Gay MP John Nicolson slams LGB Alliance for ‘deeply unhealthy obsession with genitals’ in court

A graphic of MP John Nicolson.

SNP MP John Nicolson slammed anti-trans lobby group LGB Alliance’s “obsession with genitals” as “deeply unhealthy” while giving evidence against its charity status.

An appeal to overturn the Charity Commission’s April 2021 decision to register LGB Alliance as a charity is currently being considered by a tribunal. The legal fight is being spearheaded by trans children’s charity Mermaids, and is supported by LGBT+ Consortium, Gendered Intelligence, LGBT Foundation, TransActual and Good Law Project.

On the third day of the tribunal, Nicolson – a gay man, MP for Ochil and South Perthshire and deputy chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Global LGBT+ Rights – gave evidence and was questioned by LGB Alliance counsel Karon Monaghan KC.

Nicolson has been loudly and publicly supportive of reforming the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) in Scotland, a plan vehemently opposed by LGB Alliance, and told the court that the reform aimed to make the process of legal gender recognition “less intrusive”.

Under current legislation, trans people are required to prove they have been living in their correct gender for a period of time, and must undergo invasive medical and psychiatric assessments.

The Scottish proposal would streamline the process and do away with the requirement for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, creating a system widely referred to as “self-ID” – although the UK’s new prime minister Liz Truss seems poised to try to block reform. 

But, questioning Nicolson during a heated evidence session, LGB Alliance’s representative suggested that it would undermine lesbian and gay people who want to describe themselves as same-sex attracted, and that “if conditions are relaxed to the extent that sex doesn’t matter much, it risks eating away at sex-based rights like single-sex services”.

Under the Equality Act 2010, transgender people are protected from discrimination in accessing services, unless their exclusion is a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”. Trans people are already able to access “single-sex services”, and access and exemptions will not be changed by reform of the GRA.

Addressing LGB Alliance’s “concerns”, Nicolson pointed out that genital inspections are not required for one to identify as a lesbian, and added: “The majority of lesbians do not feel that they will become less lesbian if this legislation passes.”

He continued: “I just don’t share the LGB Alliance’s obsession with genitalia, they appear to think about nothing else from the moment they get up in the morning until they go to bed at night.

“I just don’t spend my days thinking about other people’s genitalia and I think it’s deeply unhealthy for them to do so.”

In Nicolson’s witness statement, he referred to an ad campaign by LGB Alliance titled “Press Pause on the Gender Recognition Bill”, published by The Herald and Scotland on Sunday in January 2020.

The advert states that if Gender Recognition Act reform was to go ahead in Scotland, “there would be nothing to stop any man gaining legal recognition as a woman with a birth certificate to match and thereby accessing women’s hospital wards, refuges, prisons, toilets or changing rooms” and that the law could therefore be “exploited by predatory men who wish to hurt women and girls”.

Although Monaghan stated it was “unsurprising in a democracy that there will be differences in view on legislation” and described the ideas in the advert as “reasonable”, Nicolson insisted that the campaign was “designed to terrify” and “scaremonger”, implying that “plagues, hoards of predatory men will be bursting through the curtains of Marks and Spencer”.

“It attempts to link trans people with predators, it is the very definition of prejudice,” he added.

Nicolson wrote in his witness statement: “LGB Alliance severely misrepresent the current law and the impact of the proposed reforms, so that they can pretend to advocate for the maintenance of the legal status quo when they are in fact pushing for existing protections to be withdrawn.

“They seek to generate support for those propositions by falsely casting trans women as the real perpetrators of male violence against cis women.”

Mermaids chair tells LGB Alliance that it’s ‘laughable’ to suggest kids would come out as trans because it’s ‘easier’

Also on the third day of the tribunal, the court heard evidence from Belinda Bell, the chair of Mermaids’ board of trustees.

Cross-examined by Monaghan on behalf of LGB Alliance, Bell was asked about a 4,000 per cent increase in children assigned female at birth to the Tavistock’s soon-to-close Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS).

This “4,000 per cent” statistic is often used by gender-critical campaigners to imply “social contagion” among trans kids, but while the percentage increase may appear alarming, the real number of referrals remains incredibly small.

Yet actual figures from the Tavistock show that over a 10-year period (2009 and 2019), total referrals increased from 77 in 2009, to 2,590 in 2019, while referrals for children assigned female at birth increased from 32 to 1,740. The figures include referrals that were rejected by GIDS.

Compared to the national population of children, the referrals actually represent fewer referrals than would be expected considering the proportion of the population estimated to be trans – around one per cent.

But Monaghan told the court that LGB Alliance’s stance is that children are being “locked in to treatment pathways”, and that lesbian girls may be coming out as trans because it is “easier”.

Bell told the court: “The idea that girls would find transitioning easier is frankly close to laughable. Transition is a very serious and difficult thing to go through… I disagree that that would be a plausible thing.”

The tribunal is being heard at London’s General Regulatory Chamber until 16 September.