The belief that people cannot change their biological sex is “not worthy of respect in a democratic society”, an employment tribunal has ruled.
Maya Forstater, a researcher at the Centre for Global Development, was fired from her job after she was accused of using “offensive and exclusionary” language on Twitter.
Ms Forstater had taken to social media to question government proposals to reform the Gender Recognition Act to allow people to self-identify as the opposite sex.
In October 2018, Ms Forstater tweeted: “What I am so surprised at is that smart people who I admire, who are absolutely pro-science in other areas, and champion human rights & womens rights are tying themselves in knots to avoid saying the truth that men cannot change into women (because that might hurt mens feelings”
According to BBC News, Ms Forstater had also argued: “framing the question of transgender inclusion as an argument that male people should be allowed into women’s spaces discounts women’s rights to privacy and is fundamentally illiberal (it is like forcing Jewish people to eat pork)”.
However, in what has been called a “landmark judgement”, employment judge James Tayler ruled that Ms Forstater was not entitled to ignore the rights of a transgender person or the “enormous pain that can be caused by misgendering.”
“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,” judge Tayler continued.
“The approach is not worthy of respect in a democratic society.”
Following the ruling, ‘Harry Potter’ author J.K. Rowling took to Twitter in defence of Ms Forstater.
“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? #IStandWithMaya #ThisIsNotADrill”, Rowling tweeted on Thursday.
The tweet has received mix reactions, with some of Rowling’s fans thanking her for speaking up for women, while others have accused her of being a TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist).
Ms Forstater issued a statement on Twitter in response to the ruling, calling it not only a denial of women’s rights but the right to freedom of belief and speech.
“My belief as I set out in my witness statement is that sex is a biological fact and is immutable. There are two sexes. Men are male. Women are female. It is impossible to change sex. These were, until very recently, understood as basic facts of life,” she said.
“As I said at my tribunal, I will as a matter of courtesy use preferred pronouns and I support human rights. Everyone should be free to express themselves, to break free of gender stereotypes and live free of violence, harassment and discrimination.
“But this does not require removing people’s freedom to speak about objective reality, or to discuss proposed changes to law and to government policies clearly.
Ms Forstater continued, “Women face discrimination on the basis of our sex. Women’s rights have been hard-won in recent generations. Protections against sex discrimination depend on being able to recognise sex. This is why it is a protected characteristic in the Equality Act.”
“This judgement removes women’s rights and the right to freedom of belief and speech. It gives judicial licence for women and men who speak up for objective truth and clear debate to be subject to aggression, bullying, no-platforming and economic punishment.
Ms Forstater went on to say, “I will consider the judgement closely with my legal team and determine what can be done to challenge it.”
Ms Forstater’s solicitor said, “The significance of this judgement should not be downplayed.
“Had our client been successful, she would have established in law protection for people – on any side of this debate – to express their beliefs without fear of being discriminated against.”