Welsh Universities need to drop Stonewall

Stonewall is a hugely influential organisation, with ties throughout public life – none of these are more deep than its connection with academia. All but one Welsh university are membersof Stonewall’s Diversity Champions Scheme. However, while membership in the scheme might foster acceptance of an increasing diversity of sexual and gender identities, it also generates intolerance for diversity of opinion. Without diversity of opinion, academic freedom is at risk. Events in Cardiff last week demostrated this very clearly.

On 17th June, fifteen academics urged Cardiff University to consider withdrawal from Stonewall. They cited the chilling impacts on academic freedom identified by Akua Reindorf, the concerns of lesbians, gays and bisexuals around the charity’s diversion from its original mission, and CEO Nancy Kelley’s statement that a belief in the immutability of sex is akin to anti-Semitism. Cardiff University pays Stonewall £3,000 a year for membership of the scheme.

A pro-Stonewall response cited poor healthcare and ‘poverty, unemployment and homelessness’ as reasons why Cardiff University should continue to fund Stonewall, despite these issues not being in either organisations’ purview. The response letter asserted that the call for a review of Stonewall membership had created ‘an atmosphere of discomfort and fear among queer students and staff.’

Violence and intimidation tactics have never been perpetrated by gender critical feminists. The same cannot be said for those opposed to them. Women’s Place UK has a long list of events targetted by activists (including one in Cardiff where activists called the venue pressurising it to cancel); activists attacked women, setting off smoke bombs at the Jamjar in Bristol; Labour women were harassed by masked protestors who set off flares; a woman was bullied off a picket line on International Women’s Day. Julie Bindel and Maria McLachlan have been physically attacked by trans rights activists.

Trans activists at Cardiff seemed more than happy to create ‘an atmosphere of discomfort and fear’ against the academics they opposed. On 21st June, they organised a rally with around 50 attendees. They distributed a leaflet which carried the head-shots of academics on the cover, with an encouragement to ‘Take action.’ On an interior page, there was a crude drawing of a figure with a gun. The text described the fifteen academics concerns stemming from ‘transphobic bullshit.’ It stated that the Forstater case ‘does not allow you to be a transphobic prick without repercussions.’


Tweeter ‘gender is harmful’ captured these images and censored the photographs to limit potential distress to the staff pictured.

Despite such incendiary (and unacademic) language and imagery drawing criticism and unease – even from supporters – organisers of the event doubled down, defending any criticism of their violent imagery as ‘tone policing.

We are pleased to note that Cardiff University has vowed to support its staff.

As Sex Matters identify:

The Reindorf Review exposes a widespread phenomenon: accusations of transphobia deployed first to curtail academic freedom, and then to prevent people talking about the curtailment of academic freedom. It highlights unlawful university policies developed through processes captured by internal and external lobby groups, and cultures of fear for staff and students who disagree with gender identity ideology.

Recent events might have put the focus on Cardiff University, but other Welsh Universities are no less subject to institutional capture by Stonewall. On June 4th, Merched Cymru wrote to the vice chancellor of every university in Wales. We asked them to discontinue their relationships with Stonewall. By the 24th of June, only five of Wales’ 13 universities replied. Given the events in Cardiff, we wrote to them again. We said:

We hope you will reconsider the appropriateness of your involvement with this lobbying group, particularly in relation to ensuring the safety, dignity and respect due to all your staff and students, and to the university’s obligation to promote free speech.

We also recommended that Cardiff University consider liaising with LGB Alliance. We will be following up on this second round of letters at the beginning of next month, so be sure to check our blog regularly – and subscribe to our newsletter for updates.

The Times leader of Saturday 26 June states:

Stonewall’s thinly-disguised threats of ostracism have nothing to do with the ethos of serving the public, treating employees well, or promoting the welfare of gays, bisexuals and transgender people. It is odious to suppose that merely by querying the organisation’s objectives, critics are somehow guilty of “transphobic” prejudice. Those who have fallen foul of Stonewall’s edicts are insisting that a culture of open dissent is healthy and that one of enforced contrition is a hallmark of totalitarianism.

This is the culture that Cardiff University – and other Unversities in Wales – will be choosing if they refuse to reconsider their relationships with Stonewall. In their interests, and in the interests of Wales’ intellectual culture, we recommend that they choose diversity of beliefs and opinions over conformity enforced – at a hefty fee – by a lobby group.