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Under-fire UK equalities minister met controversial 'transphobic' group

Rights advocates ‘alarmed’ by meeting with the LGB Alliance, which Ofcom’s chief says is ‘entirely inappropriate’ to quote on trans issues.

Claire Provost author pic Peter Geoghegan Lou crop.jpg
Claire Provost Peter Geoghegan Lou Ferreira
5 February 2021, 12.00am
Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch
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House of Commons/PA Wire/PA Images

UK Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch met with a controversial “transphobic” group that campaigns against gender being discussed in schools, government disclosures reveal.

The under-fire Conservative politician, who is also Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, met on 13 July 2020 with the LGB Alliance. It is unclear what they discussed that day, at what is only described as an “introductory meeting”.

Last year, the head of the UK’s communications regulator Ofcom said it is “entirely inappropriate” to quote the LGB Alliance on trans issues, and akin to quoting racist organisations on issues related to racial equality.

Badenoch has come under heavy criticism recently after publicly criticising a HuffPost journalist who asked why she had not participated in a social media video intended to encourage people of colour in the UK to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

Labour said Badenoch’s actions exposed the journalist to “a torrent of abuse,” and called for an investigation to find out whether they breached the ministerial code.

In a letter to the prime minister, revealed today, Boris Johnson’s senior advisor on ethnic minorities accused the Conservatives of pursuing “a politics steeped in division”.

“It’s completely inappropriate for the Equalities Minister to meet with the LGB Alliance,” Scottish National Party (SNP) MP John Nicolson told openDemocracy. “The minister should focus on those advancing the cause of equality.”

Ria Patel, co-chair of LGBTIQA+ Greens, called Badenoch’s meeting with the LGB Alliance “deeply concerning”. She said: “Their founders repeatedly make inflammatory and unpleasant remarks [against transgender people]… It is baffling that an equalities minister would see the value of meeting with this group."

In a statement sent to openDemocracy, LGBT+ Liberal Democrats said Badenoch’s meeting with the group “displays an appalling lack of understanding of the issues at best; at worst, it is crass, offensive and possibly evidence of a bias against trans people that should render the minister unfit to make any judgements or decisions on the subject.”

They described the LGB Alliance as “pursuing a single-minded vendetta against trans people” which “presents a real and active danger to the mental and physical safety of trans people, which is vastly exacerbated when those in authority lend them credibility.”

The LGB Alliance’s founders told openDemocracy they “are happy to confirm that we had a useful and productive meeting with Kemi Badenoch on 13 July 2020.”

A UK government spokesperson said that Badenoch’s meeting with the group was “entirely appropriate” and that “views from all sides of the debate were heard”.

“The Minister should focus on those advancing the cause of equality.”

Before her meeting with the LGB Alliance, Badenoch hinted last year that the government intended to change the Equality Act to “protect single-sex spaces” from trans people.

As an MP (for Saffron Walden in Essex), Badenoch has repeatedly abstained on key LGBT rights votes, including on marriage equality in Northern Ireland in 2019.

Two weeks after her LGB Alliance meeting, she said in parliament: “On the matters of gender recognition and transgender rights, I have held a number of meetings with external stakeholders… to gather a wide range of views.”

According to government disclosures, Badenoch reported 70 meetings with external groups and individuals between 1 May and 30 September 2020. However, only twelve appear to be related to her brief as Equalities Minister (with the bulk focused on economic issues, including tax policy and support for businesses).

Only two other meetings appear likely to have covered trans issues – a day-long series of meetings with Stonewall, LGBT Foundation, National LGBT, Scottish Trans Alliance and other groups in June, and a second meeting with Stonewall in September.

LGB Alliance (which was founded in 2019 in opposition to Stonewall’s inclusivity of trans rights) says lesbian, gay and bisexual people’s rights are threatened by “attempts to introduce confusion between biological sex and the notion of gender”.

Its name reflects the more common LGBT or LGBT+ acronyms without the ‘T’ for transgender, and it has been criticised for being trans-exclusionary and “transphobic”.

Among the group’s campaign targets are UK schools and the inclusion of “notions of gender” in curricula; and long-delayed proposals to reform the UK Gender Recognition Act to make it easier for trans people to change their gender on legal documents.

The LGB Alliance says there are groups “with similar aims and beliefs”, and similar names, “all around the world”, including in Brazil, Ireland, Poland, Spain and the US.

Chiara Capraro from Amnesty UK also called on the government to be “fully transparent about who they meet to discuss issues that affect trans people”.

“We have seen an alarming escalation of transphobic views being legitimised in public debate,” Capraro told openDemocracy, insisting that the government must do more to ensure that the human rights of trans people are “guaranteed and improved”.

LGB Alliance founders Kate Harris and Bev Jackson said: “We stand up for our right to live as people with same-sex sexual orientation without discrimination or disadvantage. We ensure the voices of lesbians, gay men and bisexuals are heard in all public and political discussions affecting our lives. We have tens of thousands of active LGB supporters.”

A government Equality Hub spokesperson said: "The Government consulted extensively as part of its work on the Gender Recognition Act. That is why the GEO [Government Equalities Office] and its ministerial team met with more than 140 stakeholders, and it was entirely appropriate that views from all sides of the debate were heard.”

Neither the LGB Alliance nor Badenoch responded to openDemocracy’s questions about what specifically was discussed at their meeting.

* Additional reporting by Nandini Archer

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