Edward Lord Responds on Single Sex Spaces – and that survey

Edward Lord, Deputy of the City of London wrote to Liz Truss saying that based on a City of London survey “the findings are clear” single sex spaces should be open to people of the opposite sex based on gender identity.

“Shortly after taking up my current role in the City of London, the Corporation launched its own consultation in respect of transgender inclusion to inform our policy on gender identity in our service delivery and employment practices. This was in response to concerns expressed by some anti-trans campaigners who challenged the Corporation’s interpretation of the Equality Act to permit trans women to use the Highgate Women’s Pond on Hampstead Heath.

As part of the policy formulation exercise, we put out an open access online opinion survey asking a range of questions about attitudes towards trans people and their access to public services. The findings were very clear. Of the 21,191 respondents who completed our survey (of whom 53% were women):

68% agreed that ‘a person who consistently identifies with a gender (being different from the gender assigned to them at birth) should be able to access services commonly provided to that gender’; and

Women were in a majority of all of those positive responses.

Edward Lord, Letter to Liz Truss

The findings are clear?

You may remember that survey. Here is the report from it.

The survey process was overseen by Edward Lord, Chairman of the Establishment Committee of the City of London Corporation who has strong views on this topic. As Lord says in their letter to Liz Truss they view they view people who raised concerns at the loss of single sex spaces as “anti-trans campaigners”. Those who agreed with Lord’s view they call “positive responses”.

Edward Lord who identifies as neither wholly male or female

The headline finding is that 68% of respondents agree that a person who “consistently identifies with a gender which is different from the one they were assigned at birth should be able to access services commonly provided to the gender with which they now identify”

Around a quarter disagree. One of the members of the “Establishment Committee” commented that those who disagree need to have their attitudes changed, and asked for details of the answers from city workers.

A Member commented that he would encourage officers to question the responses which were least in agreement with the questions posed in the survey, particularly if those were City of London workers. The Member added that in order to change attitudes, it is necessary to understand why people hold certain views, and asked officers to look at getting those answers.

Establishment Committee Meeting Minutes, December 2018

Lord blocks anyone who so much as follows accounts that disagree with their view that single sex spaces are exclusionary.

As last count at least 1,821 people that had been blocked by Edward Lord, of which 83% were women, only 5% had ever interacted with the elected politician.

An oddly discrete survey

The survey was mainly promoted by being tweeted from Edward Lord’s twitter account. As University College London social sciences professor Alice Sullivan, pointed out at the time, the consultation was been handled in an “oddly discreet way”.

“Apparently it was first tweeted in early July but I did not find out about it until early August,” she added. “They only informed the Parliament Hill running track users group about the consultation after I prompted them to do so, yet it affects the track changing rooms. As a survey researcher, I know a good survey asks specific questions in clear English. This consultation does not do that. It asks vague questions which many people won’t understand.”

Alice Sullivan, UCL Professor

Confusing language

The survey does not explain which services the city of London manages and therefore what kinds of services and situations the questions cover in practice. 

A sign at one of Hampstead Heath’s previously single sex ponds

The survey conflated sex and gender and uses confusing language such as “gender assigned at birth”. Most ordinary people would have no idea what this relates to: is it intersex people? People who have had ‘sex change operations’? Few would have an inkling that it could just mean people who have changed their pronouns.

This was raised before the survey closed by several respondents . Marcus Roberts of the City of London told them:  

“Regarding the survey, we need to review our use of the terms “sex” and “gender” to ensure we are getting this right going forward. However with the survey now live, I am confident that it allows respondents to make the points that you make in your e-mail – including raising concerns about the language of the survey (using the free text boxes). We will then reflect on these responses as part of  our review of how we should take policy forward.”

Marcus Roberts Head of Strategy and Performance, Department of Community and Children’s Service, City of London

Nothing was ever heard again about clarifying this.

So who answered the survey?

Since the survey mainly went out though Edward Lord’ networks the survey responses are severely skewed. Young people were overrepresented with 12 responses from 18 to 35  year olds for every one from over 45 year olds. Nearly a quarter of the respondents said they are bisexual (23%), a very high proportion compared to the general population. Replies from people not living anywhere near the City of London swamped those that came from residents of the City of London’s housing estates or users of services such as the atheletics changing rooms and ponds on Hampstead Heath .

While the survey was self selecting rather than a representative survey, it would at least be possible to break down the results by different demographic groups – in practice the independent consultants only report the headline that twice as many respondents agree with the proposal “that where facilities are restricted by gender, those restriction should relate to the gender with which the service user consistently identifies now”. Given the clear a lack of representativeness the survey respondents there is no validity to this finding. 

The Equality Act?

The survey was analysed by a firm called “Smart Consult” who operate out of a mailbox in East London. They said “Comments that are abusive, discriminatory and/or contrary to the Equality Act 2010 have not been used in this report.”

Smart Consult’s address

How did they know which comments were “contrary to the Equality Act?” It seems they asked the City Corporation.

Some felt that the consultation was inconsistent with the Equality Act 2010 in the way it used the terms ‘sex’ and ‘gender’” a claim that was considered and rejected by the City Corporation. 

Smart Consult survey report

Who was that then?

That would be Edward Lord, as October 2018 minutes of the committee meeting showed:

“The Chair explained that access to the Corporation’s services and facilities is not an area where the Corporation would have much discretion, and nor should it. It was explained that the Equality Act 2010, ensures that trans people, or those with the protected characteristic of ‘gender reassignment’ should not be discriminated against in any service or facility and public authorities like the City of London Corporation have a legal duty to ensure trans people are included through all of its services. The Chair further advised that this is what the policy refresh is about: giving all of the City of London Corporation’s services and facilities a policy framework together with support and guidance to ensure that trans and non-binary people have equal access.”

Establishment Committee, October 2018

The ‘independent consultant’s report states that restricting access to services depending on ‘biological sex’ “would be inconsistent with the Equality Act 2010, other than in exceptional circumstances”. They do not reference this statement and it seems likely that they are simply repeating back what they have been told by their client. 

So in summary:

  • The survey was massively skewed towards Edward Lord’s personal networks and away from the many women they have blocked on social media.
  • Older people were particularly underrepresented.
  • The survey’s language was incomprehensible most people would not understand what was being proposed.
  • The interpretation of the Equality Act in the independent consultants report is not referenced to any lawyers, and seems to be Edward Lord’s view.
  • Comments which disagreed with this interpretation of the Equality Act were not included in the report.
  • Still over a quarter of respondents disagreed with the proposition that access to single sex services should be based on gender identity. Their responses were not deemed to matter. The Establishment Committee instead discussed how to change their attitudes.

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