The Nolan team based in Belfast are a group of BBC journalists well used to asking awkward questions. Nolan looks at the influence Stonewall has in public institutions across the UK. This 18 month investigation has already had significant impact behind the scenes in major public institutions. The podcast is the story of how it all unfolded.
A team of volunteers at Fair Play For Women have transcribed the main content from each of the ten episodes spanning over 6 hours of audio content. You can listen to the full audio here or read the condensed transcript below.
Episode 6: Is Government Too Close to Stonewall?
How close were governments across the UK to Stonewall?
I can see they’ve actually spelt out here that they want the words ‘mothers’, ‘pregnant women’ and ‘fathers’ taken out. So the Scottish government told Stonewall. “Maternity policy changed.”
The Nolan show has discovered that Scottish civil servants who are required to remain neutral were actively campaigning for Stonewall policies at road shows.
The Scottish government funded Stonewall to deliver inhouse the role models and Allies programmes. So the public money is going to this political lobbying group. Lobbyists being paid by the people they are lobbying to lobby.
So they’re saying to Stonewall, look at the good work we’ve done. Hopefully, this will get us points on your index. Someone had an opinion which goes against what your view of the world and they were corrected.
The Welsh government changed their Equality and Diversity policy and they added an additional protected characteristic not provided for in law, but certainly advocated for by Stonewall.
No Westminster government departments that we ask would release information to us under Freedom of Information. Many of them said that was because it would damage Stonewall’s commercial interests.
The leaders of these organisations need to realise there’s a risk there because what actually happens is Stonewall speaks to and gets accepted by certain members of staff, and it’s those members of staff that then go and do the lobbying within the organisation almost on Stonewall’s behalf. Senior leaders need to understand it’s their own people who are doing the work of activists in their organisations now.
[00:00:00.370] – Stephen Nolan
Episode Six – Is the Government Too Close to Stonewall? The Scottish government at the behest of Stonewall, when they’re talking about their maternity policy, have removed the word ‘mother’. It’s gone.
[00:01:28.010] – David Thompson
We FOIed [Freedom of Information Request] the Scottish government. We did all the governments around the UK. We’re looking for what Stonewall is asking them to do and what they’re saying back to Stonewall in this conversation about the workplace equality index. So in 2019, Stonewall asked the Scottish government to ensure that any remaining gendered terminology is clarified or removed from your policies. So they’re talking here about maternity and paternity policies within the Scottish Civil Service Scottish government.
[00:01:51.650] – Stephen Nolan
And I can see they’ve actually spelt out here that they want the words ‘mothers’, ‘pregnant women’ and ‘fathers’ taken out.
[00:01:59.990] – David Thompson
They do yeah. Which will surprise a lot of people that the word ‘mothers’ should come out of a maternity document or ‘father’ or ‘pregnant woman’.
[00:02:06.890] – Stephen Nolan
So at that point, the Scottish government have got a choice to make. Do they think the word ‘mother’ is inappropriate, or do they say, do you know what? We’re not taking that out? What happens?
[00:02:18.470] – David Thompson
So the Scottish government told Stonewall.
[00:02:20.750] – Speaker reads Scottish government quote
“Maternity policy changed.”
[00:02:22.730] – David Thompson
So they’ve changed. “You must be the expectant mother, spouse or partner.” to “You must be the spouse or partner, including same sex partner of the pregnant woman. ” So the word ‘mother’ has gone there.
[00:02:35.870] – David Thompson
Yes. And they go on and they say that they’ve changed their paternity leave policy. And they’ve added that this policy applies to all employees and a reference to partner or spouse includes same sex partners and spouses. They’ve removed a reference to male and female colleagues when discussing eligibility, stating instead that paternity leave is available whether you are the father, partner or spouse of the child’s mother.
[00:02:59.390] – Stephen Nolan
Well, there’s the word mother in there.
[00:03:01.190] – David Thompson
Yes. So Stonewall were unhappy that there were still some pieces of this where the word mother was still in existence, so have been removed in certain parts of it. So they came back 2020
[00:03:12.530] – Stephen Nolan
Telling the Scottish government that there was still room for improvement. And they actually say here’s Stonewall, ” Removing remaining gender terms such as ‘mother’ from your maternity policy and replacing these with gender neutral equivalents. Please refer to Stonewall’s Inclusive Policy toolkit for further information. ”
[00:05:12.210] – David Thompson
One voice of opposition to Stonewall’s approach is the LGB Alliance. They say they have been excluded from many discussions on sexuality and gender issues. Malcolm Clark is the director of the LGB Alliance.
[00:05:29.370] – Malcolm Clark
I mean, gay people don’t want the word mother removed. Famously, most gay men have a very good relationship. Well, I tell you, most gay men have a very good relationship with their mother, don’t they? I mean, that’s a famous stereotype, and it tends to be true.
[00:05:44.070] – Stephen Nolan
There are those people who will object to the word mother. Let’s look at some of the policy issues that you disagree with in terms of Stonewall, so let’s talk through them. There will be some people who feel that they are entitled to bring up a child, they are entitled to be part of a government’s maternity policy without being excluded. So let’s have the language as inclusive as possible. And if you use the word mother, you’re excluding them.
[00:06:15.210] – Malcolm Clark
Look that’s fine, if the public are asked for their opinion and the public freely go along with this. But for a word that has so much resonance and is understood by everybody because everybody’s got a mother, to be cancelled by a little lobby organisation, without any public discussion, it’s just absurd. And it’s going to backfire that’s the stupid thing. That’s why partly one of the reasons we set up is we felt that gay people’s reputation is going to be undermined here. We’re going to be seen eventually, somehow having some influence in the cancelling of the word mother, and we don’t want any part of it. So we have to put our hand up and say, not in our name. We don’t agree with this and that’s what we’ve been doing.
[00:07:04.830] – David Thompson
The Scottish government have already -you’ve lost it. The Scottish government, as we’ve been discussing in their maternity policy at the request of Stonewall, have already removed the word mother and replaced it with pregnant woman.
[00:07:22.050] – Malcolm Clark
They want to replace mother with pregnant person.
[00:07:25.170] – David Thompson
So they’ve removed the word woman as well. Pregnant person.
[00:07:28.170] – Malcolm Clark
The idea is and they’re right that some people who call themselves trans men, so they were born as woman, but then they become a trans man, they can still become pregnant and they don’t want to be referred to as woman. Therefore, Stonewall argues that the change should happen from being a mother to a pregnant person, and that’s the most inclusive. But you are talking about a tiny minority. I don’t think there’s anybody in Scotland, a trans man who has given birth. There’s a couple down in England. I might be wrong, but I think we would have heard of it if it had happened. So they’re changing a word that everybody uses with any consultation to fit a potential trans man giving birth in Scotland. That seems to me it’s ludicrous. It doesn’t bear scrutiny. But, you know, the other thing is it’s really stupid for Stonewall to be so secretive because the whole point about free speech and criticism is that it improves organisations so that the best thing that Stonewall could do is have a free and open discussion, because then their policies would get analysed and they might drop some stupid things like the mother thing, and they would end up being more respected as well because they were open to debate. I would love Stonewall to reform and become more sensible and become more respected again. It is just counterproductive for people not to engage in free debate.
[00:08:58.290] – Stephen Nolan
And of course, if the Scottish government didn’t comply with Stonewall’s demands, would they be marked down in the coveted Stonewall League table known as the much treasured Equality index? Benjamin Cohen, CEO of Pink News.
[00:09:15.930] – David Thompson
How does it make like a workplace policies more inclusive by taking out words like mother?
[00:09:21.810] – Benjamin Cohen
Well, I’ll explain. I actually think that a lot of this stuff has nothing to do with trans and nonbinary people, but I’ll try and explain that. So, for example, a friend of mine is a lesbian who’s married to another lesbian. They are currently expecting a child where it’s my friend’s egg and my friend’s wife is the expectant mother- she is pregnant. There is a challenge because if your policy is too heteronormative, let’s say, to expect a mother and father or what a mother is to be as it might have been 20, 30 years ago, it might not apply. So in this particular circumstance that I’m giving you it’s not in Scotland but in England. My friend’s wife works for the NHS, so it’s a public sector organisation with particular policies. They will both be the mothers when the child is born. As it happens, one is the biological mother and one is the birthing mother- birthing parent, however, one wants to describe it. But my friend’s wife who is pregnant will require different provisions under their employment, for example, needing to stop work before the birth, which my friend won’t need to do because she’s not pregnant. But my friend’s wife because of the job they do, won’t be able to work all of the time because it’s like a quite intensive job that they do. So they’ll need to stop work maybe earlier than might be for all pregnant women, depending on what job they do. But when the baby is born, the two mothers may choose to make particular arrangements relating to maternity rights. So having policy that is inclusive of those scenarios is actually really important to lesbians, also to gay couples who are starting families, for example, through surrogacy, where there isn’t a mother inverted commas involved but they are two fathers, neither of whom will be having paid time off really before the birth, but will have time off after the birth as part of paternity rights. So there are things like that that need to be considered. And then there’s an additional question that if someone is a trans man, for example, who gives birth, it’s inappropriate to label them as a mother because that’s not the way that they would describe themselves.
[00:11:51.690] – David Thompson
But for the vast majority, I guess of the employees, do you not get into a position where some of the language becomes so confusing that they don’t really understand who the policies end up? So I guess the Scottish government had a maternity policy, so most people would understand that that meant mother, however, you define that.
[00:12:06.210] – Benjamin Cohen
Well, I think people know that the person who gives birth is different than the person who are pregnant. And there might be a policy for pregnant people, which is different to the policy for people who are the intended parents because, for example, my husband and I are on a surrogacy journey. Unfortunately, there is no baby expected yet. There’s no pregnancy at this point. But when there is a pregnancy, my husband’s a GP, so works the NHS. There needs to be the right policy framework and wording that would cover our situation so won’t you both be fathers?
[00:12:41.310] – Stephen Nolan
And I’m not trying to be ignorant here. But what’s wrong with the word father in your case?
[00:12:46.710] – Benjamin Cohen
It’s a good question. My personal view is I don’t see why policies can’t be mother father, and then, like all parents or whatever as well, I think that there should be policies that are inclusive of people who have got different situation.
[00:13:03.330] – David Thompson
Yeah, I guess that would make sense because that would make it quite clear, because if they attempt to cover probably never cover every scenario. But if they cover most scenarios, it helps because it helps staff understand. But Stonewall are asking for terms such as mother to be removed.
[00:13:19.170] – Stephen Nolan
And the term was then removed.
[00:13:21.330] – Benjamin Cohen
Right, was it? It’s a bit tricky because you might for just simplicity, just use a word like parent or birthing parent. And the reason why you might use that is to distinguish because you might be having to do such a long list of mother, father, this, comma, that to incorporate every single different potential scenario.
[00:13:40.590] – David Thompson
Exactly. But you know, Benjamin, a lot of women are concerned about this.
[00:13:44.310] – Benjamin Cohen
I know that it said that a lot of women are concerned about it. I’d like to see actual verified polling to suggest that the majority of actual mothers are concerned.
[00:13:54.930] – Stephen Nolan
Look, fair enough. But do we really need polling, Benjamin?
[00:13:57.630] – Benjamin Cohen
No, but the reason I’m saying that is that the people who are concerned about this is actually a relatively small but vocal minority, I accept very, very vocal but the thing is that I don’t see what’s the problem about using a capsule term rather than having to use a whole long list of things.
[00:14:12.690] – David Thompson
Well, identity is important to people, isn’t it? So for a lot of people who are woman, that is their identity.
[00:14:18.810] – Stephen Nolan
I’ll tell you what, after this interview, I’m going up to see my mother, and the whole point of my mother’s life is being my mother. And do you not start to lose people who would otherwise be absolutely willing to be inclusive, but particularly even that older generation, if they’re being sent a message, the word mother is awkward now.
[00:14:39.510] – Benjamin Cohen
I’m not saying that the word mother should be awkward. I prefer the policies that I’ve seen that some NHS trusts have used where they’re using when it’s relating to maternity, it’s like mother and/or whatever other terms that might be appropriate for the individual. So I think it’s quite an individual experience. So I gave you the example of my friend, lesbian friend, and they’re both going to be mothers. So what’s important is actually that the policies are right. I am not so sure about as it happens. So it seemed to me for when they sent me all the different variants, I liked the policy that they had in 2020. I’m not so sure about the kind of proposed changes.
[00:15:23.970] – Stephen Nolan
In the feedback Stonewall provided to the 2020 submission by the Scottish government, they said removing remained gender terms such as mother from your maternity policy and replacing these with gender neutral equivalents. So one of the most powerful lobbying groups that have all of this access are telling the Scottish government remove the word mother.
[00:15:46.950] – Benjamin Cohen
I understand why they have that position. As I said, I prefer more of a list, but I can appreciate that you might want to just use capsule terms. And for example, gender neutral terms can sometimes actually be quite helpful.
[00:16:01.470] – David Thompson
There’s other stuff as well.
[00:16:04.830] – Stephen Nolan
The Nolan show has discovered that Scottish civil servants who are required to remain neutral were actively campaigning for Stonewall policies at road shows.
[00:16:16.170] – David Thompson
Stonewall set up ally schemes and allies networks within institutions like the BBC, within the Civil Service. The idea is that they advocate on behalf of staff, so they’ve got an LGBTI and an allies network in Scotland. So what we can see in these documents is that civil servants appear to be crossing the line between their role, as I understand it, of implementing the laws and the agenda of the government of the day and actually becoming advocates of change themselves. And that’s what Stonewall want organisations to do. They want to make people advocates of change.
[00:16:49.830] – Stephen Nolan
But to some extent, David, why not? There’s no doubt that gay people, LGBT people are entitled to rights. So that’s not a debate. So why should organisations not be proactively trying to make sure that the quality is part of the fabric of their organisation?
[00:17:06.090] – David Thompson
Of course, they should. But with the contentious issue emerges here is around the Gender Recognition Act, which is being debated all across the UK, and it’s being debated in Scotland at the moment. The UK government has said, no, they’re not going to reform it. Essentially, it’s about whether or not you can self-identify as a different gender. But what these documents revealed is that Scottish civil servants were lobbying on behalf of change to that law. Right here’s a clip:
[00:17:32.130] – Presenter reads quote
At the Road shows a variety of LGBTI related information was promoted from external organisations, including information about the need for reform of the Gender Recognition Act 2004. Conversations with staff who stopped by covered issues such as the need for gender neutral toilets in Scottish government buildings, what is meant by cisgender and the legitimacy of trans and nonbinary gender identities.
[00:17:59.250] – Stephen Nolan
So the Scottish Civil Service are saying as a policy that there is a need for reform of the Gender Recognition Act. Well, that’s not the role of a civil servant.
[00:18:09.930] – David Thompson
Well, at least they’re allowing a number of their staff to go on road shows and campaign for that change, whether they corporately have taken that position or not. We don’t know when it will be strange for them to do, but why would they allow staff to do that?
[00:18:21.030] – Stephen Nolan
Yeah, but help me understand what this these road shows were, what they were funded and done by the civil Service?
[00:18:26.070] – David Thompson
Yeah, there are civil service employees who were on roadshows as part of their role in the civil Service as part of these networks that were inspired by Stonewall, the allies scheme, the LGBTI networks.
[00:18:35.070] – Stephen Nolan
The civil service, who is supposed to be neutral, who is supposed to be as respectful for those democratically elected politicians who do not think that there is a need for reform of the Gender Recognition Act and the Civil Service is taking a position against that. They’re taking a position.
[00:18:54.450] – David Thompson
They’re taking a position or they’re at least trying to have it both ways by officially maybe corporately, saying that they’re an independent civil service, but also allowing networks of staff to organise and campaign.
[00:19:10.990] – Stephen Nolan
Remember, the purpose of this journalism is not just about Stonewall. They’re a lobby outfit. We have spent months investigating the public bodies who have a relationship with Stonewall. And we’ve found examples where government is essentially paying Stonewall to lobby it. Yes, you’ve heard that, right. I’ll say it again. Lobbyists being paid by the people they are lobbying to lobby.
[00:19:40.670] – David Thompson
So the Scottish government funded Stonewall to deliver the role model and Allies programmes. They paid Stonewall £46,920 to do that.
[00:19:50.390] – Stephen Nolan
The Scottish government is paying Stonewall to lobby.
[00:19:52.970] – David Thompson
The Scottish government is paying Stonewall to set up these groups, which then go out to lobby on behalf of change on the Gender Recognition Act.
[00:20:00.350] – Stephen Nolan
The Scottish government cannot fund one political campaigning group.
[00:20:06.710] – David Thompson
Well, a lot of this comes back to how you perceive Stonewall and Stonewall kind of have it both ways because they will admit publicly, we are a lobby group and we have affected great change over the years. We’ve achieved equal marriage; a whole list of things Stonewall have achieved. So they know they’re a lobby group, but they also say that they sell a service. So they say they are selling their service as experts on LGBT and collusion to governments.
[00:20:29.330] – Stephen Nolan
But they’re self-appointed experts with a particular skew, which some gay people, many gay people disagree with.
[00:20:37.250] – David Thompson
Many gay people, many trans people.
[00:20:39.530] – Stephen Nolan
Many straight people
[00:20:40.490] – David Thompson
Many straight people. Lots of people disagree with Stonewall’s approach on issues. So to try and suggest that this lobby group and they are a lobby group, are somehow kind of independent arbiters of what is best for LGBT people is bizarre.
[00:20:55.490] – Stephen Nolan
I keep on reading this. The Scottish government funded Stonewall to deliver inhouse the role models and Allies programmes. So the public money is going to this political lobbying group.
[00:21:10.310] – David Thompson
The way that would have been sold I imagine is that would have been sold as this is how you help LGBT people progress within the organisation.
[00:21:17.210] – Stephen Nolan
What about the LGBT people who don’t like Stonewall? How are they been helped?
[00:21:22.070] – David Thompson
Well, that’s a good question. But there has been, you might argue quite a patronising attitude to some gay people, lesbians, bisexual, trans people in these organisations where they’re kind of all lumped in together and they must all kind of think the same and have the same aspirations and then Stonewall say, well, we speak on behalf of their rights, so you can see how they go ‘boxticked’ – there you go. We’ll get Stonewall to do with this.
[00:21:45.950] – Stephen Nolan
Malcolm Clark of the LGB Alliance.
[00:21:50.030] – Malcolm Clark
Who knows in the future, some religious cult arises. And then how would we stop them influencing major organisations and permeating policy?
[00:21:59.510] – Stephen Nolan
You’re being unfair. It’s not a religious cult.
[00:22:03.350] – Malcolm Clark
I didn’t say they were.
[00:22:04.190] – Stephen Nolan
You’re introducing that language for effect, aren’t you? That’s what you’re doing?
[00:22:07.310] – Malcolm Clark
[00:22:10.010] – Stephen Nolan
I’m too long in the tooth for that malarkey
[00:22:10.010] – Malcolm Clark
Actually, I think there are elements of their belief system which are similar to religion. I mean, there’s no scientific evidence that gender identity exists, and there’s no scientific evidence for many of the things that they say. So there’s an element of religious belief going on, but I wasn’t comparing them to a cult. I was saying that if something like Stonewall can permeate policy, then how can we prevent in the future something much more malign than Stonewall. So it’s good that we think about how organisations take over and capture institutions because something much worse could come down the road later. I wouldn’t compare them to a cult.
[00:22:53.690] – Stephen Nolan
Clearly, there are a range of opinions on these divisive issues, but are our public institutions only hearing and only acting on advice from one side of this argument? From Stonewall’s side, Thompson discovered more detail in the Nolan Shows FOI requests to the Scottish government.
[00:23:14.330] – David Thompson
In the Scottish Government documents, there’s a really interesting piece where the Scottish government were telling Stonewall that some of the allies had been challenging civil servants about their use of language.
[00:23:23.690] – Stephen Nolan
[00:23:25.430] – David Thompson
The allies group. Staff within Scottish Civil Service had been challenging their colleagues about the language that they were using.
[00:23:33.170] – Stephen Nolan
Because the language was inconsistent with what Stonewall wanted.
[00:23:36.230] – David Thompson
Yes. So obviously thinking that Stonewall will be very pleased with this and it might get them some extra marks.
[00:23:41.510] – Stephen Nolan
Sorry. Go slow for me. Repeat that again. So the Scottish government were trying to impress Stonewall by saying what? They were saying, look, our allies have been able to challenge those people within our civil service who aren’t using Stonewall’s preferred language?
[00:23:57.170] – David Thompson
Yes so Stonewall would say that people whose gender identity is the same as the sex they were assigned at birth- is the language they would use- so in other words, they were born male, identify as male- they would call those people CIS or CIS gender.
[00:24:10.250] – Stephen Nolan
So if someone was born a male.
[00:24:11.888] – David Thompson
[00:24:14.450] – Stephen Nolan
Do Stonewall object to that person being described as male?
[00:24:17.270] – David Thompson
Well, they would add an additional description of them. So they would say they were cis gender, as in, they present in the gender that they were born into.
[00:24:32.450] – David Thompson
C-I-S. It means the same gender. It comes from Latin, but a lot of people don’t know what it means, let’s face it. A lot of people reject it.
[00:25:05.870] – David Thompson
Someone objected to themselves being described as cis. So they didn’t like being called cis gender. And why should they? You know who’s to say that he must accept that he is cisgender? This person presumably said, ‘ I’m a man ‘. The end.
[00:26:11.550] – David Thompson
And this was the response. This is what the Scottish government told Stonewall about that.
[00:26:17.550] – Speaker reads quote
“Allies have engaged individuals in conversations to challenge behaviours which might be having negative effects on LGBTI people. Example, one ally challenged people in a Yammer conversation objecting to the use of the cis prefix to explain their objection, and this resulted in one of them subsequently publicly changing their view and agreeing it was the appropriate term to use.”
[00:26:44.850] – David Thompson
So they’re saying to Stonewall, look at the good work we’ve done. Hopefully, this will get us points on your index. Someone had an opinion which goes against what your view of the world and they were corrected.
[00:26:58.830] – Stephen Nolan
Now, have they said that? Because surely you can interpret that David as both of these people have a difference of opinion, they were able to openly talk about it. At the end of the day, the person, through their own free will, decided, you know what, nothing wrong with cis.
[00:27:17.470] – David Thompson
Possibly, possibly. You could argue that that.
[00:27:20.710] – Stephen Nolan
Why are they telling Stonewall they’ve done it?
[00:27:22.090] – David Thompson
Exactly. Why is the Scottish government promoting this as a positive thing?
[00:27:25.270] – Stephen Nolan
Because they think the fact that, that person changed their mind, at least open to interpretation means, look, now they’re adopting your language, ‘cis’. They have changed their mind. Put us up your index.
[00:27:37.990] – David Thompson
Yes, it’s trying to please Stonewall. And ultimately, if you were that person and you have a legitimate point of view, which is, ‘don’t call me cis gender. I’m not cis gender; I’m a man.’, why would you need to be corrected by any? And how would you feel if your employer then went on to tell this lobby group ‘look at this good work, this person changed their mind’? Why is that the role of the Scottish Civil Service to be doing this?
[00:28:04.130] – Stephen Nolan
That’s a really good question. Are we going to contact the Scottish government and ask?
[00:28:07.310] – David Thompson
Yes we are. We’ve asked for an interview with the Equalities Minister in Scotland, but that was a number of months ago. We still haven’t got an interview nailed down. They haven’t agreed. I don’t think we’re very keen.
[00:28:17.510] – Stephen Nolan
We went to the Scottish government with a whole series of detailed questions on all of the matters we’ve discussed. We asked again for an interview with the Equalities Minister Christina McKelvie. The SNP government would not give us an interview, nor would a number of SNP representatives we contacted individually. The Scottish government did not answer our specific questions. Instead, they give us a short, three paragraph statement.
[00:28:45.110] – Speaker reads quote
“The Scottish government is making progress towards our ambition to be a world leading diverse employer where people can be themselves at work with a workforce that reflects the diversity of the people of Scotland. At 85% positive, our Inclusion and Fair Treatment score in the 2020 People Survey is our highest on record, putting the Scottish government among the highest performing departments and agencies across the civil Service. We also measure progress through Stonewall’s annual Workplace Equality Index, and we consider the feedback we receive from Stonewall through this process. Scottish government staff networks provide opportunities for colleagues to strengthen their professional networks, share perspectives and lived experiences, access support, and provide insights to support policy development. All civil servants are expected at all times to follow the Civil Service code.
[00:29:48.510] – Stephen Nolan
In the documents we obtained under FOI, we can see the Welsh government changed their Equality and Diversity policy and they added an additional protected characteristic not provided for in law, but certainly advocated for by Stonewall. Thompson, I don’t understand what ‘protected characteristic’ is.
[00:30:10.350] – David Thompson
So what is it? The Equality Act protects certain groups of people based on your race, your sex, your religion. There’s a characteristic in there called gender reassignment, which protects people who are transitioning.
[00:30:21.990] – Stephen Nolan
Yes. You’ve told me this before. Yes, but it doesn’t protect
[00:30:25.350] – David Thompson
[00:30:26.310] – Stephen Nolan
Gender queer, two spirit.
[00:30:28.830] – David Thompson
No, it doesn’t. It’s very specific. Now what the Welsh government actually say there is that the Equality Act 2010 protects these characteristics. The Equality Act 2010 does NOT include gender identity.
[00:30:42.750] – Stephen Nolan
So the Welsh government are saying it, there it is, protected characteristics including gender identity.
[00:30:48.270] – David Thompson
[00:30:48.570] – David Thompson
So yes, they have stated gender identity instead of gender reassignment. And we’ll hear more about that later on the podcast.
[00:30:55.350] – Stephen Nolan
Thompson, we are good. I don’t quite understand it. But if the Welsh government are writing stuff down, that’s incorrect. We asked the Welsh government for an interview. They declined. In a statement the Welsh government said
[00:31:11.950] – Speaker reads quote
“The Welsh government is proud to be an inclusive employer where all colleagues are supported to be themselves and reach their full potential. As an inclusive employer, we take part in a variety of workplace benchmarking activities to ensure we learn from best practise in other organisations. Stonewall are one of a number of organisations we draw on to test our policies and practises. We approach the training of colleagues in a number of ways. A large amount is delivered in house by our own colleagues who have relevant expertise and lived experience.”
[00:31:43.210] – Stephen Nolan
There’s been a lot about the UK government. No Westminster government departments that we ask would release information to us under Freedom of Information. Many of them said that was because it would damage Stonewall’s commercial interests.
[00:32:04.370] – David Thompson
Here’s Rosie Duffield, the Labour MP.
[00:32:06.650] – Rosie Duffield
I mean, I understand why the government are now really looking hard at this. The Cabinet Office, for example, have left the scheme and other departments, I think, are following behind. But yeah, you’re right. It is this sort of league of who’s the best who’s the sort of purest of the pure, if you like.
[00:32:23.750] – David Thompson
Rosie, as you say, many of these organisations have left, but they’re not going to be transparent with us about what happened when they were members. They won’t release this information so that we can determine whether or not Stonewall did have any real influence over their policies.
[00:32:38.030] – Rosie Duffield
Yeah. I mean, you will have heard that some employees felt real pressure to do things, for example, like put their pronouns in their social media biographies. That should be a personal choice for all kinds of reasons, you shouldn’t feel pressured into doing that kind of thing, but also you might have different beliefs or understandings about these issues. And why is that not okay? We’ve heard from recent court cases that those beliefs are actually all right to have. It doesn’t mean that you can be homophobic or anti trans or anything like that, but you may not want to disclose those kind of bits of information about yourself or sign up to this particular belief, and that should be okay. You shouldn’t have to work, for example, for a water company or a bank and have a philosophy on some of these more political issues in order to be an okay employee.
[00:33:30.350] – Stephen Nolan
The public should be in no doubt. If we look at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local government throughout the UK, they have told us that with regards to how Stonewall fed back about how that public institution was operating in the UK, that they will not release that because it’s commercially sensitive. How does the public interest of knowing how this lobby group interacted with our public institutions, how does that not trump this?
[00:34:04.910] – Rosie Duffield
Yeah, I absolutely agree with the MCLG and all those government departments are paid for, obviously by the taxpayers. This is taxpayers money going to this lobby group, this charity, and we ought to know about it. I agree. And what are people frightened of? What is there to hide? I think let’s all be transparent and then people can make those decisions openly whether they want to support Stonewall or other charities. I don’t see what there is to hide at all.
[00:34:30.410] – Stephen Nolan
And then it actually gets deeper this because when Thompson received a response from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, who he has also FOIed they revealed that they cannot, in their view, release this information because they signed up to being gagged in the first place. So here’s the pertinent paragraph. They say ‘Paragraph six of the terms and conditions of Membership of the Diversity Champions Scheme States the following the member undertakes that it shall not at any time disclose to any person, any information that it has received from Stonewall by virtue of its membership benefits or otherwise, which may be of a confidential nature.’ So they’re actually telling us that they are satisfied. And they say this in black and white. The disclosure of the requested information would constitute an actionable breach of confidence. So we have public bodies signing up to being gagged by a lobby group. What the hell is going on?
[00:35:37.670] – Rosie Duffield
I think that’s really bizarre. I don’t think that’s the usual practise at all by lobbying. Obviously, MPs, there has been a lot of scam about lobbying generally. MPs are lobbied. Charities, come to meet with us and ask us for an understanding of what they’re doing and their work and to highlight days to remember victims of a particular illness and all those kinds of things. And that’s really important that we know what’s going on, that we may not know about otherwise. So lobbying is important. But in the question of where our money is going to, there should be absolute transparency. I’ve never been asked by any charity or any lobby group to sign a gagging clause or a sort of non disclosure agreement. And I think that’s really worrying from a public body.
[00:36:22.490] – Stephen Nolan
And by the way, the kind of lawyer brain in me and I’m not a lawyer, but the lawyer brain in me just notices the wording of this. They’re not only asking these public bodies to sign up to what is confidential, they’re saying they’re signing up to being gagged for anything which may be of a confidential nature. So that is so broad. And then there’s a question for Stonewall, why do they want to keep this out of the public domain? Why is what they’re advising our public bodies? Why do they not want to push it out there?
[00:36:55.430] – Rosie Duffield
Yeah, exactly. If you are all about diversity and championing minority groups, which is incredibly important, why hide it? Isn’t that sort of exactly what they’re not about? They’re supposed to be… obviously, Stonewall have a great history. They started pride and equalities and gay rights and freedoms. And that is so important. But I know some people that were there at the very beginning that now feel there is no place for them in an organisation like this. And I think, particularly worrying to some of my friends who have been involved with them for a long time is this secrecy thing and that you’re either in the club or you’re not? And it is deeply worrying that public bodies are signing up for this. I agree.
[00:37:39.230] – Stephen Nolan
Stonewall say it is wildly misleading to describe the contract as having a gagging clause and say that it comprises entirely routine obligations of confidentiality that apply in circumstances, when organisations handle information about client policies and procedures and provide feedback. They say more, they say, ‘if this is what you mean by a gagging clause, then such an accusation would also apply to the BBC every time it enters into a professional relationship that attracts any sort of duty of confidentiality.’ Malcolm Clark of the LGB alliance.
[00:38:18.110] – Malcolm Clark
Well, we don’t agree with the word cis. I don’t see why, well, how come suddenly human beings haven’t needed that word since we evolved and suddenly we all require to have this new word. I think that’s a form of gaslighting people. It’s to put them on the back foot, so that when you go into an organisation, if you’re Stonewall, if you’re one of these other activists, you want everyone to use the right pronoun. You want them to call themselves cis and a) it’ll make make people like gay people very unpopular because we’re associated with it. But I also think it’s a form of gaslighting. It’s sort of like when middle class, clever people talk to working class people and they try to baffle them. I think that’s what it is. It’s these middle class activists. They go into organisations and they’re sort of like smarty pants and putting people on the back foot. I think generally that’s a bad thing to do because people end up disliking you. But also there’s no need for it. It’s just a way of making people buy in to their strange, narrow ideology. So we never used the word ‘cis’ and we refused to and never would.
[00:39:30.270] – David Thompson
I’m just looking at the BBC census that they’ve sent out to try and get a picture of the workforce. The questions of ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, transgender- mandator, gender identity-mandatory. Transgender question is, do you identify as trans/transgender? -Yes. No. Would prefer not to say. Gender identity -what is your gender identity? This is different to your binary sex.
[00:39:56.610] – Stephen Nolan
I’ve never been asked about gender identity in my life.
[00:39:56.610] – David Thompson
Have you ever thought about it?
[00:39:58.170] – Stephen Nolan
[00:39:59.190] – David Thompson
Why are we asking a question about gender identity. In Equality law, there is no concept of gender identity. So why are we asking these questions? There’s no legal basis for doing it.
[00:40:09.990] – Stephen Nolan
Well, why would an organisation not want to know how many people were from the trans community?
[00:40:16.050] – David Thompson
There’s a separate question for transgender. Are you transgender? -Yes, No, Or prefer not to say so. That comes first. And then there’s a question on gender identity. Ultimately, they don’t have to do it. And we know that Stonewalls lobbied for it. And here we are. And we know a lot of people are very critical of the whole concept. It’s the first time we’ve been asked this type of question, and it’s interesting because we see the working of Stonewall’s lobbying here because now we’re seeing it’s literally been asked of us, what your gender identity is. And I’ve never considered my gender identity.
[00:40:54.430] – Stephen Nolan
While Thompson may not have considered his gender identity, many others will have done. And he should remember that. Stonewall tells organisations it should record data on the gender identities of their staff, and that’s not a legal requirement to do so. But Stonewall wants it. Now in black and white, on the BBC Census, every staff member is asked the following question, ‘what is your gender identity’? I’m sure Stonewall will be pleased with that. Every employee now forced to answer that question, if they want to take part in the BBC survey. Now they can answer none, that’s one of the options, but they’re being forced to answer it. Did Stonewall advise this? The BBC won’t tell us beyond claiming they take advice from a range of organisations before making decisions itself. What range of organisations beyond Stonewall. BBC won’t tell us. Who says gender identity exists in the first place? Well, does the BBC? Because it now asks people to define what gender identity they have. This is a subtle change to the BBC census, but it’s an important one and nobody within the whole organisation. Nobody within BBC Diversity and Inclusion, willing to be accountable to any of you in this podcast, by taking questions from me.
[00:42:30.670] – Speaker reading quote
“The 2021 census includes new questions, counting military veterans and extra categories on sexual orientation and gender identity. It is a legal requirement to complete or be included in the census, although officials will go door to door to offer support before prosecuting those who refuse to comply with a fine.”
[00:42:51.610] – Stephen Nolan
During this podcast we have revealed the extent of the influence that Stonewall have in government. In January, a row broke out over how the Office for National Statistics was going to record sex in the census. Stonewall wanted changes to that and guess what? Changes happened. Like the BBC, the 2021 census would also record gender identity, but only in England and Wales. But the guidance provided online with the census meant that people would not have to record all that census, the sex that was on their birth certificate. It looked like a significant victory for Stonewall. In January, we spoke to Alice Sullivan, the head of research at University College London Social Research Institute. Alice raised her concerns about the ONS’s proposed approach, which she believed would affect the data available to researchers like her. In that interview, Alice had concerns beyond the ONS about hard crime stats and other data collection statistics were recording sex.
[00:44:00.890] – Alice Sullivan
Well, it goes beyond the effects on women because it actually affects everybody. If we don’t have accurate data in order to understand society. The effects on women, I guess, are particularly severe because sex is a protected characteristic and the duty to monitor sex discrimination and inequalities arguably affects women more than men. But actually it affects everybody. It affects both sexes. And it’s really important because sex is such a powerful predictor of all sorts of aspects of our lives, not just in terms of health, but if you think of education, employment, crime, every dimension of life is really powerfully affected by the sex that you’re born.
[00:44:46.250] – Stephen Nolan
Well, that is really interesting. And I kind of knew that anecdotally but I don’t know any of the figures behind it. Are you able to share any of them with us just how strong and determined sex is in any of those areas?
[00:44:57.830] – Alice Sullivan
So if we look at crime, for example, that’s a particularly dramatic example, 94% of convicted murderers and 97% of those convicted for sexual offences are male. And so you can see that when you start recording crimes by males, as though they’ve been done by females, you only need a few cases, actually, to really skew those data. And we’ve seen that recently with data on child sex abuse seeming to show suddenly in the last few years, that there’s an 80% increase in the number of women committing child sex offences. Now, has that really happened? We might be sceptical because, the other thing that’s happened is that police forces have started recording crimes by men as though they were committed by women, at the request of the perpetrator.
[00:45:54.590] – Stephen Nolan
So a perpetrator who is self-identifying can, therefore, in your view, skew that statistic- born a male describing themselves as a female, and now that perpetrator is a female perpetrator in the statistics.
[00:46:10.610] – Alice Sullivan
Right. Exactly. And some people who argue that only gender identity matters and that we shouldn’t record sex would say that it’s gender identity that affects your behaviour and not your sex. And what I would say is we need data on both sex and gender identity in order to test that hypothesis. If that’s true, then we can only find that out by actually keeping data on sex as well as recording data on gender identity. Getting rid of data on sex will mean we can never actually find out for sure.
[00:46:44.090] – Stephen Nolan
But Alice wouldn’t that be so fascinating. If you’re were to look at statistically with robust data, look at how someone who has self-identified matches or doesn’t match with the sex they were born into, in terms of their statistical likelihood to commit crime or to be predisposed to something. I find that fascinating.
[00:47:08.150] – Alice Sullivan
I agree. I think it would be absolutely fascinating if we take employment as another area. Now ACAS mandates that firms have to report their gender pay gap, but they allow firms to report in terms of the ‘self identified sex’ rather than actual sex of the employee. And nonbinary people, o people who say that they don’t identify as male or female can be completely excluded from the statistics. Now, again, some people will say, well, it’s gender identity that affects your wages and not your sex. Well, as someone who knows the research on that, that’s pretty implausible, if only because actually, childbearing and gaps in employment for childbearing is a pretty important part of the gender pay gap. But it would be absolutely fascinating to find out. And actually, if we want to understand the discrimination that trans people and nonbinary people may be facing, then we need good data on that. And we can’t assume that trans people of each sex or a nonbinary man or nonbinary woman would be having the same experiences.
[00:48:14.150] – Stephen Nolan
But after a legal challenge, a judge ruled that the guidance should be changed to say individuals should only respond with the answer on their birth certificate or Gender Recognition Certificate, a document which allows trans people to change their legal gender. Nicola Williams from Fair Play for Women was another stakeholder in the consultation with the ONS. It was her group which took the ONS to court and won. Thompson and I spoke to her after that ruling.
[00:48:46.310] – David Thompson
There is a bizarre situation here as well where Stonewall are coming to that stakeholder event as a lobbyist, as an outside lobby group. But Stonewall will also have an internal relationship within that organisation, and we’ll be helping set some of the policies within it. So it’s almost like a two pronged approach by Stonewall.
[00:49:02.690] – Nicola Williams
They do. They do that because, of course, Stonewall is a lobby group for LGBT issues, and so they’re already within the organisation talking about those issues, and that’s fine. That’s a legitimate area for them to be talking about. And for the ONS, they were there talking to staff, talking about the new questions on gender identity and sexual orientation. But what we saw again in another Freedom of Information request was that they were using those meetings to then afterwards open up a discussion about the sex question. And so they’re getting preferential access and getting the opportunity to set out what they want that policy to be and to be very clear that what they would be fine with and what they wouldn’t be. Now we just don’t have that access behind the scenes. So Stonewall are becoming they’re basically embedded within organisations.
[00:49:52.250] – Stephen Nolan
Which is where you’d want to be, if you were a lobby group, right? You’d want to be as embedded as possible. You’d want to penetrate those organisations as much as possible. What an incredible group Stone wall is.
[00:50:06.650] – Nicola Williams
It is. It’s very good at what it does. And the fault does lie within the organisations, giving them this power to influence and not actually standing up and seeing them for what they are, which is a lobby group that has its own set of priorities and objectives.
[00:50:23.150] – David Thompson
And the ONS ultimately agreed with Stonewall’s position until you took them to court.
[00:50:28.070] – Nicola Williams
Exactly. And the leaders of these organisations need to realise there’s a risk there because what actually happens is Stonewall speaks to and gets accepted by certain members of staff, and it’s those members of staff that then go and do the lobbying within the organisation almost on Stonewall’s behalf. Senior leaders need to understand it’s their own people who are doing the work of activists in their organisations now. And so what happens when things go wrong? For example, like when the ONS had to be taken to court and the ONS policies were ruled unlawful? It’s the ONS and the leader of the ONS that ends up having egg on their face. It’s the ONS that have suffered the reputational damage. Stonewall are nowhere to be seen.
[00:51:17.930] – Stephen Nolan
In a statement, the Office for National Statistics told us
[00:51:21.650] – Speaker reads quote
“Impartiality and independence are fundamental principles of the ONS and in line with the Civil Service Code. We do not support any political or campaigning organisations. As with al Census questions, we engaged a wide variety of groups and individuals before coming to our recommendations. Three years of evidence gathering by the ONS to inform the 2021 census in England and Wales showed that there was a clear need for information on gender identity at both a national and local level, especially in relation on health planning. We work closely with organisations and individuals from a wide range of representative groups in England and Wales to ensure the questions included in the Census provide the fullest picture of our population. All the organisations and individuals with whom we worked had different views on a full range of census questions. As an independent producer of statistics, it is our role to ensure the final set of Census questions is a suitable balance to meet the user need.”
[00:52:18.950] – Stephen Nolan
As you know, Stonewall didn’t put anyone up for interview for this podcast. They did not directly answer the many detailed questions we asked them, including on their lobbying of and influence within public bodies. Here’s what they said in a statement.
[00:52:35.510] – Speaker reads Stonewall statement
“It is completely normal and appropriate for charities to engage with public sector organisations to advocate for their beneficiaries to improve public policy. It is also completely normal and appropriate for charities to support public sector organisations through service provision. We are proud of work to support public sector organisations to create an inclusive workplace for their LGBTQ plus employees. This includes support through our Free and Voluntary Workplace Equality Index, our Diversity Champions Programme and providing speakers and or training when requested. All our guidance on the Equality Act, including using the term gender identity, is based on the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s Equality Act Code of Practise which was recently reaffirmed in the High Court. Our guidance to employers supports them to understand the needs of their LGBTQ plus employees and create an inclusive workplace culture through their policies in wider activity. When it comes to inclusive workplace policies, our guidance follows the simple principles that workplace policies should apply to all employees regardless of their gender or the gender of their partner and they should use language that makes it clear to LGBTQ plus employees that they are included. We strongly believe that everyone, including LGBTQ plus people, deserves to feel comfortable and supported at work. Stonewall is proud to work with some incredible organisations and individuals to create a world where all lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer people are free to be themselves wherever we are.
[00:55:38.730] – Stephen Nolan
So we’ve just heard how the Scottish government removed the word mother from their maternity policy after Stonewall asked them. The ONS lost in court after adopting Stonewall’s view on how sex is identified. And there’s lots more to come in the next episode of Nolan Investigates. Where does the law stand on all of this? What rights do trans people have in law. h is gender identity protected? In the next episode, we investigate whether Stonewall are correctly interpreting the law.
Want to read more? The transcripts for all 10 episodes are available