Stonewall accused of censoring academics over gender issues The Times 10.12.19

The original article is here.

Academics accused a leading gay rights charity of suppressing academic freedom by encouraging a “censorious” approach to gender identity.

In a letter to The Times more than 20 professors, researchers and lecturers say that many British universities have adopted policies on transgender issues from a template drawn up by Stonewall that does not allow criticism from academics who take a different view.

The stance goes well beyond legal requirements of equality law but academics who question Stonewall’s position risk harassment and complaints from students or colleagues, they say.

Signatories of the letter co-ordinated by Kathleen Stock, a professor of philosophy at Sussex University, include Simon Fanshawe, former chairman of Sussex University council and one of the founders of LGB Alliance, which in October broke away from Stonewall over its approach to transgender issues.

The letter was written in support of Rachel Ara, an artist who is crowdfunding a legal case against Oxford Brookes University for its last-minute cancellation of tutorials and a lecture she was due to give last month. The artist, who is gay and draws a distinction between biological sex and gender identity, said the university’s LGBTQ+ society wrote to the vice-chancellor criticising her invitation. The university said at the time that correct procedures had not been followed.

In a letter to the university, her lawyer, Paul Conrathe at Sinclairs Law, links the incident to Stonewall saying Oxford Brookes is one of a number of universities committed to its diversity champion programme. The effect, he argues, is that the university’s policies and training are drawn up “on terms dictated by Stonewall”, which “treats any dissenting views as transphobic”.

Ara is demanding that her invitation to speak be reinstated within three months and that the university amend policies that restrict academic freedom.
The legal action could set a precedent for other universities that have also been accused of damaging academic freedom on similar grounds.

Paul Twocock, the chief executive of Stonewall said: “We’re proud to work with over 750 organisations, including universities, as part of our diversity champions programme to help make their workplaces more inclusive for lesbian, gay, bi and trans people.”

Oxford Brookes did not comment.