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Ex-staff call out anti-LGBT 'culture of transphobia' at UK Equality Watchdog

Ex-staff call out anti-LGBT 'culture of transphobia' at UK Equality Watchdog

Jamie Wareham
Jamie Wareham
Jamie Wareham, he/him, gay,queer,disabled I started QueerAF to fund queer media careers. Will you join our movement?

Aleegations released this week suggest senior leaders at the Equality and Human Rights Commission worked to erase trans rights.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is an independent watchdog. It was established by the Labour Government in 2007. Still funded by the taxpayer, their purpose is to uphold the equality of all UK citizens.

Last week they released two statements. One on Scotland's Gender Recognition Act and on the proposed ban on so-called 'conversion therapy.' Both suggested removing, reducing or slowing down proposed benefits to transgender people.

As an equality body, we asked why they came to these decisions? This week, we may have got clear evidence.

Vice World News published two damning reports this week. They point to a transphobic culture at the UK equalities watchdog, something it denies.  

What has been published?

"Staff described board members changing their work – making the documents “transphobic and seriously inaccurate”. When some employees complained, they were locked out of laptops and disciplinary action was taken against them." - Vice World News

The reports are the culmination of freedom of information work and leaks. Gathered by transgender group Steph's Place and Vice reporter Ben Hunte - they're extensive. But in a nutshell, they found:

  • EHRC commissioners have also been working as lawyers on key anti-trans legal cases - a conflict of interest. One case temporarily halted healthcare for hundreds of young vulnerable trans children.
  • The commission has been in regular contact with LGB Alliance and Fair Play For Women. Both oppose transgender and even some broader LGB+ rights.
  • The EHRC's chair, a non-aligned member of the House of Lords, switched between her parliamentary and EHRC emails on at least one occasion to communicate with anti-trans activists.

'Commissioners', which act as the EHRC board are appointed by the Minister for Women and Equalities. That's currently Liz Truss, who reversed former PM Theresa May's plans to make legally changing your gender, less arduous.

Vice World News' reports say this body - the organisations most important decision-making committee - is now packed with anti-trans voices who have fostered an anti-trans culture.

As the week draws to an end, a second Vice World News article revealed this has led a number of EHRC employees to quit. One called it “the enemy of human rights”.

The reports have been dubbed sensationalist by the EHRC. They have denied the allegations in the leaks, calling them "unsubstantiated and incorrect statements that rely on information taken out of context."

Why isn't transphobia at the Equality Watchdog headline news?

This story was not covered by any major newspapers, and only by Attitude and PinkNews in the gay press. [Update: LBC's Natasha Devon went on to cover this on her Saturday show, after the publication of our newsletter.]

"It’s a clear indication of how so totally trans-hostile the mainstream UK media has become," feminist and trans ally @mimmymum, who uses their Twitter to spread trans news, tells QueerAF.

"They’ll print stories about transphobic tweets and insignificant hearsay. Yet when the head of the EHRC - Britain oversight human rights watchdog - is proven to have given preferential treatment to anti-trans campaign groups. They turn a blind eye.

"It’s a sorry state of affairs when persecuted minorities have to rely on international news journalists to shine a spotlight on inequalities in the UK. All while UK news editors and platforms renege on their journalistic duty to hold the pillars of power to account.”

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Human rights groups were already breaking ties with the EHRC. Many had already concluded this has undermined its ability to do its job. New revelations, denied by the organisation, allege the EHRC has a transphobic culture. They have ramped up the pressure.

"The EHRC - the body entrusted with safeguarding minority human rights - is actively working to undermine the rights of at least one minority. This needs to change - and quickly." - Steph Richards the founder of Steph's Place

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