UK fight over firing for defense of women’s rights, science

By Ögmundur Jónsson
February 17, 2020
Maya Forstater is fighting to overturn firing.
Maya Forstater is fighting to overturn firing.

MANCHESTER, England — Judge James Tayler of the Central London Employment Tribunal upheld the firing of Maya Forstater Dec. 19. Forstater had spoken out against undermining women’s rights in the name of protecting those who “identify” as the opposite sex. Her firing had been justified under the U.K.’s Gender Recognition Act, passed in 2004.

The law allows you to formally change your gender simply by filing a certificate.

Forstater challenged her firing, and protested the court’s decision to uphold it. “There are two sexes, male and female,” she said. “It is impossible to change sex. These were until very recently understood as basic facts of life by almost everyone.

“This judgment removes women’s rights and the right to freedom of belief and speech,” she added. “It gives judicial license for women and men who speak up for objective truth and clear debate to be subject to aggression, bullying, no-platforming and economic punishment.” Forstater announced Jan. 25 she had filed an appeal.

Forstater, a tax researcher at the London-based Centre for Global Development, went to court after bosses at the “think tank” refused to renew her contract. They said she used “offensive and exclusionary” language in tweets opposing government-proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act that would allow people to “self-identify.”

“I have been told that it is offensive to say ‘transwomen are men’ or that women means ‘adult human female,’” Forstater wrote. “However since these statements are true I will continue to say them.”

Of particular concern to Forstater was to defend places historically reserved for women. “Women and girls lose out on privacy, safety and fairness if males are allowed into changing rooms, dormitories, prisons, sports teams,” she said.

Judge Tayler ruled in December that Forstater’s firing was lawful since her insistence on her right to refer to people by their actual biological sex “even if it violates their dignity and/or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.” Apparently, there’s nothing “intimidating” or “hostile” about firing someone for expressing their opinions.

Making it crystal clear that bosses can legitimately place limits on workers’ freedom of expression, Tayler said Forstater could oppose reforms to the Gender Recognition Act, as well as call for the exclusion of trans women from women-only spaces, but could not say “that biological sex is immutable.”

Forstater’s most high-profile defense came from J.K. Rowling. “Dress however you please. Call yourself whatever you like. Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you,” the Harry Potter series author wrote in response to the ruling. “Live your best life in peace and security. But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real?”

The verdict was supported by groups such as Human Rights Campaign, Amnesty U.K. and Stonewall.

Broader fight for rights

The court ruling justifying the sacking of Forstater is just one recent example of how state institutions have attacked workers’ rights under the guise of protecting transgender people.

Harry Miller, a dockworker from Lincoln, was investigated by cops in January last year after he posted a limerick on Twitter that questioned whether a transgender woman could really be a biological woman.

Cops went after Miller after receiving complaints that Miller’s comments made his workplace “unsafe.” When Miller protested the cops’ visit there, officer Mansoor Gul told him, “We need to check your thinking,” and warned him he would be hit with “further action,” if he continued to state his opinions on this subject.

“I have a wife, a mother and daughters,” Miller told the Daily Telegraph. “When it comes to their rights and safety and those of women everywhere men need to speak up.”

In another case, two parents and a teacher are demanding courts instruct Oxfordshire County Council to withdraw its “Trans Inclusion Toolkit for Schools,” published last year. The document instructs schools that boys can share toilets with girls if they “identify” as girls and vice versa.