Out News Global Investigation. A Trans woman says: “I was gobsmacked. After a while I felt hurt and like I’d been bullied or harassed.”
A Christian businessman is refusing to print business cards for a trans woman because her company works for diversity and helps trans people at work.
Joanne Lockwood approached Nigel Williams’ company Afford a Print, looking for business cards but she received a reply that left her in shock.
Mr Williams wrote: “I am very happy to print for you, however because I am a Christian, I feel unable to print for the organisation “SEE Change Happen”.
He explained: “It is foundational to Christianity that every person must be respected, valued and loved because they are made in the image of God, irrespective of their economic status, religious belief, gender, sexuality, race etc etc…”
Joanne Lockwood founded her business because she wanted to help companies improve diversity and support trans people at work.
She says: “I was genuinely stunned. I was speechless. I read the email several times because I thought I must have misunderstood it. I was gobsmacked. After a while, I felt hurt and like I’d been bullied or harassed. It was an unusual feeling. It’s the first time in business I’ve had this experience.”
Mr Williams makes it clear in his email that he is willing to print for Ms Lockwood, regardless of her trans status, but that he takes issue with her business, saying it might: “…make pressures worse for fellow Christians further down the line. Even through something as seemingly small as producing business cards.”
Joanne Lockwood has replied asking whether Mr Williams would print for her other LGBT+ businesses. At the time of publication, Mr Williams has not responded.
In his email, Mr Williams states that he disagrees with “the contemporary model of diversity” explaining that he believes it “pre supposes that a range of personal characteristics confer our identity and that this should form the basis for engaging with acceptance and respect.”
Mr Williams says Christians are being marginalised by diversity, stating: “I have seen how the new model of diversity is used (or misused) to marginalise (or indeed discriminate against) Christians in their workplaces and other parts of society if they do not subscribe to it.”
Joanne Lockwood met Mr Williams at a networking event in Hampshire run by the global networking company BNI and had decided to offer him her business after a seemingly friendly conversation.
After receiving the email, she says: “This has winded me. It was completely out of the blue. It’s made me more resolute that my strength and stance is important.
“It’s proven that while things are better there are still a lot of people out there who don’t understand or whose beliefs conflict with who I am.”
Responding to Nigel Williams’s concerns about Christians facing discrimination, she told Out News Global: “I don’t think I can be seen as someone discriminating against Christians. I knew he was religious when I went to him for my business cards. I had no prejudice to him and I fully respect his right to have religious beliefs and to disagree with me. I would just ask him to respect me as a business person.
“There are many religious faiths out there that conflict with his so at what point does he draw the line? Is it just LGBTQ inclusion businesses he won’t print for or are there other people he won’t work with?”
Nigel Williams boasts two BNI ‘Member of the Year” awards on his company’s website and is listed on the company’s website as a ‘Gold Member’. BNI has confirmed that Mr Williams is a member and says it has a strict inclusion policy for its networking ‘chapters’.
But when Out News Global asked whether BNI supported Mr Williams in his refusal to print materials for companies such as Ms Lockwood’s, a regional representative replied: “We provide a service to help members develop their business through referrals. Beyond that service, we have no influence or view on how any of our members choose to conduct their business.”
Joanne says: “I’d like Mr Williams to apologise to me. I would like to have a coffee with him, share stories and understand each other. We can agree to differ. I don’t want an argument or to punish him.
“My objective is not to hurt him personally my objective is for him to understand how he can do business a better way.”
Out News Global contacted Mr Williams but he declined to comment.