Those on either side of the transgender rights debate need to “lower the temperature” and end “megaphone diplomacy”, the chair of the LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall has said.

Iain Anderson was responding to a question about some of the abuse levelled at gender-critical voices like Harry Potter author JK Rowling during an interview on Thursday night’s Beth Rigby Interviews show on Sky News.

Mr Anderson said: “We need to lower the temperature on all sides of this wherever you sit on this.

“We need to lower the temperature… We need a strategy for [discussing trans rights] as opposed to megaphone diplomacy.

“That’s what I really hope for, that’s what I hope we can do in the months ahead and maybe through the election period ahead.

“I want us all to have a respectful conversation but the thing for me is I want my community to be able to fulfil the opportunities that are available to it. That’s the thing that guides me in all of this.”

Meanwhile, Stonewall appears to have softened its stance on the divisive issue of single-sex spaces, with Mr Anderson telling Beth Rigby that he supports exemptions in law that can be used to exclude transgender people from women’s prisons and toilets.

Mr Anderson said: “There are protections that are in place. Those protections were put in place for a very, very good reason.

“I do support these protections, absolutely. The question is, do we need to look at the legislation that’s currently in place? Does it work? I think it does work.”

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Stonewall chair on single-sex spaces

Mr Anderson’s comments are at odds with Stonewall’s previous stance on the issue.

In 2015, the charity wrote to parliament’s women and equalities select committee seeking a review of the Equality Act 2010 to “remove exemptions, such as access to single-sex spaces”.

Asked if Stonewall was wrong to take that stance prior to his appointment last year, Mr Anderson told Beth Rigby: “I wasn’t in the chair at that point.”

However, Mr Anderson was then asked if his definition of woman meant a biological woman or a transgender woman who has received a gender recognition certificate allowing her to be treated as a woman under the law. He clarified his position, saying: “This is the sort of question that politicians are getting right now, the sort of ‘what’s a woman?’ question.

“Look, I think we all know what a woman is and I think as I said as well, though, since 2004, for almost 20 years now, we’ve got legislation that allows someone legally to change their gender. Right so somebody can transition from male to female, from female to male.

Asked if that meant they could go into a women-only space, Mr Anderson said: “They can, yes”.

“I think the practicality of what’s happening is institution by institution. They’re making these judgements. But we have legislation that allows people to change their gender. That’s been, as I say, with us for 20 years.”

Mr Anderson also distanced himself from the charity’s outgoing chief executive, Nancy Kelley, who was criticised in 2021 for suggesting lesbians who don’t want to date trans women may feel that way because of “societal prejudices”.

Mr Anderson said: “So those are not my words.”

Asked if he disagreed with Ms Kelley, but didn’t want to be seen to publicly do so, Mr Anderson said: “I use my own words Beth, I use my own words.

“Everybody in a free society should be able to have the partnership that they wish and the loving relationship.”

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Separately, Mr Anderson welcomed the suggestion of opening dialogue with newly-formed organisations, such as the LGB Alliance that has criticised Stonewall’s pursuit of trans rights.

Mr Anderson said: “I am absolutely up for a conversation with all those who wish to see all LGBT people make progress.

“Too much of this conversation is taking place on Twitter, so my challenge to the LGB Alliance, my challenge to those that don’t agree with me is, is there an opportunity to come together.

“What I’m saying to you today is Britain needs a strategy for trans people. It needs perhaps a look at where we are with our equalities legislation. There is a debate about that as to whether or not we’re in the right place. So that is what I’m saying to you today”.

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