THE co-founder of LGBTQ+ rights charity Stonewall and former chair of Sussex University has called for an end to the “crisis of dialogue” in workplaces.

Brighton campaigner Simon Fanshawe is calling for an end to the silencing of different views, following a YouGov poll at the end of last year which revealed that 40 per cent of people had stopped themselves from expressing political or social views for fear of judgement or negative responses from others at work.

He said: “All the big social arguments about race, gender, sex and sexual orientation have crashed into work and while the extremes are fighting each other, the vast majority of people in the middle don’t know what to do.

“No one knows if they can speak up - if they are offended or if they might offend someone, both sides. This fear of speaking up on social issues matters because that inhibition creates an overall culture at work where collaboration is damaged, businesses and organisations don’t find the best solutions, innovation is hindered and markets are missed.”

Simon Fanshawe’s new book, The Power of Difference, aims to argue for conversation and finding common ground and creating spaces safe for disagreement, not from it.

He said: “It’s about supporting managers to be even better and seeing difference and valuing difference and knowing how to deploy difference - and not being scared of it.”

The book criticises “unconscious bias” training, which Mr Fanshawe claims prevents people from taking personal responsibility for their biases for and against certain groups.

Mr Fanshawe said: “Social attitudes over the last 40 years have dramatically changed in Britain, and yet discrimination against certain groups continues and some are not getting the same opportunities that they should be getting.

“However, if you say everybody has got biases, that they’re completely prevalent and they are unconscious and you have no control over them, the effect of that is to make people think ‘it’s not my fault’.

“The more you tell people that bias and stereotypes are prevalent, the more bias and stereotypes there are, because they think that’s what everyone is.

“My basic point is that biases are not unconscious - they are learned, and to say they are unconscious takes away your responsibility.”

During his campaigning for LGBTQ+ rights, he said that he had to speak to people who disagreed with him to try and progress his cause.

He said: “You really only make change by making alliances with people who you convince.

“Progress on lesbian and gay rights has only ever been made by not talking about the value, virtue or sinfulness of homosexuality. People who think it’s sinful won’t be convinced that it’s not, but they may not believe that homosexual people should be treated differently under the law.

“Where you do get somewhere with people is where you find bridging ideas where together you can form an alliance around a common objective.”

Simon Fanshawe publicly split with Stonewall in 2019 due to the charity's position on transgender people.

He described splitting with the charity was “extremely difficult” with “an enormous sense of grief”.

Mr Fanshawe said: “What you need to do in these situations is not impose codes of behaviour or ways of being. You have to go out there and make the argument.

“The only way to reach a conclusion is to have a proper discussion - it needs to be calmly and carefully argued about and we need to reach a decent solution.”

He added that the charity’s current approach in calling for rights for trans people is “betraying the legacy” of campaigners past.

Mr Fanshawe's book comes in the wake of Professor Kathleen Stock’s resignation from her post at Sussex University, following allegations of transphobia.

He said that, when he walked onto campus after her resignation to attend a meeting, “for the first time ever, I felt nervous about something that I thought”.

Mr Fanshawe said: “What is at the core of a university’s function is the exchange of ideas based on evidence and argument. Instead, you had protest against argument, and I feel a university is failing if it doesn’t stimulate the exchange of ideas.

"If people are censored or bullied because of their opinions, that has a damaging effect on people’s ability to collaborate and openly exchange ideas.”

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