Maya Forstater

I have a philosophical belief that Maya Forstater is a transphobe. Her employment ceased because of her transphobia, and the Employment Tribunal has found against her enraged, entitled challenge to her dismissal. Like all “gender-critical” transphobes she thinks of herself as a martyr, but she was sacked, rightly, for being willing to humiliate and disregard others unfortunate enough to encounter her.

Forstater believes that no-one can change sex, and that trans women are men. The judge questioned what she thought of disorders of sexual development, and found she accepts they exist, but believes everyone, even those with such disorders, has one sex or the other (para 41). The judge questioned whether such a belief could be described as “scientific”, as she does, but decided that the belief was sufficiently coherent to qualify as a belief, even if it is wrong (para 83).

Forstater claimed (para 78) that her belief that trans women are men was important because it was necessary to support her sense of self. That is the transphobia. Rather than seeing a trans woman in women’s space and accepting that’s probably OK, lawful, and completely unthreatening to anyone, she starts to feel her sense of self threatened. She wants to object, and possibly she wants the trans woman excluded.

This is illustrated by her dispute with Gregor Murray, a non-binary person, who complained about her to the Scout Association. She had referred to them with the pronoun “he” in a tweet (paras 35 and 89). It is not clear from the judgment what happened before the complaint, but responding to the complaint she said, I reserve the right to use the pronouns “he” and “him” to refer to male people. While I may choose to use alternative pronouns as a courtesy, no one has the right to compel others to make statements they do not believe.

The judge decided, para 90, I conclude from this, and the totality of the evidence, that the Claimant is absolutist in her view of sex and it is a core component of her belief that she will refer to a person by the sex she considered appropriate even if it violates their dignity and/or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. The approach is not worthy of respect in a democratic society.

This is the basis of his decision. Forstater is entitled to hold her belief, to state it, and even to act on the basis of it in many situations: not all harassment is unlawful. But she was claiming in tribunal that this was a philosophical belief protected under the Equality Act, and that she had a right not to lose her job because of her belief. The judge has decided that her belief fits all the criteria for protected beliefs (para 50) except the last: it must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, not be incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others. She might even have a claim of indirect discrimination- she asserted women are more likely to hold such beliefs, and that claim was not part of this preliminary hearing. There are other issues between the parties and the case may continue. The only decision is that her belief that trans women are men is not protected under the Equality Act.

She “believes” that she can call me a man and I have no right to object. If she had a right to act on that belief in all circumstances, my right to not be harassed would be worthless. The judge says (para 87) It is obvious how important being accorded their preferred pronouns and being able to describe their gender is to many trans people. Calling a trans woman a man is likely to be profoundly distressing. It may be unlawful harassment. Even paying due regard to the qualified right to freedom of expression, people cannot expect to be protected if their core belief involves violating others dignity and/or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.

I say if a trans woman is distressed by being called “he” she should grow a pair, or perhaps, “grow them back”. Some people will take any opportunity to distress you once they see they can do so that easily. Then again, perhaps I could distress Maya: I would look her in the eye and say, calmly, “I am a woman”; and her brain would explode as her “sense of self” disintegrated.

She stated there was an opposite belief which people held which she thought was wrong (para 5); Some people believe that everyone has an inner “gender”, which may be the same as or different to their sex at birth, and that gender effectively trumps sex, so that “trans men are men” and “trans women are women”. Typically such proponents believe that that “trans women are women” from the moment they identify as women (if not before). That’s not what I believe. I believe culture enforces gender roles and stereotypes from birth, and that because culture limits the way people who don’t fit those stereotypes can act, some people transition. It’s not necessary to believe anything to treat a trans woman with respect, and using the wrong pronouns deliberately can be harassment.

To me it is entirely reasonable not to renew someone’s contract because you reasonably fear she might harass, disrespect, or even distress a client. The Daily Mail exaggerated to the point of lying: Britons have no right to ask whether a transgender person is male or female, said their headline. Their first sentence was gibberish: A landmark ruling (No, an employment tribunal, not even an employment appeal tribunal) has found that there is no right to question whether a transgender person is a man or a woman. There is a right, it is just limited under certain circumstances, as your right to swing your fist ends in my personal space. You can assert I am a man, but there are situations when that is objectionable.

The Mail journalist, not understanding, even manages to say something Ms Forstater might find offensive: If the employment judge had sided with Miss Forstater, firms would have been barred from sacking staff if they expressed the belief that there are only two genders, even if some people found that offensive. The anti-trans campaigners have to educate even their allies on the difference between sex and gender.

The Telegraph got the law mostly right, but devoted paragraphs to expressing Ms Forstater’s anger and distress. So did the Guardian. That will give some readers the required dopamine hit of anger against trans people.

The Guardian quoted Index on Censorship, which supported Ms Forstater’s claim: From what I have read of [Forstater’s] writing, I cannot see that Maya has done anything wrong other than express an opinion that many feminists share – that there should be a public and open debate about the distinction between sex and gender. That is arguable. It points up how narrow the judgment is. It has not even decided that the termination was reasonable and lawful, only that her argument that it was unlawful because her belief was protected has failed. In the emotional atmosphere, few supporters of Forstater will see this nice distinction.

JK Rowling tweeted, Dress however you please.
Call yourself whatever you like.
Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you.
Live your best life in peace and security.
But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real?

That is the misunderstanding the phobes will push. Getting the truth out to barely interested parties will be difficult. Some, er, trans-critical-curious people may be radicalised by this lie. The row about Rowling being transphobic, now reported in the Guardian, only increases the exposure of Forstater. Whether Forstater had won or lost this case, the reporting would have been a disaster.

Here is the judgment.

The Centre for Global Development, the Respondent in Forstater’s claim, has made statements about the case.

15 November: the hearing begins.

18 December: CGD and CGDE pride themselves as workplaces that support and advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in both policy and practice. We have always disputed the claimant’s allegations, and are grateful Judge Tayler has ruled in our favor regarding this particular matter. We look forward to continuing to make our case in the Tribunal as the Claimant’s employment status is considered next month.

Employment status affects what rights Forstater has and what action she might win in an employment tribunal. It’s the difference between a “contract of service” and a “contract for services”- it’s quite technical. CGD and CGDE maintain that Ms. Forstater does not have the necessary employment status to pursue these claims as she was an unpaid visiting fellow and occasional paid consultant.

3 January 2020. Another decision on protected beliefs: Casamitjana v The League against cruel sports. A short summary judgment found ethical veganism, which is not solely about eating but also about using animal products or products tested on animals. The LACS did not contest the point, and a short summary judgment was issued confirming ethical veganism is a protected belief. I could not find it today on BAILII or the Gov.UK ET decisions site.

Do not worry about transphobes

How much attention should you pay to transphobia? Very little.

There is street transphobia. It’s weird to think that someone who has never met you and has no knowledge of what you are like as a person really hates you. You are a symbol for him of all he despises. The worst last year for me screamed at me that he would kill me. Well, maybe he was having a bad day. Yes, there are people like that. They rarely do you actual harm. You need to know they exist, but should pay no attention at all to the details of their abuse.

What prompted this post was an article in the Daily Telegraph, which was shared in a trans group on facebook. Church of England’s plan for transgender baptisms outrages bishops was the headline. Well, the Telegraph is a transphobic publication, so when it reports on transphobia it exaggerates it. There are two errors in the headline. Some bishops support the measure, so it should say “Some” bishops are outraged, rather than implying all are. The other error is that no-one has proposed transgender baptisms. More than half the population of England has been baptised, and the ceremony is a reaffirmation of baptismal vows. No church will rebaptise people. If the headline is filled with error, the article will be too.

In fact “ten” bishops “criticised” the ceremony. Few bishops would confess to “outrage” in public. There are 41 diocesan bishops and around 75 “suffragan” or assistant bishops, so a tiny minority has condemned it. Analyse the article, and you see the transphobia is less widespread than the writer would want you to think. The writer makes a desperate attempt to list all the transphobes to make it sound like they are important, but his scrabbling shows how few they really are. They include John Fenwick, a bishop of the Free Church of England. I hadn’t heard of that, so googled it: it split off in 1844 and has nineteen congregations in England.

I mean really. Should you care what John Fenwick thinks? Of course not.

Haters gonna hate. The Telegraph wants its readers to hate trans people, and that is a bad thing. So does the Times, as both are hard-Right publications busily dehumanising various hate groups. Oh, and the Daily Mail, but you knew that. The risk with reading the Telegraph article is that it might discourage you. Jesus said, “Do not be afraid”. It’s full of detail, and if you read the detail and the various horrible things transphobes say, they appear more significant than they actually are. People get assaulted for being trans. We get mocked and vilified going about our ordinary lives. Most people are not like that. They don’t care. You will encounter prejudice, but mostly you will be able to live your life.

Sometimes it is worth checking out the nuances. Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester, said: “The church should be compassionate and sensitive towards those who experience gender dysphoria, but its fundamental teaching must be based on a revealed truth and objective biology and its relation to social structure.”

Compassionate and sensitive. That is a clear rebuke to those who would express or foment “outrage”. That journalist made a ranty headline, and from ignorance quoted the answer to his bigotry at the end of the article. “Objective biology” sounds pretty rejectionist- saying trans women are “biological males” or something- but I see a glimmer of hope in the words “its relation to social structure”. Socially, I am a woman. He does not merely discount me. He recognises social structure is relevant. Biology is not a complete answer.

There are transphobes about, but there are allies. They will encourage you and make you feel better. When you feel better you will be more motivated and better able to take action. Perhaps Pink News should take that into consideration: many of its December articles on trans have been “Help help the sky is falling” articles about transphobia. Indonesian city Padang using exorcisms to “cure” queer people. Um. The most positive stories are Miss Universe pays tribute to Angela Ponce. The winner, Ashley Graham, said She’s smart, driven, beautiful…and nothing short of extraordinary. Well, yes. I find beauty contests problematic, but I am pleased with the final Peace-and-Love message. We need more of that. And Transgender boxer Pat Manuel has his first professional win. Half positive: a school teacher was suspended for telling trans boy “You freak me out”. Yes he was a transphobic bully: and the school dealt with him.

Don’t pay too much attention to the transphobes. There will always be transphobes. You will still find ways to achieve your aims and succeed as the person you really are. I have just not been taking my own advice, reading a boring and stupid Times article, which refers to “a powerful trans lobby”. I am glad they are trying to terrify their own side. Imagine poor little transphobes, terrified of expressing their bigotry.