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.

Updates

  • Freedom of belief matters

    Sex Matters has submitted input to Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the United Nations’ Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. He is compiling a report for the UN Human Rights Council on the right to freedom of religion or belief in relation to...

    18th January 2023

  • Statement on the UK Government’s decision to block the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill

    We are very pleased that the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Scotland have decided to use their constitutional powers to stop the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill from going to royal assent.  As we wrote in our briefing on the Bill and its implications for the...

    16th January 2023

  • "My column was published at 11am... just before 5.30pm the publisher apologised publicly for the anger and upset it had caused and stated that he was parting company with me as a columnist."

    11th January 2023

  • Clarify the Equality Act: sign the petition

    The Equality Act 2010 protects everyone’s rights and covers everything from schools to hospitals, pubs to sports, and everybody’s workplace. It includes protection against sex-discrimination, and allows single-sex services. But on 13th December a judge in Scotland pronounced that Equality Act does not recognise biological sex as a protected...

    16th December 2022

  • "On no other subject had I ever been told, ‘You are not allowed to write about this’."

    Hadley Freeman interviewed on Woman’s Hour

    On 5th December 2022, Hadley Freeman was interviewed by Emma Burnett on BBC Woman’s Hour. She talked about why she was leaving the Guardian, after 22 years of working for the paper. The audio with subtitles available on Youtube. We have added links to relevant media articles, and to...

    7th December 2022

  • Mass harassment in HM Prisons and Probation Service

    As reported in The Telegraph today, HM Prisons and Probation Service’s Pride in Prison and Probation (PiPP) staff network has circulated documents for Trans Awareness Week telling MoJ staff to recognise a series of words and phrases as “transphobic dogwhistles”. The PiPP is an official staff network, with a...

    20th November 2022

  • What happens when speech is silenced.

    Helen Joyce speaks at Caius College

    On 25th October 2022, Sex Matters’ Director of Advocacy Helen Joyce spoke at an event at Gonville and Caius College, University of Cambridge, entitled “Criticising gender-identity ideology: what happens when speech is silenced”. This page documents the events surrounding the talk. Criticising gender-identity ideology: what happens when speech is silenced...

    15th November 2022

  • Lib Dems revise “transphobia” definition

    The Liberal Democrats have revised their definition of transphobia in the light of recent legal cases.  The previous policy which drew on the work of “organisations such as Stonewall and TransActual UK”. But following advice from two KCs (one, from Karon Monaghan KC, has been published), it has now...

    14th November 2022

  • Compromises that destroy the human rights of one group are unfair. Solutions are needed that respect everyone’s rights.

    Trans rights are human rights!

    Sex Matters is a human-rights organisation. We believe that universal human rights form a powerful framework for thinking about how a diversity of freedoms can be respected, while protecting against harm and maintaining an open and prosperous society.  It is sometimes argued that those who call for clarity on...

    9th November 2022

  • Open letter to Minouche Shafik of the LSE

    Members of the Open University Gender Critical Research Network have written to Baroness Minouche Shafik, Director of the London School of Economics, to ask for an independent review into the LSE’s Department of Gender Studies. Sex Matters joins them in calling on the LSE to launch an independent investigation...

    6th November 2022

  • Join the petition champions

    Petition champions

    After just three days we were over a quarter of the way to the 100,000 signatures needed to prompt a parliamentary debate. We’ve now got more than 40,000 signatures. Thank you to everyone who has already signed the Make the Equality Act Clear Petition. Every signature helps! If everyone...

    5th November 2022

  • Campaign update: Day 1

    Yesterday we launched the Make the Equality Act Clear petition, calling on the government to clarify, with a legislative amendment, that sex means sex in the Equality Act 2010. It got an amazing response. In less than 24 hours, 15,000 people signed the petition, and the number is continuing...

    3rd November 2022

  • Is Sex Matters a feminist organisation?

    The Sex Matters team is just back from a fantastic time at FiLiA, Europe’s largest feminist conference. But Sex Matters is not a feminist organisation. We simply subscribe to the radical notion that women are human beings, with full human rights.  We also attended the LGB Alliance. But Sex...

    27th October 2022

  • Sex Matters writes to MSPs

    Tomorrow 27th October is the Stage 1 debate on the Gender Recognition Reform Bill by the Scottish Parliament. Sex Matters has written to MSPs and sent them a copy of our “Sex and the Law” booklet. Equality law remains an area which is reserved for UK wide legislation, yet...

    26th October 2022

  • Gender-critical at work? Tell us about it

    Sex Matters launches survey

    Sex Matters is launching a survey about being gender-critical at work in the UK. Please take the survey and share your experiences

    17th October 2022

  • This media handbook from Sex Matters aims to help editors and reporters find their way back to professional excellence.

    New media handbook on sex and gender

    Sex Matters is publishing a handbook today, which aims to give journalists the confidence to write accurately, clearly and professionally about sex and gender.  The past decade has seen a determined effort by transactivists and gender-identity lobby groups to make it impossible to talk about biological sex in a...

    14th October 2022

  • The Forstater judgment – what does it mean for employers?

    What does the Forstater judgment mean for employers?

    On 6th July 2022 an employment tribunal found that Maya Forstater had been directly discriminated against by the Center for Global Development because of her beliefs.  This follows on from the precedent-setting judgment of the Employment Appeal Tribunal in June 2021, which found that the “gender critical” belief “that...

    8th July 2022

  • "My case matters for everyone who believes in the importance of truth and free speech."

    A win for free speech and sex-based rights

    Sex Matters’ Executive Director, Maya Forstater, has won her employment tribunal case against her former employer. Here is her press statement: Maya Forstater, who took a claim for belief discrimination against her former employer, the Center for Global Development, has been vindicated by a ruling that she was unlawfully...

    6th July 2022

  • Sex realists gaining ground at Westminster

    Debates on new laws in Parliament are one of the key battlefields between sex realists and sex denialists, with one side seeking clarity on sex, and the other seeking to conflate and confuse sex and gender identity.  A long-term strategy of the sex-denial lobbyists has been to propose legislation seemingly...

    31st May 2022

  • Good ideas that address complex issues are not handed down to us on stone tablets. Good ideas need time, space and the application of intelligence to be formed.

    Reading University VC speaks up for academic freedom

    On 25 April 2022 Dr Holly Lawford-Smith, of the University of Melbourne, gave a seminar at Reading University’s school of law. She analysed Australia’s recent legislation banning conversion therapy, and questioned the rationale for including gender identity alongside sexual orientation. “We champion freedom of expression but…” When local LGBTQ+ organisations learnt...

    23rd May 2022

  • Union proposes boundaries on gender-critical speech

    Union to vote on putting “boundaries” on gender-critical thought in the civil service

    The FDA is the trade union for managers and professionals in public service. It includes the most senior civil servants and specialists such as lawyers and statisticians. Delegates at tomorrow’s annual conference will be considering a motion that would put “boundaries” on gender-critical speech and adopt the position that...

    11th May 2022

  • Send our new guidance to a school you know

    Schools are calling out for clear guidance on sex and gender to answer questions such as what should they do when they face demands to socially transition children or to keep the secrets of a child who identifies as trans.

    25th April 2022

  • "If I win, HR departments will have to pay attention, and recognise that adopting ‘gender self-ID’ and enforcing its mantras creates a risk of legal liability."

    Interview with Maya Forstater

    Sex Matters’ Executive Director Maya Forstater won an important judgment in 2021 in her employment discrimination case. Now she is going back to court. Before her hearing begins next week on 7th March, Sex Matters interviewed Maya about her journey.

    2nd March 2022

  • College of Policing ordered to dial down the “chilling” effect on public debate

    Sex Matters welcomes today’s landmark judgment from the Court of Appeal on the recording of non-crime hate incidents.  It comes three years after Harry Miller received a visit from Humberside Police and had a non-crime hate incident recorded against his name after his tweets were reported as transphobic by...

    20th December 2021

  • Law Commission recommends protection for gender critical views from “chilling effect”

    The Law Commission today released its report and recommendations on hate-crime legislation. It recommends extending hate-crime laws but calls for specific protection from prosecution for gender-critical views. The Commission explicitly disagreed with Stonewall and GIRES (the Gender Identity Research and Education Society), which had said that there should not be...

    7th December 2021

  • Exposing disinformation about Kathleen Stock

    The intensification of targeting of Professor Kathleen Stock attracted public attention to the long-term campaign against her, and to the larger issue of academic freedom. Claims have been circulating which seek to discredit her and those who support her. We assess each one.

    25th October 2021

  • The Royal Academy and Belief Discrimination

    Sex Matters has written to the Royal Academy about Jess de Wahls. You can download our letter. Jess de Wahls is a textile artist. Her work tackles feminism, misogyny and fetishism. She has expressed her gender-critical views, most notably in an essay she posted in 2019, and since then...

    17th June 2021

  • Truth and reconciliation

    How should the public sector leave the Stonewall Champions Scheme?

    6th June 2021

  • Oxford’s submission to Stonewall

    We are pleased to announce that Michael Biggs, Associate Professor of Sociology at St Cross College, Oxford University, is joining the Sex Matters Board of Directors. Professor Biggs has written this post, as well as a letter to Professor Louise Richardson, Vice Chancellor of the University of Oxford, calling...

    6th June 2021

  • Time to #LeaveStonewall

    This is the letter we have sent to the CEOs of the 850 organisations that are members of the Stonewall Diversity Champions Scheme. Re: Leaving the Stonewall Diversity Champions Scheme We are writing to call on you to withdraw from the scheme, both for the sake of your own...

    29th May 2021

  • The Gender Wars, Academic Freedom and Education

    Guest blog post by Professors Alice Sullivan and Judith Suissa

    25th March 2021

  • Stonewalling the Domestic Violence Bill: Why make “misogyny” gender neutral?

    A short month ago there was an attempt to rush a bill through parliament that would set a precedent of “gender neutralising” motherhood in law; replacing the words mother or woman with  “pregnant person” in the Ministerial and other Maternity Allowances (MOMA) Bill.   As Baroness Noakes highlighted, this is...

    13th March 2021

  • Huddersfield University apologises for “transphobic tweets” investigation

    Huddersfield university has been forced to apologise and pay compensation to a PhD student after they subjected him to a lengthy disciplinary investigation over “transphobic” tweets. The University investigated Jonny Best for six months after a fellow student made an anonymous complaint about things he had written online. Best,...

    7th March 2021

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