Feminist academics at universities say they self-censor their views on trans issues

Feminist academics at universities tell how their views on trans issues have led to them being overlooked for jobs, physically removed from events and facing ‘continuum of hell’ from online abuse

  • Feminist academics have told how they are self-censoring over trans issues
  • They have been overlooked for jobs, no-platformed and bullied online
  • Some have received death and rape threats from social media trolls
  • And they claim that supporters of trans rights have ‘control’ over academia 

Feminist academics have told how they are self-censoring because their views on trans issue have led them to being overlooked for jobs, physically barred or even removed from events, and facing a ‘continuum of hell’ from online trolls who have made death and rape threats. 

Laura Favaro, a researcher in gender issues at City, University of London, interviewed 14 feminists who believe that men and women have biological differences which are ‘binary and immutable’.

The so-called ‘gender critical’ feminists claimed that they have been the targets of abuse, intimidation, no-platforming, smears and ‘lost career progression opportunities, including being blocked from jobs’ in the world of academia for their views on sex and gender.

Some described being physically removed from events and even being the recipients of incitement to murder online. 

One criminology scholar described her experience as ‘a continuum of hell’ while others in the early stages of their careers admitted ‘it would just be too terrifying’ to make their views public because of the fear of being ‘ostracised’ – and instead choosing to ‘hide in the shadows’.

Writing for The Times Higher Education, Miss Favaro said the interviewees warned of the near-total control of academic freedom – deciding what can be discussed in departments or included in scholarly journals – by supporters of ‘trans-inclusive feminism’.

Thousands of people take part in a Trans+ Pride march from Wellington Arch to Soho in July

Thousands of people take part in a Trans+ Pride march from Wellington Arch to Soho in July

One academic said: ‘It feels so alienating because academia should be about discussing and exchanging ideas, and it’s not. It’s not in our context.

‘It’s also incredibly anxiety-provoking because I don’t want to lose my job and I don’t want to put my kids at risk – I know they could be put at risk.’

Miss Favaro wrote: ‘Of course, I fear harms to my career and more for instigating, as interviewees repeatedly put it, ”difficult conversations” – not least as an immigrant early career scholar with a family to support. 

‘But, at the same time, why would I want to work in academia if I cannot do academic work? Much more terrifying than being hated is being gagged.’

It comes after a barrister who won a tribunal against her chambers after they discriminated against her for her beliefs on gender rights has resumed her battle with a controversial LGBT charity.

Allison Bailey, who is friends with Harry Potter author JK Rowling – herself the target of hatred for her views – had accused Garden Court Chambers of withholding work from her and trying to crush her spirit.

Laura Favaro, a researcher in gender issues at City, University of London

Laura Favaro, a researcher in gender issues at City, University of London

She said it happened after she criticised Stonewall’s trans policies including recommendations to change pronouns from ‘she and he’ to ‘they and their’.

Ms Bailey – who is a lesbian – believes sex is biological and cannot change, and that the word ‘woman’ is defined as ‘adult human female’. She won £22,000 in damages from GCC after winning part of the discrimination case. But she lost part of her case in her claim that Stonewall had instructed or induced the treatment by the chambers.

Today she announced she had appealed against part of the tribunal’s ruling.

Within minutes of the ruling, the Harry Potter writer tweeted: ‘Allison Bailey is a heroine to me and innumerable other feminists for refusing to abandon her beliefs and principles in the fact of intimidation and discrimination. Congratulations’, adding: ‘And I couldn’t be prouder of my friend’.

In December 2018 Ms Bailey complained to her colleagues about the chambers becoming a Stonewall Diversity Champion, saying that Stonewall advocated ‘trans extremism’ and was complicit in a campaign of intimidation of those who questioned gender self-identity.

She founded the LGB Alliance group, which argues there is a conflict between the rights of lesbian, gay and bisexual people, and transgender people – and opposes many of Stonewall’s policies, including the assertion that ‘trans women are women’.

The tribunal found that GCC discriminated against Ms Bailey by publishing a tweet saying it was investigating her and by upholding a claim by Stonewall arguing that two of her tweets ‘were likely to breach (The Bar Standards Board’s) core duties’.

But allegations that it discriminated against and victimised her through withholding of instructions and work in 2019, causing the claimant financial loss, a claim of indirect discrimination by GCC, and a claim that Stonewall instructed, caused or induced GCC to discriminate against her, were dismissed.

In December 2018, Ms Bailey complained to her colleagues about GCC becoming a Stonewall Diversity Champion, claiming the group advocated ‘trans extremism’ and was complicit in a campaign of intimidation of those who questioned gender self-identity.

In October 2019 she was involved in setting up the LGB Alliance advocacy group to resist ‘gender extremism’.

Her tweets opposing trans rights campaigns led to tweets and complaints being sent to GCC, alleging her opinions were transphobic and damaged GCC’s reputation.

The tribunal held that her gender-critical belief that Stonewall wanted to replace sex with gender identity, that the absolutist tone of its advocacy of gender self-identity made it complicit in threats against women, and that it eroded women’s rights and lesbian same-sex orientation, were beliefs protected under the Equality Act.

A reserved judgment handed down upheld her claim that GCC discriminated against her because of her belief, when it tweeted that the complaints would be investigated under a complaints procedure, and when it found in December 2019 that two of her tweets were likely to breach barristers’ core duties.

GCC was ordered to pay her £22,000 compensation for injury to feelings, plus interest of £4,693.33.

At the time the chambers said it was ‘reviewing the judgment carefully with our legal team with a view to appeal’ but has not done so.

A Spokesperson for Stonewall said ‘The recent decision by the Employment Tribunal found that Stonewall had NOT instructed, caused or induced Garden Court Chambers to discriminate against Allison Bailey.

‘We have not been notified by the Employment Appeal Tribunal of any appeal by Allison Bailey, but should we receive this, we will defend ourselves robustly.’

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