I lost my job for talking about women’s rights
I lost my job for talking about women’s rights
This case is raising funds for its stretch target. Your pledge will be collected within the next 24-48 hours (and it only takes two minutes to pledge!)
Latest: June 11, 2020
JK Rowling has written about my case
JK Rowling has written an essay about why she has spoken up about the issues of sex and gender, and about my case .
It is a fantastic essay. Joanne writes with compassion, integrity, and …Read more
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.
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.
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.
June 11, 2020
JK Rowling has written about my case
JK Rowling has written an essay about why she has spoken up about the issues of sex and gender, and about my case .
It is a fantastic essay. Joanne writes with compassion, integrity, and care, putting into words what so many of us have experienced and learnt. She has been following the issues closely for over two years, I suspect possibly donning an invisibility cloak and visiting the feminism board of Mumsnet.
She writes about her own personal history, and about her concern for female prisoners, survivors of domestic and sexual abuse, children and young people and about freedom of speech.She writes about how denying the biological reality of being a woman denigrates and dehumanises women, and denies them a cohesive political analysis.
And she writes about the escalating cycles of online abuse she has received for speaking up on the issue.“ I knew perfectly well what was going to happen when I supported Maya” she says, “ I expected the threats of violence, to be told I was literally killing trans people with my hate, to be called cunt and bitch and, of course, for my books to be burned”. What she doesn’t write about, but has been painfully clear is how little public support she has had from those in her industry.
Like so many others I am immensely grateful for her courage and her voice, to stand up to the bullies. Her speaking up strengthens and supports everyone else to be able to, in whatever way they can.
While she mentions Judge Tayler in her essay, she does not mention that his judgment that the belief we share is “not worthy of respect in a democratic society” is not the last word on my case. I am appealing (still waiting for news from the Employment Appeal Tribunal which is slowed down by the COVID lockdown). I will share more news on this when I have it.
Please do read and share her essay. https://www.jkrowling.com/opinions/j-k-rowling-writes-about-her-reasons-for-speaking-out-on-sex-and-gender-issues/
Also if you would like to share your story - either anonymously or in your own name, I am collecting them there: https://forms.gle/527N3VrdcuxD9tB3A
Jan. 25, 2020
Appeal has been filed!
Earlier this week my legal team filed Notice of Appeal to the Employment Tribunal.
I was utterly disappointed, but not defeated, when the tribunal ruled in that that my belief that sex is an immutable material reality is not protected against discrimination. The tribunal also ruled that my lack of belief that everyone has an inner gender identity, which trumps sex, is not protected.
Employment Judge James Tayler said that my beliefs failed the test of being “worthy of respect in a democratic society, not incompatible with human dignity and not in conflict with the fundamental rights of others.”
Despite what you may have heard, I did not bully or harass anyone, or deny that anyone has human rights. I tweeted, wrote and talked about how laws, policies and social norms which conflate the idea of gender identity with sex have a negative impact on women’s rights, and on children.
My legal team have identified several grounds to appeal, where we think that the judge erred in applying the law. These have been submitted to the Employment Appeal Tribunal.
The next step is called “The Sift”. This is where another judge will read what we have submitted and consider whether the grounds for appeal should go ahead to an appeal hearing.
I was overwhelmed by messages of support over Christmas (thank-you!). And I know my case sparked off hundreds of news articles and thousands of conversations. That in itself is a victory.
But it is important to challenge this judgment. While the employment tribunal judgment is not binding on others, it does me an injustice. And if allowed to stand it will encourage organisations to think they can, as JK Rowling said, “force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real”.
You should not have to be brave to state that there are two sexes, and that where women and girls expect bodily privacy from the opposite sex this should be respected.
You should not have to be brave to talk about safeguarding children and young people, including those being encouraged onto a pathway of irreversible and drastic changes to their bodies before they reach physical and mental maturity.
But right now you have to be brave to speak out.
If you speak up about this you will be called a bigot. You will be called “transphobic”. Lies will be told about you and your character will be smeared. But many more people will stand up for you, like they did for me, because you are speaking up for what is right.
The ability to discuss ideas and evidence is fundamentally important in a democratic society. I will not back down from this.
Please continue to use the opportunity of my case to speak up in any way you can. All financial donations to the crowd justice fund to cover the costs of the legal work for the next stage are very much appreciated.
[A note on names: When you donate to the crowd funder you do not have to give your name publicly but it is lovely when people do. Please note that when you fill in your name it is only your “first name” that I can see, and that goes on the public page. You can put your full name in the that box if you want it to show up.]
Dec. 20, 2019
50,000 people #StandWithMaya !
The reaction to the judgment has been astonishing. The level of support I have received – from high profile figures such as JK Rowling and Sharon Davies, and from the fifty thousand who tweeted #IStandWithMaya, yesterday, has demonstrated just how important this issue is. I think that everyone who has spoken up, whether for the first time or the hundredth time feels like a corner has been turned.
Of course there has also been vitriolic personal abuse. This has become the norm for women who wish to express their belief on this subject. We will not be bullied into silence. And people are beginning to see the bullying for what it is.
The fundamental question at the root of my case, whether women’s rights as a sex can be protected is one that is important enough to require us to talk freely.
I believe this judgment is wrong. Restricting people’s ability to talk about the law, and about proposed changes to the law using ordinary, everyday language which reflects material reality is unprecedented and fundamentally damaging to a free society. People need to be able to speak and exchange views without constriction by arbitrary linguistic rules, and without the fear that they may lose their job if someone takes offence.
In particular when it comes to shared spaces where people are undressing or vulnerable, we need to have clarity about rules, policies and rights. We may consent to sharing mixed sex spaces if we choose - but we should not have them forced upon us by losing the language to describe what is happening.
This doesn't mean we can't be polite and respectful to others. As I said in my witness statement I will, as a matter of courtesy use preferred pronouns. I made this clear to CGD. Despite what you may have heard or read I did not lose my job for "misgendering" anyone at work, or outside of it. In fact the only instance that was presented to the tribunal happened in June this year (after I lost my job) where I tweeted about Gregor Murray and forgot to use the pronoun they.
I was criticised in the judgment for absolutism. If you believe – as I, and I believe the majority of people do – that there are two sexes, and that they are separate and immutable, then this is by its nature an absolute definition. Equally if you believe that anyone can be a man or a woman by saying they are, then that is also an absolute definition. This is inescapable. Absolutism is not the enemy of belief or philosophy, and clarity is a requirement of debate. People with different beliefs can get along, just as religious believers and atheists can.
The experience of taking my former employer to tribunal has been extremely difficult. But it is not just my issue. This affects millions of people in their workplaces, schools and families. And it affects our institutions. I feel responsible for taking this on because of the broader implications. I am reviewing the judgment closely with my legal team who believe that it is flawed. We will give a further update when this review is complete.
I have been moved and inspired by the thousands of people who have supported me. To everyone who has donated to the legal fund on crowdjustice.com, I will continue to do all that I can to justify your support.
In the mean time, and to help give greater clarity to the discussion of my case which is now playing out online, you can read my Particulars of Claim and Witness Statement. These are already in the public domain because they were referred to in my hearing. I am confident that these demonstrate that the characterisation online, in some of the media and in the judgment of me and my beliefs is not accurate in many substantial and important respects.
I hope you all have joyful and peaceful time over Christmas and the New Year with your friends and family.
Dec. 18, 2019
A shocking judgement
I struggle to express the shock and disbelief I feel at reading this judgment, which I think will be shared by the vast majority of people who are familiar with my case.
My belief as I set out in my witness statement is that sex is a biological fact, and is immutable. There are two sexes, male and female. Men and boys are male. Women and girls are female. It is impossible to change sex. These were until very recently understood as basic facts of life by almost everyone.
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 to 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.
Women facd discrimination on the basis of our sex. The rights of women to organise, to play a role in public life and to be protected against discrimination 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 judgment 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.
I will consider the judgment closely with my legal team to determine what can be done to challenge it. I will make a further statement once that task is complete.
I want to express my thanks to my legal team Anya Palmer and Peter Daly for the excellent job they have done, to Kristina Harrison for speaking up as a witness in my tribunal, and to everyone whose careful and compassionate writing on this topic helped me to understand the issues. I am grateful for the outpouring of support I have received from around the world, via social media, on Mumsnet, through feminist networks and in person.
In particular thank you to everyone who has made and continues to make financial donations towards the legal costs through crowdjustice.com.
Most of all I want to thank my husband, my children and my family for their support. I will be forever grateful to everyone who has stood with me.
Nov. 17, 2019
Tribunal day 2: courage calls to courage
On Friday I gave my evidence at the Central London Employment Tribunal under cross examination by CGD’s barrister Jane Russell.
Throughout the morning the judge kept having to request for more chairs as people came to support me and to hear how the question of whether “gender critical” and “gender identity” belief are protected under the Equality Act, would be tested.
She gave me a good review….
“@MForstater demonstrated awe-inspiring composure, dignity, intellectual coherence & courage in court today, as her ideas were publicly stress-tested”
I did my best! I hope it was good enough.
There were also journalists in the room, and the judge gave out copies of my witness statement for them to read and report on. There are stories in the Mail, Telegraph, Times, Guardian and Pink News. The case has also got its own Mumsnet thread.
Tomorrow the hearing starts again at 10am (we have been moved to a bigger room: room 3) this time with our witness Kristina Harrison, and with CGD witnesses Luke Easley and Clair Quentin.
After that (tomorrow afternoon or Tuesday morning) it will be final legal submissions from CGD’s barrister Jane Russell and my barrister Anya Palmer. The judge will take time to deliberate on the evidence and arguments that have been presented. We understand he is likely to reserve his judgment so we don’t know when we will get judgment; it could be weeks or even months.
Thanks to everyone who came to the hearing, and everyone who is supporting at a distance, and to my brilliant legal team. Hopefully the fact that my case is being reported in the mainstream media gives more people permission to think and to talk on this topic.
Courage calls to courage!
Nov. 13, 2019
Preliminary Hearing: Update from the Tribunal!
A quick update. Today was the first day of the tribunal. Employment Judge James Tayler is hearing the case.
As expected the morning session was spent on working out which issues will be heard and in what order.
The judge decided that the first issue to be heard should be the test case question of belief; whether my ‘gender critical’ belief (that sex is binary, immutable and important) is protected as a philosophical belief under the Equality Act 2010, and also whether the ‘gender identity’ belief which I do not hold (that everyone has an innate gender identity, and that this should take precedence over their sex) is also protected. The Equality Act protects both belief and lack of belief.
The judge set aside the rest of the day and tomorrow to read through the witness statements and the evidence, so we will be back in tribunal on Friday, and the tribunal will run on into next week.
I will be giving evidence on Friday about the beliefs I hold and don’t hold. The judge’s job is to decide whether my beliefs satisfy the “Grainger criteria” (this comes from a case called Grainger plc v Nicholson ):
- The belief must be genuinely held;
- It must be a belief and not an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information available;
- It must be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour
- It must attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance; and
- It must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, be not incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of other
The other witnesses will be called next week. These are Luke Easley, HR Director at the Center for Global Development, Clair Quentin and Kristina Harrison.
Thanks to all for your support, your good wishes and your songs!
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 Intelligence, Kat Callahan, Janet Mock, Paris Lees, Kellie Maloney, Mari Brighe, Stonewall, Patrick Strudwick, Alex Drummond, Deanna Adkins MD, ‘Teddy’, Katherine Jenkins, Alex Byrne on Judith Butler, Layla Moran, Feminists of the Tax Justice Network, Carol Hay, Robin Dembroff, Susan Stryker, and Rebecca Kukla.
On gender critical belief it includes: Fair Play for Women, Rebecca Reilly Cooper, Kristina Harrison, James Kirkup, Debbie Hayton, Janice Turner, Sarah Ditum, Get the L Out, Johnny Best, Posie Parker, Jane Clare Jones, Kathleen Stock, Julian Norman, Helen Joyce, Rosa Freedman, Meghan Murphy, Joan McAlpine, Kath Murray, Lucy Hunter Blackburn and Lisa McKenzie, Female Only Violence and Abuse Survivors (FOVAS), Dr Emma Hilton and Ben Dirs
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
July 17, 2019
We are on the road!
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.
THANK-YOU FOR ALL YOUR SUPPORT!
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.
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.
There are no public comments on this case page.