Believe in innate gender, or else — say the police.

The police have launched their National Trans Tool Kit — a portfolio of definitions, policies and best practice recommendations developed in partnership with Stonewall, the National LGBT Police Network, and the Police Superintendent’s Association. Most of it focuses on how trans officers should be accommodated in their professional roles, but there are also aspects which have worrying implications for the public. What is most concerning is that the authors of the toolkit appear to think that the police are empowered to write new law compelling the public to accept transgender concepts and beliefs.

From the start, it is clear that these woke, modern coppers don’t have any time for outdated feminist ideas like socially constructed gender:

Yes folks, it’s innate gender all the way for today’s girls and boys in blue — and not just for trans-identifying people, but for all of us. Take that, feminists.

The tool kit includes a glossary, and it is here that the most serious problems are apparent. Here’s the glossary’s definition of gender identity:

If these words have a familiar ring it’s because they are cut-and-pasted from Stonewall’s own glossary of terms:

This shouldn’t surprise anyone. Stonewall is a lobbying organisation which works to transmit its ideas into national and local government, NGOs, the education sector, public services and corporations. It functions as a one-stop-shop for any organisation looking for advice on the development of LGBT-friendly policies.

For its first twenty-six years Stonewall campaigned exclusively on lesbian, gay and bisexual issues. In 2015, under the leadership of new CEO Ruth Hunt, Stonewall became trans-inclusive, and today transgender issues are the charity’s main focus. Having played a vital role in achieving legislative equality for lesbian, gay and bisexual people — including the equal age of consent and civil partnerships — Stonewall has a reputation for integrity and competence. Its client organisations across the UK trust Stonewall to represent the interests of LGBT people and give sound advice.

They shouldn’t. Not any more.

With the establishment of its trans advisory group in 2015, Stonewall invited into its policy development processes several of the UK’s most extreme trans activists, and has uncritically accepted a portfolio of concepts and definitions which are contested and divisive. This has opened up a rift between Stonewall and many members of the communities whose civil rights Stonewall was founded to advance.

(Don’t take my word for this — take a look at this petition to Stonewall, signed by thousands of lesbians, gay men, transsexuals, bisexuals, and heterosexuals too. The blunt truth is this: Stonewall no longer has the confidence of a large proportion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual people — and we are pushing back. Full disclosure: I am one of several founding signatories to, and organisers of, this petition.)

Stonewall’s imprint is clear across the whole of the tool kit. Here is their definition of transphobia:

And here is transphobia defined in the trans tool kit’s glossary:

I’ve argued before that Stonewall’s definition of transphobia is drawn too widely. The first part of the text is relatively uncontroversial — ‘the fear or dislike of someone based on their being trans’ is simply the trans version of Stonewall’s homophobia definition. But the second part — ‘denial/refusal’ to accept gender identity — is something quite different.

Gender identity is the idea that our gender is an internal essence, a feeling. It was introduced by UCLA psychiatrist Robert Stoller in his 1968 book Sex and Gender: on the development of Masculinity and Femininity. The concept boils down to the belief that we are what we feel we are, what we say we are. That’s reasonable enough on a personal basis — we are all free to see and describe ourselves as we choose. If you feel you have an innate sense of being a man or a woman it’s nobody’s business to tell you you’re wrong. But transgender ideology doesn’t stop at the individual. It insists that we must all accept that to feel that you are a woman or a man is all that is necessary to be a woman or a man, in all contexts and circumstances, immediately, regardless of biological sex. Gender identity is central to today’s transgender politics — and it is central to Stonewall’s policies and lobbying.

The police definition of transphobia extends the Stonewall text, explicitly linking the Stonewall definition with transgender hate crime:

The fear or dislike of someone based on their being trans, including the denial/refusal of their gender identity. Any incident of transphobia, any form of prejudice or hatred towards a person because of their actual or perceived transgender, is considered a transgender hate crime.

There are two ways of interpreting this — and neither reflects well on the police: either the authors of the document don’t understand hate crime legislation, or they believe that the police now have the authority to change existing law by publishing a document.

For a hate crime to be committed, an actual crime must take place. Homophobia and transphobia themselves are not crimes, no matter how they are defined. But, if criminal behaviour, such as harassment, verbal abuse, damage to property or assault, is perceived by anyone as being motivated by prejudice towards a person based on a protected characteristic, the crime becomes a hate crime and is likely to result in a more serious sentence if the perpetrator is convicted. (See the CPS guidance on hate crime here for more information.)

So the text in the tool kit glossary does not represent the current law accurately — an ‘incident of transphobia’ is not, in itself, a hate crime, any more than an incident of homophobia would be.

Let’s assume that the police do understand the existing law. In that case, this text seems to be attempting to write new law (which the police are not empowered to do) by seeking to criminalise non-belief in the concept of gender identity.

I’ve considered the concept of gender identity carefully and concluded that I do not accept it. It is not anywhere close to being settled science, and I consider it politically regressive. I no more believe in it than in transubstantiation or the tooth fairy. From this, it follows that I do not — cannot — accept an individual’s gender identity. This doesn’t mean I wish to go around being unpleasant to trans people. I accept that trans people choose to express gender in many different ways — as do non-trans people — and I can choose to use the pronouns and forms of address a trans person desires. I would always be as respectful and kind to a trans person as I would try to be with any other human being. On that basis we should all be able to get along as fellow citizens, as co-workers, as friends and family members. But if pressed to agree that a male claiming a female gender identity is literally a woman, I will always refuse, because I do not believe it to be true.

According to the police’s trans tool kit, this amounts to transphobia — and a hate crime.

Unfortunately for the police, Article 9 of the Human Rights Act (1998) begs to differ. It protects ‘freedom of thought, belief and religion’. This text is from the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s explanation of the Act:

Article 9 protects your right to freedom of thought, belief and religion…you also have the right to put your thoughts and beliefs into action…importantly, this right protects a wide range of non-religious beliefs including atheism, agnosticism, veganism and pacifism. For a belief to be protected under this article, it must be serious, concern important aspects of human life or behaviour, be sincerely held, and be worthy of respect in a democratic society.

This right is not absolute, but public authorities can only interfere in this right where the authority can show that its action is lawful, necessary and proportionate in order to protect:

  • public safety
  • public order
  • public health or morals
  • the rights and freedoms of others

Article 9 protects everyone’s right to believe that gender is a social construct and to reject the concept of gender identity. Furthermore, gender critical feminism is clearly a non-religious belief which is sufficiently ‘serious’ and ‘worthy of respect in a democratic society’ to qualify for protection under the Act.

The publication of the trans tool kit illustrates the risks to all organisations which choose to rely on Stonewall for advice on transgender issues. The police have stumbled into a complex area which they appear not to properly understand — and Stonewall is not telling its client organisations the whole story. Given what appears to be the trans tool kit’s declaration that non-acceptance of gender identity is now a hate crime, it would seem that a great many more of us could be receiving police warnings for holding beliefs which differ from transgender orthodoxy.

So, police — can I expect a knock on the door soon, or should I save you some time and just turn myself in?

An update:

At 5.16pm on November 15th, a few hours after this article was published, Superintendent Clinton Blackburn of Surrey Police, who was one of the team developing the trans tool kit, tweeted this:

The glossary definition of transphobia has been changed, removing the second part — the lines specifically about hate crime. This is the original, published on 12 November:

And this is the revision, published three days later:

Whether or not the definition published on November 12 was in error, gender identity is still embedded in the toolkit’s definition of transphobia.

This question must be answered by the police: is the denial of a person’s gender identity, or a refusal to accept a person’s gender identity, sufficient to trigger a hate incident investigation (when no crime has been committed), or (when a crime has been committed) a hate crime investigation? If the answer is yes, the possibility of conflict with Article 9 of the Human Rights Act remains.