Rule of silence

Nov 16, 2021 by

By Sarah Phillimore, The Critic:

[…] The rule of law and those who defend it are often under attack by those who wish to sweep away all annoying restrictions on their doing exactly as they like. It is therefore even more distressing and disappointing to see some in my own profession apparently now careless of its importance and wishing to silence views they find “offensive” rather than offer any counter argument.

On 15 November an anonymous group of barristers wrote to the Master Treasurer of the Middle Temple to express their “profound disappointment” that the inaugural Middle Temple LBGTQ+ annual dinner and discussion now included as a speaker the female barrister Naomi Cunningham, co-founder of Sex Matters alongside Maya Forstater, who has publicly objected to the conflation of sex and gender and the denial of single sex spaces for women.

Her inclusion was apparently so “profoundly disappointing” because the letter writers assert the event had been intended for members and their guests to “celebrate and get glitter on their lapels”. This attempt to reframe the event as some big group hug cannot survive its original title, advertised as “the fight to ban gay conversion therapy”, including the CEO of Stonewall as guest speaker. This was therefore manifestly a political gathering, held during the Government’s bizarrely truncated consultation period on its proposals to ban “conversion therapy”.

Cunningham was singled out for particular criticism for using “demeaning and insulting” language about a trans woman, which appears to have been nothing more than referring to this person as a “man” and “he”. That this person had also suggested that female rape victims who objected to male bodied people at a Rape Crisis Centre should “re-frame their trauma” might also be considered grossly insulting and demeaning to others, but unsurprisingly, no comment was made about that.

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