Yesterday, while watching the Allison Bailey case online, I heard one of the worst takes on the ‘transgender rights’ to date. Bailey, a criminal defence barrister, is suing her former chambers, Garden Court (GCC), alongside Stonewall, after claiming she was unlawfully discriminated against. Her crime? She believes that sex is biological and cannot change.
Bailey, a black lesbian, argues that GCC wrongly treated her views as transphobic. She is also claiming that her chambers, as a member of Stonewall’s Diversity Champions scheme, came under pressure from Stonewall to get rid of her.
One of two tweets by Bailey deemed to be ‘unacceptable’ by Stonewall and GCC was in response to the announcement of a series of workshops run by Morgan Page, a transwoman who was subsequently employed by Stonewall. The series was called ‘Overcoming the cotton ceiling’, the premise of which being that transwomen are discriminated against when lesbians refuse to have sex with male-bodied transwomen. This, apparently, amounts to discrimination and unfair treatment.
As Bailey tweeted in 2019: ‘Stonewall recently hired Morgan Page, a male bodied person who ran workshops with the sole aim of coaching heterosexual men who identify as lesbians on how they can coerce young lesbians into having sex with them. Page called [it] “overcoming the cotton ceiling” and it is popular.’
Stonewall complained to Bailey’s chambers and it was soon announced that Bailey was under investigation, which was carried out by Maya Sikand QC, member of Garden Court’s management board. Relying on advice from Cathryn McGahey QC, vice-chair of the Bar Council’s ethics committee, Sikand was told that Allison’s tweets were “probably over the borderline of acceptable conduct”.
But during yesterday’s cross-examination by Bailey’s QC Ben Cooper, McGahey argued that a lesbian could be persuaded to have sex with a transwoman “in a way that was not coercive”. McGahey added that Bailey’s view that the workshop was coercive “is not substantiated”. “I cannot see that the sole purpose of the workshop,” she said, “was to coerce lesbians into having sex with transwomen”.
But even more shocking than dismissing the substantiated lesbian fears over sexual coercion was the analogy that McGahey used to back up her assertion, comparing a workshop to help trans-identifying males overcome lesbians’ sexual boundaries “to South Africa attempting to racially integrate society”.
Nancy Kelly, Stonewall CEO, has previously complained that the ‘highly toxic’ cotton ceiling issue was ‘analogous to sexual racism’. “[Allison] AB did not have a basis for this tweet,” said McGahey under cross examination. But she did. All lesbians do. It is endemic to the context of anti-lesbian prejudice, bigotry and sexualisation in which we live.
The fear lesbians experience of corrective rape is very real. I have interviewed women in South Africa and Uganda who tell me that men have a get-out-of-jail free card if they tell police they carried out sexual assaults on lesbians to ‘straighten them out’. I have lost count of the time men have told me to get over myself and learn to love the penis. “All you need is a good f**k” is a phrase that lesbians universally recognise.
A senior lawyer comparing transwomen coercing lesbians with black South Africans fighting the system of Apartheid is appalling. To do so in a case involving a black lesbian who has spoken out about being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse is almost beyond belief.