Response to the letter by Taiwo Owatemi, Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities in the UK

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Statement by Bev Jackson of LGB Alliance in response to the letter by Taiwo Owatemi, Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities in the UK

The letter by Taiwo Owatemi, Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, replying to a constituent concerned about the recent escalation of attacks on Professor Kathleen Stock, contains a catalogue of lies and misrepresentations about our organisation, the charity LGB Alliance. We refute them utterly and call upon the Shadow Minister to issue a retraction.

  1. Owatemi writes that LGB Alliance “should be rejected by all those who believe in equality.” On the contrary, our organisation was formed to campaign for preserving the rights, as enshrined in the Equality Act 2010, of people with same-sex sexual orientation. It is impossible to guarantee those rights if the word “sex” is replaced by subjective, self-defined “gender.” We need to point this out repeatedly, since almost all LGBT+ groups, those who, as the Shadow Minister states, opposed the decision to grant us charitable status, now deny the central importance of biological sex. Remarkably many LGBT+ groups even claim that to insist on the use of the word sex is a “dog whistle” for “transphobia”. In the space of less than 10 years, we’ve lost the ability to describe our sexual orientation and discuss our rights in law without being deemed transphobic.

  2. The equality of lesbians, in particular, is under attack. It is no coincidence that LGB Alliance was founded by two lesbians, one being a founding member of the Gay Liberation Front and the other being a former volunteer fundraiser for Stonewall. Those who point out that being a lesbian means being exclusively attracted to other biological females are being vilified by LGBTQ+ groups as “genital fetishists” and “transphobes”. There is a word for this kind of vilification. It is homophobia. 30 years ago, homophobes used to argue lesbians should consider sleeping with men. Nowadays, new-style homophobes from within the LGBTQ+ movement say exactly the same thing …that lesbians should consider having sex with “lesbians who have a penis” – that is, men.

  3. Are we saying that all the LGBTQ+ groups around the country are essentially now homophobic? That is precisely what we are saying. The fact that they do not realise the depth of their homophobia is a sign of how far they have been captured by the convoluted logic of strange new language and ideas.

  4. The Shadow Minister further states that LGB Alliance opposes reform of the Gender Recognition Act. What we oppose is the introduction of gender “self-ID”, according to which any person, without any medical diagnosis, can change their legal sex. The havoc already being caused by moves in this direction, in women’s sport, in women’s prisons, in women’s rape shelters, in women’s hospital wards, is well documented. Less well documented is the damage being inflicted on lesbian and gay teens, who are repeatedly hearing that they may have been “born in the wrong body” and need to “change sex”. This too is homophobia. As an organisation representing LGB people we staunchly reject self-ID and all suggestions that same-sex attracted people might have been “born in the wrong body”.

  5. The Shadow Minister writes that we oppose “LGBT+ inclusive education”. Of course we welcome good RSE education that teaches children about gay and straight relationships, about the changes of puberty, and also teaches them to be tolerant of people who are different. What we oppose is teaching children that everyone has a “gender identity” that may differ from their birth sex. This, again, encourages the false and harmful notion that it is possible to be “born in the wrong body”.

  6. The Shadow Minister further writes that we believe “adolescents should not be able to access puberty blockers” as part of a process of “gender transition”. This is correct. We are pleased to see that “gender experts” from Sweden1 and Finland2 to Australia and New Zealand,3 and even in the United States,4 are increasingly expressing concern about the use of puberty blockers. The majority of teens referred to gender clinics are girls. The evidence shows that the majority of those girls will turn out to be lesbian or bisexual.5 It also shows that some 98% of children who take puberty blockers go on to take cross-sex hormones,6 which eventually lead to sterility. All those who oppose medicalisation that ends up sterilising “gender-non-conforming youth” should support LGB Alliance.

  7. The growing group of detransitioners, most of them women in their twenties, repeatedly express the wish that they had received better care. Better care does not mean drugs and surgery. It means careful, non-judgmental, impartial psychotherapy to help them explore the reasons for their profound sense of alienation from their bodies.

  8. The Shadow Minister states that opposing the use of puberty blockers is “in flagrant disregard of the entire concept of ‘Gillick competency’”. This is a misrepresentation of Gillick competency, which was introduced to protect girls wanting to take contraception or to have an abortion without the consent of their parents. Applying this to a medical pathway applicable to children as young as 10 years of age that leads eventually to sterilisation is a gross abuse of the concept, and we are confident that the Supreme Court will settle this matter in its consideration of the Keira Bell case.

  9. The Shadow Minister writes that we criticise measures to make conversion “therapy” illegal. Gay “conversion therapy” is abhorrent and we utterly condemn it. What we dispute is the definition of “conversion therapy”. Former clinicians at the Tavistock GIDS clinic have described the process of prescribing drugs and surgery for gender non-conforming youth as a form of “gay conversion therapy”.

  10. We criticise proposals to ban “gender identity conversion therapy” because it essentially means enforcing the “affirmative approach” to gender dysphoria. We already hear from UK doctors who tell us that they are instructed by the GMC that the girls coming to their clinic who “identify” as boys must be affirmed as boys and referred to a gender clinic. The irony is that the proposed ban on “gender identity conversion therapy” would actually lead to “conversion therapy” of teens likely to grow up LGB. Suggesting a child who is attracted to someone of the same sex might need hormones and surgery – that is a form of “gay conversion therapy” and we strongly oppose it.

  11. The Shadow Minister says we oppose the “very existence of non-binary people”. We do not oppose the existence of anyone. People can “identify” however they choose, but these chosen identities cannot be used to infringe on existing rights of other minorities under law.

  12. The Shadow Minister further writes that we “refuse to condemn as homophobic those who would deny same-sex couples the right to marry”. Here the Shadow Minister remembers the phrase “same-sex”. We strongly support all legal measures to allow same-sex couples to marry. The misrepresentation here arises from the fact that marriage is, and always has been, a controversial concept within the gay and lesbian community. Stonewall opposed it for many years before changing its mind. Many gays and lesbians see marriage as a traditional, conservative, establishment institution that they have no wish to imitate. Some of our supporters will take this view, while others disagree and are happily married. Of course the legal possibility to marry must exist. And of course those who dislike the institution of marriage, whether they are gay or straight, have every right to say so and to remain unmarried.

  13. The Shadow Minister admits that she is “not familiar with Professor Stock’s philosophical writings” yet feels able to be “greatly concerned by her work as a Trustee for the LGB Alliance group”. It is an utter disgrace that an eminent philosopher who was awarded an OBE for services to higher education, and who practises her profession with a scrupulous regard for truth and respect for other views, should be vilified in this way.

  14. Though we are appalled by the casual way in which the Shadow Secretary has seen fit to parrot these lies and misrepresentations about our organisation, and to abuse Professor Stock by association, it should be noted that this malicious communication is only the tip of the iceberg. All around the UK, those who emphasise the importance of biological sex to the rights of women and LGB people are going in fear of losing their livelihood. Many write to us and tell us they agree with us but are silent for fear of losing their jobs.

  15. The Shadow Minister’s trashing of our organisation also signals something that has gone very wrong with the Labour Party and indeed in all the UK’s public institutions. When we hear Keir Starmer say that it is “not right” to say to say that only women have a cervix, and when we hear David Lammy say that he has heard it is possible to grow a cervix with the use of hormones and other treatment we know we have entered a twilight world, in which you can be attacked, as we saw recently on Twitter, for “fact shaming”. Facts exist. Ignore them at your peril.

  16. Those who want to gain an understanding of how this sorry and increasingly dangerous state of affairs has been allowed to come about are advised to listen to the new 10-part podcast “Nolan Investigates” on Stonewall, which can be found on BBC Sounds.

  17. We expect an apology and a full retraction from the Shadow Secretary for Women and Equalities, to be published at the earliest opportunity.

Bev Jackson

Co-founder, LGB Alliance