Her victory is an important milestone for women's rights
Maya Forstater has finally won her case against her former employer, the Center for Global Development. Yesterday, her (second) Employment Tribunal determined that her complaints were well-founded, agreeing that she had faced direct discrimination when her contract was not renewed, and victimisation when her profile was removed from CGD’s website.
Her ‘crime’ incidentally? Tweeting out the truth, for example: “A man’s internal feeling that he is a woman has no basis in material reality.” But sanity has now been restored.
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Looking back, one of the more bizarre features of this case might be the framing of facts. For example, describing Pips Bunce, a male who identified as a woman for part of the week, as a ‘part time cross dresser’ — as some kind of belief. But ‘religion and belief’ is still protected under the Equality Act. Meanwhile, in this strange post-modern world, stating the wrong kind of facts can leave you out of work and without recourse.
This judgment matters. In J.K. Rowling’s words, “Every woman who’s been harassed, silenced, bullied or lost employment because of her gender critical beliefs is freer and safer today.”
Labour MP Marsha de Cordova — notably the former shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities — needed just two words, “Congratulations Maya x.”
Forstater is not or was not transphobic, and her victory also protects trans people like me who accept that we have a psychological condition rather than some soul-like gender identity.
But the cost to Forstater has been immense. An Employment Tribunal can rule against an employer — and ‘remedies’ will be determined at a future hearing. But she can hardly expect to get her job back. Her career in international development entered an abrupt hiatus over three years ago in March 2019.
At her first Employment Tribunal that year, Judge James Tayler dismissed her case, ruling that her beliefs were “not worthy of respect in a democratic society”. That decision was notably overturned at appeal, but inevitably at more cost, more time, and more uncertainty for Forstater.
But a precedent was set. ‘Gender critical’ views are now protected under law, and Forstater will be remembered for securing those rights. However, fighting a legal battle does not put food on the table, or a roof over anyone’s head. In this case, for over three years.
For that, she is in everyone’s debt. Certainly, those of us who value our right to tweet the truth about sex and gender without fear of a summons from HR the following morning. It is the truth that everyone once knew. As Forstater explained: “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.”