(Adds detail in final par re government review)
By Hugo Greenhalgh
LONDON, Oct 4 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Britain’s leading LGBT+ rights group was attacked on Thursday for stifling debate as opinion split over whether the rights of trans women were compatible with those of other women.
The debate has raged in recent months and was rekindled when a group of high-powered campaigners wrote to the Times newspaper to lambast Stonewall’s dismissal of opposing views to its stance that “trans women are women”.
“We urge Stonewall to acknowledge that there are a range of valid viewpoints around sex, gender and transgender politics, and to acknowledge specifically that a conflict exists between transgenderism and sex-based women’s rights,” the letter said.
“We call on Stonewall to commit to fostering an atmosphere of respectful debate,” said the letter, signed by singer Alison Moyet, writer Philip Hensher and 15 others.
With a nod to Stonewall’s campaigning history, co-author Kate Harris, a former vice-president at American Express, said the statement was “the last thing anyone wanted to do”.
“The call to action is simple,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “We are asking Stonewall to allow a calm and respectful debate … rather than demonising as transphobic those who dissent from Stonewall’s trans policies.”
At the heart of the matter is whether trans rights are compatible with those of other women.
A poll conducted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation of 1,000 women in Cairo, London, Mexico, New York and Toyko last month revealed that the overwhelming majority – 798 – believed trans women should have the same rights as other women.
Support was highest - 89 percent - in Mexico City, followed by London and New York, both 87 percent.
“We need to be aware of the fact that there are trans people who deserve every respect and every right of protection under the law,” said Harris.
“But where there is an overlap between the rights of those people and women’s rights, we need to discuss that. How do we manage that so that neither side is hurt or damaged by it?”
A petition was set up this week asking Stonewall “to reconsider its transgender policies and approach”.
Ruth Hunt, the group’s chief executive, said the petition had asked for an acknowledgement that there was a conflict between trans rights and “sex-based women’s rights”.
“We do not and will not acknowledge this,” Hunt said in a statement. “Doing so would imply that we do not believe that trans people deserve the same rights as others. Our motto is ‘acceptance without exception’.”
Britain is reviewing its 2004 Gender Recognition Act, which governs how trans people have their identity legally recognised.
“To have similar debates around any other part of a person’s identity protected by law is unimaginable: debating whether gay people exist or whether people of a certain faith should be able to access services, would rightly not be tolerated,” Hunt said.
"It is the same for trans people." (Reporting by Hugo Greenhalgh @hugo_greenhalgh, Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)