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Does academic freedom allow for transphobia? The latest 'gotcha' moment

Does academic freedom allow for transphobia? The latest 'gotcha' moment

Jamie Wareham
Jamie Wareham
Jamie Wareham, he/him, gay,queer,disabled I started QueerAF to fund queer media careers. Will you join our movement?

It's long been my experience that what happens on university campuses, is a taster of what is to come ahead.

They've also long been a place for young emerging activists to sharpen their campaigning by acting inherently queer and fight back against patriarchy and prejudice with pride.

What's happening then?

Kathleen Stock, a philosophy professor at Sussex University, recently revealed she had been advised to hire bodyguards following calls from students for her to be sacked over her opposition to gender self-identification and support for single-sex spaces. - HuffPost

Stock says she's been forced to move her teaching online because of the danger.

That led the university’s vice-chancellor Adam Tickell to say Stock has the “untrammelled right to say and believe what they think.”

Have we heard this all before?

Yes. It's all very similar to the story Rosie Duffield told around her attendance at the Labour party conference. Remember The Times headlines that framed transgender people as extremists?

It also sits as part of a regular recurrence in the annual news cycle. Students, that tend to be a progressive lot, call out the outdated views of lecturers and guest speakers on campus.

This causes a great fuss in the press because of the legal right established in the UK called 'Academic Freedom.'

Originally established by the 1988 Education Reform Act, it says University staff in the UK are able to "question and test received wisdom and to put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions without placing themselves in jeopardy of losing their jobs or the privileges they may have".

It's got journalists the likes of The Times, The Telegraph and The Guardian up in arms this week.

Why are the students protesting?

So this is the key bit. Most of the reports will lead you to understand that it's because they're denying Stock the right to believe in biological sex. A dog whistle itself used by transphobes - transgender people don't want to deny people's sex, they just want to live a happy safe life.  

But the leading reason a bunch of the students are protesting Stock is that she is a trustee of the so-called LGB Alliance. Some quick reminders about the group:

  • They believe LGBT clubs should be banned in schools because of ‘predatory gay teachers’ - The Sun
  • They have neo nazi and homophobe members - PinkNews
  • They want to see the removal of LGBT+ bullying & hate crime guidance removed - Their own Twitter

And that's why they are questioning whether she should have the right to work, and speak freely at an institution that as bound by the Equality Act, has to protect students who are beyond the binary, under the 'gender reassignment protections recently expanded to all transgender, non-binary and queer folk.

Indeed, for us all to see this situation like the one at Bristol University, which saw an anti-semitic professor sacked for his views. A decision which came in the same week, the University of Sussex defended academic freedom being used to blast law and policies around gender identity.

Where are we at with it now?

We end the week with the shadow equality minister pointing out that the LGB Alliance's application for charitable status was opposed by over 50 LGBT+ groups, as well as politicians from all parties.

Adding it "should be rejected by all those who believe in equality” in a response to a Coventry based womens group.

It's being recognised by LGBTQIA+ community leaders as a refreshing rebuttal, after many months of the so-called 'LGB Alliance', well known for broad anti-queer policies, being left unchecked.


This is another example of the press, using transgender people to divide the country. And behind it, all are the ever divisive group, who don't, no matter what they protest, have our rights in mind.

But we can take solace in the fact, a new generation is standing up and saying, we won't tolerate transphobia. You saw it first on campus, next, the rest of the UK.

This article was just one part of our weekly newsletter that summarises, understands and explains the news of the week:

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