Being a trans-sceptical academic is a risky business

When professors need security guards, academic freedom is in real trouble.



Selina Todd, a professor of modern history at the University of Oxford, has told the Telegraph that she has been assigned security guards, by the university authorities, following threats from trans activists.

Todd is among a number of ‘gender-critical’ academics who have faced threats and harassment due to their heretical views, particularly their concerns about the effect gender self-identification may have on women’s rights and spaces.

Her research focuses on women’s lives, and she has also been marked out for arguing that women who posed as men in the past ‘were often lesbians seeking to protect themselves, or because they want to do jobs that were only available to men’.

She says that two students made her aware that threats against her were being circulated on email networks. The university, having accessed the risks, have given her ‘two big burly guys’ to sit in on her lectures.

Todd says she is not ‘transphobic’. But since entering into the trans debate she has been demonised, faced with demands she be sacked, and told that it was ‘impossible for a transgender student to be taught by me’.

Todd isn’t the only one. In recent years, trans-sceptical academics have become pariahs on campus. Kathleen Stock, professor of philosophy at the University of Sussex, has faced protests due to her view that biological sex cannot be changed and her criticisms of proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act.

Rosa Freedman, professor of law, conflict and global development at the University of Reading, is another critic of the proposed changes. She was recently confronted outside Reading’s students’ union – a male protester told her she was a ‘transphobic Nazi who should get raped’.

These intolerant mobs are posing a real threat to academic freedom. And they have been enabled by the cowardice of universities and other members of faculty who have allowed this to go on for far too long. Anyone who believes in academic freedom must take a stand against this.

Picture by: Getty.

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farkennel smith

28th January 2020 at 1:31 pm

Feminism eats itself.Surely there`s some way we can blame white men for this?

Danny Rees

27th January 2020 at 2:46 pm

Violence and threats of violence are of course wrong and people should be free to speak without such threats.

The problem is Spiked views any criticism or dissent towards “trans skeptical” feminists as some form of violent oppression. Even calling a feminist a “transphobe” is deemed violent by Spiked.

David Cockayne

26th January 2020 at 10:04 am

The university is to be congratulated for having acted pragmatically rather than virtue signalling by issuing policy statements containing terms like ‘take very seriously’ and ‘unacceptable behaviour’.

Speak softly but carry a big stick.

Claire D

24th January 2020 at 2:28 pm

As far as the university authorities are concerned they need to put in place a zero tolerance strategy, whereby threats of violence towards faculty members mean immediate expulsion, that would put a stop to it.

Claire D

24th January 2020 at 2:42 pm

The universities would probably lose a few thousand in fees to start with until the reality kicked in with the student activists realising their chance for a university education was finished for at least one year. This would soon balance out with increased confidence amongst staff and normal healthy students, as well as attracting more of the same to apply, safe in the knowledge that here was an educational institution that was run efficiently and safely.

Cedar Grove

26th January 2020 at 7:13 pm

Common sense, regrettably, doesn’t apply in these cases.

Claire D

24th January 2020 at 2:13 pm

I hope all of them have reported these threats of violence to the police.

Ed Turnbull

24th January 2020 at 1:59 pm

We know we’ve truly entered the post-Enlightenment age when people will threaten you with physical violence if you refuse to accept an obvious falsehood as fact.

It disturbs me how modifiers are being increasingly used to change language and, thus, attempt to manipulate thought. Formerly modifiers were used to perform a useful taxonomic function: refining the classification of entities e.g. sports car, estate car, and so on. ‘Black’, ‘white’, ‘old’, ‘young’ these are examples of modifiers one can legitimately apply to ‘woman’. ‘Trans’ is no such legitimate modifier for ‘woman’, it’s being used to claim that an entity – a man – is something other than what he actually is. I will not accept this lie, and I cordially invite the activists who would insist I do, to eff off and die.


24th January 2020 at 1:10 pm

In Ireland and Denmark, the law was changed to allow tg people to self-identify their legal gender status. This produced almost no comment or opposition either before or after the event. Nor have there been any cases, as far as I am aware, of tg people abusing this new law in order to intimidate or assault women. How then do we explain the rage and hysteria being generated over this issue in the UK? The number of tg people in the UK is tiny. Don’t you all have more pressing issues to address, such as the appalling increase in crime under The Tories, which affects everyone, not just a tiny minority?

Mark Houghton

24th January 2020 at 1:39 pm

Trans ‘woman’ rapes women in womens prison.

No problem with people self identifying then?


25th January 2020 at 6:12 pm

Self-identification of tg people and putting a rapist with male genitalia in a women’s prison are clearly two different issues. It is evidently insane and immoral to put a convicted rapist with male genitalia in a women’s prison.

Danny Rees

27th January 2020 at 2:52 pm

Couldn’t we come to a compromise where people can self identify but they don’t get to be put in a prison of whatever their preferred gender is?

Dominic Straiton

24th January 2020 at 1:40 pm

There is no rage. Ireland was a catholic society that saw as fact the virgin birth. People in England are not raging, they are simply not going to accept lies peddled as truth. I could not care less who you want to be but if you tell me your Napoleon il smile raise a glass to you, but will never accept your Napoleon and I wont support the NHS giving you a bicorn hat as treatment.

Simon Giora

24th January 2020 at 1:41 pm

I think you rather missed the point of the article. The article refers to “trans activists”, whether these people are trans is not known. Are you suggesting it is OK to intimidate people with whom you disagree because there are more “pressing issues”? Many would say freedom of speech is quite pressing.

Yes, the number of trans people is “tiny”, should this tiny number of people be allowed to impose their views on the rest? Rather a dangerous path to head down.

W Peak

24th January 2020 at 9:56 pm

Well said, Simon. A dangerous path indeed.

nick hunt

25th January 2020 at 3:41 pm

So do you support the right of this professor (and others) to express critical ideas, or do you condone the use of violence to silence her? Freedom or oppression, Xenops?

Cedar Grove

26th January 2020 at 7:14 pm

The silencing of academics is a matter of concern for everyone, actually. ( Except you, of course.)

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