Things are looking up for women in the UK.
In a landmark tribunal ruling last week, Maya Forstater won her discrimination case against her former employer who had fired her in 2018 for saying that sex cannot be changed and that biological sex matters.
Welcoming the verdict, the public policy researcher and co-founder of Sex Matters, said:
‘My case matters for everyone who believes in the importance of truth and free speech.
‘We are all free to believe whatever we wish. What we are not free to do is compel others to believe the same thing, to silence those who disagree with us or to force others to deny reality.
‘Human beings cannot change sex. It is not hateful to say that; in fact it is important in order to treat everyone fairly and safely. It shouldn’t take courage to say this, and no one should lose their job for doing so.’
She concluded her victory statement by saying, ‘We have had enough of being sidelined in language, law, policy and public spaces.’ And that, ‘This judgment is further evidence that the tide is turning.’
Forstater’s case gained worldwide attention when JK Rowling – who is now well known for her gender-critical beliefs – made the following tweet in 2019:
‘Dress however you please. Call yourself whatever you like. Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you. Live your best life in peace and security. But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real? #IStandWithMaya #ThisIsNotADrill.’
Following the verdict vindicating Forstater, Rowling again tweeted her support:
‘Every woman who’s been harassed, silenced, bullied or lost employment because of her gender-critical beliefs is freer and safer today, thanks to the warrior that is [Maya Forstater].’
On the same day that Forstater’s judgment was handed down, British Triathlon became the first British sport to restrict transgender athletes over the age of 12 from competing in women’s sporting events across all levels. Their statement confirms that they have updated their Transgender Policy following a period of consultation ‘to ensure that it reflects the needs of our sport, protects fairness in competition, and serves our desire to make triathlon truly inclusive’.
Under the policy, there will now be two categories: ‘a Female Category, (for those who are of female sex at birth), and an Open Category, (for all individuals including male, transgender, and those non-binary who were of male sex at birth)’.
‘Well done British Triathlon. After full consultation – including women – they have concluded fairness matters in sport. Sex-based women category plus open category to include trans people.’
Now, in the wake of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s resignation announcement, several conservative leadership candidates have signalled their support for biological reality and women’s sex-based rights.
Former UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak has vowed to make them part of his policy platform if he becomes the new Prime Minister.
The father of two daughters is said to be ‘critical of recent trends to erase women via the use of clumsy, gender neutral language’, ‘believes we must be able to call a mother a mother and talk about breastfeeding’, and ‘will not support the language of sex being eroded in legislation or the public sector’.
He has also previously expressed support for female-only sport and bathrooms to protect the rights and safety of women and girls:
‘You need to have compassion for those thinking about their identity and thinking about what that means for them, their families as they’re potentially going through a change and we need to be compassionate and understanding about that.
‘And we also have to have respect, in particular for views of women who are anxious that some of the things they have fought really hard for and rights that are important to them will be eroded.
‘We need to have respect for that point of view.
‘Biology is critically important as we think about some of those very practical questions.’
In a series of tweets posted hours before her leadership bid, Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt sought to clarify her position (or change her tune?) on trans issues after some conservatives dubbed her ‘a committed warrior for the trans lobby’, apparently referencing her 2018 comments that ‘trans women are women and trans men are men’.
In a thread that began with the question, ‘Do I know what a woman is?’, Mordaunt responded:
‘I am biologically a woman. If I have a hysterectomy or mastectomy, I am still a woman. And I am legally a woman. Some people born male and who have been through the gender recognition process are also legally female. That DOES NOT mean they are biological women, like me.
‘During my tenure at @GEOgovUK I challenged the trans orthodoxy with real and genuine concern, especially the volume girls referred into trans services. I set up this Inquiry.
‘On sport, I raised this years ago. This was important to me because I’ve trained alongside men in the Navy. I support a science-based approach. @uk_sport has done good work, as have @sharrond62 @Daley_thompson and others. The biology is overwhelming important.
‘It was me that changed maternity legislation that was drafted in gender neutral language (by another) to use female terms. I have also defended free speech on these issues.’
In an interview last week, Attorney General Suella Braverman, who is also vying for leadership said:
‘We need to get rid of all of this Woke rubbish and get back to a country where describing a man and a woman in terms of biology does not mean that you’re going to lose your job.’
This comes after she recently clarified that schools are not legally obligated to address transgender students by their preferred pronouns or allow them to access spaces for the opposite sex. She has described JK Rowling as a ‘heroine’ of hers.
But perhaps the candidate causing the most excitement when it comes to railing against gender ideology, is former Equalities Minister and rising star Kemi Badenoch. In the last days of Boris Johnson’s government – despite hostile civil servant opposition – she successfully pushed through reforms to ensure all new public buildings have separate bathrooms for women and men. She also defended former Sussex University Professor Kathleen Stock when she was cancelled by trans activists last year, saying that her views that people cannot change their biological sex were probably ‘in step with the majority of the population’. In an article for The Times as part of her campaign launch, she put great emphasis on ‘telling people the truth’.
Badenoch has Allison Bailey’s backing, the barrister and co-founder of LGB Alliance who initiated a case against LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall and her legal chambers for discrimination over her gender-critical views in 2020.
In a tweet of support, she wrote:
‘Tory MPs will do well to select @KemiBadenoch as the next Conservative leader. She gets the urgency & importance of standing firm on women & girls’ sex-based rights & is thoroughly impressive. She is the Tories best hope of securing a victory over Labour at the next GE.’
Some commentators have, unsurprisingly, accused the conservative leadership candidates of making their comments to score political points, but the interesting point is that they believe their gender-critical views (whether genuinely held or not) to be mainstream enough that people will actually get behind them on this.
In Forstater’s words, ‘the tide is turning’.
Brits are starting to wake up to the harms of gender ideology and to the fact that women’s rights are inextricably linked to biological reality. It is because of women like Forstater that this is even an issue in the UK leadership bid, and that individuals and organisations are now becoming more comfortable to speak out. Her case was pivotal. As one commentator has noted, in ‘[ensuring] gender-critical beliefs are protected by law, [her case] has played a role in creating the space for these discussions to happen’.
We watch on with hope at these developments in the UK as women like Maya Forstater, JK Rowling, Allison Bailey, Keira Bell, Kathleen Stock, Julie Bindel, Suzanne Moore, Helen Joyce, Suella Braverman, Kemi Badenoch, and so many others(!) continue – despite an ongoing barrage of threats and abuse – to champion biological reality and women’s sex-based rights. And we look to some of the incredible women who are fighting the same good fight in Australia, knowing that it is only a matter of time before the dominoes start to fall here too.
Rachael Wong is the CEO of Women’s Forum Australia
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