temple debate

"Before we begin, please leave your pitchforks in the cloak room and extinguish your torches in the buckets provided."

An Inn of Court has refused to bow to the demands of more than 100 barristers, pupil barristers and law students who signed an open letter complaining that a gender critical barrister should not have been invited to speak at an LGBT event.

The talk arranged by the Middle Temple LGBTQ+ Forum was originally billed as a discussion about 'The fight to ban gay conversion therapy', and advertised Nancy Kelley, the Chief Executive of Stonewall, Kieran Alded, Stonewall's head of policy, and Robin Allen QC, who lobbied the government for the ban, as speakers. 

Stonewall believes that young people who say they are transgender should have that belief affirmed by therapists, and supports the government's proposal that a ban on conversion therapy should criminalise therapists who adopt a 'watch and wait' approach instead, or who seek to make young patients comfortable with their sex.

However, a few days before the event, the discussion topic was changed to 'Banning Conversion Practices: The Path to Good Law', and Naomi Cunningham, a barrister and the founder of Legal Feminist, was added as a speaker.

Cunningham takes the gender critical view that there are many reasons why a young person may insist they are transgender, including discomfort with their homosexuality, which means that banning therapists from exploring those possibilities "is the most savage conversion therapy ever invented".

"Gender non-conforming children often grow up to be gay adults. The bitter irony of this proposal is that it entrenches the idea that people can escape being gay by changing sex", Cunningham said in her talk.

The letter's signatories complained that Cunningham was an unacceptable choice because she had stated on her website that she would refer to a transwoman as a 'trans-identifying male'. They said they suspected that Middle Temple had come under "pressure" from members who wanted to hear a gender critical perspective, and that Cunningham's participation "sends a damaging message to trans members and prospective members of the Inn that their inclusion is not something they can take for granted but is ‘up for debate’".

The signatories asked Middle Temple to postpone the event and offer refunds, and to "apologise for the distress these developments have caused, particularly to the Inn’s trans members".

Despite their demands the discussion went ahead as planned.

Some observers said the publicity around the open letter opened their eyes to the consequences of the ban in its current form. Ex-Clifford Chance lawyer and Crafty Counsel founder Ben White said, "Have to confess that before the fuss today I hadn't taken much interest in the proposals on conversion therapy. Now I have read the gov's consultation & I am glad they are having a debate at MT and not just a party".

The letter was anonymous, but several signatories came forward to defend their stance on social media after Twitter users expressed surprise that barristers were averse to hearing or debating viewpoints which differed from their own.

Stuart Withers, a barrister at No5 Chambers, said the event "was marketed as trans inclusive and to celebrate LGBT lawyers. The debate can be for another time or place". Caira Bartlam, another Middle Temple member, said, "Sometimes we don't want to debate, we just want to enjoy all the love and affirmation that our community provides".

Asked whether the lobby group was happy to debate the conflict between the aims of trans activism and women’s rights, a Stonewall spokesperson told RollOnFriday, "Stonewall is constantly engaged in debates around our core purpose of ensuring LGBTQ+ people are free to be their authentic selves in all aspects of society. Debates, discussions and evolving policy ideas are at the heart of the work we do as a charity. The only thing we won’t debate is whether trans people actually exist. They do, and it is offensive to suggest otherwise".

Cunningham told RollOnFriday she stood by "every word" of her writing, and that "I don't believe anything I have written makes me unfit to contribute to the education of Bar students".

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confused 19 November 21 09:13

Cunningham takes the gender critical view that there are many reasons why a young person may insist they are transgender, including discomfort with their homosexuality, which means that banning therapists from exploring those possibilities "is the most savage conversion therapy ever invented".

so - she is against a ban on gay conversion therapy for kids (which is aimed at targeting dodgy “therapists”) because kids may feel discomfort (eg guilt?) such they may need to explore such guilt as part of the therapy?

sorry - that doesn’t wash. It is utterly specious to claim that a ban on gay conversion therapy will criminalise trained and qualified therapists who discuss discomfort/guilt around homosexuality. It will weed out the unqualified “faith healers” and “conversion camps” that exist at present.

Hackaforte 19 November 21 09:14

The real crime here is that fellow wearing a white dinner jacket west of Suez. Poor form.

Anon 19 November 21 09:16

As is evident by the case of Kiera Bell, young people need support for whatever they’re facing, and ensuring that support is correct and proportionate for the nature of their issues is key. To believe so isn’t anti trans, and indeed, Nancy Kelley herself confirmed yesterday (on Woman’s Hour) that gender critical views are not by their nature, transphobic.

Particle 19 November 21 09:20

No 'confused', she is against a ban on therapists who want to explore whether a kid who says they're transgender is actually just gay.

Anon 19 November 21 09:23

Confused - I believe that is exactly what is being proposed. It’s not targeting only the extreme faith healers and conversion camps, as it rightly should, but it seeks to ban the even more normal therapists from having those conversations with clients. Simply questioning whether a child or a teenager is trans is potentially going to be illegal for therapists.

anon. 19 November 21 09:24

like rof’s own chill & co the ideologues use the disingenuous, slippery, and false claim that affirming the existence of biological facts = denying that trans people exist. other than a few outliers who can be disregarded no one is saying that. it’s like when evangelical creationists shriek about people who take a scientific approach :”you’re calling my children monkeys”. anyway stonewall et als fantasy bubble is rapidly deflating and hopefully children will be protected from their dangerous nonsense and pragmatic, rational, and kind voices will prevail. 

Anonymous 19 November 21 09:39

Why is Stonewall against open debate? Why did such a large number of barristers try and stop fair debate? Who benefits from this?



Anonymous 19 November 21 09:47

Odd to protest this.

Unless they wanted a panel of people sharing similar opinions agreeing with each other they had to seek an alternative view to enable a more wide ranging discussion. 

Trans Positive 19 November 21 10:06

"they suspected that Middle Temple had come under "pressure" from members who wanted to hear a gender critical perspective"


In this day and age, an organisation arranging a panel event - in London, no less - that featured speakers with a diversity of viewpoints. What is the world coming to?! I don't even.

The idea that in 2021 there could be an event in Britain in which barristers (barristers!) debated whether proposed new law was good law or not is just disgusting to me (barristers! discussing law! does the government even know about this!).

How can I feel included when qualified legal professionals are able - in full public view - to debate the merits of new legislation which I am personally in favour of? 


Literally crying rn.

Anon 19 November 21 10:17

Anon @ 09:47. A panel of people all agreeing with other and pretending no alternative point of view exists is exactly what they wanted. They said so themselves:

"we don't want to debate, we just want to enjoy all the love and affirmation that our community provides"

Trans Positive 19 November 21 10:31

Also, I just want to be really clear with everyone that so-called "Cancel Culture" isn't real and that we trans-folk never try to suppress or censor anyone.


That's all just made up by the far-alt-right to make us sound like weirdos.

They invented the Culture Wars, definitely not us.

Paul 19 November 21 10:40

Looks like this is a catch-22 situation.  Trans vs. gay - affirming one could be seen as denying the other.

'Transing away the gay' does go on in some countries e.g. Iran. Not sure that's a model to follow.


Bowdeka 19 November 21 11:02

Glad to see Stonewall finally engaging. Maybe someone could ask them to explain why they encouraged a generation of men to believe this is behaviour to be proud of: https://twitter.com/hatpinwoman/status/1461468365881589770?s=21

Hmm? 19 November 21 11:02

It’s notable that the names of the 100 “barristers, pupil barristers and law students” don’t appear openly.

My suspicion is that those who did put their name to it are unlikely to carry much weight. The absence of names lends it credibility that it shouldn’t have.

👂 19 November 21 11:03

Why prevent me from hearing a view? 

If your argument is better then I’ll go with that one, but at least let me hear the alternative view. 

Trans Positive 19 November 21 11:35

"Why prevent me from hearing a view?"

Because disagreeing with our opinions about how society should cater to our personal sense of persecution, even when done politely and with impeccable logic, is Literally (clap) Denying (clap) The (clap) Fact (clap) That (clap) We (clap) Exist!!!




Stop trying to erase me (via the medium of listening to people whose views about the regulation of talking therapies I don't agree with)!

Anonymous 19 November 21 11:46

@11:03 - but if you hear other points of view then there's a very dangerous possibility that you'll conclude that a man cannot literally transform himself into a woman, and if you thought that then you might go on to conclude that it was totally unreasonable of Trans people to insist that everyone be obliged to play along with our personal opinion that such transformations are possible. You might even start using plain English to talk about such things, rather than adopting the contrived lexicon of newspeak like "Self ID" that we insist you use to discuss them.

Just imagine that... there you'd be, believing things that were entirely consistent with objectively observable scientific fact, and politely refusing to call men wearing dresses women. 

It would be totally unacceptable. 

The mere thought of such an act of disobedience makes me shudder. I feel threatened and distressed at the very prospect!


So that's why you're not to be allowed to listen to anyone who suggests that we Trans folk shouldn't be immediately entitled to every last thing we demand.

Quiet now... you don't want to be a 'transphobe' do you?

papercuts 19 November 21 12:23

Stonewall, for so long a decent organisation which did useful work in securing equal rights for gay people, has gone loco.  Lots of gay people, e.g., the LGB Alliance, no longer want anything to do with them.  As this article notes: "Stonewall has been left trying to explain why the charity now holds that some lesbians have penises": https://thecritic.co.uk/stonewall-came-tumbling-down/

The article is confusing.  When one reads about 'The fight to ban gay conversion therapy', one thinks, what a good idea.  The idea that gay people are not really gay, and just need some counselling to discover their inner straightness is as repugnant as it is nonsensical.  The DUP in NI support gay conversion therapy, which should tell you all you need to know about it.

However, we're no longer just talking about a silly idea like trying to "convert" gay people.

Somehow, in Stonewall's mind, anyone who doesn't immediately tell a confused young person, often too young to have sex / vote / get married, that they certainly should e.g. start taking puberty blockers is a de facto proponent of gay conversion therapy. 

Stonewall's bizarre belief is that biology does not matter, and that (for instance) any lesbian who is repulsed or uncomfortable by the idea of having sex with a drag queen (sorry trans-woman lol) is a raving bigot who should be able to enjoy being shagged by someone with a penis if only she was less of a bigot. 

In the recent BBC article:


"One of the lesbian women I spoke to, 24-year-old Amy*, told me she experienced verbal abuse from her own girlfriend, a bisexual woman who wanted them to have a threesome with a trans woman.

When Amy explained her reasons for not wanting to, her girlfriend became angry.

"The first thing she called me was transphobic," Amy said. "She immediately jumped to make me feel guilty about not wanting to sleep with someone."

She said the trans woman in question had not undergone genital surgery, so still had a penis.

"I know there is zero possibility for me to be attracted to this person," said Amy, who lives in the south west of England and works in a small print and design studio.

"I can hear their male vocal cords. I can see their male jawline. I know, under their clothes, there is male genitalia. These are physical realities, that, as a woman who likes women, you can't just ignore."


As Angela C Wild, co-founder of the activist group ‘Get the L Out’ and the author of the Lesbians at ground zero report, so cogently puts it:

“‘The response from LGBT organisations as well as a wave of anti-lesbian sentiment we are receiving in the last 24 hours is brutal but unfortunately not surprising... Same-sex attraction is now framed as a form of racism by Stonewall and other prominent transactivists."

Indeed.  Common sense, one would have thought.  Quite insane, but that's the sorry pass we've came to nowadays.   


Anonymous 19 November 21 13:46

No-one is denying you exist Transposition. And if you really were trans positive, you wouldn't support the toxic extremism that the TRAs have introduced into this discussion. Natal women, transpeople and gay people are all being hurt by it.

Anon 19 November 21 13:58

Do those who don’t believe in God claim that Christians don’t exist? Of course not. The suggestion that if you disagree with something you deny the existence of it is just toxic and well, weak. 

Anonymous 19 November 21 14:15

Don't accuse trans people of being toxic 13:46, that's a tired trope used by transphobes to discredit trans advocates.

It has repeatedly been used to dismiss us by furthering the stereotype that we're just angry entitled men who attempt to bully and shout-down legitimate criticism by masquerading as victims, and to fraudulently frame our attempts to dismiss contrary viewpoints as some kind of ongoing, often violent, crusade to entirely ban all opposition to our point of view from the public space on the basis that merely hearing dissenting voices is doing us transfolk literal harm.

Stonewang 19 November 21 17:10


I'm a straight white man (or 'penis haver' or whatever the modern term for it is).

I'm reading all of this 'genital preference' stuff with great interest, and I think that Stonewall may be onto something. It really feels like it might be the magic bullet I've been looking for all these years.

Anyway, enough of the preamble, can anyone tell me what I need say in order to be able to shame women who don't want to have sex with me as bigots?

What's the correct 'phobia to accuse them of?



Anonymous 19 November 21 21:13

I'm not accusing transfolk of being toxic @14:15 . I'm accusing the TRA movement of being toxic. How dare you claim to speak for all transfolk. 

Anonymous 19 November 21 21:14

"can anyone tell me what I need say in order to be able to shame women who don't want to have sex with me as bigots? "

They already exist. They're called in incels.

Anonymous 19 November 21 22:05

Yep this would be the same Nancy Kelley who said lesbians who wouldn’t be prepared to have sex with trans women (so biologically, men), were basically like racists because they were discriminating against trans women. Here is the thing - when it comes to who I (and everyone else in the world) has sex with, it’s not an equal opportunities situation. I can discriminate against whoever the hell I want, on the basis that it’s my damn body and I say who can and cannot access it. 

Stonewall has become a hideous joke of an organisation with horrendous objectives and unjustified influence. It is all about erasing women and denying their rights. Don’t believe me - please look at the Stephen Nolan investigation. 

Anonymous 19 November 21 22:42

I tried to have an open mind about trans issues (gay male here) but it's quite difficult to find any decent debate about the issues because anyone who dares question any tenet of gender ideology is immediately branded as a transphobic bigot by the gender brigade. Look at what happened recently to Professor Kathleen Stock - forced out of the University of Sussex by students who took issue with her academic work. Instead, the depth of analysis to be found on the issue from the likes of Stonewall is of the evangelical "transwomen are women - no debate" ilk. No thanks. Kathleen Stock's book, Material Girls, is a fantastic and pretty fair-handed exposition of the theoretical basis underpinning gender ideology from the perspective of an academic philosopher and, spoiler alert, it's all just chutney.

Break down the stone wall 21 November 21 09:08

If you want to know why the new transgernder ideology is so damaging and dangerous, listen to this interview with the BBC journalist Stephen Nolan and a doctor from the Tavistock Clinic - the gender reassignment clinic run by the NHS.

The way that children are being abused, manipulated and encouraged to mutilate themselves before they understand the consequences of what they are doing will break your heart.


Anonymous 21 November 21 13:33

I have a minor interest in the trans debate. I couldn't care about debates.


I suspect many other straight white males hold a similar view. 

Anonymous 21 November 21 15:08

There's a slew of middle aged men fighting for the right to expose their genitals in girls' changing rooms and toilets and there are pressure groups trying to normalise it.

In times to come this will be looked on with the same contempt that we now have for the days when the National Council for Civil Liberties supported the Paedophile Information Exchange.

According to Marx “Hegel remarks somewhere that all great, world-historical facts and personages occur, as it were, twice. He has forgotten to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.”

Reluctant as I am to argue with such a forceful beard I tentatively suggest that in this case the first time was the farce.  This time the way child predators have co-opted the gay rights movement is an ongoing tragedy for many, many people - not least the young men and women who have found themselves on a conveyor belt to medical transition that they didn't want.

Then, as now, students supported PIE and invited them to speak and lecturers opposed.  The parallels are fascinating.

BBC article here:  https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-26352378

NCCL / PIE links here:  https://theconversation.com/the-paedophile-information-exchange-was-a-product-of-a-different-time-and-culture-23735

Mountain 21 November 21 16:29

Question above: Why is Stonewall against open debate? Why did such a large number of barristers try and stop fair debate? Who benefits from this?

Suzanne Moore, who was forced out of the Guardian for daring to challenge the zealots on this issue, published a blog yesterday answering just this question. See https://suzannemoore.substack.com/p/stonewall-crumbles-prick-news-settles

Extract (highlights added):

[...] now more people may begin to understand why Stonewall and that crew has held onto its ‘no debate’ policy for so long. While they hand out incorrect advice on the law to those who have signed up to their Diversity Champions Scheme, they have always refused to actually debate those who question their current stance, even if those people are founding members of their organisation. No debate is a tactic [Stonewall's strategy document admits that they are] unlikely to win popular support but that one of the ways to push through changes in law is to avoid media exposure. Keep the press out in other words. Introduce legislation by sleight of hand .

It all a bit “ Don’t let the daylight in upon the magic of the monarchy”. To believe in the monarchy one has to not to look too closely and believe a lot of absolute rubbish. It’s the same with gender identity nonsense. If you hold it near a light source, it simply melts. As a belief system: gender is just a feeling in your head and a fuzzy one at that.

[...] something is shifting. The more people understand this discussion the more they see that ‘trans rights’ is not the only issue in town and begin to respect the fact that women need boundaries.  You would have to be highly stupid not to have seen this before now. But then no one has wanted you to see it. That’s been the strategy for a long time and now it's falling apart.

Pah! 22 November 21 07:59

There's only one thing you need to know about Stonewall and the trans rights movement and it can be explained clearly in the photograph linked to below.



Anonymous 22 November 21 09:05

According to Ellie Mae O'Hagan, who claims to speak for the majority of women... "I actually don't know why some people are women and some people are men.  No-one on this panel does and anyone who claims to know the answer to that question is a liar."

What kind of nonsense is this?  Is this the essence of trans rights?

Do they think that we all have an immortal soul that has a gender, hence we can be born in "the wrong body"?  Or do sex and gender not exist?  It's fantastical nonsense based on some vague woo-woo about "respecting people for who they really are".  But who you "really are" changes from year to year, day to day, even minute to minute.

If this is the intellectual foundation of trans ideology then I'm genuinely embarrassed for the lot of them.  You can see Ellie Mae O'Hagan making these remarkable comments (I'd prefer to call them admissions) here https://twitter.com/BBCPolitics/status/1460942680440061954 - an interview on the BBC Politics Live show. 

Anonymous 22 November 21 10:37

I love Suzanne Moore and Hadley Freeman. It’s interesting how all the “gender critical feminists”, are incredibly smart, articulate and brilliant people and the ones on the other side of this debate, well, aren’t. 

Anonymous 24 November 21 09:25

Great insight Warren.

Next up, what input could barristers possibly have about paedophilia? Let's just get the real experts, kiddy fiddlers, in and they can do all the drafting for the next set of child abuse laws. Lawyers out.

Glad we've got you around to keep us on the straight and narrow.

Anonymous 24 November 21 09:43

Is there any harm in hearing views of which you disapprove? Freedom of speech is not about saying nice things with which everyone agrees. I think we need to dial this down a couple of notches. If you agree - great, if you disagree - also great, but at least you can say you've heard the opposing view and know why you disagree.

DeSelby 25 November 21 22:32

A lot of what is written above is inaccurate and quite unpleasant. I knew sod all about trans issues until a NY Times podcast put me on to the following youtube commentator, who is really quite brilliant and wonderfully entertaining on trans issues; as well as even-handed and measured in her analysis. Her name is Contrapoints. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7gDKbT_l2us

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