News in this afternoon, via a statement on their web site and an email to those that complained, is that Conway Hall have cancelled the booking for the controversial RadFem2012 conference.
The statement is quite interesting, in that it includes the line “In addition, we are not satisfied it conforms with the Equality Act (2010)” and – this is the interesting bit – “We had sought assurances that the organisers would allow access to all“. Note they don’t say “transwomen”, they say “all”: it’s as much about excluding men from a feminist conference being unlawful as it is transwomen, which is right and proper.
Basically, you can run a women-only workshop as part of a conference for rape victims. You can run a cis-only workshop for partners of trans people. These are good ideas and, as long as sensitively handled, to be encouraged.
You absoultely can not run a whole conference on the basis that you hate transwomen, men and anyone who identifies as anything other than pure female so much you’re going to exclude them.
From an activism point of view, it’s good to note that the legal advice received by venues hosting events such as this is sufficient to make them think twice and I also see that the RadFem2012 web site currently mentions simply that “the venue has been changed”. I suspect they’ll only tell paid-up attendees where it is this time, and try to keep it from everyone else.
Following the fuss on Friday, and a message I sent Conway Hall, I’ve had a response via EMail – they’ve also said much the same on Twitter.
My initial message was:
I was somewhat surprised to see your response to inquiries about hosting the upcoming RadFem2012 conference, suggesting that (In likely contravention of the Equality Act 2010) your non-discrimination policy does not extend to Transgendered folk.
I note that previously, you have acted against discrimination at events you host and seem happy to publicise this such as whan a radical Islamic group ran an event in 2009. Is your official policy that discrimination against Trans people is somehow a lesser problem than discrimination against women?
And the reply:
Thank you for all of your comments regarding the proposed RadFem 2012 event which has been booked at Conway Hall in July.
We are aware that there are strong feelings on the issue and recognise the conflict of opinion amongst the feminist and LGBT community as a result. We are in dialogue with both the organisers of RadFem 2012 and Camden LGBT forum in order to help resolve the issue.
As an organisation we do not have any actively exclusionary HR or lettings policies. This similarly applies to our status as a venue for hire.
As such we are currently seeking legal advice as to the status of the proposed event as it pertains to the Equalities Act (2010) and will provide an update on the matter in due course.
This doesn’t sound too helpful: Their position currently seems to be that if it’s legal, they’ll let it go ahead. I’ve mailed them back to check if that’s really the case.
Conway Hall, who have close links with the National Secular Society and British Humanists Association, have landed themselves in a spot of bother over their hosting of the upcoming “RadFem2012” conference in London. For those not in the know, many (Not all!) radical feminists are openly and unapologetic transphobic, using inappropriate pronouns for trans folk and excluding them from gendered spaces when ever possible. Recently, people associated with RadFem2012 have taken to publicly outing Trans people, including writing to potential employers to let them know they’re hiring a Trans person.
A number of people have been talking about running a protest outside the event in July and a few people contacted the hosts, Conway Hall, to enquire about their support of the event. Their reply has many people rightly annoyed, stating that it’s all about protecting “vulnerable groups” and thus fine by them. Inconveniently for Conway Hall, they have acted against misogyny at events they host in the past, such as in 2009. They also seem happy to advertise that, which would suggest that whilst they’re keen to publicly announce their strong anti-discrimination policy, that policy does not extend to Trans folk.
(This may also be unlawful under the Equalities Act 2010, by the way)
If you’d like to complain, Conway Hall have a contact form or you con contact them on Twitter. Their CEO is also on Twitter, if you’d like to contact him direct.
Updates: There is also a list of Trustees you can contact on the Charity Commission web site, although I do not know any of them myself, along with an email address: email@example.com.
Emma Brownbill points out that Andrew Copson on the Trustee list is chair of the British Humanist Association. He is on Twitter at @andrewcopson