Akua Reindorf

“Judge who accused Stonewall of misrepresenting the law” is appointed to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, says the Telegraph. The University of Essex asked her to report on their exclusion of anti-trans campaigning academics, and her condemnation was a clarion call. “The policy states the law as Stonewall would prefer it to be, rather than the law as it is. To that extent the policy is misleading”. (Paragraph 243.12 of the Report pdf).

Her recommendation 28 was that if the University continued using Stonewall, it should devise a strategy for countering potential illegalities, including excluding gender critical academics, affecting freedom of expression.

Reindorf is in with the anti-trans campaigners. She said (para 249) excluding one might be indirect sex discrimination against women, as women were more likely to hold gender critical views. Her footnote 140 says this argument is about to be used at an employment tribunal, that of an LGB All Liars founder, Allison Bailey. So, they should not exclude anti-trans campaigners.

Well, all sorts of legal arguments can be tried at an employment tribunal, but that does not mean they have any weight.

The University’s LGBTQ forum, whose letter is quoted in full at appendix 4, objected because an anti-trans campaigner proposed to claim there were “conceptual and political problems with the trans rights perspective” at Essex University. They showed evidence she was hostile to trans inclusion, and that her speech would be harassment of trans people. They claimed “The safety and wellbeing of our trans/nonbinary community, is paramount above that of the need to express bigoted views”. Such bigotry impedes the freedom of speech of trans people, as it silences us.

What did Reindorf find so objectionable? Stonewall had approved the university’s “Supporting Trans and Non Binary Staff policy”, paras 224-5. It aimed to promote “inclusion, well-being, resilience and empowerment”. It said “It is unlawful to discriminate against or treat someone unfairly because of their gender identity or trans status”. Reindorf claimed this was inaccurate, because only “gender reassignment”, not trans status, is protected in law. This is a distinction without a difference. Trans people are protected from the moment we decide to transition. A decision to transition at some point in the future, if ever you felt safe enough to do so- perhaps when you retire in twenty years’ time- would be sufficient to be protected.

Anyone whose trans status was known would almost certainly come under this protection. Discrimination based on perceived gender reassignment is unlawful. Further, it would be harassment to challenge a trans person using single-sex services as to the precise nature of her intention to transition. As the policy said, the University “will not tolerate staff being questioned inappropriately about the facility they chose”.

Reindorf (para 226) attacks this, calling it problematic, and giving an argument that trans women could be excluded from all women’s toilets. She says toilets should be provided on a “single-sex basis”. She uses anti-trans campaigners’ jargon rather than the words of the statutory instrument, which says there should be separate toilets “for men and women”. I was a woman, even before my gender recognition certificate. That is the ordinary use of the English word.

That is, Reindorf states the law as she would like it to be, rather than it actually is.

Reindorf claims the Equality Act contains “specific ‘sex-based exceptions’” to the right of trans women to use women’s services. If I nit-pick as much as she does, I point out that this is not the case. The Equality Act allows a trans woman to be excluded if it is “a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”, whether her sex is female, because she has a gender recognition certificate, or male, because she has not. “Sex-based” is the jargon of the trans-excluders.

Reindorf’s report is the case for the trans-excluder challenging the University’s decision, and not appropriate for an impartial judge or a member of the board of the EHRC.

As for gender-critical views, an employment tribunal judge decided that they were “not worthy of respect in a democratic society”, and the Employment Appeal Tribunal decided that in the specific case of that claimant, they were. The law protects erroneous beliefs, such as young earth creationism. But this does not mean that anyone claiming to be “gender critical” is protected. A court would look at evidence of that person’s specific beliefs. From twitter, it would often be easy to find a belief expressed that trans women were contemptible, which would not necessarily be protected. For example, the slogan “Women’s safety comes before men’s feelings!” indicates a belief that trans women are a threat, and that it is just a matter of our feelings. The settled conviction that leads us to transition, and exposes us to hatred organised and fomented by the Conservative Government, is more than just a “feeling”.

Reindorf’s appointment is an example of institutional capture by the hard right. The EHRC is no longer fit for purpose. It should only include people who are committed to equality and human rights.

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