The open letter was a short piece signed by 16 professors and doctors who work at Cardiff University in an attempt to persuade the Vice Chancellor to cut all ties with Stonewall, a charity which supports LGBTQ+ rights. This was suggested in the middle of pride month, and specifically related to Stonewall’s views on transgender people, under the guise of the idea of being, ‘gender critical’. We’re going to pick apart the open letter, and explain why most of its talking points don’t stem from real concern, but rather transphobic bullshit.
The letter argues, ‘being associated with Stonewall lies in tension with two of the university’s core values: 1) academic freedom and 2) respect for the rights of all staff and students, including women.’ This is not the case. Stonewall is not suggesting that the academic freedom of university staff and students should be removed. In October 2018 Stonewall said that they themselves will refuse to debate transphobes. Freedom of speech does not extend into forcing others to debate you.
The letter also claims that Stonewall has a, ‘longstanding policy demanding, ’no debate’, on transgender issues’. Stonewall have said on the matter that, ‘We will always debate issues that enable us to further equality but what we will not is debate trans people’s rights to exist. ‘ – shorturl.at/vyST8
‘Nancy Kelley, CEO of Stonewall, has likened ‘gender critical’ beliefs to anti-Semitism.’ No she didn’t, the linked BBC article quotes Kelley who was discussing the controversy Stonewall had faced, she says, ‘with all beliefs including controversial beliefs there is a right to express those beliefs publicly… whether it’s anti-Semitic beliefs, gender critical beliefs, beliefs about disability…’. This is not a comparison to anti-semitism, but rather a discussion on the limits of freedom of speech, where she actually agrees with their right to the freedom of speech they claim to be losing! – shorturl.at/mvwzW
The letter also cites, ‘no-platforming’ to be a cause for concern for gender critical [transphobic] academics. It is because it should be. The national union of students established it’s no-platform policy in 1974 and has been used to battle facism, racism and and anti-LGBT ideas ever since, notably the BNP in 2015.
It is also stated that women are more likely to be targeted for their expression of gender critical [transphobic] beliefs. The Reindolf report said this, but it’s odd that the majority of the signatories on the letter are men if that is the case.
The letter references the recent Maya Forstater court case, and says that it, ‘[stipulates that] gender critical views are a protected characteristic under the Equality Act’. They are not. Forstater was not fired, she simply did not have her contract renewed. The court notes, [shorturl.at/oDJ19] explicitly say that, ‘This judgment does notmean that those with gender-critical beliefs can ‘misgender’ trans persons with impunity/ that trans persons do not have the protections against discrimination and harassment conferred by the EqA/ that employers and service providers will not be able to provide a safe environment for trans people.’ Putting trans students under the authority of those who signed this letter would endanger both their health and academic succes. The Maya Forstater case does not allow you to be a transphobic prick without repercussions.
The final point I’d like to touch on is in the penultimate paragraph, where the writer states, ‘Liz Truss, the Equalities Minister, has urged all government departments to leave the [Stonewall] scheme’. Liz Truss also disbanded the LGBT+ advisory panel set up to offer insight, ‘on issues and policies concerning lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people’.
This kind of rhetoric actively harms trans people every day, and it is our responsibility to call it out when we see it in order to create a kinder society for trans people to live in.