Flying the flag of inclusion. Credit: Belinda Jiao/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty


February 23, 2022   4 mins

In 2019 I lost my job after tweeting about the difference between sex and gender identity.

Since then, I have heard from hundreds of women and men who have been discriminated against and harassed at work for expressing the “gender critical” view that human beings cannot change sex, and that sex matters. Some cases, like mine, have become publicly known, but they are the tip of the iceberg. Many of the people who have endured complaints, and been subject to internal disciplinary processes, go unnoticed. As do those so afraid of losing their jobs that they remain anonymous when expressing their views online.

Despite this, the debate has gone mainstream in the last three years. Today, the gender debate can be heard in parliament, academia and the media, as well as on social media and in discussions between friends. There have been best-selling books on the subject and all manner of public figures — from Trevor Phillips and Tony Blair to Martina Navratilova and Tanni Grey-Thompson — have spoken up on the issue.

More people are speaking up about the need for clarity about sex, for safeguarding and women’s rights. They work in education, healthcare, in parliament and the media. Most of all, there are parents speaking up to their children’s schools.

I first started tweeting about the issue in 2018, back when the UK government was consulting on whether to reform the Gender Recognition Act to gender self-ID. My remarks were deemed so outrageous that the Center for Global Development (CGD) decided not to offer me further employment.

In 2019 a judge declared that my belief (that there are two sexes, that human beings can’t change sex, and that sex is important) did not count as a philosophical belief for the purposes of the Equality Act, that it was “not worthy of respect in a democratic society”.

The day after I lost my case JK Rowling tweeted about it, bringing me more public attention than I had bargained for. When my case became internationally newsworthy, lies were circulated about me, meant to discredit Rowling. Tweets and YouTube videos and even newspaper articles have said I “misgendered” or harassed a trans colleague. In fact, I had no trans colleagues, and I told CGD from the start that I would always treat people with respect and politeness in any professional situation.

In June 2020, I won an appeal to overturn the initial judgment. The President of the Employment Appeal Tribunal determined that my ordinary belief about male and female people, which I share with the vast majority of people in the world, is not only in line with the UK legal definition of the sexes, but also “worthy of respect in a democratic society”. This meant I can continue my discrimination case against my ex-employer. It also means that other people can now seek legal redress if they are harassed or discriminated against, at work or as a service user, for believing that men are male and women are female. If people face workplace harassment for speaking up on this issue, they can point to the precedent of “Forstater”.

Stonewall’s strategy of “no debate” on its push for gender self-ID has backfired. The unreasonable and unrelenting attacks on people as obviously calm and compassionate as Professor Kathleen Stock and JK Rowling have led more people to look again at the policies being promoted in the name of “trans inclusion”, which chip away at areas of life formerly designated female-only.

My case will be back in the Employment Tribunal starting on 7 March, three years to the day from when I lost my job. It has been a long, slow process to clear my name. And it is vital that I win this final stage — not just so I get justice, but also to demonstrate to employers that these rights don’t just exist on paper. You cannot disregard the usual frameworks of non-discrimination and respect for everyone’s human rights, just because someone points a finger and whispers “transphobe”. And employers should stop doing the bidding of organisations like Stonewall that tell them to do so.

By standing up to the gender bullies in whatever way we can, we are breaking through the culture of fear. My case and others have shone a light on areas of institutional capture. Harry Miller challenged the College of Policing over Humberside Police Force’s heavy-handed response to a complaint about his comical tweets. Keira Bell, a young detransitioned woman, brought a case against the NHS Tavistock gender-identity clinic challenging the experimental medical treatments being given to gender non-conforming children. Other cases are coming, most notably that of Allison Bailey, a barrister and a lesbian who is suing Stonewall, the influential LGBTQIA+ organisation, for colluding in a witch-hunt against her by her legal chambers.

All these voices and so many others have brought the debate out into the open. As a result of that debate, the UK government ditched the proposal for gender self-ID (although Scotland is still planning to go ahead), and has commissioned an independent review of children’s gender-identity services. The Equality and Human Rights Commission, the UK’s human rights law watchdog, intervened in my case to say that my belief is indeed protected. And it has gone on to change its position on gender self-ID laws.

If it wasn’t obvious before that my belief is “worthy of respect in a democratic society”, it is now.

One of the worst things about being a claimant in an employment tribunal is how it isolates you. People who know you professionally keep their distance. They imagine I might have done something awful to lead CGD to argue that I engaged in speech so offensive that it “causes harm to trans people, and therefore could not be protected under the Equality Act”. And I could not clear my name. My tribunal is the first chance for the full truth to be heard.

It is perhaps worth noting that the organisation I worked for is the European subsidiary of a parent organisation based in Washington DC. The complaints by people who read my tweets came from the US. The consultants who investigated me were from the US, and so were the decision makers who decided to let me go.

Radical gender ideology arose in the campuses of elite North American universities and has spread to the UK, and other countries. This is not a positive cultural import. The idea of replacing sex with “gender identity” is institutional kryptonite, corrupting organisations, preventing people from speaking truthfully and recording data accurately. It turns organisations away from their principles, in ways that particularly harm women and children, even while allowing those organisations to wave a superficial flag of “inclusion”. This is an American import we should reject. We would be better off without it.


Maya Forstater is an international development researcher and Director of Sex Matters.

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