Why are trans activists raging against a gay-rights hero?

Stonewall co-founder Simon Fanshawe is loathed by the LGBT lobby because he believes in same-sex attraction.

Jo Bartosch

Jo Bartosch

Topics Identity Politics UK

The naming of a stalwart gay-rights campaigner as rector of the University of Edinburgh this week has sent trans activists scurrying to their safe spaces and reaching for their mindfulness colouring books. This is because Simon Fanshawe is ‘out’ about his gender-critical beliefs. And he is clear in his conviction that homosexuality means being exclusively attracted to people of the same sex. Perhaps only the appointment of misogynist influencer Andrew Tate to head the women’s studies department could have generated more heat.

When the news broke of Fanshawe’s unopposed election to the role, trans-activist academics at Edinburgh immediately drafted an open letter denouncing the appointment. They called on the university to find ‘a true advocate of equality, accessibility, diversity and inclusion’ instead. With predictable hyperbole, they gasped that his appointment ‘creates a hostile environment for the many trans, nonbinary and gender non-conforming students studying at the university’.

Edinburgh Labour Students, the university Labour club, also had a fit of the vapours. It put out a statement on social media expressing its disappointment and reaffirming its ‘solidarity with the transgender community’.

Gina Gwenffrewi, an Edinburgh academic who has a PhD in transgender studies, even tried to connect Fanshawe’s appointment to the murder of trans-identified teenager Brianna Ghey:

‘Ten days since the judge at the trial of Brianna Ghey’s killers identified transphobia as partial motive for the murder, the University of Edinburgh announces its new rector is a founder of LGB Alliance… The insensitivity of such an appointment when the trans community is still traumatised and vulnerable to increasing hate crimes is difficult to put into words… This is an outrageous declaration of contempt by the University of Edinburgh for trans people.’

It should not need to be said, but there is no link whatsoever between the brutal murder of Brianna Ghey by deeply disturbed classmates and the appointment of a veteran gay-rights campaigner to a leading role in a university. Furthermore, Fanshawe is not a founder of LGB Alliance, as Gwenffrewi claims. But even if he were, why should that count against him? LGB Alliance is one of the only charities today that solely advocates for people on the basis of their same-sex attraction.

Ironically, Fanshawe is actually one of the six co-founders of Stonewall – an organisation that is usually treated as unimpeachable by trans activists and academics. When Stonewall was established in 1989, just 13.5 per cent of the public believed homosexuality was ‘not wrong at all’, according to the British Social Attitudes survey. The HIV / AIDS virus had shaken the world, leading to fear and homophobia. Yet there Fanshawe was, over 30 years ago, fighting for equality. He did so at a time when Pride parades weren’t supported by multinational corporations. When gay men were routinely targeted by the police. When lesbian couples risked having their children taken away from them.

Fanshawe has never wavered on his commitment to equality, though he has now turned his back on Stonewall. And with good reason. In 2022, he lamented that the gay-rights charity he co-founded had ‘morphed into a propaganda machine that preaches extreme and divisive gender ideology under the guise of “factual” information’.

Indeed, to Stonewall and the cadre of trans activists in UK universities, the very notion of same-sex attraction is now considered to be ‘exclusionary’ and transphobic. Gender ideologues argue that biology does not define whether an individual is a man or a woman, and that ‘gender’ is a matter of identity. This leads to the ludicrous situation where men with penises demand to be recognised as lesbians. Meanwhile, campaigners like Fanshawe continue to stubbornly insist that homosexuality is about biological sex.

While some learned professors make convoluted arguments about why biological sex is outdated or bigoted, many more just seek to smear and silence their opponents. This is why the appointment of a veteran gay-rights campaigner has been framed in the context of the brutal murder of a teenager. There is no succinct or convincing way to argue that women have willies. It’s far easier for activists to simply cry ‘transphobia’ and bleat about ‘hatred’ in order to shout people like Fanshawe down.

To adopt the language of the activists, Fanshawe is a man who has proved himself to be on the ‘right side of history’. A man who has faced genuine ‘hatred’ as a member of a ‘marginalised minority’. And he’s a man who now finds himself at the centre of a ‘toxic debate’ with people who ‘deny his identity’. It says a lot about trans activists that they feel the need to try to shut him up.

To deploy a less fashionable phrase, perhaps today’s LGBT activists, who have benefitted hugely from the social changes Simon Fanshawe helped to bring about, should start respecting their elders.

Jo Bartosch is a journalist campaigning for the rights of women and girls.

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Identity Politics UK


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