The purge of trans-sceptical academics

Moves are afoot to expel from the academy anyone who doubts transgender ideology.

Heather Brunskell-Evans


In the UK academy, we have become accustomed to students deploying the ‘No Platform’ policy to silence external speakers. Now this same censoriousness seems to have spread to the world of academic journals, as evidenced by the pressure put on two academics recently to stand down from their editorial roles.

In the first instance, Sarah Honeychurch, one of the editors of the journal Hybrid Pedagogy, received a formal email from Chris Friend, the journal’s managing editor, asking her to resign her position. This was all because she had signed a letter to The Sunday Times, in which a number of academics critiqued the close relationship between the LGBT charity Stonewall and UK universities. The letter argues that via the education section of the Stonewall Diversity Champions Programme, trans-awareness workshops are being delivered to academics which present only one set of ideas on gender, some of which are anti-scientific yet presented as objective fact.

In the second instance, Michele Moore (full disclosure: I have just co-edited a book with her), another signatory of The Sunday Times letter and honorary professor at Essex University, found herself the subject of a petition demanding her resignation from the journal Disability and Society, where she is editor-in-chief. This was sparked by the letter, but her thinking on transgender issues is well known: she is concerned that children with complex psycho-social needs, including autistic children, are vulnerable to being pushed towards transitioning, exposing them to a lifetime of medical intervention and potentially sterility.

Friend, in justifying his decision to push out Honeychurch, says that ‘just as marginalised students who feel unsafe in school face obstacles to learning, marginalised authors who feel unsafe in journals face obstacles to writing’. ‘Before any debate can take place, our authors must be safe’, he continues. ‘[This] is not a matter of shutting down an argument or censoring a perspective. It is about holding space for a group that needs protection against the entrenched powers of authority already in place.’

Dr Angharad Beckett, associate professor of sociology at the University of Leeds, and an editor at Disability and Society, resigned her post over Moore’s involvement with the letter. She says that Moore’s views are ‘damaging to the wellbeing of trans children and their families’ and that the Sunday Times letter ‘will do little to make transgender colleagues and students feel welcome in universities’.

Thankfully, Taylor and Francis, the journal’s publisher, is standing by Moore and has not asked her to resign. Jessica Vivian, a director at Taylor and Francis, tells The Times: ‘Having seen both the petition and social-media discussion online, we are working with the journal’s editor and board to put into place a review of the journal’s editorial policies.’ But, she stresses, ‘our focus remains on ensuring the journal continues to challenge, debate and publish research from across the full spectrum of views’.

The words ‘unsafe’ and ‘unwelcome’ as they are applied to Honeychurch and Moore remind us of the dominance of transgender theory today. Even experienced editors with considerable reputations can be threatened or punished for failing to go along with the trans ideology. The ‘victims’ here are reasonable and ideology-free, apparently, asking nothing more than a space where they can be safe from abuse. Dissenters, in contrast, are unreasonable and ideologically driven people who are tantamount to some violent oppressor.

This is a clear attempt to silence people, with anyone who disagrees labelled a right-wing bigot. And this is all despite the fact that the concerns of people like Moore about the medical transitioning of children are widely held among the public, including among medics themselves. Under the banner of ‘diversity and inclusion’, academics as well as students are busy building a pampering culture, in which there is a refusal to countenance any view that challenges transgender ideology.

These people are campaigning not for freedom of speech, but freedom from speech. This is why they want to break off any association they might have with people whose values they do not share. Personal feelings trump other trifling principles such as intellectual freedom and the free exchange of ideas. And there is no acknowledgement that another’s ethical values, although different from one’s own, might be deeply held, based on evidence, and grounded in the principles of human diversity and social inclusion.

As I write, the backlash to Taylor and Francis’ decision rages. I applaud the publisher for standing firm. It is wrong that academics such as Honeychurch and Moore can find their scholarly reputation in tatters because of slurs and unsubstantiated allegations. What’s more, this debacle resonates beyond the walls of the academy. Free speech on the issue of transgenderism is very much under threat.

Heather Brunskell-Evans is an academic philosopher and writer. Her latest book, Inventing Transgender Children and Young People, co-edited by Michele Moore, will be published in July. Follow her on Twitter: @brunskellevans

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Delia Morris

24th October 2019 at 1:57 pm

These people think the only viewpoint acceptable is theres..if we all were to say this at office meetings we would make bad decisions..the transactivist lobby does not want opinions it wants you and me to agree with everything that is said..we no input from us, unless approved by the transgender lobby.

geoff carr

23rd July 2019 at 12:58 pm

Perhaps they are right and people should be allowed to be whatever they wish and the NHS should oblige – convinced you are a vampire then off to the dentist and the blood bank, want to change species then why not graft on some fur and get some claw implants – its all possible. We should stop being so narrowminded and let people morph into whatever their brain tells them – I’m sure the mental health institutes would be emptier if we stopped treating people who want to be different as having mental health disorders

Jakealope Darcy

22nd July 2019 at 6:06 pm

If they were really worried about the health and safety of children, these sick twisted pervs wouldn’t be pushing sex changes on minors.

Alex Ander

2nd July 2019 at 5:14 pm

How are the proponents of trans-activism any different to religious extremists? In reality they both have the same “convert or die” mentality. Neither are in anyway tolerant of those that apostatise or of those that do not subscribe to their dogma. How in anyway is the trans-movement not an ideological, dogmatic religion seeking to convert people to its beliefs? In the end, it is targeting all walks of life – with ruthless aggression: dare to critique trans-doctrine and the just reward is to lose your job, your career and your reputation. The UK used to be a Christian nation, then the UK became a secular nation. But now the UK is post-secular and is a religious nation again – but this time it’s religion is way more hostile and totalitarian than Christianity ever was…

Andrew Leonard

27th June 2019 at 4:05 am

I think it goes beyond magical words.

Andrew Doyle mentioned in a recent interview that many of the Postmodern inspired woke seem to believe things such as; if there was no word or words meaning racism, there would be no racism, because with no word(s), there is no concept, and the lack of that concept therefore precludes that way of thinking. There are two interesting points here:

– Why is there little or no public pressure on the Postmoderns to justify this claim?
– The claim itself is just an extreme version of the Sapir/Whorf Hypothesis, so wokeism is not only inspired by Postmodern philosophy, it is also inspired by mid-20th century psychology

Having said that, the understanding that the woke have this belief in the magic of words seems to be well known (does Titania believe in word magic?). What I’m suggesting is that the radical left want to take this type of thinking a whole lot further. They seem to believe that scientific truth is not discovered, but designed, and the design is solely about maintaining political and economic power. There is no external world that exists independently of our conscious selves, and therefore there can be no objective understanding of the world – no, science is just about power, exclusively. Furthermore, this top-down process of power through knowledge control is regarded as thoroughly successful, to the point that the PoMo’s must wonder how societies can ever change, other than via violent revolution.

So, says the Postmodernist, why not design the truth for better social outcomes? To help the marginalised and oppressed? Truth is essentially arbitrary, so why not make it a tool of social progress, empowerment, and equality?

What is becoming increasingly untenable, is universities and colleges having to host both the scientific and woke ‘worldviews’, simultaneously. The situation is not sustainable. These institutions will be forced at some point to make a choice between the two philosophies; are we a science-based institution, or social justice institution? They cannot have it both ways for much longer.

Andrew Leonard

27th June 2019 at 4:06 am

This is a reply to L Strange replying to myself, below.
Sorry about that little stuff-up

James Knight

26th June 2019 at 5:27 pm

david stinson

26th June 2019 at 4:01 pm

This is great! We’re heading back to the Middle Ages, where the perverse opinions of a self-reinforcing cabal can deteremine orthodoxy in the face of scientific fact.
I can get a job torturing heretics, which has only been a hobby until now.

Stephen Kenny

26th June 2019 at 1:16 pm

It’s just the continuation of the affirmative action processes that result in male dons being fired for wearing the wrong tee shirts.
Is it insane? Well, sort of, but it’s an insanity that runs, and underpins, our educational establishment, so making the claim aligns you with Douglas Adams’ ‘Wonko the Sane’. He may have been correct, but he clearly had no job, and lived on the beach.

Amelia Cantor

26th June 2019 at 10:43 am

Suck it up, Spiked! Trans folk and their allies are winning on all fronts, and your bleating and blethering makes not the slightest difference to the advance of human rights and retreat of hate, bigotry and ignorance. Except in one way: I and many others are archiving all your hate-speech, ready to present it as evidence to the authorities, and there’s no way that you will escape prosecution and thoroughly deserved imprisonment in the increasingly near future. It’s just a matter of time…

Marvin Jones

2nd July 2019 at 2:54 pm

Only because of the folly of appeasement and tolerance. Soon, we will fight back to the howls of “BULLIES” and newly made up words to describe how sick the new generation really is.

Gerard Flood

26th June 2019 at 8:54 am

Rational discussion of the transgender cluster of issues encounters multiple embedded absurdities as a defensive spiderweb against analysis and debate. Such analysis and debate will remain crippled without a familiarity with the clear exposition afforded by Patrick J Byrne’s “Transgender: One Shade of Grey The Legal Consequences for man and woman, schools, sport, politics, democracy” [2018] and its shorter outline, “The Little Grey Book on Sex and Transgender” [2019]. And for the facts on how vulnerable, unwell and damaged kids are being cruelly used as cannon fodder by ideologues and the blind, see Dr John Whitehall’s writings in QuadrantOnLine.

christopher barnard

26th June 2019 at 8:34 am

I did maths at university and nobody ever asked for my views on anything remotely political, nor did anyone offer me theirs.

If any academic or administrator had expected me to agree with them on any political topic topics I’d have told them the university was paid to teach me maths, not to indoctrinate me with the latest trendy views.

Brian Fullerton

26th June 2019 at 8:29 am


James Hillier

26th June 2019 at 8:05 am

What can we do? Are there collections for a legal challenge on behalf of any of these scholars?

Steve Roberts

26th June 2019 at 8:41 am

James Hillier you ask what can we do ?

Steve Roberts

26th June 2019 at 9:03 am

James Hillier, in answer to your question i would say not spend time, effort and focus trying to mount a legal challenge, even if successful it would be short lived, limited and a distraction from the real task that is necessary which is to develop a core of people , a social force ,either in workplaces or in wider society or both to repel these attacks .
These attacks are increasing and will continue to be as they are coming from a social strata whose entire political outlook is regressive and authoritarian but dressed in a language that denies it, this outlook is deeply embedded and as the article points out is been connected now generationally between some students and adult educators alike, no amount of understanding or debate, or clarity of argument with these authoritarians will divert them from their path, they need stopping, this is the reality.
I believe unless this is fully grasped and there is a realisation that we all have to build new organisations across society to fight this and take stands which will involve hardships, defeats, and personal sacrifices at some level then these enemies of freedom will continue to be emboldened , they are pushing at open doors.
Academics and students fairly recently joined to defend pension rights etc in educational establishments but i see no semblance of a fight to stop all this authoritarian nonsense.
Simplify it a little, while possibly been accused of reading history backwards, of been non specific,the majority of working class people have for generations had to endure severe attacks on many fronts, many the actual removal of the only thing they have, the ability to sell ones labour, that had to be fought, was fought and the gains we now have, insufficient as they are , are because of those fights generally, little is given and certainly if it is given by a court ruling it is often taken away by another at some later stage.
There has to be a lesson there somewhere, what else is anyone proposing ?

Hana Jinks

26th June 2019 at 7:55 am

It hadn’t even crossed my mind that they’d be preying on the autistic. Western societies are diverse and inclusive enough without having to indulge these misguided people.

Delia Morris

24th October 2019 at 1:59 pm

Had to find their candidates somewhere I suppose. Another vulnerable group as it turns out, far more vulnerable than them.

Winston Stanley

26th June 2019 at 7:48 am

The authoritarian PC crowd like to get people sacked, whether it is academics or that disabled bloke at Asda the other day. “Think wrong, speak wrong, lose your job.” Let us stop pretending that this is a liberal or a democratic society – it is stark authoritarian, where everyone had better watch out or they will lose their livelihood. The idea is to terrorise the demos into submission, so that we know our place, to do what we are told, to think what we are told and to say what we are told – and nothing else. It is dehumanising, we may as well be programmable robots or puppets on string. This is not a free society.

Hana Jinks

26th June 2019 at 9:34 am

Are the “demo’s” the left, because it seems to me as if they’re the authoritarian one’s. So what are you on about?

Winston Stanley

26th June 2019 at 6:17 pm

“Demos” is Greek, it means the body of the people, everyone. It is the “demos” in “democracy”, as in the “rule of the people”, as opposed to the rule of a few, of a particular class or an elite. It is us. The demos is supposed to be free and self-governing in a democracy.

Hana Jinks

26th June 2019 at 8:58 pm

Oh, l see…thank you.

Nigel Westlake

26th June 2019 at 3:42 am

Chris Friend must now be pressured to resign.

Andrew Leonard

26th June 2019 at 2:34 am

What is the fundamental difference between the radical left, Progressives, religionists, spiritualists, and the plain dishonest, on one hand, and science, objectivity and honesty, on the other?

Simple – the first group believes that truth is read/write, whereas the second believes truth is read-only.

The first group wants to “write” truths (make them up), to bring about what they see as superior social outcomes. By writing the truth that there are many genders, we can prevent transgenders from becoming suicidal (or so the thinking goes). By writing the truth that men and women (how many genders are there?) are equal in all respects, we can eliminate sexism. Similarly, the written truth of racial equality can eliminate the basis for racism and help bring about the diverstopia.

You don’t need to spend months of your life reading up on Postmodernism and Theory, to understand what ideas these ideologies are promoting. Instead, just ask the question; what is the position of these thinkers on the writability of truth?

Once one realises that the UK and North America have become gripped by an ideology of read & write truth, the next step is to predict the future of institutions that are fundamentally in the truth is read-only camp, the traditional examples being science, law, and education.

L Strange

26th June 2019 at 8:39 pm

There’s certainly seems to be a strong element of magical thinking amongst many trans-activists, as if reality will change if they can just find the right PoMo word-salad and get enough people to spout it.

It’s an attempt to cast spells.

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