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 ArcherPrint