Stonewall chair speaks (and then recants)

Iain Anderson, chair of trustees for Stonewall, has given an extended interview to Sky News’s Beth Rigby. It is well worth watching the whole thing.

In the interview Anderson seemed to be trying to distance the organisation from the extreme position it has taken, saying that he recognises that there are competing rights and that organisations need to go beyond megaphone diplomacy to develop a strategy for reconciling transgender people’s rights and the rights of others.

Evan Davies on the BBC’s PM programme thought the interview suggested a pivot by the organisation. Helen Lewis said it was a reset and an olive branch.

Twenty-four hours later Stonewall published a statement recanting any glimmers of conciliation.

I am absolutely up for a conversation.

Anderson called for tolerance and respect and said he wanted to get out of the Twitter spat and the shouting at each other problem and issued a challenge to LGB Alliance and other organisations that disagree with the Stonewall position to engage constructively together.

Sex Matters has written to Mr Anderson twice, asking to meet with him, and he has not responded other than to take to Twitter to say he will not waste time arguing with groups who are working to remove trans peoples’ rights or deny them their dignity.

Following the interview Stonewall firmly withdrew Anderson’s invitation to dialogue, saying, under the heading “Anti-trans groups”:

We have never used our precious resources on dialogue with people who are vehemently against LGBTQ+ communities, and that will remain true.

I use my own words.

Anderson sought to distance himself from the comment made by CEO Nancy Kelley that it is prejudice for lesbians to dismiss the possibility of trans-identifying men as sexual partners.

He tried to claim that the comment, which was made in the context of a BBC report on lesbians being coerced into having sex with trans-identifying men, had been taken out of context.

We all know what a woman is.

Asked about single-sex spaces, Anderson said it was a sensitive topic; he recognised that there is a conflict of rights, but he thinks that men with a gender-recognition certificate have a right to use women-only spaces. He suggested that the Equality Act could be reviewed.

When asked about intimate care he seemed to recognise that other people have rights, and that transwomen are not in fact women.

In its later statement Stonewall says:

“We do not think the Equality Act should be reviewed, but we do think the Statutory Code of Practice could clearly include intersex people, asexual people and non-binary people… We do not believe that people’s rights are in competition.

“The bar set in the Equality Act, which is that trans women and trans men – although it is mostly used around trans women – access to women’s spaces should only be restricted as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim, is very high. There has to be a very specific set of reasons to exclude trans women from single-sex spaces. Although we dearly wish that no single-sex spaces wished to exclude trans women, trans men or non-binary people, we also recognise that, for the minority of spaces that want to, it is probably not a particularly safe service for those trans people to access.“

It’s a problem in terms of the perception of the conversation.

On sport, Anderson said that governing bodies were taking a sport-by-sport approach based on science and evidence. But he was not willing to admit that there is a clear unfairness in male athletes such as Lia Thomas competing against women.

While Anderson said that decisions should be taken sport by sport, Stonewall has criticised World Rugby and England Rugby for deciding that it is unfair and unsafe to allow men to transition into women’s rugby.

Stonewall’s later statement urges sports bodies to refrain from protecting female-only sports competition until they have stronger sport-by-sport evidence.

We need to lower the temperature on all sides of this.

Asked about the abusive language used against JK Rowling and TERFs (so-called trans-exclusive radical feminists), Anderson declined to take the opportunity to send a particular message but instead said that both sides should lower the temperature.

Sex Matters has written to Iain Anderson twice asking for a meeting. In the light of Stonewall’s recantation after this interview, we have written him another letter, asking for clarification.