IT’S Pride month but not all parts of the LGBTQ-plus community feel welcome at the celebrations. Many lesbians are being called transphobes, because we are same-sex attracted and therefore don’t wish to date or sleep with people who are male-bodied but identify as female.

We are being told we must agree to do so, at least in principle, or else we will be ostracised. Some, like me, who came out in the 1980s and who are veterans of the struggle for equal rights do not feel welcome at Pride celebrations for the “crime” of daring to defend our rights as women and lesbians. This is particularly unfair when those rights and the rights of gay men and trans people were enshrined in the law because of a struggle in which many of us participated.

Some of the gay men who set up Stonewall in 1989, such as Simon Fanshawe, have found themselves “cancelled” for expressing the opinion that allowing people to legally “self-identify” their sex, regardless of their biology, might have implications for the rights of women.

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Other gay men, such as MP Neale Hanvey, with a long history of service to his community during the AIDS crisis and of organising past Pride events, have been targeted and harassed because of their support for the rights of women and lesbians to question an ideology which not only threatens to erase our hard-won rights but tries to silence us when we protest.

In all sorts of areas of public life – universities, political parties, third sector organisations and even barristers’ chambers and law firms – women, and indeed some men, face silencing and intimidation for challenging the view that trans women are women and trans men are men and that there shall be “no debate”.

One of the reasons this is happening is that Stonewall, the once widely respected charity founded to campaign for gay rights, having won that struggle, turned its attention to transgender rights. Nothing wrong with that. In Scotland and indeed the UK, the law protects trans people against unlawful discrimination but it’s a good idea to be vigilant that the law is being respected in practice.

However, Stonewall also wants to change the law and supports the campaign to reform the Gender Recognition Act so that people born as men should be able to self-identify and be treated as women, and vice versa.

This is controversial and has put it at odds with gender-critical feminists who argue that sex is different from gender identity, sex is immutable and self-identification of sex without proper safeguards risks undermining the sex-based rights of women and the rights of lesbians to be same-sex attracted, which are protected under the Equality Act.

Stonewall’s Diversity Champions workplace inclusion scheme, to which many employers have signed up, has come in for strong criticism for giving incorrect advice on transgender issues. There is concern that Stonewall is representing the law as it would like it to be, rather than as it is and encouraging the view that it is legitimate to silence and discriminate against those who hold gender-critical views.

I am 100% in support of diversity and equality and of the rights of trans people, but human rights are universal. The problem with the Stonewall advice is that it mis-states the law. Its approach risks creating a hierarchy of protected characteristics with the rights of women and gender critical feminists at the bottom. It may also have led to discrimination, harassment and victimisation of same-sex attracted people, women and those who hold gender-critical beliefs.

An independent legal report for Essex University, carried out in the wake of the de-platforming of two gender-critical feminist academics, concluded that Stonewall’s policy advice did not accurately state the law and could lead to breaches of the Equality Act and the Human Rights Act and unlawful discrimination.

ALISON Bailey, a lesbian barrister, has been given permission by the Employment Tribunal to sue her chambers and Stonewall for allegedly colluding together to have her investigated for her gender-critical views and for putting her livelihood in jeopardy.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) recently heard the case of Maya Forstater, who lost her job because of her gender-critical views. That appeal is widely expected to establish that gender-critical beliefs are protected by the Equality Act (EA), If it does, it could enable many other women who have suffered similar discrimination to sue.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which is the government body charged with protecting equality and human rights across the UK, intervened in the Forstater appeal to support her argument. The EHRC has also withdrawn from the Stonewall scheme. So have many other organisations including Acas (which advises on workplace mediation), the House of Commons and Channel 4.

In England Liz Truss, the Women and Equalities Minister, has urged all UK Government departments to withdraw from the Stonewall scheme. I’m no fan of Liz Truss but Minsters in all the devolved governments would be well advised to carry out a review of the legality of their equality and diversity policies and look seriously at how these are implemented in practice.

In Scotland, public authorities signed up to the Stonewall Diversity Champions scheme include the Scottish Government, the Scottish Parliament, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and Police Scotland. It would be a very serious matter indeed if government policy, policing and prosecutorial decisions were being based on a misunderstanding of equalities law.

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Public authorities are bound by the Equality Act’s Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) to foster good relations between groups with different protected characteristics. Following flawed guidance risks doing quite the opposite.

In both the public and private sectors, employers, service providers such as Stonewall itself and membership organisations, including political parties, could face claims for discrimination, harassment and victimisation for implementing policies, including definitions of “transphobia” which breach equalities law and the rights to freedom of belief and expression under the Human Rights Act. We could be in for a tsunami of litigation and damages claims.

Earlier this week, an English barrister said the fact that so many government departments, police, judiciary, schools and universities are signed up to an inaccurate and unlawful view of equality legislation represents a national crisis.

The barrister did not want to be identified. Like lots of people he or she is afraid to enter this debate, for fear of the repercussions. That does not surprise me. My decision to do so, two years ago, has resulted in a barrage of abuse, criminal threats and on one occasion the requirement for police protection. It has also very probably halted my political career, well, for now, at least, but the tide is turning.

For too long many same-sex attracted women and those who hold gender-critical beliefs have found themselves in a relationship of coercive control with employers, service providers and membership organisations. Many of these bodies signed up to equalities policies and definitions of “transphobia” which are wrong in law with the best of intentions but there have also been some very nasty bullies hiding in plain sight.

It is time to call them out and to ensure equalities policies conform to the law and respect the rights of all the protected characteristics under the Equality Act.