Is there a more widely contested idea than ‘is it possible for someone to change their sex’? It is a subject that many people feel strongly about. The feelings run so deep that the nature of the debate as it stands is one of confrontation on both sides. This week, the Employment Appeal Tribunal has ruled that the philosophical belief, that sex is biologically determined and cannot be changed, is protected by law. Maya Forstater’s case has filled thousands of column inches since it started. The interest, and some might say controversy it has raised has been high, but for us there was no doubt that we should get involved. Our role is to stand up for the rights of everyone. This important legal case clarifies the law in a complex area. Some people will find Ms. Forstater’s views controversial or offensive, but the Employment Appeal Tribunal has made clear that only the most extreme beliefs, such as Nazism and Totalitarianism, are excluded from legal protection. Gender-critical beliefs do not fall into that category, and indeed are shared by many people. It was clear to us that the Employment Tribunal had got this case wrong. It had failed to distinguish between the question of whether Ms Forstater held a belief that is protected, despite others finding it offensive, and the question of whether the way she acted on that belief justified her employer’s actions.
We must get the balance right and somehow bring the two sides of the debate together to find a way forward.
As we mark Pride month 2021, we must acknowledge that many trans people face barriers across aspects of their lives – from bullying at school to poor mental health, discrimination and hate crime. We will continue to stand up for the rights of everyone who faces discrimination or harassment. Women also tell us they have genuine concerns about what changes mean for the legal protections for their rights that have been hard won over the centuries. We must get the balance right and somehow bring the two sides of the debate together to find a way forward. Whatever belief you hold, it comes with a responsibility to treat others with respect and as an equal human being. No one should feel unsafe to use social media or go out in public for fear of being targeted, and it is everyone’s responsibility to help create a society built on trust and respect for others’ views and respect for the ways in which people live their lives.