The reaction was so cruelly disproportionate and unjust, Dr Katie Alcock felt like a criminal. 

She was interrogated as if by the ‘secret police’ then expelled from Girlguiding, an organisation to which she’d devoted ten years of loyal, unpaid service.

Friends shunned her in the street. Some called off her daughter’s playdates. Katie, the sort of resourceful, intrepid, independent-minded person we’d entrust with our children’s care on outdoorsy adventures long enjoyed by Brownies and Guides, became a social outcast.

‘It was as if I’d been embezzling funds,’ she says. ‘I was afraid to speak to anyone in case I burst into tears. I was expelled from the Girlguiding unit I ran not long before my daughter was due to join it.

‘It was really distressing. Other mums who’d put the world to rights with me suddenly blanked me completely and cancelled playdates. I thought: Do they think I’m such an awful person; that I’ve done something dreadful? 

‘I was treated no differently from a child abuser. Yet all I’d done was say that safeguarding children in Girlguiding should come before anything else.’

The reaction was so cruelly disproportionate and unjust, Dr Katie Alcock felt like a criminal. She was interrogated as if by the 'secret police' then expelled from Girlguiding, an organisation to which she'd devoted ten years of loyal, unpaid service

The response was unjustifiable and cruelly outlandish, so Dr Katie Alcock felt as if she were a criminal. As if she were a secret police officer, Dr Katie Alcock was then interrogated and expelled by Girlguiding. She had dedicated ten years to the organization, which is unpaid.

Had she been less passionate about the movement she might not have pursued the case with such fervour, but Katie's affiliation with the organisation goes back to her 1970s Warwickshire childhood when she joined the Brownies. She is pictured third from left on the front row

If she had been less passionate about this cause she may not have pursued it with such passion. But Katie’s association with the organisation dates back to 1970, when her Brownies membership was formed in Warwickshire. On the front row, she is third from left.

Katie, who led an active unit of Guides, Brownies, and Rainbows, was just the latest woman to be criticized for her opposition to the transgender rights directives.

However, this time it was not trans-rights lobbyists, but the eminently traditional and long-established organisation, Girlguiding (formerly the Girl Guides, founded in 1910), that had produced the regulations on transgender issues she’d had the foresight to question — with such calamitous consequences.

Katie fought for Girlguiding four years to win a lawsuit against Girlguiding claiming that Girlguiding had discriminated against her because of her “gender-critical” views. 

And last week she reached an out-of-court settlement with the organisation, which had accrued a reported £100,000 in legal fees defending the case.

They paid a percentage of Katie’s legal fees and offered her the chance to rejoin the charity that she was dismissed from four years before.

Katie said today that Girlguiding had issued an apology and she is glad it’s over. However, I am not interested in running a unit anymore. Actually, I’m quite skeptical about Girlguiding’s organisational aspects. She might.

Katie is in her 50s, a Lancaster University senior lecturer on psychology and is married to Glyn (a civil servant). She is the mother to a daughter, seven, and son, ten years.

Girlguiding’s 2018 policy guidelines on trans rights were the first time that her concerns surfaced. 

In a four-year battle, Katie brought a legal action against Girlguiding on the grounds that she had been discriminated against for her 'gender-critical views'

Katie fought for Girlguiding four years to win a lawsuit against them. She claimed she was discriminated against because of her “gender-critical” views.

The organisation welcomed transwomen and girls as guides, Brownies, Rainbows, patrol leaders, and Brownies. But it also stated, alarmingly, that they could’share accommodation’ (with girls and women).

To be clear on this directive — and Girlguiding was singularly opaque about it — they were referring to individuals born male who had transitioned or who identified as women and girls, even if they still had male genitalia.

This rang alarm bells with Katie, who had by then run her own unit of Guides, Brownies and Rainbows — welcoming 100 girls from all social and ethnic backgrounds and religions — in Lancaster for a decade.

It was possible for her to be charged with a crime.

When I learned that even men who claim to be females could live in the same tents as women, have access to the same bathrooms, and change their clothes if they go swimming, it was frightening. It was obvious that Girlguiding was making a serious error.

‘But when they contacted me about it, they insisted that they hadn’t. According to them, they had spoken with Stonewall (the LGBT rights’ organization) and that they were adhering to the law. My concern was that they had abandoned safeguarding girls.

I believe transwomen are not entitled to discrimination but they cannot change their biological sex. They, their parents or the girls should have the right to determine if they want to share space with someone else’s sex. This is for their privacy, dignity, and security.

It was her concern that Guiding would exclude girls, women and religiously-motivated Muslims from single-sex settings.

She might have been less enthusiastic about the cause, but Katie is a member of the organization because she was a Brownie in 1970s Warwickshire.

It was a strong, exciting activity that she loved. This encouraged independence, self-reliance, and initiative. She was indeed shaped by it.

She explains that her mother was an educator and her father was an academic. Brownies, however, was just across the street from Brownies, which became her second home. We ran around, built telephones from tin cans and baked scones. Also, we went on holiday packs. Next, I joined Guides. There were plenty of camping and outdoor activities. It was an open environment that allowed us to explore our creativity. The adventure was affordable and accessible to all.

She completed her schooling and then went on to earn a master’s degree. After that, she worked as a teacher in secondary schools in Zambia. After completing her PhD at Oxford in Psychology, she then worked as a teacher in Zambia on a research assignment. She spent two years in America researching.

After moving to Lancaster three years prior, she returned to London to help at the Brownie groups.

She was committed to the movement’s ideals and encouraged inclusion. Girls from Hindu, Muslim, and other faiths were welcomed. It was not uncommon for girls with learning difficulties to be paired with those referred by Social Services.

She says that many people believe Guiding to be predominantly white and middle-class Christian. “It is an inclusive movement with a rich history.”

And her unit, next to Lancaster Castle — a working prison until 2011 — was far from exclusive: it shared its premises with a drop-in centre for relatives of prisoners.

Although her welcoming was comprehensive, she felt deeply worried when, after speaking with others leaders in early 2018, she learned that Girlguiding had quietly added new guidelines on trans rights to its policy documents.

She was happy for trans people to be accepted into Girlguiding but she is deeply concerned about the sharing of facilities. She was strict about segregating boys and girls during overnight stays.

“Even though I had taken my four-year old son to camp, we had slept in separate tents from the girls,” she said. “And he would go to the men’s toilets as I waited outside.

“Then I realized that biological adult males who claim to be women were not being given separate arrangements. They would sleep in the same tents that Rainbows, Brownies and Guides up to age 14.

“I was worried about predatory male paedophiles who will do anything to get access to young girls. There was virtually no child sexual abuse reported by Girlguiding. This had never occurred. Scouting had never experienced any abuse. But now it seemed they’d be opening the door to the possibility — and blatantly throwing the safeguarding of girls out of the window. It shocked me.

Keen to challenge this, Katie wrote to Girlguiding’s HQ and asked why there had been no consultation on such a contentious issue — but was told, emphatically, that the rules had been set and there would be no further communication on the subject.

“I heard that they wouldn’t change anything. The only thing you can do is to live with it. It was a shock that I could not believe.

She created a private group on social media in spring 2018, inviting nine unit leaders to share her concerns. “I was concerned that many unit leaders did not fully grasp the consequences of trans policy changes. I wanted to have a discussion about the issue.

We wanted to create a strategy. What would you tell parents? It was clear that Girlguiding had been a single group of sex, however, it could not continue as such if they allowed male members to join.

The atmosphere was so febrile that even a Guide leader who infiltrated into the group made a complaint over Katie’s opinions. After a four month inquiry, Katie was interrogated daily by the human resources officer of the organization. 

It was almost like being interrogated in secret police stations by totalitarian states. “I felt like I was a criminal,” she said.

She had posted her concerns to social media, even though this was limited to a very small audience. She also violated Guiding’s “code of conduct” by refusing adhere to the equality and diversity policy regarding transgender inclusion.

She was summoned by the organization’s North-West Lancashire County Commissioner in September 2018. Faced with an ultimatum — to back down or lose her unpaid post — she refused to rescind her views and was duly expelled.

Lancaster’s meeting room was hostile and harsh.

“I inquired if it was possible to bring a friend. She could not speak but I told her. I was informed that I could only take notes but I couldn’t take them with me. This was like hearing my crimes in secret. I had no right to respond.

“I stated that I would follow trans policies, provided they did not conflict with safeguarding. I believed I was doing the right thing by not speaking up on any social media sites. Girlguiding would have applauded me for my concern about safety. They disagreed with both of those.

They read me a letter saying that they had expelled me and I needed to get out of the room. I could not keep it all together. I was shaking and fighting my way through the tears.

‘I was due to have a meeting of a new Rainbows group the next day — my daughter had been looking forward to joining — and I rang one of the parents in tears and said, ‘Don’t come.’

“For years my peers and mentors had told me how great I was at encouraging women to go into Guiding. They were organising adventures that they loved, as well as mentoring the next generation of leaders.

“I was suddenly told that I couldn’t go to meetings; even though I had my daughter there.

The backbone of any unit is its parents; they are crucial. My daughter was not confident enough to travel to Rainbows alone, so I effectively barred her from going.

Katie was shunned and ridiculed by her friends. “I was depressed; I struggled to function and talk with people. When they asked me how I was, I began to cry.

Her appeal was filed against her removal in January 2019. This appeal failed. It was too late. Her despair turned into anger. Elle was determined to not back down, and decided to file a discrimination lawsuit against Girlguiding.

Backed by employment lawyer Peter Daly of Doyle Clayton and buoyed by the generosity of crowdfunding supporters who donated more than £50,000 to help fund her case, she brought her legal action.

The matter was settled in court last week. She has also pledged to return any surplus funds for gender sensitive litigants fighting the same battles as hers.

However, she concluded that the organization is still “tying itself up” over its trans-policy. This is evident in the newspaper’s statement: It is not clear, transparent or accessible.

It states that Girlguiding “hasn’t changed her trans-inclusive equality policy,” 

We are a girls-only charity and accept biologically female members under the protected characteristic sex.

“Girlguiding continues to be proudly transinclusive,” the statement continued. This is in line with our trans-inclusive equality/diversity policy, which was established under the Equality Act 2010. In line with changing guidance, we will continue to examine all policies.

The company also confirmed with Katie that it would engage with Katie to make sure its inclusive policies and procedures are clear and easy to comprehend as part of the ‘diversity & inclusion strategic plan.

It could be a win of some sort. In the meantime, Girlguiding has lost a leader and a strong advocate of girl’s rights to be independent, creative and self-reliant young women.