On 20 July, Stonewall Chair, Iain Anderson, was interviewed by Beth Rigby on Sky News. The interview was supposed to be an opportunity to talk about 10 years of marriage equality, LGBTQ+ veterans, and Rainbow Laces 10 – all remarkable moments that deserved recognition and celebration.
We took part in the interview because Stonewall has always been engaged in difficult conversations on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community. The interview largely focused on highly detailed elements of trans policy issues and Stonewall’s position on these remains unchanged.
The world-leading Equality Act protects many communities – including LGBTQ+ people – it took years to draft and is a finely-honed, balanced, and complex piece of legislation that Stonewall believes works effectively.
Sport should be open to everyone, including trans people, and this includes elite sport. Out of hundreds of thousands of elite athletes, a small handful are trans. We believe including trans people & players in policy development that is both evidence and research-based.
Stonewall believes trans people’s rights should be fully respected and it is past time that conversations around trans people’s lives stop being used as a political tool. Instead, we’re calling for political leaders to develop a meaningful strategy for trans equality that ensures trans people are properly supported, included and able to participate fully in society.
Stonewall’s Chair, Iain Anderson said: “We remain at the forefront of campaigning for trans people’s rights, and I’m sorry if yesterday’s interview caused concern amongst the LGBTQ+ community and its allies. My priority is fighting for trans people & securing a trans equality strategy that will support the trans community”
Stonewall’s current positions on key elements of yesterday’s discussion are set out below.
The Equality Act is a world-class piece of legislation that’s been operating well for 13 years.
Since the Equality Act 2010 came into force it has provided an effective defence against discrimination in employment and in the provision of goods and services for people who hold one or more ‘protected characteristics’. This is legislation that works well, and of which Britain can be proud.
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.
It works well because it understands that people can experience discrimination on multiple grounds and it treats all of those grounds equally. We do not believe that people’s rights are in competition.
The Equality Act 2010 already supports the operation of single-sex services, where this is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. It also permits the exclusion of trans people from those single-sex services where this is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. This means that trans inclusion is the universal practice in day–to–day single-sex spaces such as toilets and changing rooms, but trans inclusion is not a universal practice in single-sex specialist services.
As Beth Rigby pointed out, in 2015, we recommended for the removal of these clauses in a submission to a parliamentary inquiry based on consultation with trans people at the time.
It is really important to say that we do not advocate for the removal of the single-sex exemptions in the Equality Act. When the Equality Act was first introduced, Stonewall did. That was because we were worried that they would be applied in a blanket way and would be used to wholesale exclude trans women from many single-sex spaces. We know that that has not been the case.
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.
Trans people in elite sport
We believe that trans people should be able to thrive and flourish in everything they do, and that includes sport. There has been a huge amount of focus on a literal handful of trans women who are competing at an elite level.
The Equality Act rightly presumes the inclusion of trans people as its starting point, and this includes in sport. The Act does allow sporting organisations to discriminate on the grounds of sex if it is a ’gender-affected activity’ or in order to secure ‘fair competition’ or ‘the safety of competitors’, but they must be able to justify it with evidence as proportionate.
We believe that decisions on guidelines should be informed by robust evidence and developed in consultation with players and athletes with direct experience. No two sports are the same. The physical and tactical skills and attributes needed for different sports are highly varied, as is the profile of players competing across grassroots and elite levels. It’s vital that when they make decisions on inclusion, sports use data that is high quality and specific to both the sport and the level at which the game is being played. Given that trans people take part in every sport, it’s also vital that sport bodies consider the experience of trans inclusion in their sports to date.
While sport-specific evidence bases are developing, we urge sport governing bodies not to exclude the tiny number of trans people competing an elite level.
Working with anti-trans groups
Stonewall has always, and will always, sit down with anyone who has a respectful position towards the LGBTQ+ community and wants to advance our progress and build alliances to do so. Stonewall’s ethos was and remains the organisation that is ‘in the room’.
That said, we have never used our precious resources on dialogue with people who are vehemently against LGBTQ+ communities, and that will remain true. Our focus is on working with politicians and decision-makers, business and societal leaders who can make a difference to LGBTQ+ people’s lives.