Sex and gender

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What I believe

Extract from my witness statement

I am ‘gender critical’ this means that I believe that:

  1. “Sex” is a material reality which should not be conflated with “gender” or “gender identity”.
  2. Being female (or male) is an immutable biological fact, not a feeling or an identity.
  3. Sex matters.
  4.  In particular it is important it is important to be able to talk about sex in order to take action against the discrimination, violence and oppression that still affect women and girls because they were born female.

This means I do not agree with the statements that “trans women are women”, and that “trans men are men” [because the words woman and man already mean something in relation to the above].

I believe that everyone should be free to live as they choose without harassment or discrimination because of adopting or not adopting gender norms and stereotypes. Believing that the material reality of sex is important does not preclude accommodating a person’s wish to not have their biological sex declared or emphasised in official, professional or social situations in situations where their sex does not matter.

I do not harbour any ill-feeling towards people who identify as transgender or transsexual. Nor would I would seek to humiliate or harass anyone. I believe that transgender people can be included in public life, and their human rights protected, while recognising that in some situations — such as in sexual relationships and reproduction, healthcare, demo­graphic statistics, bodily privacy, sports and single sex provisions that exist to repair the historic marginalisation of women — it is sex that matters.

Someone who has simply declared a self-identified gender identity remains physically no different from any other person of their sex — for example in relation to pregnancy risk, sex-based patterns of offending, and the privacy and dignity of others. It is important to recognise that people cannot literally change sex, in the safeguarding of children and vulnerable people. 

There is a growing trend for bringing children up as if they were the opposite sex, and putting them on a pathway of puberty blocking drugs, cross-sex hormones and surgical interventions which result in sterilisation and loss of sexual function. The risks and results of this can only be adequately considered if the reality of male and female bodies is recognised.

Things that I have written 

Lets Talk About Sex (6 March 2019, an article about sex and gender identity in relation to international development)

Dear Feminists of the Tax Justice Network (27 March 2019, a response to joint statement on trans-solidarity on behalf of feminists for fiscal justice, tax and economic policies.)

The Scout Association’s New Transgender Guidance is a Big Step Forward (29 May 2019, Transgender Trend)

Sex, Gender and International Development (a speech at Woman’s Place UK)

Single sex services & the Equality Act: A new statutory Code of Practice must help everyone get clear what “single sex” means  (1 August 2019, Fairplay for Women)

Employment tribunal

In March 2019 I lost my job at the Centre for Global Development, after I had written and tweeted about my belief and about the UK government’s proposal for gender self ID.  I took them to  Employment Tribunal for discrimination on the grounds of belief.

Crowd Justice appeal : A short introduction to the case and updates from me. 

I lost my job for speaking up about women’s rights : A longer account of how I lost my job (written in May 2019)

Particulars of the claim  (May 2019)

My witness statement on belief  (Evidence in chief to the employment tribunal, November 2019)

Kristina Harrison’s witness statement on belief (Evidence in chief to the employment tribunal, November 2019)

There were also witness statements for CGD, by Luke Easley (Director of Human Resources) and Clair Quentin (a tax expert who was offended by my tweets)

Livetweets from the tribunal 

Preliminary hearing on belief: the judgment  (18 December 2019. Employment Judge James Tayler) –  I lost

“Allegedly transphobic tweets” (a twitter thread that links to all the tweets that are mentioned in the judgement)

My statement on the judgment

(18 December 2019)

I struggle to express the shock and disbelief I feel at reading this judgment, which I think will be shared by the vast majority of people who are familiar with my case.

My belief as I set out in my witness statement is that sex is a biological fact, and is immutable. There are two sexes, male and female. Men and boys are male. Women and girls are female. It is impossible to change sex. These were until very recently understood as basic facts of life by almost everyone.

 As I said at my tribunal I will as a matter of courtesy use preferred pronouns and I support human rights. Everyone should be free to express themselves, to break free of gender stereotypes and to live free of violence, harassment and discrimination.

But this does not require removing people’s freedom to speak about objective reality, or to discuss proposed changes to law and to  government policies clearly.

Women face discrimination on the basis of our sex. The rights of women to organise, to play a role in public life and to be protected against discrimination have been hard-won in recent generations. Protections against sex discrimination depend on being able to recognise sex. This is why it is a protected characteristic in the Equality Act.

This judgment removes women’s rights and the right to freedom of belief and speech.  It gives judicial licence for women and men who speak up for objective truth and clear debate to be subject to aggression, bullying, no platforming and economic punishment.

 I will consider the judgment closely with my legal team to determine what can be done to challenge it.  I will make a further statement once that task is complete.

I want to express my thanks to my legal team Anya Palmer and Peter Daly for the excellent job they have done, to Kristina Harrison for speaking up as a witness in my tribunal, and to everyone whose careful and compassionate writing on this topic helped me to understand the issues. I am grateful for the outpouring of support I have received from around the world, via social media, on Mumsnet, through feminist networks and in person.

In particular thank you to everyone who has made and continues to make financial donations towards the legal costs through

Most of all I want to thank my husband, my children and my family for their support. I will be forever grateful to everyone who has stood with me.

CGD’s statement (18 December 2019)

What happened next

Unexpectedly, on December 19 JK Rowling tweeted this message with the hashtag #IStandWithMaya

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It brought my story to international attention, sparking thousands of online, media and kitchen table conversations.

As James Kirkup wrote in the Spectator “In just a few words, JK Rowling has changed the transgender debate”

Analysis of the case

Philosophers, lawyers and all sorts of thoughtful people have been looking at the facts, judgement and implications of my case.

Discrimination lawyer Rebecca Bull has written a series of twitter threads analysing different legal aspects;

Video responses


Do send me any others you see!

Media inquiries: talk to Tom Garder at Slater Gordon +44 (0)207 657 1690

Photos of me here, should anyone want any (Credit: Barney Cokeliss)

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