A tax expert who lost her job for tweeting that transgender women are not women yesterday took her case to an employment tribunal arguing that her dismissal amounted to discrimination against her beliefs.
Maya Forstater, 45, lost her job from the Centre for Global Development (CGD) in March this year after she was accused of publishing offensive tweets questioning government proposals to allow people to self-identify as the opposite sex.
The unprecedented legal dispute will act as an important test case in the UK on whether having ‘gender critical’ beliefs - the view that one’s sex is a biological fact which cannot be changed - is a protected belief under the Equality Act 2010.
“If we can establish this point in law it would help people who are currently afraid to speak up for fear of losing their jobs or being treated differently by their employer,” Ms Forstater wrote in a blog post.
“It would also help people facing discrimination outside of work. For example political parties and membership organisations that suspend people for expressing such beliefs, venues that refuse to host public meetings and social media platforms that discriminate against gender critical feminists would need to re-think their policies or they too would face claims for discrimination.
“I am perfectly happy to use preferred pronouns and accept everyone’s humanity and right to free expression. Transwomen are transwomen. That’s great. But enforcing the dogma that transwomen are women is totalitarian.”
Ms Forstater began working as a tax consultant for the US charity - which encourages rich countries and corporations to invest in international development - in 2015 in their London office.
The 45-year-old described the company as “a place of ideas, open debate and robust disagreements”.
“My research focused particularly on scrutinising political wishful thinking on international tax and illicit financial flows,” she wrote. “My colleagues were smart, hard-nosed economists committed to improving the world through evidence and analysis. They were not prone to shielding fashionable ideas from analysis. The institution does not take organisational positions and I thought there were no sacred cows.
“I found out I was wrong when I started tweeting about the definition of woman and about the UK government’s proposal for ‘gender self-ID’ last summer.”
Why my case is important: Freedom of belief is fundamental to a democratic society. We can respect people with different beliefs without being compelled to profess to share them. We should never become so afraid of giving offence that we can't talk about things that matter— Maya Forstater (@MForstater) October 9, 2019
In March this year, six months after using her personal Twitter account to express the view that “male people are not women”, her employment at the company was not renewed and she was informed that her email account would be closed one week later.
“It has been quite painful and quite emotional. I am the breadwinner in my family,” she told the Sunday Times earlier this year. “It is just wrong that drawing attention to real problems should be described as fear-mongering, and it is dangerous for democracy if people are afraid to speak. Our institutions must protect all vulnerable groups, including women and girls, and the only way to do this is to talk openly and clearly.”
Ms Forstater raised £66,000 through a crowdfunding campaign online to help pay for her legal fees for the case.
She is also backed by Index on Censorship, whose director, Jodie Ginsberg, said: “From what I have read of her writing, I cannot see that Maya has done anything wrong other than express an opinion that many feminists share — that there should be a public and open debate about the distinction between sex and gender.”
The tribunal continues.