Last month, the University of Leicester published a lengthy document that gave ‘Trans Inclusive Culture‘ guidance to museums, galleries and other arts institutions. The aim was to help these organisations be “more ambitious and confident in advancing trans inclusion”.
The guidance was unanchored from any attempt at moderation or balance and therefore caught the attention of the national press. It seemed to imply that arts organisations should nudge, indeed even shove, aside their core remits of display and preservation, research and education, and instead refocus resources onto the promotion of ‘EDI’, identity politics and, in particular, gender ideology. For example, the guidance suggests that museums should “ensure your allyship and support for the trans community is permanently visible”. Another example: forget our established language from across millennia, forget that we are a biologically sexed species: the guidance suggests museums should use “gender-inclusive language in shaping all elements of public programming”. More of the unanchored over-reach here, worth reading in full…
The difficulties are obvious. This isn’t the purpose of a museum or art gallery – they are not engines of ideology promotion. Imagine if an institution, following the same logic, balanced the “permanent visibility” of transgenderism with equally “permanent visibility” of all nine protected characteristics under the Equality Act. Art institutions would become agitprop shops. What about those who don’t want to see ourselves reduced to our membership of identity groups, don’t want to see the world through the lens of identity politics?
Curiosity piqued, I submitted an FOI request to the U.K. Research and Innovation quango to see how much we taxpayers had contributed to the creeping demise of free thought and quirky diversity inside our museum spaces. Not too bad; a mere £7,300 of taxpayer’s cash helped to pay for this nonsense at Leicester.
But what is more concerning is that this small grant was part of a huge grant of £1.25 million to the University of Leicester – which seems to have come with virtually no strings attached.
Now imagine if the ‘Trans Museum Guidance’ is indicative of the quality and content of the wider research going on in these universities. Thirty universities received the same-sized grant for the same period. This is at a time where household budgets are severely squeezed, as are state finances, with taxes and national debt at unprecedented levels. And the Tories can’t think of any savings? I can.
The public commentary on the ‘Trans Museum Guidance’ prompted Richard Sandell, Co-Director of the ‘Research Centre for Museums and Galleries’ and one of the guidance’s authors, to issue, along with other authors, a public statement rebutting negative commentary.
The public statement is disingenuous. A number of points upon which it would be good to hear back from Sandell…
The statement says that the guidance “offers cultural organisations clear and practical steps to fulfil their legal duties”. This is a reference to the guidance’s over-interpretation of the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) contained in the Equality Act to justify ‘permanent’ promotion of transgenderism in public museums. I have outlined previously how the guidance does this. This from the guidance, for example, is not the mere fulfilment of legal duties: “How can we develop trans-inclusive displays, events and public programming? By resisting partial and limiting engagement with trans lives by embracing the challenge of thinking trans-inclusively across all public spaces and programming.”
If academics and organisations are going to continue to place no boundaries or upper limits around the use of the PSED to justify the promotion of their identitarian agendas, the PSED has to go, in full. Policy Exchange has recently recommended this.
Next, on the issue of toilets, the ‘rebuttal’ statement says: “On the always sensitive topic of toilets, a number of comments have misrepresented the Guidance. Nowhere does the Guidance recommend gender neutral toilets. It recommends separate male and female toilets as well as all gender toilets – an approach that is widely supported by people with widely divergent views on gender and trans inclusion.”
That’s funny because the guidance says this:
Will Sandell make a public statement correcting his public statement?
On the topic of gender critical beliefs and freedom of speech and conscience, the statement says this: “Since the Guidance is not a legal document, we did not include all potentially relevant cases, but pointed to the leading case of Forstater as the primary source of the rule that gender critical beliefs are protected under the Equality Act.”
But then why does the guidance suggest this without proviso? Where does this advice leave gender-critical employees who do not want to be frowned upon for not wanting to refer to men as women?
On the topic of balance, the statement says this: “Some articles have claimed the Guidance is flawed and unbalanced because it takes sides. It is important to recognise that initiatives to improve trans inclusion are not discriminating against individuals or groups which have other protected characteristics.”
However, many women feel that instructions like this below lead to the erasure of women and women’s concerns and that this is discriminating. Can Sandell argue that it really does not do so?
And then there is this ‘example scenario’. How can it be argued that this does not take a side? Of course it does. How does suggesting that a meeting of gender critical women “demands a level of organisation readiness” not take a side?
On the role of museums, Sandell and colleagues say:
Museums can be rare spaces in the public realm where we can manifest and model inclusion and equity, where diverse citizens come together to explore and connect, to engage and understand, to express themselves (in ways that are civil and that do not discriminate against or harm others) and to celebrate differences.
This is the aspiration of EDI at its worst – EDI must be foregrounded; we should go to museums not to look at exhibits or to learn about the past, but to ‘express’ ourselves and to ‘celebrate differences’. Sandell and colleagues seem to want to reduce all museums to the sad sameness of agitprop. And yet you still hope that I am making it up:
Multiply the above by the full nine protected characteristics of the Equality Act and then apply the Public Sector Equality Duty to all (without limit).
How can we challenge this ideological drear weighing down upon our institutions with a damp grey blanket of suffocation and sameness? Take an axe to the funding of research by UKRI at our universities till they have cleaned up their acts, demonstrably. Repeal the sections in the Equality Act covering the Public Sector Equality Duty. Let museums and art galleries focus on tanks and Beatrix Potter and ancient lace. And we humans on being moral equals, but individually unique.
Caroline Ffiske is a Director of Conservatives for Women. Find her on X (Twitter).