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Reactions to PCC’s Mail on Sunday Comments on Trans Women in Female-only Environments

Published on: 24 Aug, 2021
Updated on: 27 Aug, 2021

PCC Lisa Townsend

By Julie Armstrong

local democracy reporter

Surrey’s police and crime commissioner has been accused of being transphobic after she criticised LGBTQ+ charity and campaign group Stonewall but women’s refuge organisers have defended her.

Stonewall’s vision is that people born male who identify as women should be able to attend women’s prisons and crisis centres, whether or not they have begun to transition.

Lisa Townsend, who has been the Conservative  PCC role for three months, said in an interview for Mail on Sunday that pushing to allow pre-transition trans women in such female-only environments was a “dangerous ideology”.

Mrs Townsend said when she stood for election earlier this year, concern about gender self-identification was “the single biggest issue that filled up my inbox”, and scores of women have responded on Twitter to her interview, thanking her for her “bravery in standing up for women”.

Cllr George Potter

But Pride in Surrey said they want to work with the PCC “to educate on the issue of transphobia”, while Surrey councillor George Potter (Lib Dem, Guildford East) accused the PCC outright of being transphobic.

In the Mail interview, Mrs Townsend, whose role involves acting as a bridge between the Surrey Police and the public, said: “Police forces, in an attempt to correct many of the wrongs committed against minorities in the past, are being naive if they believe that Stonewall are anything but a well-funded lobby group for a dangerous ideology that threatens the safety of our women and girls.”

She said she is a believer in absolute equality and had once been proud to support Stonewall, but it had “drifted so far from its original mission” that it was “now a threat to women and risks putting feminism back 50 years”.

Having visited organisations helping domestic abuse survivors, she said: “The one thing that comes through every time is how terrified they are of being forced to admit males.

“These services are life-saving, and to many of the women who use them it is vital they stay single-sex.”

She added: “Everybody has told me not to speak-out about this, that the debate is incendiary, but if women like me can’t or don’t speak up, who will?”

Marc Jones, chair of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC),  came to her defence, saying: “Some services quite simply can’t function in a gender neutral way”, which Reigate MP Crispin Blunt said was an “evidence-free panicked response”.

Fiamma Pather is CEO of Your Sanctuary, a Surrey charity for survivors of domestic abuse which has single-sex refuges.

She told the LDRS: “Everybody can’t be lumped into one and supported, it just doesn’t work.”

She said everyone is deserving of support and their outreach service and helpline is there for everyone but “one size does not fit all”.

“The sound of a male voice can be absolutely terrifying when they’ve been subjected to violence from males and shouting in a loud, deep voice,” she said. “When you hear that again it brings back that trauma, so they need some time.”

“Unfortunately people are very quick to jump on the bandwagon that if you’re pro-women-only spaces then you’re automatically transphobic. I think people don’t always understand the nuances and it’s a pity debate is often shut down.”

Charlotte Kneer, CEO of Reigate and Banstead Women’s Aid, also said gender-neutral services do not work for women who have suffered domestic abuse.

She said: “Lisa came out to one of our refuges and was interested to know what the women who live there thought about the subject. We found her to be very supportive and wanting to listen and make a difference.

“We should be listening to the voices of the vulnerable women in the refuges. Even if their views could be seen as unpalatable to some, they’re vulnerable and their views should be taken into account.”

Stonewall did not respond directly to the PCC’s criticism but instead defended its diversity champions programme: “We are proud of our work with over 900 organisations to help them create inclusive working environments where LGBTQ+ staff can thrive as themselves”.

Surrey Police pays a membership fee to Stonewall for this programme and said it will continue to be a member.

A spokesperson said “Stonewall has been, and continues to be, a force for good in Surrey” by helping them to understand LGBTQ+ identities and experiences and advise on inclusion.

The Police and Crime Commissioner’s Office told the LDRS: “Lisa would like to add that she has not [as MailOnline reported], and would not ‘demand’ that Surrey Police stop using Stonewall, but that she has made her views very clear from day one.”

A Surrey Police spokesperson added: “The Force has put in place a broad and robust range of activity to help protect women and girls from violence; such appalling behaviour has no place in society and we work hard as a Force and with other organisations to combat this, through prevention and safeguarding, and by targeting offenders and doing all we can to bring them to justice.

“The Force will continue to follow the guidelines set out under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act and the College of Policing’s Authorised Professional Practice to ensure that any individuals who identify as trans and non-binary subject to detention and/or searches are treated respectfully and that the correct procedures are followed in order to determine their preferred gender.”

Pride in Surrey have requested a meeting with the PCC. They said they valued Surrey Police’s “long-standing support for the LGBTQ+ community” and rejected the idea that the PCC’s comments were representative of the Surrey public.

Pride promoter Kel Finan-Cooke said: “We know all too well that the views of the elected, political Commissioner do not represent those of the overwhelming majority of police officers or the public in Surrey.

“Often people’s views are based on misinformation and it is part of our remit to assist people within all areas of society in gaining access to the facts. Pride in Surrey wishes to work with the office of the PCC to educate on the issue of transphobia.”

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test One Response to Reactions to PCC’s Mail on Sunday Comments on Trans Women in Female-only Environments

  1. Stuart Barnes Reply

    August 25, 2021 at 9:36 am

    Well done to Mrs Townsend for stating her sensible views.

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