We, as feminist academics and gender studies experts, wish to begin by expressing our support and commitment to the trans community both within higher education and beyond. We recognise that the recent letter published in the Guardian (Academics harassed over trans research, 17 October) may have caused pain and distress, and we find it deeply disappointing that some of our colleagues hold these views. While the signatories of the letter may feel like “outsiders” for their outdated views on gender, we would like to remind them that trans and non-binary people are literally dying for their right to exist (see Pearce, 2018).
Debate and disagreement that arises from these tensions across findings can indeed be productive. There seems to be little academically rigorous evidence informing these trans-exclusionary viewpoints. Much seems to be based in the scaremongering and moral panics experienced by other minority groups in the past (Muslim people of the 2000s, gay men in the 1980s and black people in the 1970s).
Moreover, we are particularly concerned with the letter’s suggestion that higher education is being led by some kind of trans and non-binary agenda. The recognition and support of a minority group should never be thought of as threatening or in conflict with securing rights for all. Over the years higher education institutions have developed increasing links with trans-advocacy organisations who provide training to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all staff, and to ensure that the Equality Act 2010 is fairly and legally implemented. This is not ideologically driven, this is policy-driven and evidence-based.
Dr Victoria Cann Lecturer in the humanities, University of East Anglia (UEA)
Dr Francisco Costa Lecturer in the humanities, UEA
Dr Miriam Kent Lecturer in film and media studies, UEA
Dr Helen Warner Lecturer in cultural politics, communication and media studies, UEA
• So, Dr Luke McGuire (Letters, 19 October) thinks that the academics who signed the letter in your pages calling for an end to the harassment of researchers into transgenderism are motivated by shallow “self-interest”? He thinks that we are only in it because of our “desire to publish or receive grants”?
I laughed a bitter laugh of incredulity (and, frankly, scorn) when I read this. No academic in their right mind would say or write anything whatsoever of a feminist nature in this area if they were acting out of self-interest; because to do so invites instant flaming of the kind clearly visible on your letters page. When I spoke out on the issue, I received no grant; only death threats. Self-interest? What a joke.
The only conceivable motivation for academics speaking out in this area is that we want to speak feminist truth to the power of the now-hegemonic trans lobby. We want it to be possible for people working in this area to actually be able to think – rather than having to kowtow to the received unwisdom that having the thought “I feel like a woman” is enough to give one instant full access to everything that those born and raised (and oppressed as) women have struggled for centuries to make their own.
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