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Sunday, December 5, 2021

Being gender critical does not mean you are transphobic, admits Stonewall boss

Stonewall’s chief executive has conceded that it is possible to believe gender cannot be changed without being transphobic.

Nancy Kelley, head of the of LGBTQ+ charity since June 2020, made the comments in a wide-ranging interview on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour – which also covered her thoughts on the opinions of JK Rowling and academic Kathleen Stock, who have been accused of being transphobic.

It also marked her first interview since the BBC pulled out of the charity’s embattled diversity scheme.

Ms Kelley told the programme that “it’s absolutely possible for people to hold gender critical beliefs without expressing them in a way that’s harmful to trans people”.

Gender critical beliefs refer to the idea that someone’s gender is biological, fixed and cannot be changed. 

People holding these beliefs have complained of feeling bullied or silenced by trans campaigners, who accused them of being bigoted.

Ms Kelley said she had “no idea” if JK Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter books, was transphobic – but that she had said things that were “harmful”.

She declined to comment specifically on the case of Professor Stock, who resigned from Sussex University following protests by students over her views. However, Ms Kelley said everyone should be free from harassment at work.

The charity boss also said she believed that gendered words such as “mother” should not be changed in a bid to improve inclusion, amid criticism of some organisations using the term “pregnant people” instead.

She said: “We’re not interested in removing or erasing the word ‘mother’. I’m a mum married to another mum. 

“I would be really upset if my children didn’t call me mum, I absolutely understand why the word mother is so important to so many of us.”

No ‘real influence over editorial policy’ at BBC

She also denied that Stonewall had “any real influence” over the BBC’s editorial policy and output, adding that she understood that the BBC left Stonewall’s workplace diversity scheme as it could create a perception that the broadcaster was not impartial.

The Stonewall Diversity Champions scheme is a paid-for programme which advises and assesses on creating inclusive workplaces.

There is also a separate workplace equality index, in which Stonewall scores employers on their diversity efforts.

Last month, the BBC said it would leave both schemes, because its participation had raised questions about whether it could be impartial on issues which the LGBTQ+ charity is campaigning on.

Other organisations including Channel 4, Ofcom, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Cabinet Office have also made similar decisions.

Ms Kelley said: “What the BBC does in its coverage doesn’t show any sign of being aggressively pro trans rights, in fact some of the coverage has tilted a bit the other way recently. 

“So I of course understand why people may have that perception. In reality, I don’t think we’ve had any real influence over editorial policy. It would be lovely to have more, we’d love to have to be able to have a great amount of influence over how LGBT stories are covered by everyone.”

The BBC has said it is committed to being a leading employer for inclusion.

The corporation said being part of the charity’s diversity scheme “has never required the BBC to support the campaigns of Stonewall”.

“As a broadcaster, we have our own values and editorial standards,” a spokesman added.

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