Since JK Rowling raised the profile of my case, a cluster of myths and misunderstandings have sprung up. In this post I aim to clarify some common myths.
Myth 1: “She didn’t lose her job, her contract wasn’t renewed”
Truth: I was a Visiting Fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD) from November 2016 with a series of consultancy contracts and the expectation of an ongoing relationship.
The Equality Act 2010 gives protections for people at work that are not limited to people with employment contracts in the traditional sense but also include those with contracts “personally to do work”. If a protected characteristic (eg sex, race, or a protected belief) is a factor in the decision not to renew someone’s contract, this gives rise to a claim for unlawful discrimination, even if they were not an “employee” for the purpose of an unfair dismissal claim. Would those who keep on making this point really have it otherwise?
Myth 2: “She repeatedly misgendered a colleague”
Truth: There was no trans colleague. There was no complaint to CGD that I “misgendered” anyone. There was no complaint of harassment or bullying. This is because there was no harassment or bullying.
Here is my ex-colleague Owen Barder (until recently a Vice President at CGD and Director of CGD Europe, based in London) valiantly trying to correct this misunderstanding.
Myth 3: “She insists on misgendering people in the workplace”
Another variation on this theme is not that I “misgendered” someone at work but that I insisted that I would.
Truth: I have repeatedly said, both directly to CGD and in my witness statement, and under intense cross examination at the hearing, that I am willing to use preferred pronouns, and of course treat individuals with respect.
The judgment sets out (at 5.1 and 5.2) the question that was being asked in the preliminary hearing. It was not about pronouns or the specific situation of how I lost my job — it was simply about whether my belief that sex is real, immutable and important is a philosophical belief for the purpose of the Equality Act 2010 (and conversely whether other people’s belief that everyone has a gender identity which effectively trumps sex is also a philosophical belief). Questions about the specific circumstances in which I lost my job are for a further hearing.
Myth 4: “She lost her job for misgendering Gregor Murray”
The role of Gregor Murray in my case is one of the most easy to misunderstand things. People defending me often get confused about what happened here.
Truth: There is no connection between Gregor Murray and CGD. I had a brief discussion on twitter with Murray in June 2019 where I forgot to call Murray “they” and Murray complained about this to the Scout Association (we are both Scout Leaders). This happened after I lost my job. It cannot therefore have informed CGD’s decision to remove my job because it hadn’t yet happened at the time that my job was removed.
In my defence to Murray’s complaint I pointed out that Murray is a man. The judge referred to this in his findings. He ignored the context that I was defending myself against an allegation of lying, and concluded that I am an “absolutist” who “will refer to a person by the sex she considered appropriate even if it violates their dignity and/or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.” This, he concluded, meant my belief was not worthy of respect in a democratic society. That conclusion is now the subject of an appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal.
Myth 5: “This judgment established a precedent that gender critical beliefs are not worthy of respect in a democratic society”.
Truth: Employment tribunal judgments are not binding on anyone else (even other employment tribunals). And I am appealing this one.
I believe, as I set out in my witness statement, that sex is real, immutable and important for women’s right and child protection. I believe that recognising this is compatible with upholding transgender people having the same rights as everyone else.
If you want to argue that my belief is inherently “transphobic” and a fair basis for someone to lose her job then you should be able to argue this on principle.
It would be unwise to rely on the Employment Tribunal’s judgment, since this may be overturned. It would be even more unwise to rely on stories about colleagues that don’t exist, and the people who tell them.
In the end those using poorly researched myths and falsehoods to try to condemn me, and by extension JK Rowling, will only discredit themselves.