Like evangelical preachers caught in cocaine-fuelled five-in-bed romps, it’s always the workplaces who shout loudest about equality that are revealed to discriminate against their employees. This week it was the turn of Garden Court Chambers (GCC), which styles itself as a hub for progressive lawyers who are ‘committed to fighting injustice, defending human rights and upholding the rule of law’.
Yesterday an employment tribunal ruling found that GCC had victimised Allison Bailey and awarded her £22,000 including aggravated damages. Other claims, relating to the influence of lobby group Stonewall on GCC and loss of income, were rejected.
Bailey is a black lesbian barrister who has overcome significant barriers to achieve success in her profession. She holds what have become known as ‘gender critical’ beliefs and is a co-founder of LGB Alliance, the UK’s only organisation to advocate solely for same-sex attracted people. Bailey elucidated her thoughts on sex and gender identity during the six-week tribunal:
‘I believe that a man who professes to identify as a woman does not identify as a woman, because he has no frame of reference from which to do so. What he in fact identifies with are the social concepts and stereotypes that have been misogynistically applied to women by a patriarchal society.’
Ultimately, it is Bailey’s conviction that it is impossible to change sex, and that sex matters. Despite being held by everyone from zoo keepers to Tory leadership candidates, this was flatly dismissed as discriminatory by many at GCC. The tribunal heard how Bailey’s close, long-standing friends within chambers turned against her. In a Stasi-esque twist, the barrister she shared her office with even reported on her telephone conversations. In private email exchanges, trusted colleagues branded her ‘transphobic’; she became persona non grata. In essence, she was reduced to a grisly, and some might argue prejudiced, caricature: the angry and irrational black woman with a chip on her shoulder.
During the time Bailey was experiencing this treatment, GCC were paying a fee to Stonewall for membership of the Diversity Champions Scheme to help them develop their inclusion and diversity policies. The idea that people should be able to identify as the opposite sex, and that they should be affirmed and accommodated by everyone else was and remains central to the aims of the lobby group.
But following this logic leads to what it would be tempting to dismiss as an off-colour joke: if transwomen are women because they say so, then some lesbians have penises. Furthermore, if lesbians reject fully intact males as sexual partners, they are guilty of transphobia. When Bailey sought to raise awareness of this grotesque phenomenon in a tweet, Stonewall complained about her to GCC. While the tribunal rejected the claim that the lobby group colluded in discriminating against her, they did find against GCC for upholding Stonewall’s complaint and instigating an investigation.
Despite recent controversy and bad press, Stonewall’s reach is still significant – it claims to have over 950 members of its Diversity Champions Scheme. And from Global Butterflies to the LGBT Foundation, there are a multitude of similar organisations, some in receipt of government funding, which promote the contested ideology of gender identity throughout statutory bodies and private companies.
But far from facilitating inclusion, the embedding of gender identity across civil society has given a licence to bullies. Whether sending death threats to JK Rowling online, backstabbing co-workers or, as in one memorable case, hounding a girl out of school, those who fail to show deference to the idea that “transwomen are women” are made into legitimate targets of hate. All the while, those dehumanising their ideological opponents are rewarded with the righteous feeling of fighting for an apparently oppressed minority, of doing the gender god’s work.
Thanks to social and legal progress, it is no longer acceptable to overtly single people out at work because of their physical characteristics or religion. But it seems the atavistic urge to create ‘in’ and ‘out’ groups has not simply withered away. And the worldview promoted by trans lobby groups is powerful because it feeds from base desires of petty authoritarians and those who feel threatened by free thinkers.
GCC’s motto is ‘do right and fear no one’; in standing-up to the vicious groupthink of her colleagues, Bailey has embodied this bold message. Her actions in bringing the case won’t stop trans lobby groups from spreading their bonkers ideology, but it could put an end to the victimisation of those who dare to do right in the face of widespread wrong.
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