UK

Head of Britain’s equalities watchdog says she doesn’t know what ‘transphobe’ means

Vic Parsons February 15, 2022
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EHRC chair Kishwer Falkner speaks tot eh camera

Baroness Kishwer Falkner, chair of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission. (YouTube/ UBS Centre)

The head of Britain’s disgraced equalities watchdog, Kishwer Falkner, is facing fresh calls to resign after admitting she doesn’t know what the word “transphobe” means.

In a 14 February interview with Holyrood magazine, Falkner was asked directly if she is “a transphobe”.

“I don’t know what the meaning of that word is,” Falkner replied. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which Falkner heads, is responsible for promoting and upholding equality and human rights ideals and laws across England, Scotland and Wales.

Asked again about the word transphobe, which the interviewer said “gets bandied around a lot at the moment, though, doesn’t it?”, Falkner replied: “Too much… too much.”

The EHRC has been heavily criticised in the last few weeks, with every major LGBT+ charity in the UK adding its name to a call for the body to be downgraded that was “prompted by the EHRC’s recent, and significant, change in stance on the issue of trans rights”.

Stonewall and the Good Law Project, along with 20 other organisations, have submitted evidence to the UN showing that the EHRC is no longer “credible” or “fit for purpose”.

These moves came after the supposedly independent equalities watchdog recommended halting gender recognition reform in Scotland and advised that a ban on trans conversion therapy be delayed.

Leaks revealed how the EHRC met with anti-trans lobby groups, and the body has seen an exodus of staff, with workers describing how it has become “transphobic” and “the enemy of human rights”.

Amid this, Falkner not being able to define the word “transphobe” has sparked disbelief among LGBT advocates – and another wave of calls for her to resign.

Kishwer Falkner ‘cannot lead’ equalities watchdog, LGBT+ activists say

After Kishwer Falkner made the admission that she doesn’t know what the word “transphobe” means, she faced fresh calls from LGBT+ advocates to resign from her post – who also pointed out that there has never been an openly trans commissioner at the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

Referencing Falkner’s comments about the word “transphobe”, Baroness Liz Barker, a Lib Dem who is LGBT+ spokesperson in the House of Lords, tweeted: “By your own admission you cannot lead the EHRC.”

A presenter for Trans Radio UK, also quoting Falkner’s comments, added: “THIS IS THE PERSON MEANT TO BE PROTECTING PEOPLE FROM TRANSPHOBIA!”

A researcher with the Trans Safety Network, a grassroots group that tracks anti-trans hate in the UK, said Falkner’s comments “should raise alarm bells”.

These calls follow months of heavy criticism of the EHRC, which have seen Falkner and the rest of the commissioners told they should quit their posts over perceived institutional transphobia in the organisation.

According to Collins dictionary, a transphobe is “someone who fears or hates transgender people”.

More: EHRC, Kishwer Falkner

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