June 12, 2023 - 4:30pm

The website of Humanists UK has a quiz asking “how humanist are you?” It says that “if you are non-religious and look to science, reason, empathy and compassion” to live an ethical life, you might like to join the organisation. Weirdly, however, those are the very reasons why I have just resigned as a Patron. I’m still a humanist, but I’m not certain that an organisation that spouts gender woo-woo can claim to be so.

Take, for example, its briefing setting out why Humanists UK opposes a proposal to clarify that “sex” in the 2010 Equality Act refers to biological sex. Yes, you did read that right: a human rights organisation is campaigning against a change in wording that would make clear that the Act means what we thought it did, until gender ideology started arguing otherwise.

Big red flag coming up: according to the Humanists UK briefing, published ahead of a debate about the proposal in Westminster Hall on Monday afternoon, the Act permits different treatment for people with a gender recognition certificate (GRC) and those “whose sex was assigned at birth”. 

This language is straight from the trans activist playbook, conjuring up a scene where people scratch their heads over a newborn. “What shall we make this one? We assigned two as boys this morning so maybe we should say this one is a girl?” If only there were a more certain way of sexing babies, such as, say, looking at their physical characteristics as human beings have done for centuries.

But it gets worse. Defining sex as biological sex is, according to Humanists UK, “intended to create a de facto blanket ban on trans people from services they had previously enjoyed without concern or complaint”. This is flat-out untrue, for two reasons. Trans people are welcome to use any services they like, as long as they are compatible with their biological sex. More to the point, rows about trans-identified males demanding to be housed in women’s prisons, single-sex hospital wards and refuges make almost daily headlines. Has the organisation missed every single one? Or does it dismiss them all as ‘transphobic’?

Apparently so, because the briefing claims that the proposed change would “solve non-existent problems”. It’s the kind of arrogance I’ve come to expect from an organisation that until recently had a president, Professor Alice Roberts, who tweeted a slur about “the unholy alliance between gender-critical feminists and the far right”. 

I wrote to Humanists UK a couple of years ago, complaining about Roberts’s behaviour and suggesting that the organisation “should display the same critical approach it takes towards the claims of organised religion when it comes to the magical thinking of gender extremists”. I got an assurance that Humanists UK is “absolutely a feminist organisation” and has “no official opinion on any philosophical or sociological questions of language and meaning around gender”. 

So why is it opposing a proposal supported by Sex Matters, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and thousands of feminists who are calling for this simple change? Bizarrely, Humanists UK claims it would “create confusion”, which is precisely the opposite of what’s intended. 

I’m not the only Patron for whom this nonsense has been the final straw. Baroness Hayter, a former shadow deputy leader of the House of Lords, has resigned as well, tweeting that the organisation has “lost the plot”. So has the former Labour MEP, Carole Tongue. Time to update that quiz, I think. “Do you believe that sex is assigned at birth and other gender woo-woo?” If so, Humanists UK may be just the place for you!

Joan Smith is a novelist and columnist. She has been Chair of the Mayor of London’s Violence Against Women and Girls Board since 2013. Her book Homegrown: How Domestic Violence Turns Men Into Terrorists was published in 2019.