I lost my job for talking about women’s rights

by Maya Forstater

I lost my job for talking about women’s rights

by Maya Forstater
Maya Forstater
Case Owner
I lost my job for speaking out on women's rights and gender self ID on social media. My case is a test case to show that people should not be discriminated against for having gender critical views.
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Maya Forstater
Case Owner
I lost my job for speaking out on women's rights and gender self ID on social media. My case is a test case to show that people should not be discriminated against for having gender critical views.
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Latest: Oct. 9, 2019

Bundling towards the tribunal

Over the summer I have been working on the “bundle” for the preliminary hearing. This is lawyer talk for the files of evidence that the judge will look at. 

The preliminary hearing ...

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My name is Maya Forstater. I lost my job for speaking up about women’s rights and gender self-ID.

I am crowdfunding to pay for legal representation to take this case to employment tribunal, to show that no one should be discriminated against for having gender critical views, and talking about them. 

If we can establish that gender critical beliefs are protected under the Equality Act 2010, this would  help protect others who are afraid of losing their jobs because of the beliefs they hold, and also those facing belief discrimination outside the employment field. 

Please donate to support this very important legal challenge, and please share with others who may wish to support me.

Who am I

I am a researcher on business and international development. I worked at the think tank The Center for Global Development (CGD) in London. 

I am also a mother and a feminist, and I think that sexist stereotypes about women and girls, and about men and boys are damaging for children and adults.  In 2012 I was one of the co-founders of the campaign “Let Toys Be Toys” to push retailers to stop using sexist stereotypes in marketing toys. 

My story

Last summer, the UK government launched a public consultation on reforming the Gender Recognition Act 2004 towards 'self ID'. Like most people I agree that transgender people should not face discrimination and harassment as they live their lives. But I am  concerned about the impact of self ID on women and girls, and in particular on single sex spaces and services such as women’s refuges, hostels, prisons, changing rooms and hospital wards, as well as women’s sports.

I am concerned that governments around the world are rushing through laws and policies which say that people with male bodies can become women simply by identifying as women. This is happening without adequate consultation or consideration for the impact on women’s privacy, safety and inclusion. 

I started to tweet about the issue and had polite discussions with people about the definition of ‘woman’.  I wrote an article aimed at people working in international development, and shared drafts with my colleagues. 

I never thought I would lose my job over this. But I did. 

I had planned to work at CGD for the next two years on a project I had helped to develop and raise funds for. Instead, my tweets were investigated and I was told my appointment would not be renewed. This is fundamentally unfair, and it is in the public interest for this decision to be challenged so that people holding these beliefs are protected from discrimination.

The case

I am taking CGD to the Employment Tribunal for discrimination on the grounds of belief, to try to establish that I should not have lost my job simply for expressing my beliefs about sex and gender on my personal Twitter account.

This will be a ground-breaking test case on whether gender critical beliefs are a protected belief for the purpose of the Equality Act 2010, and if successful will provide protection for all those who share the same beliefs.

I know many people fear consequences at work if they publicly state an opinion on this issue, even in a personal capacity on their own social media, like I did. Others have been banned by social media platforms and or suspended from political parties and membership organisations. This should not happen in a democracy.

If we establish that gender critical beliefs are protected under the Equality Act, this would also help protect other people who are afraid of losing their jobs, and also those facing belief discrimination outside the employment field.  Venues that refuse to host public meetings, political parties and other membership organisations, and social media platforms all would need to re-think their policies or they too would face claims for discrimination.

What I am crowdfunding for

I am crowdfunding for expenses to pay for legal representation to take this case to employment tribunal, to show that no one should lose their job, or be discriminated against for speaking about women and women’s rights.

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Update 5

Maya Forstater

Oct. 9, 2019

Bundling towards the tribunal

Over the summer I have been working on the “bundle” for the preliminary hearing. This is lawyer talk for the files of evidence that the judge will look at. 

The preliminary hearing is coming up in mid November (13th - 18th, Central London Employment Tribunal). It will  consider two sets of questions;  what was my employment status and the test case question of whether people are protected against discrimination on the grounds of philosophical beliefs they hold about sex and gender identity. 

We will argue that both gender critical belief and belief in gender identity are coherent, serious,  worthy of respect in a democratic society and not in conflict with the fundamental rights of other (these are part of the criteria for a belief to be protected against discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. They don’t preclude a belief being based on science). Lack of belief is also protected by the Act, so if belief in gender identity is protected then those of us who don’t believe in it are also protected. 

The belief bundle is a veritable Who’s Who of writing and thinking about sex and gender: 

On gender identity belief it includes Gendered IntelligenceKat Callahan, Janet MockParis Lees, Kellie MaloneyMari BrigheStonewallPatrick Strudwick, Alex DrummondDeanna Adkins MD,  ‘Teddy’Katherine JenkinsAlex Byrne on Judith ButlerLayla MoranFeminists of the Tax Justice NetworkCarol HayRobin Dembroff, Susan Stryker, and Rebecca Kukla.

On gender critical belief it includes: Fair Play for WomenRebecca Reilly CooperKristina HarrisonJames KirkupDebbie HaytonJanice TurnerSarah Ditum, Get the L OutJohnny BestPosie ParkerJane Clare JonesKathleen StockJulian NormanHelen JoyceRosa FreedmanMeghan MurphyJoan McAlpineKath Murray,  Lucy Hunter Blackburn and Lisa McKenzieFemale Only Violence and Abuse Survivors (FOVAS)Dr Emma Hilton and Ben Dirs 


It also includes a few things I’ve written and a whole lot of tweets!

Thank you to everyone who has put so much thought into carefully articulating these issues in essays and articles, and all of those with whom I have had constructive discussions and disagreements on Twitter and in person (and to everyone who has checked in on me over recent months, and for coffees, beers and badges). 

The bundle is many words and sheets of paper, but the basic point, can be summed up in a tweet: 

“Some people believe that what makes a woman is the fact of female biology. Some people believe it is a sense of innate gender identity. These beliefs are incompatible, like atheism & religion. But that does not mean people with different beliefs hate each other or can't get along”

Freedom of belief is fundamental to a democratic society. We can respect people with different  beliefs, without compelling people to profess to believe in things they don’t. We should never become so afraid of causing offence that we cannot talk about things that matter, and about things we disagree on. 

This is why my case is important. 

Thankyou for your support

Update 4

Maya Forstater

July 17, 2019

We are on the road!

Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day and I made my way the Central Employment Tribunal in Holborn where I met my barrister Anya Palmer.

This was the "case management preliminary hearing", a two hour closed hearing to work out what the issues of the case are and in what sequence they should be dealt with. 

Employment Judge Tina Elliot was presiding, and the solicitor and barrister for CGD were there. It was an all-female meeting, as my solicitor didn’t attend (to save costs and ensure that donations go as far as possible).

"Ladies", said the judge "this is going to be a very interesting case".  

The judge highlighted that there has not been a previous case testing whether beliefs (or lack of beliefs) about sex and gender identity are protected under the Equality Act, so it “has the flavour of a test case”. We all agreed. 

Alok Sharma the Minister of State for Employment has also said it is an important case, and it featured in the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development’s newsletter recently as one to watch. 

Having reviewed CGD Europe’s defence to my claim and some of the points they raised in it, we asked to add the US parent organisation, and a senior member of its management, as Respondents.  All are now being represented by the same UK lawyers.

We had already been given dates in November for a hearing, but because there are so many issues to deal with, it was agreed to make the this into a preliminary hearing to deal with an initial set of issues. The issues are whether my relationship with CGD Europe during 2019 was covered by the Equality Act 2010 and the all-important question about whether gender critical beliefs are protected under the Act. 

There is work for both sides to do now in getting together all the documents the tribunal needs to look at (“the bundle”) and writing witness statements. 

The date for the preliminary hearing was set as Wednesday November 13th, with four days for the hearing and two for deliberation (although it will probably take some time to get the judgment after that). It will be open to the public and the press. The judge gave us a date for a full merits hearing in May 2020.

Ladies (and gentlemen) this is going to be a very interesting case.  

Update 3

Maya Forstater

June 22, 2019

I got a response

I received an official response from CGD Europe this week and met with my lawyers Peter Daly and Anya Palmer.  We are still considering the response, and there is a limit to what I can say openly,  but it has not changed our view on the merits of my case.

The Central London Employment Tribunal has given us a preliminary "case management" hearing for two hours on July 16, and eight days for a hearing at in the middle of November. The preliminary hearing is where we will agree the sequence for dealing with all the different issues.I am being careful with managing the fighting fund, and we are working to keep the costs down. If it looks like I need to raise the funding goal later I will let you know.

I know that people are supporting me for a range of reasons; for women's rights, for freedom of speech, and for open and evidence-based policy making. I’ve had the chance to meet and thank many people who have backed the case, most recently at the Women's Place UK meeting in London (where I spoke). Helen Lewis in the New Statesman called it “the most vibrant feminist meeting of the year”.

I am proud to be playing a part (alongside so many others) in fighting to bring this debate into the open -- about the difference between sex and ‘gender identity’, and how everyone’s human rights can be protected.As I said at the meeting in London, your support has already sent a powerful message -- This is important. Women will not be silenced. And that those who speak up are not alone.


Update 2

Maya Forstater

May 8, 2019

Women Spoke Up!

In under three days we have reached the stretch target! £60,045 pledged from from 2,285 donations, with an average donation of £26.

2,285 reasons for every one of us to be braver tomorrow, that we can have a clear and open debate about how to protect women's sex-based rights, and the human rights of transgender people. 

Support came from women and men (about 2 to 1), from as far as Vancouver, Canada and New Zealand, and from someone who turned out to live on my street!

“I read about this with such sadness. If identity politics means stopping legitimate debate we will lose ourselves.”

“For me and my daughters and our right to speak the truth”

“Thank you for taking this case to court. I want my children to grow up with diversity and equal rights but also with freedom of speech and safe spaces for women”

“Free speech must be the basis of any civil society and that includes the right to debate and to disagree”

“Our laws must be debated. Knowledge and evidence must be brought to bear. Freedom of thought and speech is paramount.”

“The right to think and say what you believe must be defended not simply because freedom of speech matters, but because true democracy depends on it. Good luck Ms Forstater”

“I'm sorry the amounts small (skint right now) but my support for you is immense. Thank you for your courage and for speaking up for women. Solidarity xx”

“Women must have the freedom to openly state what we believe and to be able to protect our established rights to women only spaces.”

“You will free the voice of every woman who right now has to choose between speaking the truth and keeping her livelihood. When those voices are unleashed they will be deafening!”

“So important for women, for free speech, and for scientific fact. Women are hurt and angry. Our turn to be listened to.

What happens now?

CrowdJustice takes an administrative fee of 3% plus VAT, and payment processing.  Net of these charges the money is transferred directly & securely to the law firm Slater and Gordon.  I can draw down on it to pay the costs of preparing and presenting the case.

In the end we may well need more than £60,000 (for example if we win and the other side appeals), so people are welcome to continue to contribute to the fighting fund even though we've met our target for now.

(Also if you haven’t donated already if you just put a tenner in now you will be on the mailing list - and I can keep in touch with you, and you will know if we do need more later) 

The case probably won’t get to tribunal until close to the end of the year, but I will keep you posted on progress. 

If there is any money left over at the end of the process we can nominate another case to receive the money. So we would be looking to nominate another gender critical or feminist case.

Update 1

Maya Forstater

May 5, 2019

We broke the first target in less than a day!

I have been blown away by the response to my crowdjustice campaign. 

We set an initial target £30,000 and reached it in less eight hours. 

Most of this was donations of between  £5 and £25. There were a good chunk of bigger donations, and a few really chunky ones (thank you all!)

The messages of support on Twitter, Facebook, Mumsnet and on the Crowdjustice page itself as the donations came in have been amazing and have underlined to me why I am doing this. Here are just a few: 

  • Good luck in your litigation. I support trans rights, but am disgusted by the way this cause has been used to silence women.

  • My 2nd donation. The first was anon. That was daft. #IstandwithMaya

  • Good luck! I support you because I know I’d fear for my job if I spoke out as you did.

  • Thank you for having the courage to stand up for women against the bullies. Good luck. X

  • I may not agree with your views but I 100% support your right to express them without fear of losing your job. Good Luck.

  • How can you be fired for essentially repeating the contents of a Biology textbook? Are all science teachers equally in danger? Wishing you all the luck and thank you for doing this.

  • Sorry it's not more. Donating because I feel it's not safe to discuss this at work - and that shouldn't be the case.

  • Workplace policies are making women fearful of speaking the truth. This is a game changing case. The fight is on!

  • Thank you for speaking out for so many of us who don't feel able to.

  • I don't know if I agree with your opinion; but that is hardly the point. We must be able to talk about these things.

  • As a gay man I feel it is imperative for gay and lesbian rights and safety that sex be recognised as distinct from gender. I wish Maya well and consider her extremely brave.

  • Amazing courage Maya. This is so important for democracy, freedom of expression and for women’s rights

  • Donating so that in future I can display my name on petitions like this.

  • Thank you for being brave. I daren't even include my name on this message but am donating what I can afford x

Julie Bindel‏ @MForstater's case may well be the tipping point in this misogynistic madness. Please support her, and PLEASE be public. We all have to stand up and be counted. The reason the extremists have gained so much ground is because of silence and complicity. We need to be braver.

Rosa Freedman‏ Really proud to know @MForstater and her lawyer @anyabike (currently in Twitter jail as @anyabyke) -- this case will be gruelling for them both, but it is so important as a test case for freedom of belief, freedom of expression, and preventing ontological totalitarianism

Janice Turner‏ This woman, an expert in her field, was sacked for supporting EXISTING legislation, the 2010 Equality Act and the 2004 Gender Recognition Act. And expressing unease about the implications for women in changing these recent laws for gender self-ID.

Helen Joyce There won’t be a more important employment tribunal case in Britain this year. I hope the large number of people who agree with Maya but don’t dare say so will consider donating for her legal costs- so they have a chance of speaking more freely &  safely themselves in the future

Holley‏ This is an important piece to read. Thanks for your bravery @MForstater. I’m anon on GC Twitter because I’m scared I would lose my job, but seeing women like you helps me build up the courage to claim my views.

We set the initial target at £30,000 for the initial work on the case to take it as far as as a preliminary hearing. To go to a full merits hearing we will need at least £60,000. So I have raised the target. If you haven’t donated already please do donate now, and continue to share the campaign  (anyone who donates any amount will get updates on the case -- i won’t inundate you but I will let you know what is happening).

The process of being investigated and losing my job was slow, lonely and demoralizing, and I am sure that the process of going to employment tribunal will be long and difficult.  But knowing that I am doing it with so much support is amazing. Thank you.

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