EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 02: Trans Rights activists hold a counter-demonstration next to a woman’s rights demo organised by Women Wont Wheesht. Photo credit: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Artillery Row

The Fear and the loathing

When trans activists target your job

Yesterday evening Professor James Treadwell, a criminologist at Staffordshire University, announced his dismay on Twitter at being accused of “transphobia”. The details are vague, even to him. He has not been presented with evidence and he doesn’t and may never know who has accused him. 

He wrote: “Ok to hell with it. I have been told by my employer @StaffsUni albeit only verbally that I am being investigated for Transphobia after formal and official complaints about my Twitter conduct. Read my tweets. Go figure.”

It isn’t about trans people, it’s about bad people who will exploit the law

Go figure indeed. It is completely baffling. The issue is Professor Treadwell’s tweeting in favour of the right of female inmates to a single-sex prison estate. In a series of tweets on 27 December 2021, Professor Treadwell outlined his experience of the manipulative behaviour of violent sex offenders who will use loopholes to “game” the criminal justice system. He was clear that his tweets were not directed at the transgender community. He wrote:

“The idea that sex offenders are manipulative individuals who would exploit systems and laws could only be unreal to those who do not know how manipulative sexual offenders can be. All groom, seek to exploit and control.”

And he made very clear that his tweets weren’t attacking the transgender community:

“It isn’t about trans people, it’s about bad people who will exploit the law from self interest and work within a legal framework (that could protect women’s spaces) to do as they want and get what they want. You think that won’t happen, you don’t know how many sex offenders act.”

Who would be better placed to discuss this issue than a leading criminologist who has worked with some of the worst sex offenders in the country? The polite and well-informed tweets hit the nerve of public opinion on the topic of trans-identified men incarcerated in the female prison estate and were widely, mostly supportively, distributed. 

Today, Professor Treadwell is in the awful position of fearing for his job; for a few tweets about a subject that he is specifically qualified to speak on. Meanwhile an effective message is simultaneously sent to his academic colleagues nationwide, that they could be targeted next. He is not the first and he won’t be the last. Many criminologists are choosing to look the other way. Professor Treadwell felt that he could no longer do so. His professional integrity appears to be exactly what he is being persecuted for.

So how exactly does it feel to be wrongly accused of an employment transgression which is not named and without evidence? Why are trans activists allowed to target the jobs of people who simple and politely disagree with them? Why are employers so easily frightened into becoming institutional puppets for these cowardly manipulators?

Once the word “transphobia” is uttered, little else matters

As someone who was investigated for “transphobia and man-hating” in my teaching post in January 2018, I can relate all too well to the feeling when this happens. Your first thought is that it can’t really be happening. Surely it is too ridiculous and your employer will dismiss it out of hand? When that doesn’t happen the ground suddenly gives way beneath you. 

I sat opposite the Deputy Head of my school and realised I was in serious trouble. During the initial conversation I was made aware of the official complaint against me by an unnamed parent and student. This was backed by other unnamed students and a couple of unnamed members of staff who were “concerned”. I was not made aware of who was making these complaints or what the nature of them was. It was all terrifyingly vague. When I was finally presented with “evidence” it was laughably weak and easily challenged. I was cleared of all charges. My accusers tried twice more. I became stronger at resisting. 

This is the problem. Once the word “transphobia” is uttered, little else matters. Once it is written down the battle begins. It is like being blindfolded before being flung into a gladiatorial arena. You have no idea who or what you are fighting, and you have no weapons. You experience paralysing terror at what these unfounded accusations might do to your life. The loss of your job, home and everything you hold dear. A cold descends upon you and fear replaces the initial confidence that you have done nothing wrong. You can shout all you want about the unfairness, about your good character, your right to a personal belief, the boundary to your private life; but when the word “transphobia” is flung in your face, that incorporeal mud sticks immediately and it is up to you to prise it off over agonising months. 

This is a filthy game. It is designed to spread fear and intimidate educated, well-informed people into silence at the very point when they feel they absolutely must speak out to defend women. It is cowardly, relentless and effective. 

We must keep speaking. Women in prison don’t have a voice and we must be the voices that protect and safeguard them. The criminal justice system has failed these women by placing sexually violent men amongst them. Society has failed many of them before they even get to prison. 82 per cent are incarcerated for non-violent or petty crimes like shoplifting. Much of this “crime” is the result of poverty and debt and committed by women who have been brutalised by men over and over again. 

An amendment to protect them was debated in the House of Lords this week and withdrawn because it was likely to be defeated. Those in legislative power don’t want to hear about these women or their safety needs. The cry of “transphobia” drowns out those of us who would defend them. Trans-identified men have a louder voice and seemingly the ears of the powerful. 

The bravest amongst us will not be silenced. We will stand with each other. We will become louder. The silent women behind those bars will hear us shouting up for them. It is the very least they deserve. 

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