The lies that have been concocted and that are blindly peddled about LGB Alliance – including the utter idiocy that they are somehow in league with the Heritage Foundation and receiving funding from the American Religious Right – are a simple continuation of the baseless anti-gay smears that characterised the early days of gay rights campaigning.
Some of those who “spread lies” do so while knowing what they say is untrue: indeed, they may have invented the fictions themselves. Others will “spread lies” because they have heard the fictions repeated so many times that they end up believing them to be true, and they don’t make the effort to fact-check first – perhaps sometimes because the malevolent impact of what they say is more important to them than whether the assertion is really true, or even likely to be true.
On 21 October, the day of the LGB Alliance conference, the high-profile LGBTQ+ campaigner Peter Tatchell seized the opportunity to tweet, “Boris Johnson thanks anti-trans LGB Alliance for its ‘incredible hard work’. He’s siding with the oppressors of trans people. The LGB Alliance collaborates with groups like Heritage Foundation that are anti-gay, anti-abortion & oppose same-sex marriage.”
We must assume that Mr Tatchell sincerely believes the nonsense he tweeted to be true, and that he has been successfully duped by the dishonest propaganda attacking LGB Alliance. However, a proper fact-check before issuing an ex cathedra accusation of this kind to his 95,000 followers would have revealed his intended accusation to be baseless and unjust.
My reverence for free speech and association is something that, completely inadvertently, has provided ammunition to the gender activists who started these malicious rumours, and I am pleased to have the opportunity to set the record straight as to how the false accusations about LGB Alliance and the Heritage Foundation first arose.
In May 2019, I spoke as a guest on a panel at the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC, flanked by two colleagues who also campaign for women’s and children’s rights. The title of our panel discussion was, “Casualties of surrogacy: Women for rent, infants for sale, LGBT rights for hijacking.” Although I then described myself as an “LGBT activist”, I was at that point not quite yet aware of the harm being caused by gender ideology. Today, I call myself a “gay rights activist” once more.
One colleague and I spoke about the exploitation of and dangers to women in the commercial surrogacy process, and another colleague spoke about the exploitation of women in prostitution. My focus was on opposing all forms of surrogacy as a gay man, as the LGBT+ lobby was starting to be instrumentalised by Big Fertility as a vehicle to promote commercial surrogacy.
The Heritage Foundation is a long-established American conservative think-tank that has always been strongly informed by a traditional religious ethos. I am myself a small-c mainstream conservative. However, whereas the Heritage Foundation takes a hard line with a blanket opposition to abortion, I support the legal right to abortion, according to the German model. Whereas the Heritage Foundation opposed gay marriage, I supported it and campaigned for it. Accepting an invitation to speak at the Heritage Foundation as a guest, where I spoke in defence of women’s and children’s rights, does not, of course, make me a “member” of the Heritage Foundation, or “linked” to the Heritage Foundation in any non-trivial way, or automatically “aligned” to the Heritage Foundation’s particular views on abortion or gay rights or anything else.
My visit to the Heritage Foundation was one where I was treated with respect and courtesy by everyone I met: a far cry from the vicious hatred I have experienced from gender ideology activists and their toxic propaganda vehicles. Freedom of speech is crucially important to me as a conservative. Many left-wing organisations deny anti-surrogacy campaigners (and gender-critical campaigners) a platform; and the offer from a conservative organisation of a platform, with a video reach to tens of thousands of viewers, is something I value in the service of promoting important causes.
Just as it is only the Conservative Party in the UK that is (albeit hesitantly) preventing the worst aspects of gender ideology becoming law, the conservatives are the only significant force in the USA battling against gender extremism in defence of women’s and children’s rights.
When I spoke at the Heritage Foundation, it was emphatically as a gay man. It is important to me as a gay man to try to model a positive image of gay people, to challenge stereotypes, and to show my support for socially responsible attitudes and behaviour. Social and religious conservatives have lesbian and gay children too. My hope is to demonstrate to conservatives who may think that being gay means being a slavish adherent to LGBTQ+ lobby ideology, that their children can be lesbian or gay without taking on the LGBTQ+ identity with its associated catechism and values.
Accepting an invitation to speak at the Heritage Foundation as a guest, where I spoke in defence of women’s and children’s rights, does not, of course, make me a “member” of the Heritage Foundation, or “linked” to the Heritage Foundation in any non-trivial way, or automatically “aligned” to the Heritage Foundation’s particular views on abortion or gay rights or anything else.
There are people on the political Left who assert that no one should ever accept a platform from, or have any dealings with, the Heritage Foundation, because of their position on abortion. It strikes me that gender ideologists might similarly warn against any non-adversarial contact or engagement with LGB Alliance because it exclusively centres sexual orientation. There would even be a similar case for gender-critical people boycotting such contact with Stonewall UK because of the very serious harm its gender ideology promotion does to women, children and gay people. If the no-platforming principle is applied consistently, then the possibility of respectful dialogue with political opponents becomes severely curtailed.
If we vilify and no-platform social conservatives and regard them as untouchables – as beneath contempt – when so many are perfectly willing to interact with lesbian and gay people courteously and thoughtfully, then we are missing an opportunity for respectful engagement, when we could change some minds and soften some views. We are also, I fear, abandoning their struggling lesbian and gay children and denying them the advantage we could potentially offer by presenting ourselves to their parents as positive alternative role models.
My conservative values centre freedom of speech, association, and belief, which means I need to be able to make my own decisions as to where I speak, and with whom. We are living in a no-platforming culture where it can be very difficult to find a platform for gender-critical views, or for opposition to surrogacy: exactly as was once the case when I entered gay activism in 1980, and we struggled to find any platform for expressing views and sharing accurate information about lesbian and gay rights. There is, perhaps, a lot to be said for respectful dialogue with people who may hold different views from oneself.
Of course, much gender activism is characterised by hostility, silencing, cancellation, deliberate obtuseness, threats, sexual verbal abuse, and mudslinging; and when that happens, respectful dialogue becomes impossible. However, at the Heritage Foundation, you can be sure that no one will call you four-letter words and tell you to do something unmentionable with one of their private body parts.
Little did I realise, though, the significance that my appearance on that Heritage Foundation panel in May 2019 was destined to take on only a few months later.
On Sunday 22 September 2019, I saw the Sunday Times article by Nicholas Hellen that also referenced a letter in the same edition from 22 signatories, including Simon Fanshawe, who had been an original founder of Stonewall UK. The letter criticised Stonewall for undermining women’s and girls’ sex-based rights and protections and for promoting gender ideology to children, and Mr Fanshawe was quoted as saying, “If Stonewall remains intransigent, there must surely now be an opening for a new organisation committed both to freedom of speech and to fact instead of fantasy […] It has the working title LGB Alliance”.
By this point, I was just beginning to realise how harmful gender ideology was and how much we, as lesbian and gay people, needed our movement back.
The Sunday Times article was very heartening, but I was immediately concerned that gender activists, seeing the public announcement of the new organisation’s name, would buy up the domain names for LGB Alliance and point them at hostile and pro-gender ideology sites: a common tactic. I contacted Simon Fanshawe with my concerns and, after gaining consent from the founders, immediately secured the relevant domain names, which I later transferred to LGB Alliance. Unfortunately, someone had already been quick and had grabbed the Twitter handle “@LGBAlliance” – an account that would later be used to attack LGB Alliance – which is why the Twitter handle for LGBA is “@AllianceLGB”.
A Facebook group calling itself LGB Alliance had also been set up in the USA and was attracting quite a number of members. It had no connection to LGB Alliance UK but – entirely coincidentally, I am sure – the group was set up on 22 September 2019, the very same day that the Sunday Times article was published announcing the formation of LGB Alliance in the UK.
Although this Facebook group was not an anti-gender critical entity, I was concerned that people might be joining it in the belief it was run by LGBA UK. It is a private group, and I was allowed to join, though I soon got thrown out and blocked for posting links to posts on the new LGB Alliance UK Facebook page. It is no longer possible for me to access the group from my disgraced exile in blockdom, but I have been informed that, when applying to join, one of the questions you now have to answer is, “Are you aware that the creator of this group came up with the LGB Alliance name and logo?”.
The group has in the meantime accumulated around 1,400 members. It is a concern to me that people might still be joining that group in the mistaken belief that it is associated with LGB Alliance UK: particularly as, before I was booted out, I did not appreciate some of the posts or comments I was reading from a small number of members. Confusion around this US-based Facebook group may, I believe, have helped to fuel the early false accusations that LGB Alliance UK was an American proxy outfit of some kind.
LGB Alliance kindly sent me an unexpected invitation to their pre-launch meeting on 22 October 2019: presumably as a thank-you for securing the domain names. I was not one of the speakers at this meeting, and I was simply there as a guest. Having spoken to the founders at the meeting and offered to help with the campaign, I was invited to join their comms team, and for a short while, I helped to update the new LGB Alliance UK Facebook account. Nothing I did was ever done without either receiving an instruction from the founders or consulting them for permission and approval. I had no management or leadership responsibilities at all in LGB Alliance, at any point, and neither did I seek any. Furthermore, neither Simon Fanshawe nor the LGBA founders knew me. I was just this random guy, a longstanding gay rights activist, who had secured their domain names and had agreed to help on their comms team.
The whole suggestion that the conservative Religious Right – the Heritage Foundation, or any other similar body – might be channelling funds to LGB Alliance is, of course absurd. It is a lie, and it belongs to the same category as that old family of lies and smears to which lesbian and gay people were frequently subjected decades ago.
When LGBA was founded, the inevitable backlash came swiftly from LGBTQ+ lobby activists, who were outraged at this challenge to their ideological empire. Readers will be well acquainted with the vicious attacks on Allison Bailey after she tweeted about LGB Alliance following the pre-launch meeting. Hit pieces also began to appear, referring to LGB Alliance as a “hate group”.
My personal Facebook account was public, and a gender activist noticed I was on the LGBA comms team and began a snooping expedition as to what mud they might be able to throw at me. They alighted on the YouTube video of my presentation at the Heritage Foundation opposing surrogacy, clearly seeing this as an opportunity to tar me as someone “collaborating with” or “linked to” a socially conservative think-tank with its traditional religious values – with the purpose then of smearing LGB Alliance by association with me. It was to be nothing but a lazy smear-by-association stretched beyond the limits of credibility.
Some time later, Pink News published a hit-piece that focused on attacking me to denigrate LGBA by association. I had been tipped off that the hit-piece was coming, but I knew something that I correctly suspected Pink News didn’t know, and I could see that their malice was likely to rebound on them spectacularly. It was written by a reporter called Vic Parsons and carried the heading, “Activist instrumental in the launch of the LGB Alliance linked to anti-abortion and anti-LGBT+ hate groups.” Predictably, the person portrayed in it bore no resemblance to me, to my work, to my values, to my relationships and alliances, or to my personal beliefs.
The Pink News hit piece was clearly going to try to get as much mileage as possible from my visit to speak at the Heritage Foundation and then imply a quality and significance of connection between me and LGB Alliance that didn’t exist. By smearing me, they were intending for the mud to stick to LGB Alliance. Those regular attacks on LGB Alliance that assert they are connected to the Heritage Foundation are an idiocy that derives solely from my presentation in Washington DC opposing surrogacy.
The whole suggestion that the conservative Religious Right – the Heritage Foundation, or any other similar body – might be channelling funds to LGB Alliance is, of course absurd. It is a lie, and it belongs to the same category as that old family of lies and smears to which lesbian and gay people were frequently subjected decades ago. LGB Alliance is an organisation that, while remaining impartial with regard to support for political parties, has an overwhelmingly left-wing support base, having grown out of the radical lesbian feminist movement. Its two founders are lesbians and left-wing radical feminists. In the LGB Alliance values statement, they also explicitly declare: “(W)e do not, and will not, forge links with, or accept funding from, any organisation… that seeks to undermine women’s reproductive rights.”
Why, under any circumstances whatsoever, would an American socially conservative institution that promotes traditional religious values, that opposes abortion, and that opposes gay marriage, donate money to an organisation not even in the USA that supports abortion rights so ardently that its values statement prohibits connections with any organisation that opposes abortion? Why would it donate to an organisation that campaigns for lesbian, gay and bisexual rights, that has an overwhelmingly left-wing membership, and that was founded by two left-wing lesbian feminists? It is ridiculous in the extreme to suggest that any such thing would happen. Insane. It is as likely to happen as being hit by a meteorite, struck by lightning, swallowed up by a sinkhole, and winning the lottery, all on the same day.
What the Pink News writer and editor had clearly not realised was that I myself had previously been a writer for Pink News – their own publication. I was still listed as a Pink News writer when they published this hit-piece. They had failed to do basic journalistic research, which would have revealed that the articles I had written for them in 2013 were still available on their website. I had done far more work for Pink News than I had for LGB Alliance, and if organisations were to be denigrated by association with me, then it was Pink News that came off worst. I had even written pieces for them where I attacked fundamentalist, anti-gay religion and supported gay marriage: a very far cry from the picture of me that their execrable article tried to paint.
The publication of a Pink News article where they foolishly attacked one of their own writers in an attempt at damage-by-association gave rise to much Schadenfreude and mocking on social media. My hunch that they were too unprofessional and chaotic to even discover in their “research” that I was one of their own writers had been correct. Of course, I had stopped writing for them in 2013, around the time when they had started to became a gender ideology website, and it seems my status as a fellow Pink News writer had been too difficult for them to discover.
That Pink News hit-piece is still regularly shared on social media by LGBTQ+ lobby activists who continue to falsely claim that LGB Alliance is aligned with the Heritage Foundation or other similar US organisations. To this day, I still get falsely accused of being a member of the Christian Right, of campaigning against abortion, of opposing gay marriage and the rights of gay people, and of supporting anti-gay conversion therapy. Flattering promotions have also been bestowed upon me by some of these rabid fantasists, where I have been described as a “leading member of the Heritage Foundation”, as a “founder of LGB Alliance”, and as a “speaker at the LGB Alliance pre-launch meeting”. None of which are in the slightest true, of course.
Why, under any circumstances whatsoever, would an American socially conservative institution that promotes traditional religious values, that opposes abortion, and that opposes gay marriage, donate money to an organisation not even in the USA that supports abortion rights so ardently that its values statement prohibits connections with any organisation that opposes abortion?
A director of LGB Alliance, Malcolm Clark, responded to the hit-piece with a characteristically incisive Twitter thread, in which he exposed Pink News for having attacked one of their own writers, and even one who had written for them specifically in defence of gay marriage and in opposition to fundamentalist religion. Mr Clark drew attention to the fact that the previous CEO of Stonewall UK, Baroness Hunt, was a practising Catholic and therefore a member – an actual member, not a guest – of an institution that opposed abortion and categorised homosexuality as sinful and disordered: yet no similar hit-piece had been written about her on this basis, implicating Stonewall UK by association.
As Mr Clark pointed out, Ruth Hunt’s status as a practising member of the Catholic Church does not automatically imply that she believes every one of the Church’s orthodox teachings: so why should my appearance as a mere guest on a panel at the Heritage Foundation be taken to automatically imply I support every position of the Heritage Foundation, including their blanket opposition to abortion? Or indeed, be taken to automatically imply that I necessarily support any of their positions? The double-standards were glaring.
For some time before the hit-piece was published, I had already ceased to work with LGB Alliance. The steering committee had decided that, for someone to be allowed to work with LGB Alliance, they must commit never to speak on a platform if the host organisation “opposed women’s reproductive rights” or to write for any publication whose policies included opposition to abortion. As platforming my voice in opposition to surrogacy and gender ideology is extremely important to me, and as my conservative beliefs centre the importance of freedom of speech and association, it was impossible for me to give that undertaking to the steering committee and, sadly, we had to part ways.
It would be a very bizarre thing indeed if a gay man and gay rights campaigner over four decades who supports the German model for legal abortion, who has written to attack fundamentalist religion for causing harm to lesbian and gay people, and who is, by the way, a Buddhist, is to be credibly painted as representing the US Christian Right, so that anyone or any organisation that is in any even very tenuous way “linked” to him is also “linked” to the US Christian Right in any remotely meaningful sense. It really does smack of desperation when this kind of fabricated drivel is the main counter of gender activists to the arguments and evidence against gender ideology. The positive take from this is the exposure of how weak and fragile their position really is. All they have is lies and smears. It is a signal to us that, if we keep pushing hard, we will prevail.
LGB Alliance is a crucially important organisation that has made sterling achievements since it was set up two years ago. It is not particularly easy for me to continue my political efforts as a satellite orbiting in the Outer Darkness, untethered from an LGB Alliance Mothership that feels it cannot recognise my contributions, promote any of my work, or afford me a supportive political community. However, I will still speak out to challenge the lies and hatred to which they are subjected by people who lack arguments and evidence. Although I cannot say I am a “supporter” of LGB Alliance, I do still support many of its objectives, and I want LGB Alliance to be superlatively successful.
Whenever you see claims that LGB Alliance is a hate group and that it works in collusion with the Heritage Foundation or is funded by the American Religious Right, perhaps you will feel inclined to respond by sharing this article or some information from it.
The experience I share above with regard to the Heritage Foundation, LGB Alliance, and the LGBTQ+ media, lays bare the malevolent and dishonest strategies deployed to undermine us, divide us, and peel off our committed activists. We cannot allow our antagonists’ baseless attacks to stand without challenge, and we cannot allow their cancel-culture machinations to set the parameters for how, and with whom, we are allowed to campaign. Our strength is in truth and unity.
Gary Powell is a gay man and has been active in gay politics since 1980. He is the Research Fellow for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity at the Bow Group and the European Special Consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture.