Expelled from my university course for holding gender critical views

by James Esses

Expelled from my university course for holding gender critical views

by James Esses
James Esses
Case Owner
I am a trainee therapist who was expelled from a university course over email for launching a public petition trying to safeguard therapy and counselling for vulnerable children with gender dysphoria.
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James Esses
Case Owner
I am a trainee therapist who was expelled from a university course over email for launching a public petition trying to safeguard therapy and counselling for vulnerable children with gender dysphoria.
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Latest: Oct. 19, 2022

Preliminary Judgment Published

Dear Supporters,


As you know, the Preliminary Hearing took place between the 14th and 16th June, to determine strike-out applications and technical challenges to jurisdiction.


The judgment has now been…

Read more

Summary

My name is James Esses. In May 2021, I was three years into a five-year MSc course, training to become a therapist.  One day, without warning, I received an email from my course provider - Metanoia Institute (accredited by Middlesex University) - expelling me from the course.

The reason for my expulsion was that I had been trying to safeguard therapy and counselling for vulnerable children with gender dysphoria. I had lodged a public petition, which subsequently got 10,000 signatures and a response from the government, who agreed to many of the safeguards I had been seeking. The petition caused a social media backlash against me and culminated in my expulsion. My course provider needlessly publicised the expulsion on social media. I worry that this has therefore ended my career in my chosen profession before it has even begun.

This was done to me because I hold gender critical beliefs: that sex is biological and immutable.  This is particularly relevant in the field of psychotherapy because individuals with gender dysphoria need to be treated in a balanced and holistic way.

For some, gender reassignment will be the appropriate treatment.  For others, it will not. Careful and appropriate talking therapy allows each individual properly to explore underlying causes and options for their care. This is the approach that therapists pursue for every other mental health condition, and it should be no different for gender dysphoria.

The petition, and related campaigning that I have been engaged in, sought only to recognise this. I sought to prevent an approach advocated by gender theory advocates, whereby therapists would be required, on pain of criminal punishment, to solely affirm gender dysphoric clients into their identified gender. This would have caused huge damage to an untold number of vulnerable gender dysphoric individuals, especially children, for whom irreversible hormonal and surgical intervention may not be the appropriate treatment.

My course provider is an organisation which ascribes to gender theory. As a consequence of this, when they saw the social media backlash against my petition, they expelled me in a single email. I had no right of appeal, no explanation of what I had done wrong, and no opportunity to set out why my actions were justified. 

I am crowdfunding to pay for legal representation to take my case to court. Primarily, the case is about the significant damage to me on a personal level.  However, if successful, I believe the case will also go a significant way to ensuring that no student suffers in the same way that I have done, protect the ability of therapists to treat clients professionally and according to their needs and demonstrate the legal protections which underpin freedom of speech and freedom of belief regarding sex and gender. No one should be punished for exercising their freedom of speech, especially when their goal is to protect children.

Please donate to support my case and share with family, friends and colleagues. 

Who am I

I was formerly a criminal defence barrister before moving into the civil service to work in the field of crime and criminal justice. Over the years, I have worked in a number of policy areas, including protecting children who have suffered sexual abuse and exploitation.

I decided that I wanted to help those struggling the most in life and took a decision to change career and re-train as a therapist. At the time of my expulsion, I was about to complete the third year of a five-year MSc.

I had volunteered as a children’s counsellor for the last 6 years. I have also lost that post as a result of my beliefs.

My story

Over the years, I found myself counselling more and more children of younger and younger ages struggling with gender dysphoria. I immersed myself in literature and research on the topic and was shocked and horrified with what I found in terms of the impact that puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and surgical intervention were having on vulnerable children. I also discovered around the world laws being created which could criminalise therapists who did anything other than affirm transitioning with their clients.

As a result, I co-founded a group of therapists called 'Thoughtful Therapists'. Our aim was to focus on therapeutic interventions to support those struggling with their gender. We began to campaign against policies and legislation which prevent therapists from working in an open and explorative way with children and mandate affirmation of transitioning.

Just four weeks after launching the petition mentioned above we had received 10,000 signatures of support; a threshold that required the government to respond directly to us. I also wrote a number of articles on this topic, was featured in the Daily Telegraph and engaged in a variety of interviews to raise public awareness.

On the day I received the email from my course provider, telling me that I was expelled with immediate effect, I discovered that my university email address was immediately blocked, as was my access to my student portal. I was never provided with the grounds or evidence for expulsion. I was never provided with justification for why I received the same sanction as someone who had committed a physical or sexual assault on campus. Not once was I provided with an opportunity to put forward my side of the story in writing or in person. Not once was I offered a chance to appeal.

The evening of my expulsion, I discovered that they had publicised on Twitter the fact they had expelled a student. It was abundantly clear, particularly given certain comments on the Tweet itself, that this student was me. My professional standing has therefore been irretrievably and grievously damaged before I have even qualified. The effect of expelling me, and then needlessly publicising this, has therefore been to prevent me from pursuing a career that I have already spent three years studying towards.

This entire ordeal has also had a significant impact on my own mental health and wellbeing.

The case

The case I am bringing against Metanoia is for the discrimination that I have faced for my gender critical beliefs.

I hope that the outcome of this case will ensure that students in the future do not suffer the same and that universities learn that they cannot unlawfully discriminate against those who are critical of gender theory.

What’s happening now?

In May, my solicitor wrote to Metanoia, setting out their breaches of the law, and asking them to respond with an explanation within 28 days.  They instructed prominent solicitors to prepare their response.  It took them over 2 months to provide an initial response.

My initial funding target will enable me, in the first instance, to instruct Counsel and plead my claim.

My lawyers

My solicitor is Peter Daly, a partner at Doyle Clayton, who specialises in gender critical cases.  He is also acting for Maya Forstater, Allison Bailey, Raquel Rosario Sanchez, Katie Alcock and others. 

My barrister is Akua Reindorf of Cloisters Chambers.  She is an eminent discrimination lawyer and judge, and wrote the recent report into the ill-treatment of gender critical feminists by Essex University.

Thank you in advance for your support.

Update 8

James Esses

Oct. 19, 2022

Preliminary Judgment Published

Dear Supporters,


As you know, the Preliminary Hearing took place between the 14th and 16th June, to determine strike-out applications and technical challenges to jurisdiction.


The judgment has now been published. I'm pleased with the main substance of it, which states that the core issues against both Metanoia Institute and the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) are clear to be determined at trial.


However, there are a few points about which my legal team have expressed concern. We have lodged an application to review these points, which is due to be determined shortly. Once that application is considered, we will take a view on whether we need to pursue those concerns further, potentially to appeal. I will update you on this as soon as I am able to.


Thank you as always for your support and generosity. If you are able to, please continue to donate to the case to ensure that I can take it all the way.


James

Update 7

James Esses

June 19, 2022

Preliminary Hearing - Update

Dear Supporters,


As you know, the Preliminary Hearing took place between the 14th and 16th June. This hearing was to determine the strike-out applications and technical challenges to jurisdiction by the Second Respondent (UKCP) and Third Respondent (Pamela Gawler-Wright). It was warming to see a number of you observing the proceedings.


Things got off to a rocky start when the original judge allocated to the hearing took ill on the morning of the first day. Thankfully, the Employment Tribunal was eventually able to find another judge. However, because of the delay, we ended up losing almost all of the first day. Whilst we were able to get through all of the evidence, including my own cross-examination, we ran out of time for closing submissions. As a result, the judge decided that these should be submitted in writing between now and the 18th July. After this point, he will consider all of the evidence and provide written judgment on the issues. This may take some months.


A Case Management Hearing has been scheduled for the 20th October for the purposes of setting dates and directions for the main trial itself.


The approach by the Second and Third Respondents in bringing these preliminary issues, means that we have been drawn into longer and more complicated proceedings than necessary before being able to proceed to trial, particularly when we have not even received substantive Disclosure in the case yet. Due to pursuing these expensive and time-consuming applications, my lawyers have put the Tribunal and relevant Respondents on notice that, should we win on these preliminary issues, we will be making an application for our costs.


Irrespective of what happens regarding the Second and Third Respondents, the case will be going to a full trial against the First Respondent (Metanoia Institute).


As is often the case with litigation, there are delays and additional costs. I will undoubtedly need to raise more funds to ensure I can see this through to a full conclusion.


With this in mind, can I please ask that you continue to support my case in any way you feel able – whether that be through donating or even just publicising the cause.


Without your support, I would be unable to seek justice, either for myself or for those who feel unable to speak out.


As always, I am eternally grateful.


James


Update 6

James Esses

March 29, 2022

Preliminary Hearing Update and Increased Target

Dear Supporters,

As you know, a Preliminary Hearing took place on 1st February 2022, the purpose of which was to discuss case management and consider various applications.

You will be aware that I had brought two separate cases. My legal team applied to the Tribunal to consolidate both cases into one single case (in order to save time, money and strengthen my overall position). Although this was opposed by UKCP and the 3rd Respondent, the Judge agreed with us and has granted the consolidation, which is extremely positive news.

However, there are also some frustrations. UKCP have applied to ‘strike-out’ the claims against them. They say we have no reasonable prospect of success against them. My lawyers are the view that this assertion is baseless. This is particularly so given the evidence we have against them and the fact that, for the purposes of ‘strike out’, the Tribunal must take my case at its highest. Furthermore, we have not even received substantive Disclosure in this case, which may throw up further evidence in my favour.

Nonetheless, UKCP’s approach means that we have now been drawn into a longer and more complicated than necessary additional Preliminary Hearing, prior to being able to proceed to trial.

The Judge has ordered that a 3-day Preliminary Hearing is to be held between 14th and 16th June 2022. This is to consider the ‘strike-out’ application, as well as other preliminary legal matters. A trial date will also be set at that hearing. This hearing will be the first public hearing in this matter.

Given the way in which UKCP have approached this in pursuing an expensive and time-consuming application that is highly unlikely to succeed, my lawyers have told the Tribunal that we will be making an application for our costs, if and when we are successful at that hearing.

The overall impact of the above is that there are delays to proceeding towards trial and this has increased my legal costs significantly, given my team need to prepare for the upcoming Preliminary Hearing.

I have therefore increased my target to £120,000. I appreciate the generosity shown by each and every one of you so far. If you feel able, can I please ask that you consider an additional donation to help ensure that I can fight this case as strongly as possible.

Organisations that have been captured by ideology must learn that they cannot discriminate against those with different beliefs to them – particularly when it comes to safeguarding children, protecting women’s rights and promoting free speech. 

Thank you as always,

James

Update 5

James Esses

Jan. 24, 2022

Preliminary Hearing Rescheduled

Dear supporters,

I am pleased to announce that the postponed Preliminary Hearing in my case has been rescheduled to 1st February 2022 at the London Central Employment Tribunal. It will be a telephone hearing.  

As mentioned previously, rescheduling the hearing allows for both of my separate cases to be considered together, which is positive.

The purpose of this procedural hearing is to allow for necessary directions to be made, as well as the setting of a date for trial.

I will, of course, provide a comprehensive update following the hearing.

Thank you for your ongoing support.

James

Update 4

James Esses

Jan. 3, 2022

Preliminary Hearing - Postponed

Dear supporters,

The preliminary hearing originally scheduled to take place on 4th January 2022 has been postponed and will need to be relisted.

As you know, I have brought two separate cases. By moving the date of the preliminary hearing, it will allow them both to be considered together, which is ultimately preferable.

When the new date has been set, I will of course provide another update.

Thank you as always for your ongoing support.

James

Update 3

James Esses

Dec. 6, 2021

New Claim Lodged and Preliminary Hearing Scheduled

Dear supporters,

I have a number of significant updates to share with you.

Firstly, on my original claim against Metanoia and UKCP, I have a preliminary hearing at the London Central Employment Tribunal scheduled for 4th January 2022. This is a procedural hearing and will allow for necessary directions to be made, as well as the setting of a date for trial.

Secondly, I have had to bring a second claim. On 20th September 2021, UKCP ran a training event for psychotherapists on the Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy. I was subsequently informed that the individual running the training event for UKCP made a number of negative, false and damaging remarks about me and my case to those in attendance. The nature of these false remarks was so serious – particularly in the context of an official training session run by the registration body of my profession – that I don’t want to repeat them here. 

On the basis that the comments were made explicitly about me for bringing my first claim, and were so obviously detrimental, I am therefore bringing a new claim against UKCP and the individual who ran the training for victimisation under the Equality Act 2010.  I am advised that exposing someone to false and damaging allegations purely for bringing an Employment Tribunal claim is the basis for a strong victimisation claim in its own right. 

The intention is that we will join this fresh victimisation claim to the original claim and run them together as one case with one trial.  But bringing this new claim broadens the scope of my legal action and requires greater input from my legal team, further pleadings from both sides, further evidence, fresh witnesses and a longer trial. As a result, I am increasing my stretch target to £95,000 to take into account this additional work required to bring these matters to trial.

I would like to again emphasise how incredibly grateful I am for all of the support I have received. I hope you will continue to support me, given the significant importance of this case - enabling me to seek personal justice and also demonstrating the strength of feeling in society around safeguarding children and protecting freedom of speech.

James


Update 2

James Esses

Sept. 11, 2021

Claim Lodged: Litigating against Metanoia, and the UK Council for Psychotherapy

Thanks to the overwhelming support I received from my original crowdfunding, my lawyers have now been able to draft and lodge my claim. My lawyers are Akua Reindorf, who wrote the Reindorf review into the treatment by Essex University of its gender critical staff, and Peter Daly of Doyle Clayton Solicitors, who acted for Maya Forstater in the appeal that established gender critical beliefs such as mine as being protected from discrimination. 

My claim is in the Employment Tribunal, because both of the Respondents provide workplace qualifications. These are litigated in the Employment Tribunal because of section 53 of the Equality Act 2010. 

The First Respondent is Metanoia. The acts of discrimination I am litigating are set out in my original crowdfunding page. 

The Second Respondent is UKCP, the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy. This is the main registration body for councillors and psychotherapists in the UK. These are not regulated professions, so they don’t have a regulator in the same way that Doctors have the General Medical Council, or solicitors have the Solicitors Regulation Authority. But UKCP is in many ways a quasi-regulator, because registration with the UKCP (or one other counterpart) is required in order to qualify formally as a counsellor or psychotherapist. 

It has come to light in Subject Access Request responses that UKCP were far more involved in Metanoia’s actions towards me than I had previously realised. Metanoia were liaising with UKCP, who were putting pressure on Metanoia in how they dealt with me. My claim is therefore also against UKCP, on the basis that its actions instructed, caused or induced Metanoia’s discrimination against me, as well as those actions being discriminatory against me in their own right. As with Metanoia, I am litigating against UKCP on the basis that it is a qualifications body, but also on the basis that it is a Trade Association – both of these are within the Employment Tribunal’s jurisdiction under the Equality Act 2010. 

This is, as far as I am aware, the first claim for gender critical belief discrimination brought against a registration body or quasi-regulator like UKCP. This is therefore an important case because it will have relevance for other regulators and other regulated professions. 

The addition of UKCP as a second respondent has increased the scope of the claim quite significantly. As well as having increased the work that was required in pleading the claim, having a second respondent will also increase the amount of work required to bring the matter to trial, and the length of the trial itself. I am therefore increasing my stretch target to £80,000 to take this into account. We cannot yet know how much work will be required to bring this matter to a conclusion, because we have not yet seen either Respondent’s pleadings, and therefore cannot know how they will defend the case, but the increased stretch target represents a realistic conversative estimate of the full costs of the case. I am incredibly grateful for the support I have already received. I hope you will be able to continue supporting me.

Update 1

James Esses

Aug. 6, 2021

Thank You and Next Steps

Dear Supporters,


Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Without your kindness and generosity, I would not even have this opportunity to seek justice.


To have reached £50,000 in less than 5 days is testament to the strength of feeling that exists in relation to safeguarding children, upholding women’s rights and protecting freedom of speech.


In fact, the messages of support I have received have been even more warming than the generous financial donations.


In terms of immediate next steps, we are in the process of instructing Counsel and I will be having a conference with my legal team, which will enable us to decide our plan of action, prior to formally commencing proceedings.

I will of course keep you all updated throughout this entire process, particularly when we hit certain key milestones.


Although I have reached my initial target, the road to litigation can be unpredictable and it is feasible I may need to raise more going forward. Therefore, I may at some point increase the stretch target. Regardless, may I please ask that you continue to publicise and support my case to ensure that this can be fought all the way.


Thank you all again.


Take care, 


James

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