Expelled from GirlGuiding because of my Gender Critical Beliefs

by Katie Alcock

Expelled from GirlGuiding because of my Gender Critical Beliefs

by Katie Alcock
Katie Alcock
Case Owner
I was a Guider for 10 years until Girlguiding withdrew my membership, saying I would put safeguarding ahead of their policies. I'm raising money to put this right.
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Katie Alcock
Case Owner
I was a Guider for 10 years until Girlguiding withdrew my membership, saying I would put safeguarding ahead of their policies. I'm raising money to put this right.
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Latest: July 29, 2020

Girlguiding has written to my lawyers...

... to say that they object to my statement on this page that my daughter is prevented from attending Rainbows because of my expulsion.  The reason she is prevented is because many Rainbows even…

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I'm Katie Alcock, a former Guider (Rainbow, Brownie and Guide leader) in the North West of England, mother of two primary aged children and feminist. I'm also a lecturer and researcher in developmental psychology.

I was expelled from Girlguiding as a leader after a lengthy and stressful investigation into my social media activity. I appealed and the social media allegations were withdrawn but my membership was still withheld.

In September 2018, the press reported that Helen Watts and "another Guider" were expelled from the Guiding movement because of supposed breaches of social media guidelines - expressing the view that Girlguiding had gone wrong on policies relating to transgender individuals. At the time, only Helen was named.  

I am the other Guider who was expelled and I am taking Girlguiding to court over my expulsion but I need your help to fund my case. Please contribute and share this page with your friends, family and on social media.  

I believe that gender is a system of stereotypes, and that individuals cannot change sex from male to female by simply stating that their gender identity is that of a woman or girl while their biological sex is male. 

These beliefs are shared by many people and are usually referred to as Gender Critical Beliefs. It was for expressing those beliefs that I was expelled from Girlguiding.


Case Background

The outcome letter to the appeal justified my expulsion on the grounds that I had said I would put safeguarding ahead of the letter of Girlguiding policy on transgender issues, if a conflict arose. In other words, I identified that Girlguiding had imposed a hierarchy consisting of transgender issues and safeguarding, and placed transgender issues at the top of that hierarchy.  Not only do I feel that this was wrong and contrary to the fundamental principles of Girlguiding (as well as basic child safeguarding principles), I think it was discriminatory against me as a person with Gender Critical Beliefs to expel me for this.  

I was also worried that girls who identify as boys would be excluded from Guiding and that their policies said any child who was trans and who was doing something risky (contacting a stranger on the internet, taking medication that had not been prescribed for them) must have their confidences kept because leaders were never allowed to disclose that someone is trans. Following Helen Watts' and my and other leaders' pressure these particular policies have now been changed.

I am very glad that these errors in the previously policy have been addressed, but I am aggrieved that my role in correcting this has been ignored and that I have effectively been expelled for it. 

I felt that some aspects of Girlguiding policy needed rethinking in the light of their acceptance of self-identity as proof that someone is female, which clashes with my gender critical beliefs. The issues are particularly important around safeguarding, where parents cannot know that their daughter is sharing changing or sleeping facilities with with a person who has the physical attributes of a man or boy but says they identify as a woman or girl. Adult men who say they identify as women will be allowed to share sleeping facilities with and do intimate care for young girls.

This meant that the Girlguiding policy required us as adults in charge of children to deliberately withhold information from the children’s parents and guardians.  Again, this was something that I felt was inherently wrong and contrary to the fundamental principles of Girlguiding.

There are also remain outstanding issues around membership. My view is that girls are given a raw deal in society because of society's view of girls as a sex, and that any differences in how girls act and dress stem from this. A boy or man who prefers to behave in a feminine way, or who thinks of themselves as a girl or woman, doesn't become a girl or woman, and shouldn't be able to be a member of a girl-only space. A person who transitions as an adult from a man to a woman has not had to experience the inherent and latent societal sexism that girls and women the same age have experienced all their lives.  Of course trans people can face terrible discrimination, and I would love that to change.  But not all forms of discrimination are the same, and the Equality Act recognises different protected characteristics for this reason.

The protected characteristic on which Girlguiding relies to have a girl-only space is "sex" - a biological characteristic. Children can't legally change their sex (they can't obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate) and most trans adults don't do this either. So Girlguiding is opening its membership up to legal and biological male children and adults. This means that Girlguiding’s 100 year history as a single sex organisation has been overturned and replaced with the belief system of gender self identification.

I have not sought out this conflict with Girlguiding.  I feel that I have applied Girlguiding principles: the Guide promise - which I have recited in Girlguiding meetings hundreds of times – is:

"I promise that I will do my best, to be true to myself and develop my beliefs, to serve the Queen and my community, to help other people and to keep the Guide Law."  

That is precisely what I have done throughout this conflict, and what I am doing in bringing this claim.

But this has had an effect not just on me.  My 5 year old daughter cannot join Rainbows because of the withdrawal of my membership. She talks about wanting to go on Rainbow sleepovers and I am not allowed to accompany her to any meetings, outings, or residentials.

Other parents are allowed to do this - in fact it's an essential part of running a Rainbow unit to have parents help out - and she particularly needs this due to her age and her additional support needs.  Girlguiding’s reaction to my beliefs has therefore denied my daughter the experiences that other 5 year olds would have.  I did not even suspect that this would be the outcome when I raised my concerns, but it makes me even more determined to see this through and correct the injustice that has been done.

What am I trying to achieve? 

Girlguiding have said that the organisation is open to any person, including men and boys, who says they are a woman. We believe that this is against the Equality Act 2010 which allows only for single sex organisations, not organisations based on a gender identity. It also excludes those who do not believe they have an inner sense of being a girl or a woman - a "gender essence" - or that others have one. Girlguiding are not supposed to exclude women who hold any other beliefs - religious, political - but it has given no explanation as to why Gender Critical Beliefs are incompatible with Guiding

In fact, this policy excludes girls and women from religious backgrounds who need a single sex environment due to the beliefs of their faith. In the case of children, their parents' religious practices are not their choice and taking away this single sex opportunity narrows the horizons of girls from religious and ethnic minorities.

I have written to Girlguiding to let them know that I would like a small amount of compensation for the investigation and withdrawal of membership, reinstatement of membership, and a statement that I am not to blame. I want Girlguiding to make it clear that I am a good Guider and that I have done nothing wrong. 

What is the next step in the case?

At this point (July 2019) we are still waiting to hear from Girlguiding in response to my claim letter. 

How much we are raising and why?

I am aiming to instruct Peter Daly of Slater and Gordon, who is acting for Maya Forstater in her claim based on the same gender critical beliefs.  He has already been supporting me and is keen to be formally instructed for the Court proceedings.  In the first instance I am seeking to raise £5,000 to enable the claim to be drafted and lodged. 

As there is another case based on Gender Critical Beliefs already in process this means that the path that my case will take is not clear.  At the time of writing, Girlguiding has not responded to my Letter of Claim, so I don’t know what their position is on any of these issues.  But I have to prepare myself for potentially a long battle; and as my belief is still untested ground in the courts, I have to recognise the possibility that I could lose and potentially have to pay costs.  This is why I am setting a high stretch target.  

In the event that not all of the donations are used, I will donate anything outstanding to other Crowdjustice claimants bringing claims based on feminist or gender critical beliefs.

I know that Girlguiding is an important part of British women's history - and women worldwide grew up with Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. I have always said that until women are equally paid and no more likely to be subject to violence - there will be a space for Guiding as a girl-only movement. Girls themselves in Guiding want a girl only movement. I believe I speak for many leaders and girls in expressing my concerns publicly.

Thank you for your support. 

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Update 4

Katie Alcock

July 29, 2020

Girlguiding has written to my lawyers...

... to say that they object to my statement on this page that my daughter is prevented from attending Rainbows because of my expulsion.  The reason she is prevented is because many Rainbows events require parents helping to run meetings.  

Girls who are more dependent on their parents (as my daughter is) find it hard to participate without their parents having the option to attend for any part of a meeting or an event.  The terms of my expulsion are that I am prevented from doing so, even as a parent.  My daughter therefore cannot attend because, were she to do so, I could not be present.  She would inevitably be asked why her mummy cannot be there and why her mummy has to leave as soon as a meeting starts, when the other mummies do not.  

She is six years old.  She cannot be expected to explain the reason for my expulsion, and it would expose her to the risk of harm if she had to try to explain to her friends why I have been expelled.  This situation is particularly acute during lockdown, when meetings are taking place over video call, which requires a parent to participate for a young girl to realistically take any part.  I cannot be present, and therefore she cannot attend.

Update 3

Katie Alcock

July 24, 2020

Just a small victory for us.

I wanted to update you on a hearing in my case that took place on Tuesday (21 July). Girlguiding had applied for it to deal with various things.


Firstly, they wanted to overturn the “stay” (a delay) of the hearing that the Judge had ordered because Maya Forstater’s case overlaps with mine and is being dealt with by a higher court. We asked for a stay of my case until Maya’s is dealt with, because otherwise we would have had two courts deciding a very similar issue at the same time, which would have caused confusion. The Court had previously agreed with us, and ordered the stay without needing a hearing. Girlguiding wanted this overturned so asked for a hearing for this to be considered.


Secondly, they wanted to overturn the permission I had been granted to amend my claim. When I put my claim form in, before I had any lawyers, I had mistakenly referred to one aspect of my claim as being direct discrimination, rather than (the correct) indirect discrimination. Clearly better that I DO have lawyers!

This was only on the form itself – in the pleadings itself (the description of the case, which my lawyers helped prepare) we made it clear it was indirect discrimination. Girlguiding have not had any obvious problem with this, and have lodged a defence to my indirect indiscrimination claim. We had therefore applied to correct the mistake on the claim form to substitute “indirect” for “direct”, which the Court had agreed on the papers, without a hearing. But Girlguiding wanted this overturned too, so needed a hearing for this to be considered.


Thirdly, Girlguiding wanted at this hearing to arrange for another hearing to be listed, to separately determine whether my belief in Gender Critical Feminism is Protected under the Equality Act 2020.


There were also some case management issues – which “track” to assign the case to (so, small claims, county court etc.). Each track has slightly different rules. My case is a bit unusual. I’m not claiming for much in the way of damages – Injury to Feelings awards, the way that discrimination damages are measured, are arranged in bands. I am seeking an award in the lowest band, of £5,000. But it is a legally complex case, because the belief that I am relying on has not been determined before. The question of which track to apply could have been dealt with on the papers, but as we were having a hearing, it was dealt with at the hearing.


The long and the short of it is that we got everything we wanted. The stay was allowed, so was the amendment, and there won’t be a separate hearing to discuss my beliefs separately from the facts of my expulsion from Girlguiding. All in all, a good day in court (obviously video court!). Huge thanks to my barrister Adam Ohringer for his work.


One of things that stood out for me was the way that Girlguiding is dealing with the case. I was represented on Monday by my barrister. To keep costs down, and because the matters were straightforward, my solicitor decided it wasn’t necessary for him to attend, so it was just Adam. Given how the hearing went, that decision was definitely the right one.


But facing my barrister, on behalf of Girlguiding on the other side were:


  1. One QC (“silk”)
  2. One non-QC barrister (but a pretty senior one – 29 years experience as a barrister and, I am told, extremely well-respected in her field)
  3. Three more (!) lawyers or paralegals of one form or another from Girlguiding’s solicitors.


Before hearings like this,  both sides have to send in a costs schedule – basically a spreadsheet which sets out the costs the lawyers are charging their clients, so that the successful party can have their costs paid by the losing party at the end of the hearing. Ours came to just over £6,000. The Court ordered Girlguiding to pay most of this - £4,800 - back to us to be used later in the case (I am told that the Court only rarely orders the full amount of costs to be paid – it’s part of the policy of dissuading people from going to court where it can be avoided and so easing the pressure on the Courts system).

In comparison to our costs of £6,000, Girlguiding’s cost schedule showed that they had incurred costs for preparing and attending the hearing of nearly £33,000! Added to the amount they have to pay back for my costs, this means that the three hour hearing on Tuesday cost Girlguiding over £40,000, for which they got – well, nothing really.

But that’s not all. Girlguiding’s lawyers also submitted costs schedules for the work they have done on various other bits of the case up to now. This shows that they already spent £45,057.56 (not including the £4,800 they now need to repay to me) just on various procedural applications and the short hearing on Tuesday. As well as paying for drafting their defence, they may have spent nearly £100,000 so far, and we’ve not even really started yet.

If I lose – and I might, this is complicated law, and nothing is certain – I could be liable for their costs. Not for the £33,000 they would have claimed for Tuesday’s hearing if they’d won – that’s gone now, thankfully, because they got nothing they were asking for. But if they carry on like this, it’s likely that costs will continue to rack up on their side as the case progresses.

The pressure of taking on such a big organisation by myself is quite daunting, so I am incredibly grateful for all the support that I have received. Thank you all, it means the world.

But we’re not done yet, and I haven’t yet achieved the level of funding which means I will definitely be able to see this through.

But for now, everything is on ice pending the outcome of Maya’s appeal. Crossing everything for her Appeal Tribunal!

Katie

Update 2

Katie Alcock

June 28, 2020

What a weekend/month for gender critical cases!

Well, there's been a lot of interesting things going on recently!

- First, the government leaked that it was considering scrapping plans for "self-ID" - in other words, someone cannot say they are "the other sex" and legally become the other sex; legal sex changes remain a matter for scrutiny and evidence of commitment over a period of time. If Girlguiding wants to take just "legal" women, this would mean they could only take men who have legally "changed sex" by obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate - and no boys.

- This doesn't directly impact on my case because my case is mainly on the basis that I was expelled and victimised for my philosophical beliefs, and that I and other women who do not believe in an inherent gender identity cannot become Guide leaders, as this is a condition of being a Guide leader (you must be a woman who identifies as a woman). But it's not great news for them. 

- Then, just this weekend, the barrister Allison Bailey set up her CrowdJustice campaign to fund her case against her chambers and Stonewall, who she claims victimised her because of her gender critical beliefs. Sound familiar? Allison's crowdfunding page was taken down by CrowdJustice but has now been restored and she's met her stretch target of £60,000! Hurrah! But once we reach our targets on CrowdJustice we are supposed to be able to still raise money. It's hard to see why this is and it's particularly hard to see why the case had so many complaints when compared to mine and Maya Forstater's except... well... Allison's case is very high profile but she is also Black and a lesbian. Just pointing that out.

- One positive impact of this is that I can see how committed everyone is to the protection of gender critical beliefs. I have had at least £3000 in donations over the last 24 hours! I still have a way to go. I do need to wait for any major action until Maya's case is heard but it is possible my case may go to appeal and to a higher court - and that's going to be expensive.

- I'd also like to share with you how my daughter is doing. My son is in Scouting and he's been able to do a number of interesting badge activities during lockdown, and keeps looking at his badge book to tick off what he might get. Not so my daughter - she would be the right age for Rainbows, and her friends have been doing badges, having Zoom meetings and at-home sleepovers. She can't do this because her membership has been prevented by my expulsion. Now more than ever Guiding and Scouting are relying on parent participation - if you are the parent of a Guide or a potential Guide - any girl under 14 - let them know what you think of their policy.

- As well, of course, as donating to my case and sharing far and wide!

Update 1

Katie Alcock

Feb. 12, 2020

Wheels turning slowly in the background

I've been waiting... and waiting... and waiting to be able to give you all an update. I can finally tell you something but it's still not a finished story!

Maya Forstater, who has been appealing her dismissal on grounds of her gender critical beliefs, lost her case against her employers but has now lodged an appeal! (See Update 10).

You probably don't know the ins and outs but the Employment Tribunal is not what's called a "binding precedent" - another court can independently come to a different decision. So, though this decision is indicative, it's not binding over the court my case would be held in.

After Maya lost her case, Girlguiding told us that since my belief case is so similar to hers, we should withdraw my case. We declined to do so; because Maya is appealing her appeal will be held in a higher court than my case. This means that if Maya's appeal is successful, it is binding to the court that my case would be held in.

Confused? I am as well but Maya's appeal is really hopeful both for her obviously, but also for my case.

This is going to be a long haul, though. Maya's appeal is some way off and we can't make any firm plans for my case till after that. My fund is not looking too healthy also, and we need all the help we can get. Please share, Tweet, anything you can think of.

I have also asked again if Girlguiding will allow me to accompany my daughter to meetings, outings and sleepovers, and they have again not made any concession. This is massively disappointing to me and to my daughter, and is obviously extremely hard to explain to her and to her friends and their parents. 

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