One of many reasons why I ran away from an office job to become a freelance journalist is that the words “team meeting” hold the same appeal to me as “dog shit sandwich”.
Nonetheless, over my years of being self-employed a number of transgender activists have fired-off complaints to my commissioning editors. I can laugh off the threat of being reported for my views, not least because I am explicitly commissioned to express them, but for others such actions can limit workplace opportunities and even end careers.
Today, though, employees across the UK can breathe a sigh of relief safe in the knowledge that they have the right not to be discriminated against for expressing the opinion that people can’t change sex and that sex matters.
This is thanks to a ruling from an Employment Tribunal which has just found in favour of tax consultant Maya Forstater. Until 2019, Forstater was a visiting fellow at the Centre for Global Development (CGD). Her contract was not renewed after colleagues objected to comments she had made on social media about the potential impact of trans-inclusive policies on the rights of women and girls.
Members of CGD’s staff complained that some of Forstater’s tweets were “transphobic” and made them feel uncomfortable. Others were offended by campaigning leaflets she had brought into the office warning about the potential unintended consequences of the now-shelved proposal to reform the Gender Recognition Act (2004).
No debate is an unusual position for a global think tank to take
Tellingly, staff within CGD were reluctant to engage Forstater in debate, and following the publication of an internal investigation into her tweets Forstater’s manager was advised to be “cautious about not getting pulled into that debate”. No debate is an unusual position for a global think tank like CGD to take.
Last year an Employment Appeals Tribunal ruled that Forstater’s views — that sex is immutable, and that it matters — meet the criteria for legal protection. These have become known as “gender critical beliefs”. Such beliefs are at odds with the core tenet of transgenderism, an ideology which holds that we each have an internal sense of gender identity that may or may not align with our sexed bodies. Influential organisations like Stonewall have sought to embed this ideology in policies throughout workplaces.
Consequently, many HR departments have not only allowed people to self-identify their way into single-sex spaces, believing that to be best practice, but they have disciplined members of staff who have dared to question such policies. This was clearly the case at Forstater’s workplace, Centre for Global Development (CGD).
Today’s unanimous judgement found that Forstater had been unlawfully discriminated against when CGD did not offer her an employment contract, failed to renew her visiting fellowship and removed her from its website. This was found to be discrimination on the basis of gender critical beliefs. The Tribunal also ruled that the mere fact that offence may be taken to a particular statement is not sufficient to render it incapable of legal protection.
Following the ruling, Forstater said that her case “matters for everyone who believes in the importance of truth and free speech”, adding that she hoped “employers will take note of the judgement”. “We are all free to believe whatever we wish,” Forstater said:
What we are not free to do is compel others to believe the same thing, to silence those who disagree with us or to force others to deny reality.
Human beings cannot change sex. It is not hateful to say that; in fact it is important in order to treat everyone fairly and safely. It shouldn’t take courage to say this, and no one should lose their job for doing so.
To hear that my case has helped other people to speak up against unfair and discriminatory practices at work makes the hardship of the last three years easier to bear. All those who are fighting similar battles – and there are many such people now – have my solidarity and support.
Discrimination within workplaces against those with gender critical views is rife. Barrister Allison Bailey is awaiting the outcome of her case against her employer, Garden Court Chambers, who she alleges colluded with Stonewall to deprive her of work on the basis of her gender critical beliefs. Similarly, social worker Rachel Meade is crowdfunding to bring a case against Social Work England, who she believes improperly sanctioned her for “speaking up about women’s rights during the government’s consultation period on reform to the Gender Recognition Act”. Others whose religious beliefs lead them to adopt a gender critical stance, such as school pastoral assistant Kristie Higgs, are also in the process of taking legal action against their employers.
And yet, today’s ruling comes less than a month after the UK’s biggest public sector union UNISON passed a motion declaring “trans women are women”. To date, not one major organisation that purports to support workers has stepped-up to publicly defend those forced out of jobs for expressing gender critical beliefs.
Thankfully, Forstater’s courage in successfully taking her case to an Employment Tribunal has secured the right of ordinary people in workplaces to tell the truth without the threat of losing their jobs. Today, no-one else in the UK need fear losing their job for saying that sex matters.
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