by UnHerd
Thursday, 10
June 2021
Video
16:39

Maya Forstater: Legal judgement on trans is a landmark

Freddie Sayers spoke to the former researcher about her court victory
by UnHerd

When Maya Forstater first started expressing “gender critical” views in late 2018 (ie that biological sex is real and important), she was a researcher at a progressive think tank called the Centre for Global Development. Her views caught the attention of the bosses in Washington DC — and one dismissal, one tribunal verdict and an appeal judgment later, she now finds herself part of the history of gender laws in this country.

Today’s successful appeal establishes Ms Forstater’s views in law as a “philosophical belief” that must be protected from discrimination. This means that corporations, schools, government agencies or any other organisation cannot discriminate against people holding the mainstream view that men and women are different but equal, and that your sex doesn’t change even if you identify differently. 

She joined Freddie Sayers on the latest episode of LockdownTV to tell us about her experience and what it means.

On today’s judgement:

If I’ve done that [inspiring more people to say what they really think], I’ll just be incredibly proud. The fact that both discrimination and harassment are protected means that organisations are going to have to think, “What does this policy mean for the people who are affected by it — not just for the trans people”. When they get complaints in, one thing that organisations are really scared of is saying, “No, that’s not transphobia.” Because it’s defined that saying “no, that’s not transphobia” is transphobic. And so nobody within the organisation will say, “no, hold on a second, that’s just somebody disagreeing with you” … So to be able to push back against that is really important.
- Maya Forstater, UnHerd

Is it odd that it had to be defended like a religious belief?

That was what we had to plead, because religion and belief is protected. And the thing that we pleaded was that my belief is that sex is real, biological, immutable, and that sex matters… It’s not just that it’s a scientific fact, but also, that it’s a social and political and economic, salient, important thing… So it’s not that everyone can have their own rules, but everyone can have their own beliefs. And then where you have rules that are there for people’s safety, or for medical information or the census, those rules, still have to be grounded in reality.
- Maya Forstater, UnHerd

On the influence of the Gates Foundation and Big Tech funding:

As I understand it, the two people who raised concerns in Washington worked in fundraising. So although I don’t think the concerns came directly from funders, I’m sure that was in their mind and it worked. There were no complaints that I harassed anybody, there were no trans people in the office. So I think probably, indirectly, that was the concern: what would the funders think?
- Maya Forstater, UnHerd

 On the impact of trans ideology on gay rights:

Lots of organisations are approaching this thinking, we were very late to the party on gay rights. We didn’t think about how to treat gay people the same as straight people in terms of employment, benefits and so on. And now we want to make that right and not make that same mistake again. There’s the ghost of Section 28 where schools were not allowed to teach about gay relationships. And so there’s a response to that, which is, well, this time we’re going to get it right; we’re not going to make those mistakes.

But if you don’t accept that there’s a difference between men and women, then what does it mean to be gay or lesbian? Lesbian friends tell me that 40% of the profiles on lesbian dating sites are male. And it’s like a bad joke — a man saying, “I’m a lesbian trapped in a man’s body”. But they’re being subjected to that in their spaces, and their dating sites and their groups. And they’re being told that if they don’t accept that someone can be a lesbian in a man’s body, then that they’re a bigot.

- Maya Forstater, UnHerd

 On why she fought the case to protect women:

It’s particularly important for women’s rights because it’s women who are harmed the most when organisations pretend that sex doesn’t exist. In most of public life, most workplaces are mixed sex and you should treat men and women the same. But where you have provisions to treat men and women differently, it’s usually to protect women. So you have women’s sports because if you didn’t, there’d be no women in the Olympics, there’d be no women in athletics. You have separate sex in bathrooms is important. You have changing rooms that are separate sex, for the dignity and privacy of both men and women, but particularly for women, because voyeurism and exposure are really common crimes, and they’re done by men to women. So making it absolutely unambiguous, who’s allowed into a space where women are undressing is important. And then similarly women’s refuges, women’s prisons, they are sex segregated for a reason, and usually that reason protects women.
- Maya Forstater, UnHerd

 On the “Stonewall Stasi”

The LGBTQ+ allies group, who vet internal policies and make complaints about people and do reverse mentoring of senior managers…They do the thought policing within the organisation. That’s now very strongly embedded. I hear from lots of people inside organisations that have these policies, they talked about the ‘Stonewall stasi’ in their organisation.
- Maya Forstater, UnHerd

On the need for more pluralism:

It’s come to a point where you hear diversity and equality, and you think ‘Oh, god, they’re out, they’re out to get me’. And that’s not what it should be: equality should be about protecting everybody’s rights, including people’s right to disagree with each other. …In a plural society, you can have Sikhs, Muslims, Christians and atheists working alongside each other, and they ought to be able to get on and be polite and not use the other person’s religion to harass them. But at the same time, they don’t have to give it so much respect, that they are required to say things that they don’t believe.
- Maya Forstater, UnHerd

Join the discussion


  • This is very good news. Dare we hope that the protection of religious beliefs will be extended to those who hold what is still the official Co E belief with respect to the institution of marriage, namely that is designed for heterosexual couples? In the last year a teacher, an actor and a magistrate have been suspended for expressing these beliefs. Most disturbingly, a school chaplain has been sacked for telling the students that they should make up their own mind what to believe.

  • Yes. The underlying and important question in my view is why ‘belief’ and not ‘objective fact’? Perhaps it is a question definition in law and if so, I would like to know why the difference.

  • I find it scary that what I thought was an objective fact ie there is male and female sex with corresponding characteristics has turned into ‘a belief’ and more: I should be happy about it because it’s progress! We can now talk about this new belief and we should expect to have this belief protected. Well, at least not be called names.

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