to dictate Government policy by advisers who present him with ‘skewed’ pro-trans information. Earlier this month, the BBC followed several other high-profile bodies, including Whitehall departments, in dropping its membership of Stonewall’s Diversity Champions programme. Under the scheme, employers pay the lobby group to help ‘embed LGBTQ+ inclusion’ in the way they work. The BBC’s announcement came two weeks after the Corporation published an investigation by journalist Caroline Lowbridge in which some lesbians told how they felt pressured into having a sexual relationship with trans women – specifically, men who say they are women but who have retained their male genitals. THE investigation cited three lesbian women who said they feared being labelled ‘transphobic’, and risked being shunned and threatened by the gay and trans community if they refused to take trans women as partners. They told Lowbridge they felt under a bizarre form of pressure to ‘accept the idea that a penis can be a female sex organ’. One told how she had been described as a ‘genital fetishist’ for only wanting to have relationships with biological women. Another said: ‘I was told I owed it to my trans sisters to unlearn my “genital confusion”.’ The article also included a controversial argument made by several trans activists that expressing any preference in sexual partners should be considered ‘discriminatory’ as such preferences often exclude trans people. This is sometimes referred to as ‘the cotton ceiling’ – a distasteful reference to underwear suggesting that trans women are systematically blocked from having sexual relationships with biological females. The BBC won much praise for its investigation, which prompted some lesbians to express their anger at how they felt ostracised for wishing to form relationships only with women. Campaigner Kat Howard wrote that she was ‘incredibly grateful to Caroline Lowbridge, and the BBC for this article’, adding: ‘We need help protecting young lesbians everywhere from an LGBT community that would rather see them silenced than stand up to the male perpetrators of assault.’ Yet now it has emerged that months before the article appeared Stonewall’s chief executive Nancy Kelley wrote to the editorial director of BBC News to denounce Lowbridge’s work in an apparent attempt to get her piece stopped. In her email, Kelley suggested that the BBC article would end up being ‘transphobic’ because it represented trans women as ‘sexual predators’, which was a ‘central anti-trans argument’. She further complained that the ‘highly toxic’ cotton ceiling issue was ‘analogous to issues like sexual racism’. And although she acknowledged that in sexual relationships ‘consent is paramount and we all want who we want’, she added that ‘structural oppression can influence who we want’. Which is to say that social bias, in this case against those who say they are trans, can affect even our most private thoughts. It is understood that it took many months of editorial discussions before the article was published on October 26. Stonewall has appeared to confirm that changes were made to the original piece, although it remains unclear whether this was as a direct result of the leaked email, sent in September 2020. Nor is it known whether the editorial director of BBC News at the time, Kamal Ahmed, took any action based on the specific concerns raised by Kelley. He was made redundant in February. As well as praise, the article prompted mass complaints from trans rights groups. An open letter, from Trans Activism UK, had 20,000 signatures and described the article as ‘incredibly dangerous’ for suggesting the issue of lesbians being coerced into sex with trans women was widespread. The BBC received 4,819 complaints in the days following publication, while 5,520 messages praised its coverage. Angela Wild, a member of lesbian campaign group Get The L Out who was quoted in the article, told The Mail on Sunday: ‘For years lesbian activists have been trying to get the message out that it is not bigoted to say “no” to sexual pressure from males who identify as women. ‘The fact that Nancy Kelley has framed the reporting of this issue as transphobia is disgusting. Stonewall are a disgrace and no longer represent the interests of lesbians.’ Author John Boyne described Stonewall as authoritarian for ‘telling gays how to think, who to date and betraying lesbians completely.’ The BBC rejected the complaints against the article arguing it had gone through ‘rigorous editorial processes’. adding that its journalism should explore issues ‘even where there are strongly held positions’. Last month, former BBC foreign correspondent Paul Wood told The Mail on Sunday there has been a ‘climate of fear’ at the Corporation around issues of race and gender, with self-appointed censors among the broadcaster’s own staff. Wood wrote that concerned execcrossbench utives had found themselves at the centre of a ‘culture war’. Last month an independent report into the BBC warned that ‘networks’ of internal influence – including those representing sexual minorities – could affect its impartiality. In a statement to The Mail on Sunday, Stonewall said: ‘We can confirm that we wrote to the former editorial director 14 months ago to raise a concern about a previous version of the article that was relevant to his role in upholding the BBC’s editorial guidelines.’ The broadcaster’s withdrawal from Stonewall’s Diversity Champions programme prompted a huge backlash, with many complaints from BBC staff. When the announcement was made, Corporation executive Rhodri Talfan Davies refused to confirm whether Stonewall had ever successfully swayed its journalistic output. But speaking to Radio 4’s Women’s Hour last week, Kelley was open about her group’s intentions. ‘I want Stonewall to have more influence on the editorial policy of the BBC,’ she said. The Corporation’s decision to abandon ties with Stonewall – and publish the article – suggests the BBC is taking a much more robust approach The issue of the lobbyists’ influence on the BBC was also covered in a tenpart investigative podcast titled Stonewall, made by presenter Stephen Nolan and released on BBC Sounds. Stonewall chose not to engage with the series’ makers. Stonewall first opted to include transgender issues in 2015 under the leadership of Ruth Hunt, now Baroness Hunt of Bethnal Green, a peer who previously worked for the Equality Challenge Unit, advising on sexual orientation and gender identity equality. She was succeeded by Kelley last year. The group has since become a vociferous champion of transgender rights, prompting some – including two of the charity’s founders, broadcasters Simon Fanshawe and Matthew Parris – to accuse Stonewall of abandoning the interests of lesbians, gay men and bisexual people. Under Kelley’s leadership, Stonewall believes that individuals have a ‘gender identity’ based on how they feel inside, which is more important than their sex at birth. Terms including ‘homosexual’, ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ have now been reframed to refer to ‘same-gender’ attraction – rather than ‘samesex’ attraction – to avoid excluding trans people. This means, in effect, that trans men – biological females – who still retain their vaginas can be gay if they are attracted to men, while trans women – biological males – with penises can be lesbians. The BBC, which has paid substantial sums to Stonewall under its Diversity Champions programme, recently adopted these new definitions in its internal editorial style guide. It is unclear whether these will remain. Programmes such as Diversity Champions earn Stonewall millions as businesses pay to be vetted on their woke policies. Hundreds of thousands of pounds have been spent on the programmes by Government departments alone. Being part of the scheme gives employers the chance to appear in the charity’s coveted Top 100 workplace index if their policies meet Stonewall’s approval. Last year’s list included Sainsbury’s, MI6, Oxford University, Sussex Police, Barclays, the Ministry of Justice and the Army. But those who have cut their links with the scheme include Channel 4, Ofcom, Ofsted, the University of Essex, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and several Whitehall departments. Philosophy professor Kathleen Stock – who was hounded out of Sussex University for saying that biological sex matters and wrote about her experience in the MoS this month – has accused Stonewall of helping drive a climate of bigotry in British universities. A BBC spokesman said: ‘Many people and organisations make representations to the BBC about various aspects of our coverage. ‘BBC News is editorially independent and the BBC alone decides what we broadcast or publish. The story is on our website for anyone to read.’ The BBC’s experience with Stonewall is just one fascinating example of how a host of organisations – both public and private – are coming under intense pressure by a powerful lobby group that many fear is causing profound damage to the rights of women.


© PressReader. All rights reserved.