Where sex matters | Freedom of speech

Freedom of speech

Being offensive is not an offence

The words mum, dad, boy, girl, he, she, man and woman are among the first we learn.

There are many everyday reasons why people might want to refer to someone’s sex or previous name, or to talk about the material reality of the two sexes. People should be able to speak about sex and use sexed language in debates on sex and gender identity, without fear of losing their job or being investigated by the police.

We need to be able to talk about issues such as how crimes should be recorded, how prisons and other single sex services should accommodate transgender people, how the census should record sex, rules for women’s sports cannot only be done generalities. They will necessitate discussion of individual cases and illustrations, and the sex of the people involved.

People asserting their rights to single sex services should be able to do so in plain English and without the barrier of having to perform the mental gymnastics required to avoid “misgendering” or “deadnaming”.

What’s the problem?

In recent years people have been called “hateful” simply for making ordinary, everyday statements about what it means to be male or female.

Public bodies and private entities are silencing and punishing lawful speech about sex and gender as “transphobic”, with people already being removed from social media platforms, having websites and social media forums shut down, being bullied and harassed at work, losing jobs, and being arrested, questioned and prosecuted for communications offences.

Many organisations have adopted policies and guidance which prevent people using ordinary language about the sexes. There are proposals for new laws on hate crimes that would criminalise ordinary talk about the sexes.


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