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Academics are being harassed over their research into transgender issues

October 16, 2018Heather Brunskell-Evans

An open letter from academics was delivered to the Guardian of which I am a signatory about suppression of discussion and/or research into the issue of transgenderism.

Academics are being harassed over their research into transgender issues

It is not transphobic to investigate this area from a range of critical perspectives, say 54 academics who are also concerned about proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act

We represent a newly formed network of over 100 academics, most of whom are currently employed in UK universities. We are concerned, from a range of academic perspectives, about proposed governmental reforms to the Gender Recognition Act, and their interaction with the Equality Act.

Our subject areas include: sociology, philosophy, law, criminology, evidence-informed policy, medicine, psychology, education, history, English, social work, computer science, cognitive science, anthropology, political science, economics, and history of art. This week, following an opportunity offered to us by Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne, we have submitted to the consultation a number of letters, outlining, as individuals, concerns about the introduction of self-ID for gender reassignment.

We are also concerned about the suppression of proper academic analysis and discussion of the social phenomenon of transgenderism, and its multiple causes and effects. Members of our group have experienced campus protests, calls for dismissal in the press, harassment, foiled plots to bring about dismissal, no-platforming, and attempts to censor academic research and publications. Such attacks are out of line with the ordinary reception of critical ideas in the academy, where it is normally accepted that disagreement is reasonable and even productive.

Many of our universities have close links with trans advocacy organisations who provide “training” of academics and management, and who, it is reasonable to suppose, influence university policy through these links. Definitions used by these organisations of what counts as “transphobic” can be dangerously all-encompassing and go well beyond what a reasonable law would describe. They would not withstand academic analysis, and yet their effect is to curtail academic freedom and facilitate the censoring of academic work. We also worry about the effect of such definitions on the success rates of journal submissions and research grant applications from governmental bodies such as the AHRC and ESRC.

We maintain that it is not transphobic to investigate and analyse this area from a range of critical academic perspectives. We think this research is sorely needed, and urge the government to take the lead in protecting any such research from ideologically driven attack.

Professor Kathleen Stock, Philosophy, University of Sussex
Chetan Bhatt, Professor of Human Rights, Sociology, London School of Economics
Professor Rosa Freedman PhD, LLM, LLB, Professor of Law Conflict and Global Development, Director Global Development Division, Co-Director United Nations and Global Order Research Programme, University of Reading
Professor Sophie Scott, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, UCL
Professor Alice Sullivan, Sociology, University College London
Professor Jo Phoenix, Chair in Criminology, The Open University
Professor Jackie Cassell, Head of the Department of Primary Care and Public Health, Brighton and Sussex Medical School
Kathleen Richardson, Professor of Ethics and Culture of Robots and AI, Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility, De Montfort University
John Gardner FBA, Professor of Law and Philosophy, All Souls College, Oxford
Professor Judith Suissa, UCL Institute of Education
Professor Michele Moore, Patient Safety Academy, University of Oxford
Professor Sian Sullivan, Centre for Environmental Humanities, Bath Spa University
Professor Debbie Epstein, Professor of Cultural Studies in Education
School of Education, University of Roehampton, London
Richard Byng, Professor in Primary Care Research, University of Plymouth
Professor John Collins, Philosophy, University of East Anglia
Professor PM Higgins, Honorary Research Fellow, Royal Holloway University of London; former Professor of Music, University of Nottingham; former Käthe-Leichter Visiting Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies, University of Vienna
Sheila Jeffreys, Professorial Fellow, University of Melbourne
Professor Leslie Green, Philosophy of Law, Balliol College, Oxford
Dr Michael Biggs, Associate Professor in Sociology and Fellow of St Cross College, University of Oxford
Dr Diane Brewster (Retired. ex University of Sussex and Open University)
Dr Susan Matthews, Honorary Senior Research Fellow, Department of English and Creative Writing, University of Roehampton
Dr Clare Chambers, Reader in Philosophy, University of Cambridge
Dr Stephen Cowden, Senior Lecturer in Social Work, Coventry University
Dr Catherine Butler, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, University of Bath
Dr Mary Leng, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, University of York
Ms Georgia Testa, Teaching Fellow, School of Philosophy, Religion, and History of Science, University of Leeds
Dr Rosalind Barber, English & Comparative Literature, Goldsmiths, University of London
Dr Sophie Allen, Lecturer in Philosophy, Keele University
Dr Paul Sagar, Lecturer in Political Theory, Department of Political Economy, King’s College London
Dr Julia Jordan, Department of English Language and Literature, UCL
Dr David Pilgrim, Honorary Professor of Health and Social Policy, University of Liverpool
Dr Rosie Dias, Associate Professor, History of Art, University of Warwick
Dr Maureen O’Hara, Senior Lecturer in Law, Solicitor, Coventry University
Dr Eva Poen, Lecturer in Economics, University of Exeter
Sian Hindle, Senior Lecturer, School of Jewellery, Birmingham City University
Dr Holly Smith, UCL Institute of Education
Dr Lesley Semmens, Senior Lecturer (retired), School of Computing, Leeds Beckett University
Richard Garside, Director, Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, Senior Visiting Research Fellow, Open University
Dr Jane Clare Jones, independent scholar
Dr Jo Waugh, Senior Lecturer in English Literature, York St John University
W Burlette Carter, Professor of Law Emeritus, The George Washington University Law School, Washington, DC
Professor Alex Byrne, Head of Linguistics and Philosophy Department, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Dr Ruth McGinity, Lecturer in Educational Leadership and Policy, Institue of Education, UCL
Professor Emeritus Robert Jensen, School of Journalism, University of Texas at Austin
Dr Kathryn Oliver, Associate Professor of Sociology and Public Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Dr Sophia Connell, Philosophy, Birkbeck College London
Dr Liz Guy, School of Computing, Engineering & Mathematics, University of Brighton
Dr H. Susana Marinho, Assistant Professor of Biochemistry, University of Lisbon
Dr Heather Brunskell-Evans, Academic, Writer and Political Commentator
Dr Laura McGrath, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, University of East London
Dr Mike Hannis, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Humanities (Ethics and Sustainability), Bath Spa University
Doctor Emma Hilton, University of Manchester (honorary)
Dr Holly Lawford-Smith, Senior Lecturer in Political Philosophy, University of Melbourne
Dr Rupert Read, Reader in Philosopher at UEA, and Chair of Green House
Dr Patrick Turner, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, Bath Spa University

Appeared in the Guardian 16th October 2018

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