Kathleen Stock, a Philosophy professor at the University of Sussex, has been targeted by trans rights groups
Labour’s shadow equalities minister has waded into the row over Sussex University professor Kathleen Stock and sided with the transgender rights groups calling for her resignation.
Labour’s Taiwo Owatemi, 29, wrote to a constituent explaining she was ‘greatly concerned’ by Stock’s involvement in the activist group LGB Alliance – who have previously been accused of ‘anti-trans’ policies.
In her letter, the MP for Coventry North West, slams the ‘gender critical’ charity’s stance on LGBQT+ inclusive education, the non-binary community and teenagers being banned from using puberty blockers – and called for the group to be ‘rejected by all those who believe in equality’.
Ms Owatemi admits she is ‘not familiar with Professor Stock’s ‘philosophical writings’ and blasts her employer, the University of Sussex, for backing the professor in her free speech row.
In a later statement to The Guardian, she clarified: ‘I was clear in this letter that I was not passing judgment on Prof Stock’s academic work, and did not call for action to be taken against her.’
This week, Stock’s former union – the Sussex UCU – demanded university bosses take a ‘clear and strong stance against transphobia’, resulting in the professor warning they had ‘effectively ended her career’.
Their statement was in response to a poster campaign led by an anonymous pro-trans activist group demanding the university fire Stock for her ‘transphobic’ views after she called for safe spaces for women in her academic writing.
Ms Owatemi praises the union’s ‘strong and principled request that the University live up to its own Trans Equality Statement’, following its support for trans rights groups.
Labour’s Shadow Equalities Minister Taiwo Owatemi MP wrote to a constituent explaining she was ‘greatly concerned’ by Stock’s involvement in the activist group LGB Alliance – who have previously been accused of ‘anti-trans’ policies
In her letter, Ms Owatemi slams the ‘gender critical’ charity’s positions on LGBQT inclusive education, the non-binary community and teenagers being banned from using puberty blockers – and called for the group to be ‘rejected by all those who believe in equality’
Signs have been put up in the pedestrian tunnel connecting Falmer train station to the university’s campus under the A27
The majority of Ms Owatemi’s letter focuses on her criticism of LGB Alliance, pointing to the fact their application for charitable status earlier this year was criticised by more than 50 LGBQT rights groups.
Ms Owatemi writes: ‘While I am not familiar with Professor Stock’s philosophical writings, I am greatly concerned by her work as Trustee for the LGB Alliance group.
‘My predecessor as Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities was highly critical of their activities, and I share her position.
‘LGB Alliance – whose application for charitable status was opposed by over 50+ LGBT groups, as well as politicians from all parties – should be rejected by all those who believe in equality.
‘They oppose reform of the Gender Recognition Act, which has long been the position of my party and to which we remain committed.
‘Furthermore, the group opposes LGBT+ inclusive education; believe that adolescents should not be able to access puberty blockers (in flagrant disregard of the entire concept of ‘Gillick’ competency); criticises measures to make conversion “therapy” illegal; rejects the very existence of non-binary people; and refuses to condemn as homophobic those who would deny same-sex couples the right to marry.
‘Every single one of these stances is diametrically opposed to my beliefs and the positions of my party. I note that an appeal against their charitable status is due to take place next year, and I will be monitoring the case with a keen interest.’
Professor Kathleen Stock, 48, an expert in gender and sexual orientation who works for the University of Sussex, was branded a ‘transphobe’ by outraged students, who erected posters denouncing her and called for her to be fired.
Ms Truss tweeted ‘No one should be targeted and harassed simply for holding an opinion’
The Foreign Secretary said people should not be hassled over holding an opinion
Signs put up last week in the pedestrian tunnel connecting Falmer train station to the university’s campus under the A27 said Prof Stock ‘makes trans students unsafe’ and ‘we’re not paying £9,250 a year for transphobia’.
Prof Stock has since been advised to teach her students online over fears for her security, and warned that her academic career has been ‘effectively ended’ by Sussex Union branch.
It comes after Sussex Police launched an investigation into whether a university philosophy professor was a victim of harassment after she faced a campaign of ‘bullying’ over her views on trans rights – as students were warned they could be disciplined.
In a statement ‘in support of trans and nonbinary communities’, sent to all members and posted online by Prof Stock, the union reps write: ‘We extend our solidarity to all trans and nonbinary members of our community who, now more than ever, should receive the unequivocal support of the University and its management’
Banners saying ‘Stock Out’ have been held alongside burning flares and scores of people have been criticising her under the Twitter hashtag #ShameOnSussexUni – although many others have been using it to support her.
The university’s vice chancellor Professor Adam Tickell said Friday that if any students can be identified as being involved, then ‘we will certainly take investigations and disciplinary action as appropriate under our regulations’.
In her own words: What does Kathleen Stock believe about gender and trans issues?
Kathleen Stock explained her views on trans issues in written evidence to Parliament in November 2020 here:
- Womanhood and manhood reflect biological sex, not gender or gender identity;
- The claim ‘transwomen are women’ is a fiction, not literally true
- Sexual orientation (being gay, being lesbian) is determined by same-sex attraction, not attraction to gender identity
- Spaces where women undress and sleep should remain genuinely single-sex, in order to protect them;
- Children with gender identity disorders should not be given puberty blockers as minors.
Prof Stock had last week been backed by the head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Baroness Falkner of Margravine, who called the attacks disgraceful.
And she received a further boost over the weekend courtesy of Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who added her approval to Baroness Falkner’s thoughts.
Ms Truss tweeted her support, saying: ‘Fully support this letter from the chair of the equality and human rights commission – no one should be targeted and harassed simply for holding an opinion.’
Amid the deepening row, Prof Stock announced on Twitter that her former union branch, Sussex UCU, has now ‘effectively ended my career’ at the university.
In a statement ‘in support of trans and nonbinary communities’, sent to all members and posted online by Prof Stock, the union reps write: ‘We extend our solidarity to all trans and nonbinary members of our community who, now more than ever, should receive the unequivocal support of the University and its management’.
The statement goes on: ‘As a union, we strongly condemn all forms of transphobia, and call the University of Sussex leadership to heed its institution’s values and commitments as set out in its Trans Equality Statement and its Dignity and Respect policy.
‘We urge our management to take a clear and strong stance against transphobia at Sussex.’
Recently, Prof Stock filed a complaint against the University because she believes it has failed to support her, uphold its duty of care and protect her academic freedom – claims that the university is said to be investigating.
In a groundbreaking and similar case earlier this year, Essex University was found to have failed to uphold free speech after two female professors, Jo Phoenix and Rosa Freedman, were dropped from speaking events.
The pair hold similar views to Ms Stock.
Earlier this year, the Government announced plans to crack down on issues around free speech at universities, launching the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill.
The Bill aims to end ‘no-platforming’ on campuses by giving a regulator the power to issue fines, giving the Office for Students (OfS) a mandate to promote the importance of ‘freedom of speech within the law’ and ‘academic freedom for academic staff’ at universities.