A particularly interesting case

A feminist barrister has been attending Maya Forstater’s tribunal and livetweeting it; Thread Reader has stitched it together.

I’m at the Employment Tribunal this morning to watch closing submissions for the #MayaForstaterCase2019. It’s a particularly interesting case on whether a) gender critical beliefs and / or b) a belief in innate gender identity are protected philosophical beliefs.

Does there have to be a belief in innate gender identity in order for absence of belief to be protected? Possibly not, say the judge and counsel for the Respondent (employer)

Respondent kicks off with the assertion that MF’s beliefs fail on Grainger 5: that they are incompatible with human dignity.

She explains Grainger later on. Meanwhile, note the claim that it’s incompatible with human dignity to fail to believe that men can become women. I think you could make a case that it’s the other way around – that if you think sex is that fungible, that easy to swap, that loosely worn – then we become something more like dolls than complex beings with biology and history and life experience. I don’t particularly want to make that case (because it’s beside the point, for one thing), but I would if the law started telling us we have to believe the “you can change sex at will” nonsense.

She argues that MF’s belief in biological sex do not reach a minimum level of coherence to satisfy Article 9 (freedom of belief). Many beliefs fit this category – eg an architect who refused to sign up to architect association, anti-vaccination, someone who wanted to marry an underage girl, refusal to wear a seatbelt. None of these were protected by Art 9 and she argues that MF’s belief in biological sex is in the same category.

The architect is a wild card; I don’t see how that fits so let’s ignore it (no doubt it was explained in the hearing). The other three have to do with harms to others – definite, clear, specifiable harms. The harms that result from failure to believe that men can become women are not like that at all – they’re notional, projected, guessed-at, attributed. One can argue that the harms of sexism and racism are like that too, but on the other hand women and brown people are real, while the designation “trans” points to something unreal.

Counsel for Respondent says almost all of MF’s beliefs stray into Art 9(2) territory – not protected because they are offensive in a democratic society, and should be suppressed for protection and freedom of trans women.

Let’s be charitable about the word “offensive” here; let’s read it as meaning “an offense to a democratic society because the basis of unjust discrimination” as opposed to merely referring to worked-up outrage. Even then, is it true? It’s not true if you don’t consider it unjust discrimination to fail to believe that men become women by saying so. I don’t think we have to accept other people’s accounts of themselves in every particular in order to treat them as equals and deserving of respect.

Jumping ahead:

Comparison to anorexia is an odious view. Anorexics are ill, while trans people are trying to make the outside match the inside. Can’t be a protected view.

In x-x MF insisted that Pips Bunce is male, even though in fact he is gender-fluid. [pronoun counsel’s own, if I heard that correctly]

Oops. How odious.

In x-x she also said she would not accept a panel made up of men and trans women was a mixed panel, and that demonstrates the absurdity of her beliefs. They are not worthy of respect in a democratic society bc that panel would be legally mixed.

Ah yes, how “absurd” for women to believe that a panel made up of men, some of whom called themselves women, was a panel made up of men. What possible reason could we have to object to such an arrangement, and to the insistence that we have to believe the claims behind it ourselves, and endorse them, and say nice things about them?

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