UK Appoints Problematic Barrister to Human Rights Committee
Dispatches from TERF Island
On Monday 20th December 2021, UK Minister for Women and Equalities, Liz Truss, appointed Akua Reindorf to the board of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Here’s the body of what I wrote last July, for Prism & Pen, regarding Ms. Reindorf. I present it here again to show why Ms. Reindorf’s appointment is deeply troubling for transgender people:
When Legal Counsel Isn’t Legal
It was tempting to subtitle this one ‘Or a lay trans woman schools a barrister’.
Here’s the story. Essex University cancelled speaking engagements with two ‘gender critical’ academics amid claims made about the pair’s damaging views. So far, so good. Free speech means these individuals are free to hold whatever reprehensible views they want and to express them. It does NOT follow that institutions, whether public or private, are obligated to provide them with megaphones to share those views. Nor does it mean that their views don’t have consequences. In this instance their views cost them speaking engagements.
I wouldn’t expect racists calling for a return to segregated restrooms to be afforded the opportunity to share their hate with others. Why then, pray tell, is it ‘merely asking the question’ or ‘having a reasoned debate’ to propose precisely the same segregation for trans people, especially trans women?
Anyhoo, the University commissioned a report into how they’d handled the affair and to review their policy on the treatment of trans and non-binary staff and students.
This report, written by Akua Reindorf, a barrister specialising in discrimination, claimed that the university’s policy was based on a misinterpretation of the law and as a result the university did not have a legitimate reason for excluding the ‘gender critical’ speakers.
This is the point I want to address, but let’s quickly finish the story first.
The university apologised to the academics in question.
Then came the outcry of deeply upset trans and non-binary staff and students. And rightly so, because whether it was actually based on a flawed interpretation of the law (it wasn’t) the uni’s policy protected the dignity of minority people from hate. It’s simply a decent thing to do whatever the law requires or allows.
As a result of that outcry, and after a deal of consultation with the trans community, the university issued a second apology. This time to trans and non-binary staff and students IF they’d been adversely affected by the unfolding events. The vice-chancellor, in this half-apology, also passed the buck by pointing out (correctly as it turns out) that the law is not as clear as it could be in protecting the rights and dignity of trans and non-binary people.
Well, sure the law might be vague and unfit, but it was still buck-passing because the university is free to write and enforce its own policy regarding the protection of minorities, regardless of whether they are protected adequately in law. There’s plenty they could do without recourse to the law to back them up. And in their defence the vice-chancellor affirmed that the university would continue to update its equality, diversity, and inclusion policies to better protect trans and non-binary students and staff. We’ll see…
But here’s the thing, Reindorf was plainly wrong.
The legislation in question is the Equality Act 2010. This is the relevant passage, from Part 2, Chapter 1, Section 7:
(1)A person has the protected characteristic of gender reassignment if the person is proposing to undergo, is undergoing or has undergone a process (or part of a process) for the purpose of reassigning the person’s sex by changing physiological or other attributes of sex.
Reindorf’s report claimed the university’s policies were flawed because they relied on an interpretation of the above protected characteristic as being ‘gender identity or trans status’ rather than the more literal ‘gender reassignment’.
As Stonewall pointed out this is a distinction in semantics only.
The law as shown above only requires that I (or any trans or non-binary person) state I’m intending to undergo gender reassignment. I do not need to prove this intent. I do not need to be currently undergoing treatment. I do not have to have had treatment BEFORE it’s considered a protected characteristic. If I say I’m changing my gender that’s enough. It’s that simple. (Although as I’ll show in upcoming articles that is far from being the case more practically, with even the acquisition of official documentation being prejudicial.)
On that basis the protected characteristic of ‘gender reassignment’ rests on self-identification. Or put another way, me stating my ‘gender identity or trans status’. Exactly as Reindorf suggested is a flawed interpretation.
That a barrister specialising in discrimation managed to offer such an opinion beggars belief. Indeed one wonders about Reindorf’s personal feelings regarding the status of trans and non-binary people to have formulated so wilful a misinterpretation.
But it’s par for the course on TERF Island.
That was the 18th of July 2021.
Reindorf’s recent appointment to the board of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, by a demonstrably trans-hostile government, is significant and cannot be coincidental.
Other legal opinion, not least from the Trans Legal Project, has since refuted the Reindorf Report and reinforced the point that Stonewall’s interpretation of the law was always a correct and legally proper one.
I’ve reached out to Essex University to enquire if they had sought additional legal opinion, which led to their latter apology to trans and GNC staff and students. I’ll update this piece should a response be forthcoming.
But, given this is TERF Island, I won’t hold my breath.
As ever, if anyone has any questions about life for trans people here in the UK please drop me a comment or email me at:
We’re transgender and we’ll never surrender.