Kathleen Stock, a philosophy Lecturer at Sussex, was accused of making transphobic comments in July 2018. This followed various interviews and blog posts by Stock.
Stock told The Argus: “Many trans women retain male genitalia and a sexual attraction towards females. If gender reassignment proceeds by ‘self-ID’ then in practice, this will make transitioning much easier, and will eventually mean more trans women in female-only spaces, unless the law excludes them.”
Stock’s interview came alongside the government’s proposal to reform the Gender Recognition Act (2004). The amendment would ‘de-medicalise’ the legal process for changing gender.
This would increase the emphasis upon self-identification rather than requiring a medical diagnosis or certificate, which Stock has criticised.
Accusations of transphobia were made against Stock by students and staff at Sussex.
Stock has since defended her comments, telling The Badger: “I believe that the rights of trans women and natal females to live lives free of violence, threat, discrimination, and harassment are totally compatible and should both absolutely be upheld. I feel very strongly about this.”
Some trans rights campaigners heavily criticised Stock’s comments on Twitter. Fox Fisher, a trans rights activist who studied at Brighton University, Tweeted: “Trans rights are not, and never will be, up for debate”.
Fisher also told The Argus: “A lecturer that openly opposes the rights of trans people therefore creates a hostile environment for students and stand[sic] in their workplace”.
A University of Sussex spokesperson told Pink News: “Our member of staff has made it very clear that she is expressing her personal views and is not talking on behalf of the University.
“As a university, we support academic freedom and we must defend the right of any individual to hold and express their personal views, within the law.
“As a University, we have an unstinting commitment to actively promoting and supporting equality and diversity, to create a campus that is inclusive for all. That, of course, includes all trans staff and students in our community.”
Stock also spoke at a Brighton event organised by Woman’s Place UK. During the event, named A Woman’s Place Is Turning The Tide, Stock commented: “It’s said I’m causing harm and even violence to trans people by my writing—despite my constantly reaffirming the right of all trans people to be free of violence and discrimination”.
She also said that there had been public protests against her by The Students’ Union and on Sussex University’s campus. The Badger has approached The Students’ Union for comment.
Stock also contributed to a two week series on trans identity by The Economist in which she wrote: “In public discourse, there’s a lot of focus on whether trans women should be counted as women. Whatever the ultimate answer, that’s obviously a reasonable question, despite trans activists’ attempts to count it as ‘transphobic’”.
The University of Sussex sponsored the annual Brighton Trans, Non-Binary and Intersex Conference which took place in July.
Both The University and Students’ Union have taken steps to make campus welcoming and usable by all. For example, gender neutral toilets were introduced in 2014 and, as of 2016, 72 toilets were labelled as gender neutral.
Stock’s comments, and the negative reception surrounding them, also occurred ahead of Brighton’s fifth Trans Pride.
A parade took place from the Marlborough Pub to Brunswick Square and it is estimated that 5,000 people came to partake in the event.
Falmer House Common room was plastered in supportive placards in the run-up to the event.
Organisers were prepared for incidents following anti-transgender protests at London Pride, wrote The Argus. The event went ahead without incident.