In a new two-part series on freedom of speech in universities, Carys Moseley explains how students and academics have surrendered their freedom to debate to the acceptance of transgender ideology. In this first part, Carys comments on a letter to the Sunday Times signed by 30 academics, demanding that universities cut ties with LGBT charity Stonewall.
LGBT charity Stonewall has recently come under fire from a group of academics over its transgender awareness training. The LGBT charity has given the training for staff at over40 universities in the United Kingdom via its Diversity Champions Programme. Over thirty academics wrote a letter to the Sunday Times last week (reprinted on this blog) saying that this training was making“tendentious and anti-scientific claims” as if they were ‘objective fact’, and thus endangering academic freedom. The academics demanded that universities “sever their ties” with Stonewall unless it can prove that it respects academic freedom.
Conscientious lecturers fear losing their jobs
Academics are being made to go through ‘trans awareness training,’ being presented with claims such as “gender is how people interpret and view themselves” and that “one in 100 people are born with an intersex trait.” The former claim is concerning because it is clearly conflating the concept of ‘gender identity’ – invented to normalise cross-gender identification – and ‘gender’ meaning biological sex. This fundamentally privileges the subjective concept of ‘gender identity’ above the existing biological reality and legal protected characteristic of sex.
These trans awareness training courses are also said to be telling academics to ask students for their preferred pronouns and even not to invite speakers who don’t play along with transgender identification onto campuses. Naturally many academics fear losing their jobs over disagreement with this type of training.
Thousands of academics privilege gender identity over free speech and reality
Alarmingly it was reported in the Independent last Wednesday that over 3,500 (and counting) academics from universities in the UK had signed a counter-letter supporting Stonewall, and putting the ‘safety’ of LGBTQ people above freedom of speech. (By now there are over 6000 signatories. However, many of these seem to be from overseas, thus diminishing the credibility of the letter as representing a large number of British academics.) In their letter, they said that “the primary concern must be with the wellbeing of the people subject to those policies.”
This is a shocking statement as it automatically assumes that only LGBTQ people – and of those, only those who agree with transgender ideology (many do not) – are subject to the policies Stonewall is pushing. It is very obvious that the whole point of the trans awareness training is that everybody is subject to them.
The letter goes on to say this:
“The vulnerability of the LGBTQIA+ community, especially young people and those who are transgender or gender-diverse, is well documented. As educators, we have a duty of care to our students and colleagues.”
The reason given for this is that everybody must be able to experience “a secure and supportive environment safely to pursue their own freedom.” The absolute right of transgender people to self-expression is privileged above all else by these thousands of Stonewall supporters, as the end of the letter shows:
“We support the rights of colleagues to free speech, and safe debate, but until all LGBTQIA+ people can live, work and learn in our universities without fear or intimidation, it is vital that we stand up and say that we support the rights of trans and other gender-diverse people to be who they are.”
The uncomfortable reality is that the integrity of teaching and research in universities is under serious threat here.
Integrity of university teaching threatened
Teaching has to be based on a commitment to acceptance of factually verifiable truth otherwise little else makes sense. There really is no excuse here. We know what the words ‘male’ and ‘female’ mean – and if universities are refusing to accept their biological meaning, why are they still allowed to have medical schools and biology departments? We know that transgenderism is a belief, and that the government admits this.
Interaction with students must be based on acceptance of obvious truths such as who is male or female, otherwise trust between staff and students breaks down. No wonder the Sunday Times reported that some students said they felt intimidated by the creeping influence of transgender ideology on campuses. Then we have the ongoing assault on single-sex spaces in educational establishments. Female students in particular are very vulnerable to this.
Integrity of university research threatened
The integrity of research is also under threat. Firstly, many research projects are collaborative by nature. Edited volumes, conferences, work on manuscripts, interviews with people who consent to be interviewed. Basic respect for empirical reality has to prevail otherwise serious academics will become disenchanted and the result will be ‘brain drain’ to countries where their right to tell the truth is protected by law. Do we really want this to happen?
Second, all types of research have to be scrutinised by colleagues within the departments and faculties, in a face-to-face environment. If you are unfortunate enough to be in a department with transgender ideologues, they may do their very best to stop any research that could possibly be deemed offensive or critical of transgender ideology from being funded or published. This would affect everything from Masters and PhD dissertations to projects by qualified staff.
Third, academic staff and research students test out their research while conducting it by giving presentations discussing it at seminars and conferences. Other academics as well as students can ask questions and scrutinise the research up to a point. As the case of James Caspian shows, universities themselves are starting to reject research proposals on gender dysphoria precisely for fear of upsetting transgender activists.
Trans training pre-empts Gender Recognition Act consultation outcome
It is particularly unacceptable that universities are actually paying Stonewall for this training because it is based on the assumption that ‘gender identity’ is a protected characteristic, and that, as such, this training fulfils a requirement for fostering good relations between people with different characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. Gender identity is not a protected characteristic. Thus, universities are not legally bound to accept it – let alone pay for transgender training that is based on the concept that people have a ‘gender identity’ that everybody else must recognise.
This is the entire reason why the government held a consultation on amending the Gender Recognition Act, and why Tory backbench MP Maria Miller tabled a private member’s bill, the Gender Identity (Protected Characteristic) Bill in 2016 to amend the Equality Act.
How did this become possible?
The answer to this question is twofold: practical and spiritual. On the practical level, Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index is the carrot on a stick for employers to join the Stonewall Diversity Champions Programme. Organisations can choose to join, but to do so they have to provide very detailed information on their internal workings to prove that they meet the criteria for being the best workplaces for LGBT people.
This has only become possible because a quarter of a century of public policies pushing for equal outcomes for people with different characteristics such as sexual orientation and gender reassignment, has led to this. The culmination of such policies has been the Public Sector Equality Duty, included in the Equality Act 2010. It is therefore reasonable to assume that unless preferred pronouns are used, the complaint will be made that transgender staff and students will not ‘achieve full equality’ in universities.
Finally, all universities in the UK bar one (Buckingham University) are state-funded and therefore subject to the Public Sector Equality Duty. This means they are less free to resist government-enforced ideologies such as transgender ideology. They are reliant on public money for research funding. This begs some questions as to how much freedom researchers feel they have, or actually have, in making grant applications to pursue certain questions.
A David-and-Goliath battle between truth and lies
It is shocking that a letter signed by 30 academics should have been countered by another letter signed by more than a hundred times that number. This shows what a David-and-Goliath battle this really is.
Forcing people to lie goes against people’s freedom of thought, conscience and religion. As such, academics and staff who have been sent on trans training and disapprove of it could sue their universities under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights. It really is an absolute disgrace that thousands of qualified and trained academics, those who are responsible for the highest level of education for the population, should have the gall and the cowardice to put not only the freedom but the duty to lie quite blatantly about whether one is male or female above the free speech of their own colleagues and students. The whole thing beggars belief.
The fact of the matter is that universities themselves are paying Stonewall to indoctrinate the most highly qualified and (supposedly) intelligent people in the entire country. The aim is obvious – to create a stigma around all speech and writing that is critical of transgenderism. This is blatant promotion of transgender and LGBT propaganda in a manner that recalls the totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century. It is one of the darkest hours ever in the history of universities in the western world. Now as then, however, the problem of this creeping culture of totalitarianism based on lies has a spiritual, not only a political root.
Mass rebellion against Biblical Christianity is the real problem
The truth is that Stonewall has been allowed into universities to preach the false gospel of transgenderism because academics mostly did nothing when it aggressively pushed for the normalisation of homosexuality. Those church denominations which insisted their ordinands get university degrees in theology are the very ones that have set up endless ‘debates’ and committees on homosexuality, and now many are caving in to transgenderism as well. It is also 100% relevant that these very same denominations are the ones that have rejected the traditional Biblical understanding of creation and fall taught by the vast majority of Christian theologians over the past 2,000 years.
This was itself the result of mass abandonment of the Biblical faith and the mind of Christ on the Old Testament, something that has taken two hundred years to spread across society. This means we must look at the relationship between theology departments in universities and ordination to Christian ministry. Stay tuned.