Discover more from The Distance
Victor Madrigal-Borloz and His Gender-Identity Love Affair
Have concerns about self-ID? Victor doesn’t want to hear them
Earlier this month, Victor Madrigal-Borloz wrapped up a tour of the United Kingdom, which ran from April 24 to May 5. Madrigal-Borloz is the United Nations Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (UN IE SOGI), and the purpose of the visit, according to his end of mission statement, was ostensibly to “gather evidence on the manner in which discrimination and violence manifest and/or are perpetrated against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans and gender diverse persons in the UK.”
Of course, all Madrigal-Borloz actually seems to care about are people who have “gender identities.”
I have written about the current UN IE SOGI on several occasions, starting with when he urged the Scottish Parliament to pass the Gender Recognition Reform bill and allow gender self-ID. I have also discussed his role as a signatory of the Yogyakarta Principles, his desire to erase sex in law entirely, and his support for the medical transitioning of children.
Victor has been busy.
During his visit to the UK, he met with members of parliament, political leaders, national human rights institutions, and various other groups and individuals. Surprisingly, he also agreed to meet with several gender critical groups.
On May 4, Madrigal-Borloz had two meetings with such groups, the first with Maya Forstater of Sex Matters and representatives from Fair Play for Women, Safe Schools Alliance, and Labour Women’s Declaration to discuss concerns around self-ID, and the second with Kate Harris of LGB Alliance, Dennis Kavanaugh of The Gay Men’s Network, and Paula Boulton of Lesbian Labour to discuss more specific concerns around sexual orientation.
During the first meeting, Safe Schools Alliance expressed concerns around the safeguarding of children in schools, particularly those who “will grow up to be lesbian, gay or bisexual or who are already trans identified or exhibiting any form of gender related distress.”
Sex Matters also released details of the meeting, including its four key messages for Madrigal-Borloz:
1. Single-sex services (both specialist and everyday) are critical for the full inclusion of women and girls in public life. We have collected survey evidence from over 6,000 people about why single-sex services matter https://sex-matters.org/posts/updates/why-do-single-sex-services-matter/.
Where single-sex services are lost women and girls lose out.
2. In the course of the UK’s national discussion about how to treat sex and gender identity in law and policy, and how to protect single sex services, many gender-critical people – overwhelmingly women, including lesbians, but also gay men – have been subjected to personal abuse, threats, loss of jobs and livelihoods, and even physical assault.
3. The UK government's current interpretation of the interaction between the Gender Recognition Act and the Equality Act (which views a GRC as changing a person's sex for the purposes of the Equality Act) limits single sex freedom of association- this means that lesbian associations cannot exclude heterosexual males who identify as women if they have a government certificate deeming them to be women (and vice versa for gay men). In practice freedom of association for lesbians and gay men is limited even where people do not have a GRC, by confusion and fear about distinguishing between sex and gender identity.
4. Alongside the environment of fear of talking clearly about sex and gender, there has been a rapid increase in the number of children and young people identifying as transgender and seeking treatment with hormone blockers and hormones. Most of these children are same sex-attracted. This medicalising of gender non-conforming children is often driven by homophobia and is a modern form of conversion therapy.
At the end of the meeting, the four representatives asked Madrigal-Borloz to take a group picture with them, but he refused, claiming that they had been abusive towards him on social media. He only agreed to the picture below at the representatives’ insistance.
The second meeting followed immediately after. LGB Alliance also released a report with the meeting notes, informing Madrigal-Borloz that it was to “ensure that the positions you hold on sex and gender are available to the public.”
The report begins:
Since your mandate as UN Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity includes sexual orientation, it should include protecting those who are sexually attracted to people of the same sex, who are criminalised and face numerous threats worldwide. It is therefore a matter of serious concern that you remain ignorant about many of the threats to homosexuals and indeed spread disinformation about them. LGB Alliance believes your influence has therefore been harmful – not only to homosexuals and bisexuals, but to all who support the rule of law in a liberal democracy.
The three representatives pointed out to Madrigal-Borloz that, though his mandate includes “gender-based violence,” he never mentions the sex-based violence being inflicted on gender non-conforming young people who are ushered down the medicalization pathway of puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and surgery. They also pointed out that many of these young people have internalized homophobia.
Madrigal-Borloz simply responded that young people have the “agency” to make such decisions for themselves.
The representatives also asked him whether he has read the Cass Review of the Gender Identity Development Service at the Tavistock, which deemed its model to be unsafe and unsustainable. He said he had, but he maintained that Dr. Cass’ analysis was not correct and at odds with “international best practice.”
The report concludes that:
The Independent Expert is misinformed about many areas of human rights law and daily life. He has a firm belief in the importance of gender self-ID, which he promotes above the interests of homosexuals and bisexuals.
Paula Boulton shared notes and observations that she had made during that meeting as well, highlighting the fact that Madrigal-Borloz seemed completely unaware of the issues faced by lesbians in regard to self-ID.
Though these seven representatives tried to draw attention to how self-identification is at odds with women’s rights, impacts freedom of speech and association, and harms young people, their concerns seem to have fallen on deaf ears.
On May 12, Madrigal-Borloz released an end of mission statement that simply reiterated his commitment to self-identification and hand-waved away all of the concerns raised.
The two meetings were mainly referenced in just one small section of the report, where he notes that all of the concerns have already been addressed and that he would only consider viewpoints that fall within the acceptable parameters:
The Independent Expert heard that the acrimonious nature of the discussion impacts persons holding very different points of view, and accusations of silencing and “cancellation” are also made by those who hold the point of view that gender identity is an ideology, or that systems of self-identification in legal recognition of gender identity raise unacceptable risks for others. Abundant work of the mandate has addressed those concerns. At the same time, the Independent Expert is thankful that some of those persons, including gay men and lesbians as well as other women, accepted invitations to hold conversations with the mandate and to present evidence, in sessions held in a respectful, constructive, and professional key. He remains committed to examine all submissions made to him, in the understanding that his mandate is to determine whether claims fall within the framework of international human rights law or not, under the guiding principle of evidence-based approaches.
What Madrigal-Borloz found to be more concerning than the matters raised by the gender critical groups was a letter from the Equalities and Human Rights Commission to the Minister for Equalities which advised defining “sex” as “biological sex” under the Equality Act. He also took aim at free speech and free expression, particularly around the criticism of legal sex change and questions like “what is a woman?”
Democracies benefit from healthy debate; that includes the protection of free speech and accountability for hate speech. The Rabat Plan of Action articulates a test for defining restrictions on freedom of expression, incitement to hatred, and for the application of article 20 of the ICCPR. It outlines a six-part threshold test: (1) the social and political context, (2) status of the speaker, (3) intent to incite the audience against a target group, (4) content and form of the speech, (5) extent of its dissemination, and (6) likelihood of harm, including imminence. During the visit, the Independent Expert received information about thousands of articles spreading misinformation (criterion 5) and witnessed first-hand the casual appropriation by top-level political actors (criterion 2) of rhetoric deeply associated with the questioning of legal protections on the basis of gender reassignment. A key example: “what is a woman?” a question that, in the social and political context (criterion 1), is commonly asked by “gender-critical” actors to challenge the legal recognition of trans women under UK law.
Sex Matters responded to the report, calling it “extraordinary” and noting that it not only dismissed all of their concerns but likened their concerns to “hate.” It took Madrigal-Borloz to task about his baseless claims regarding surges in hate crimes, the state of sex education in the UK, suicidality among young people seeking “gender-affirming care,” and societal support for self-ID.
The response concluded:
The Independent Expert states that “those who he met declared themselves unable to suggest a winning formula for making inroads in a situation that has been driven to a state of such acrimony”. This is simply false.
Sex Matters provided Madrigal-Borloz with its human rights framework, which directly proposes a framework for resolving conflicting rights disputes.
He chose to reject this, deciding instead to amplify irrational fears among mentally vulnerable people, and to use those fears as a cudgel to attack the democratic culture of the UK.
Madrigal-Borloz does not have to like or agree with the viewpoints and concerns of the gender critical groups he met with on his UK tour, nor does he have to agree with any of their proposed solutions. But instead of offering legitimate reasons for his disagreement, he variously pretends the viewpoints don’t exist, claims to have addressed the concerns already, or bemoans that no solutions are being offered.
Why? It’s all in the name of supporting his one true cause célèbre: gender identity. At the end of the day, anyone who unconditionally accepts the pseudo-religious idea of gender identity and uncritically supports unbridled self-identification is good, and anyone who has anything less than glowing to say about the whole ordeal is hateful.
Madrigal-Borloz is not fulfilling his mandate. He is simply another useful puppet for a radical ideology that is harming many of the people he claims to be helping.
The Distance is a reader-supported publication. Please like, share, subscribe, and consider a paid subscription to support our work