I lost my job for talking about women’s rights
I lost my job for talking about women’s rights
Latest: April 16, 2021
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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.
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.
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April 16, 2021
A new case page.....
This page is now closed...but the case goes on!
(from 10 am Saturday 17 April 2021)
My solicitor Peter Daly has moved firms to Doyle Clayton - so I need to start a new crowd fund page. All the balance of funds from this crowdfunder are transferred between the law firms. Please support my case at the new page.
March 15, 2021
It has been over 2 years since I lost my job at the Center for Global Development and I have been fighting for justice and for ability for people to speak clearly about the material reality that sex matters since then.
A lot has changed in that time - in the UK the government listened to concerns about self ID, and dropped plans to change the law in England and Wales. The Department for Education told schools to stop saying children can be ‘born in the wrong body’. The Crown Prosecution Service has withdrawn guidance for schools equating dissent to “hate.” In Scotland MSPs stood up for women's rights and amended the Forensic Medical Services Bill to clarify that rape victims should be allowed to request the sex not the “gender” of the medical professional examining them. The young detransitioner Keira Bell took a case to the High Court where judges consider the evidence on giving puberty blockers to children, and found it wanting. They ordered doctors to take a much more cautious approach.
A few weeks ago a bill introduced in Parliament which sought to provide maternity leave for Ministers without using the word “woman” or “mother” sparked a debate where Lords and MPs spoke up, some for the first time, about the need for clear language about sex in law and policy.
The Office for National Statistics was defeated in court last week by Fairplay for Women (the group whose guidance on the Gender Recognition Act consultation I first tweeted in September 2018 sparking off the process that would lead to me losing my job). The judge told the ONS that they were wrong to tell people they do not need to answer the census with the sex as recorded on their birth certificate.
And its not just in the UK where people are saying sex matters. Last week I joined "The Countess Didnt Fight for This", a group in Ireland for their International Women's Day event. Women in Scotland organised valiantly (but ultimately unsuccessfully) against a law that saw fit to protect cross-dressers against hate crime, but not women. There are groups resisting the erasure of sex around the world.
My appeal will be heard by the Employment Appeal Tribunal on the 27 and 28 of April. My legal team is hard at work on the bundle of evidence and their skeleton arguments. Index on Censorship will also be intervening. Spring is around the corner.
When I started this crowdfund and asked for your help I said that my case matters for other women at work. I thought that was true. Now I know it is true. -- When JK Rowling expressed her concerns in measured, careful and compassionate terms, the ferocity of the response served as a warning to others. Ordinary people from every sphere of life face similar attacks. They fear losing their security, their freedom to speak, their livelihoods and maybe even liberty. Barely a week goes by without someone contacting me to tell me what is happening in their workplace. There are a long list of examples from academia that have made it into the public domain, but others in the public sector, charities, professions, big companies are afraid of speaking up, or are facing consequences if they do.
Allison Bailey's case exposed in shocking detail how organisations are clamping down on freedom of speech to try to meet the demands of the rainbow lobby.
Legal cases are one way to bring arguments and evidence into public debate and scrutiny. But they are expensive, and these policies are pervasive; across schools, universities, the NHS, local government, regulators, the charitable sector. Roughly 250 Government departments and public bodies, including police forces, local councils and NHS trusts, are members of Stonewall’s “Diversity Champions” scheme. Others are trained by Gendered Intelligence, Mermaids, and other allied organisations. These institutions adopt a broad definition of “transphobia” and commit to an approach of “zero tolerance”.
The dots need to be joined up. And those who are disadvantaged and put at risk when safeguarding protections are corroded, and single sex services removed or made ambiguous, are often the most vulnerable and least able to complain.
On March 6 - two years to the day after I lost my job - together with lawyers Rebecca Bull and Naomi Cunningham, and scientist Emma Hilton, I launched a new organisation: Sex Matters.
We have one aim: to reestablish that sex matters in rules, laws, policies, language and culture.
We believe that a sustained campaign is needed to undo the damage done to institutions across society by sex denialism, and secure everybody’s human rights. We will engage with politicians, officials, employers and professional organisations. We will work with and amplify others in the emerging movement of small organisations working for a reality-based discussion about sex. We aim to build the campaign into new constituencies, professions and sectors, and to help people speak up and act with confidence.
We need your help!
Sex matters, in life and in law. It shouldn’t take courage to say so.
I hope you continue to support me and my case, for however long it takes (My solicitor Peter Daly has moved to a new firm, the balance of this crowd fund will be transferred, but I will also need to re-launch the legal crowdfunder - more news of that soon - we need a push of funding before April!).
I hope you will also join me and my co-founders to make change through the organisation: Sex Matters
- Join the mailing list: www.sex-matters.org/join
- Donate: www.sex-matters.org/donate
- Read our resources www.sex-matters.org/evidence-submissions
- If you are in the UK sign our letter calling for a public inquiry www.sex-matters.org/letter
- Follow us on social media Twitter and Facebook
Thank you again for sticking with me and for sticking up for reality!
Dec. 22, 2020
This is Not a Drill: 2020 in review
I was going to post this earlier this week, but I got COVID, so its a bit late
A year ago - on December 18 2019 - I learnt that I had lost at the employment tribunal.
I can’t remember much about that day. I know I had conversations with my legal team, and I know I read the awful judgment over and over: “unworthy of respect in a democratic society”. I know I posted an update. I know I cried.
The next day my world tipped again when JK Rowling tweeted #IStandWithMaya.
My case became an international story. Suddenly I was not just being called names on twitter in the UK, but on the pages of newspapers from the US to Australia, by celebrities, and across Youtube channels. There were journalists on my doorstep. I was receiving messages of abuse, and of support, from around the world.
And lies began to spread, such as that I had harassed a trans co-worker. My name was smeared in order to smear JK Rowling.
Nothing prepares you, or your family, for this.
So much has changed in the year since then. Thousands more women and men have stood up to say that sex matters; that we will not be silenced by fear and bullying.
JK Rowling speaking up broke the public silence. The vicious responses, and her courage and steadfastness in the face of that abuse shone more light. Each time this cycle played out more people paid attention and more resolved to speak up.
2020 was the year of “gender critical” legal cases
There have been legal actions (many still ongoing -my appeal is in April) across education, employment, healthcare, prisons, policing, and on the underlying guidance on equality law:
In January Keira Bell, a young woman who had been put on puberty blocking drugs as a teenager before going on to cross-sex hormones and surgery, joined together with Mrs A, the mother of an autistic girl to bring a case challenging the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust. The case was about on whether a child under 18 can really consent to such an experimental and life changing course of treatment.
In February Harry Miller’s judicial review against Humberside Police and the College of Policing came to court. After someone reported tweets as transphobic Harry had been visited at work by a police officer who told him to ‘check his thinking’. Judge Julian Knowles emphasised the human right of freedom of expression, protected by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. He said the effect of the police turning up at your work because of your political opinions must not be underestimated. “To do so would be to undervalue a cardinal democratic freedom. In this country we have never had a Cheka, a Gestapo or a Stasi. We have never lived in an Orwellian society.” Harry won against Humberside Police, but lost against the College of Policing who tell police forces to record complaints of “non-hate crime incident” against people’s names. The case goes on with the appeal to be heard on March 10th and 11th.
On the same day in February, Kate Scottow was given a criminal conviction under the Communications Act, for using a public communications network to “cause annoyance, inconvenience and anxiety”. She had posted a handful of disrespectful tweets including one where she called a trans activist, who has sued or is suing several gender critical women as well as Mumsnet and Graham Linehan, a “pig in a wig”. I sat in court with 30 other women and heard with shock as the judge disregarded the protections of Article 10 and admonished Kate for her tweets and told her “we teach our children to be kind”.
In April a 13 year old girl started legal action to bring a case to judicial review (a judicial review is case in which a judge reviews the lawfulness of a decision or action made by a public body) challenging her local education authority, over their “trans toolkit” policy for schools. The guidance said that male pupils who identify as girls can use female toilets, changing rooms and dormitories on school trips, and take part in girls’ sport. The teenager said this gives her “no right to privacy from the opposite sex”. Oxfordshire County Council did not want to defend the guidance in court. In May they announced they had withdrawn it and would instead wait for national guidance.
Another teenage girl also started legal action about guidance given to schools, this time against the Crown Prosecution Service for their ‘LGBT+ hate crime guidance. The guidance reinforces sexist and homophobic stereotypes, curtais free speech and makes female students feel unsafe in schools by allowing male pupils to use female toilets and changing rooms. CPS did not want to defend it in court and withdrew the guidance “for review”. The claimant has challenged this further asking how the CPS can act impartially on this when they are part of the Stonewall Champions programme.
In May Raquel Rosario Sánchez, a PhD student from the Dominican Republic started a case against Bristol University for failing to protect her from bullying and harassment. After she chaired a meeting of Woman's Place UK in 2018 she has faced a sustained campaign of organised and aggressive bullying by student activists, with the university failing to apply its own disciplinary processes and instead protecting the bullies. Raquel says “My case is about how an elite university treats its students when nobody is watching”
In June Allison Bailey, a criminal defence barrister, a lesbian, a lifelong campaigner for equality, and a survivor of child sexual abuse launched a case against her legal chambers and against Stonewall after they had put her under investigation when she helped to create the LGB Alliance. Allison wrote about why it was important to retain clear language, rules and laws about the distinctions between men and women. She wrote about her concerns about children being treated with puberty blockers, about the threats women receive for speaking up, about the vilification, abuse, boycott, character assassination and cancellation used to shut down debate. After receiving complaints Crowd Justice said Allison's case page breached its terms and conditions and removed it. Nevertheless she raised over £100,000 in a few hours. Her case will be heard next year.
In July Sonia Appleby, a social worker and psychotherapist who is the Safeguarding Children Lead at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust announced that she had launched a whistle-blowing case against her employer. She alleges that because she raised safeguarding issues that health and safety of patients was being endangered she had been besmirched by the trust and that safeguarding concerns were kept from her. You can watch the newsnight report. As Sonia said “This is not an "anti-trans" case. I am supportive of the transgender community and their right to seek services that are both supportive and safe.”
In August Ann Sinnott launched a judicial review against the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the UK’s statutory equalities body whose job it is to sort all this out to protect everybody’s rights. Instead their guidance encourages employers and service providers to think that they cannot straightforwardly provide single sex services. As Ann says “This isn’t a case about an individual woman who has undergone harassment and discrimination ..but each and every one of the legal actions for which we have gladly dipped into our purses to support, was made necessary because of a misinterpretation and misapplication of the law. Longstanding unlawful guidance, from the very entities that are responsible for overseeing equalities in the UK, created the situations that led to all past and current legal actions.”
The same month For Women Scotland launched a judicial review over the definition of “woman” in the Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018. The act was aimed at improving the representation of women on the boards of Scottish public authorities, but during stage two of the legislative process, following representations from Scottish Trans Alliance, the definition of “woman” in the bill was altered to include people who have not changed their legal sex to ‘female’ using a gender recognition certificate (GRC) but to include anyone who adopts the pronouns she and her. FWS believes it sets a dangerous precedent.
In September James Caspian announced that he was taking his challenge against Bath Spa University’s refusal to the European Court of Human Rights. The university had refused to allow him to research people who reverse gender reassignment for fear of controversy.
In October a case came to court brought by a female prisoner who says she was sexually assaulted by a transwoman prisoner. Her case challenges the Ministry of Justice over its policy of placing some males who identify as women in women’s prisons. Karon Monaghan QC, for the prisoner, said that MoJ policies, seemed to use the terms “sex” and “gender” interchangeably. The prisoner with a GRC had convictions for serious sexual offences against women but was housed in the general population of a women’s prison.The hearing was adjourned to resolve the issue of how much of internal MoJ discussions about the policy should be disclosed. The case will come before the high court next year.
Katie Alcock continued to wait patiently for her day in court. Katie is a girl guide leader. She was expelled from Girlguiding after a lengthy and stressful investigation, because she expressing the view that Girlguiding had gone wrong on policies relating to transgender individuals.. She thought the policy needed rethinking to put safeguarding first. Her case is ‘stayed’ behind mine because of the precedent that my appeal will set on gender critical belief and the Equality Act.
Another teenager ‘Miss B’ has launched a case against the College of Policing because she says she must “self-censor” in the classroom in discussions about sex and gender for fear having a “non-hate crime incident” recorded against her name, if a teacher or fellow pupil report her as demonstrating hostility. Sarah Philimore, a barrister, has launched a case against the College of Policing for its recording of “non-crime hate incidents”
In November we learnt that the application for judicial review on the Labour Party’s policies of allowing male candidates who identify as women to take places on all-women-short-lists had been refused (although this is being challenged).
Keira Bell breaks through
In December the High Court ruled in the Keira Bell case. The case considered the recent unprecedented rise in the referral rate of teenagers, particularly girls, the evidence base and objective science for puberty blockers and the ability of children to consent. The High Court ruled that puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones are experimental treatments which cannot be given to children in most cases without application to the court. The court noted several times the “surprising” lack of data collected by the Tavistock to assess and monitor the experimental treatment (the Tavistock has applied for an appeal).
Keira Bell said:
“My hope was that outside of the noise of the culture wars, the court would shine a light on this harmful experiment on vulnerable children and young people. These drugs seriously harmed me in more ways than one and they have harmed many more, particularly young girls and women.
This judgment is not political, it is about the protection of vulnerable children. Please read it carefully. It exposes a complacent and dangerous culture at the heart of the national centre responsible for treating children and young people with gender dysphoria.”
The judgment vindicates the work of people like Stephanie Davies Arai, who has been working on this for five years on this on calling for an evidence based approach, and the clinicians who have blew the whistle on their concerns. The organisation Stephanie founded Transgender Trend was given permission to intervene in the case on the basis of their expertise, while Stonewall and Mermaids were not.
Finally in mid-December, Kate Scottow’s criminal conviction was quashed. The judges declared that the case should never have been prosecuted and the judges reasoning in finding Kate guilty was deficient. They said it would be a “serious interference” with the right of free speech if “those wishing to express their own views could be silenced by, or threatened with, proceedings for harassment based on subjective claims by individuals that felt offended or insulted”.
The toll of these legal cases for the individuals involved and their families is significant. But we have all, in different ways, challenged institutions that have given into fear and irrationality, and I am proud to be amongst these cases.
Debate, evidence and clear language is worthy of respect in a democratic society
Laws, policies and rules should not made behind closed doors through ‘policy capture’ by the loudest lobby groups, but nor should law have to be made by judges and through the extraordinary efforts of individual claimants.
Ultimately what these cases are trying to do is reclaim the public square for open, clear debate, and to ensure the legislature, government and public and official bodies (and underpinning them; universities and research organisations and the media) do their job of researching, debating, scrutinising and upholding laws and evidence-based policies.
The COVID crisis has exposed how fragile and vulnerable these institutional systems are.
We have made progress, and there are signs that the tide is turning away from ‘self ID’ and towards an evidence based approach to reconciling rights:
Self ID: In September the UK government finally announced that it had dropped its plan for sex self ID - this was a victory for grass roots campaigns like Woman’s Place UK, Fairplay for Women and Standing for Women that had mobilised a democratic debate in the face of intimidation by activists, and cowardice by established organisations.
Schools: In October the Department for Education published new guidance for schools on relationship and sex education. It discourages schools from “suggesting that children might be a different gender based on their personality and interests or the clothes they prefer to wear.“and says that while teachers should always seek to treat individual students with sympathy and support they “should not suggest to a child that their non-compliance with gender stereotypes means that either their personality or their body is wrong and in need of changing.” Importantly it emphasises working together with parents in line with safeguarding.
Sport: In October World Rugby announced that after following an in depth review of the evidence of the effect of testosterone reduction males, it was concluded that safety and fairness cannot presently be assured for women competing against transwomen in contact rugby. It set guidelines which (at an international level at least) allow women to play contact rugby without having to compete with male players who identify as women.
Single sex services: In December MSPs overwhelmingly voted for a six word amendment “for the word gender substitute sex”, so that survivors of rape and sexual assaults could clearly ask to be examined by a person of a particular sex.
Questions are being asked in the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and the regional assemblies, every political party has an organised caucus of members calling for protection of sex based rights, gender critical voices have been invited (albeit under hostile questioning) to give evidence to the Women and Equalities Select Committee.
This is starting to look like democratic debate.
But still the efforts to shut down debate are unrelenting
There are worrying new proposals for expansive hate crimes legislation in Scotland, and for new communications offences laws in England and Wales that threaten to criminalise speech, including “misgendering”.While my case was never about refusing to use preferred pronouns in the workplace (which I did not do) the proposals to criminalise causing 'emotional harm' through talk about gender identity and sex would have a deeply chilling effect on freedom of speech.
Taken together the legal cases expose a pattern of how disproportionate responses are triggered by even most carefully expressed criticism of gender ideology and are used to shut down scrutiny and debate where it is desperately needed, by deeming any speech using the words man, woman, male, female and associated pronouns not based on gender ideology ‘hateful’.
Now that our legal cases are getting traction they are attracting the same response. Commentators Christine Burns and Naomi Wolf have repeatedly asserted without evidence, that gender critical crowd funders in the UK are funnels for a vast transatlantic flow of money from right-wing US evangelical Christian groups.
Last week the Reuters Foundation published an “investigation” into the crowd funders for ‘gender critical’ legal cases. The investigation consisted of adding up the totals, and printing quotes from people willing to smear us. "money is being used to bully,” they said, and “It certainly feels like there (are) deeper pockets”. Stonewall then repeated these claims.
Reuters (whose stated principles include trust and impartiality) even boasted that they got the All Women Shortlists crowdfunder closed down by reporting it for hatred in the course of their investigation.
Reuters Foundation has an annual budget of $13 million and mobilises an additional $38 million in pro bono legal support for cases it favours. Stonewall has an annual budget of $8 million Magic circle law firms like Dentons and Clifford Chance have signed up to work pro bono on strategic litigation for “trans rights” (by which they mean self ID). Dentons, working with the Reuters Foundation wrote a report advising campaigners on how they should be secretive in their lobbying to change the law so that children can change their legal sex without the involvement of medical professionals or parents.
The gender critical crowdfunders in the UK have average pledges of under £30 each, adding up, through thousands of individual supporters, to around $1 million in three years.
This is an impressive amount of money for a set of grassroots activists and reflects the strength of feeling of the growing numbers who have supported us. I know which group feels like it has deeper pockets though (another recent smear article, this one published by Yahoo described us as an 'anti-trans group' and donors to our crowd funders as "a phalanx of wealthy, white, middle-class cis women (of whom billionaire J.K. Rowling is queen).")
Reuters Foundation say they ”believe in the power of free, fair and informed societies around the world.”
So do I.
I don’t think you get this by shutting down debate, denying ordinary women access to justice or using the power of your international brand to smear them, and promote fear in others.
Merry Christmas and thanks for all your support
Dear Phlanx Members (and our queen, if she is reading) I am grateful for all your support (whatever your race, class, nationality, sex, politics or religion).
I am grateful for the continued excellence and commitment of my legal team Anya Palmer, Peter Daly and Ben Cooper QC and the support of my family and friends.
I hope you all have as good a Christmas as you can in these circumstances.
There is lots to do next year.
Oct. 17, 2020
After much wait, a date!
I finally have a date for the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT). It will be 27-28 April 2021!
It is a “Category P” hearing which means it is recommended to be heard by the President (the most senior EAT judge, Mr Justice Choudhury). We have a day and a half for the hearing. It is currently planned to take place remotely because of COVID restrictions. But closer to the date that could change.
My legal team of barrister Anya Palmer and solicitor Peter Daly has been joined by a QC (Queen's Counsel - a very senior lawyer) Ben Cooper QC of Old Square Chambers. They are brilliant and I have every confidence in them.
The free speech organisation Index on Censorship has also been given permission to intervene to highlight the legal issues around freedom of speech. They will be represented by barrister and law Professor Aileen McColgan QC of 11KBW Chambers.
With the date of the hearing over six months away I have to be patient, but the lawyers will get on with their job of preparing the case.
The question that was put before the Employment Tribunal in November last year was whether my belief that sex is real, binary, immutable and important is protected as a philosophical belief under section 10 of the Equality Act (and also my lack of belief in gender ideology).
In order to be considered a philosophical belief it must satisfy the ‘Grainger criteria’ :
be genuinely held
be a belief and not an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information available
be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour
attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance
be worthy of respect in a democratic society, not be incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others
The judge, James Tayler, said that my belief did not pass the fifth text and “was not worthy of respect in a democratic society”.
Meanwhile outside in the democratic society in which we still live, increasing numbers of people refused to be silenced. We continued to make the case against legal self ID using ordinary words, and the UK government eventually listened, announcing in September 2020 that they had decided it was a bad idea after all.
Much still needs to be done to challenge how organisations have run ahead of the law, adopting self-ID in practice, erasing sex from their rules and records, removing protections for single sex services and bullying people who highlight the need to be be able to discuss the material reality of sex. From prisons, to refuges to women’s rugby, sex matters. I do not accept Judge James Tayler’s edict that we must only talk about this using tortured language such as “women assigned female at birth” and “women assigned male at birth” or risk our jobs.
My appeal is based on six grounds (these are my summaries of the points the lawyers are making):
Impermissible assessment of validity / substitution - Questions about sex and gender are an area of important contemporary debate. The judge in my case adopted one particular viewpoint; that it is unacceptable in any circumstances to refer to someone other than in accordance with the gender identity and judged my belief as unworthy of respect.
Elided manifestation with belief - The preliminary hearing was only supposed to consider my belief itself, but the judge made assumptions of how I would manifest that belief (the idea that I would harass someone at work) and judged that imagined behaviour as intrinsic to my belief
Inadequate regard for freedom of belief and freedom of speech - The judgment in practice destroys my right to freedom of belief (which includes the freedom to hold controversial, offensive or uncompromising beliefs). The judgment also said I could be required to refer to a ‘trans woman as a woman’. This is compelled speech - obliging me to manifest a belief which I do not hold.
Incorrect approach to balancing competing rights - While freedom of speech is not absolute, the employment tribunal adopted an incorrect approach to balancing the (potentially) competing rights on freedom of speech In declaring that causing offense undermines the “fundamental rights or dignity of others”. The correct approach to consider competing rights is with an intense focus on the particular circumstances.
Incorrect reliance on the Gender Recognition Act 2004 - The tribunal concluded that my belief is incompatible with the rights and dignity of others because “she goes so far as to deny the right of a person with a Gender Recognition Certificate to be the sex to which they have transitioned.” But the GRA only gives the right to be treated as that sex in law (with some exeptions). It does not and cannot give people a right to actually be something they are not, or can it impose obligations on private individuals to change their beliefs about a person’s sex, or about the nature of sex.
Incorrect approach to protection for lack of belief - The employment tribunal wrongly applied the test for whether a positive belief is protected to the question of whether my lack of belief is protected. For a lack of belief to be protected, it is sufficient that the belief which is not shared is itself protected.
There have been a couple of recent belief cases in the employment tribunal, which although not binding in law, are helpful in illustrating where my judgment went wrong. In Jackson v Lidl the ancient philosophy of stoicism (which includes a conscious disregard of the consequence of saying something which might cause offence) was found by an employment judge to be a protected belief. The judge noted:
“If one takes as an example harassment under the Equality Act 2010 s.26, that gives a person who has been caused offence by unwanted conduct a cause of action, subject to the limitations in that section. It does not, however, create a right not to be offended; rather, it creates a remedy if that offence occurs.” [emphasis added]
As my ex-colleague and friend Owen Barder has stalwartly been pointing out to the myth-mongers on social media, there was never any suggestion by CGD that I harassed anyone.
In Higgs v Farmor’s School a woman’s religiously motivated lack of belief in “gender fluidity” and lack of belief that someone can “change their biological sex/gender” was also held by an employment judge to be a protected belief. The tribunal in that case looked at my case specifically and said:
“The belief that sex and gender are “set at birth” may be upsetting to certain people but if freedom of speech and the rights within articles 9 and 10 of the Convention only extended to expressions of belief that could upset no-one they would be worthless. Essentially, to find as [in my case] would amount to a declaration that it is “open season” on people that hold and express the beliefs in question – that they do not deserve protection. That seemed to us to be a strange and somewhat disturbing conclusion.” [emphasis added]
So I am very hopeful that the appeal will overturn Judge James Tayler’s judgment. This is important not only for me, but also because of the chilling effect on other people at work. And an appeal judgment will set a legal precedent on this for the Employment Tribunal.
Much of the big total in the legal fund has already been spent in the first round so I need to meet the fundraising stretch target to fund the legal work for the appeal stage.
Thank you for your help!
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.
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