Her opinions were deemed to be “absolutist”

Even The Guardian doesn’t seem entirely convinced by the judge’s ruling in Maya Forstater’s case.

A researcher who lost her job at a thinktank after tweeting that transgender women cannot change their biological sex has lost a test case because her opinions were deemed to be “absolutist”.

You can read that as straight-up reporting, but you can also think there may be a hint of skepticism that it’s really “absolutist” to think that people can’t literally change sex any more than they can change age or species.

In a keenly anticipated judgment that will stir up fresh debate over transgender issues, Judge James Tayler, an employment judge, ruled that Maya Forstater’s views did “not have the protected characteristic of philosophical belief”.

Is that because it’s too obvious to be a philosophical belief? Or is it because it’s (in the judge’s view) too wrong to be a philosophical belief?

[I]n a 26-page judgment released late on Wednesday, Tayler dismissed her claim. “I conclude from … the totality of the evidence, that [Forstater] is absolutist in her view of sex and it is a core component of her belief that she will refer to a person by the sex she considered appropriate even if it violates their dignity and/or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. The approach is not worthy of respect in a democratic society.”

But how do we know that referring to people by their actual physical sex (not, as the judge tendentiously puts it, “by the sex she considered appropriate”) violates anyone’s dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment?

Also, is there any possibility that it violates people’s dignity and creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment when bosses force employees to call other employees something they are not?

There certainly are ways of referring to other people that violate their dignity and create a hostile degrading environment – I could sum them up with the single word “trump.” Sexist epithets, racist epithets, generalized epithets like “ugly,” “fat,” “stupid,” “old,” “worthless,” – you can see there’s a large supply. Some of them can refer to true or plausible facts, and still be hostile and degrading – the aforementioned “trump” gives many examples.

But does pronoun use fit in that category? I’m not convinced.

Louise Rea, a solicitor at the law firm Bates Wells which advised the CGD in the case, said: “Judge Tayler held that ‘the claimant’s view, in its absolutist nature, is incompatible with human dignity and fundamental rights of others’. He observed that the claimant was not entitled to ignore the legal rights of a person who has transitioned from male to female or vice versa and the ‘enormous pain that can be caused by misgendering a person’.

But what fundamental right is that, exactly? How fundamental can it really be when no one had ever heard of it fifteen years ago? How was it overlooked so long if it’s really fundamental?

I don’t think there is such a thing as a fundamental right to be called the sex you are not. It may be a courtesy, a kindness, an agreement among friends, a generosity – but not a fundamental right.

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