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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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 I appealed and the social media allegations were withdrawn but my membership was still withheld.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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