Terrorised off campus by the trans hate mob: Balaclava-clad fanatics targeted her for daring to speak up for women’s rights. But here, ex-university lecturer Kathleen Stock defiantly says she WON’T be silenced in fight for freedom of thought

  • Kathleen Stock published blogs in 2018 critiquing extreme transgender ideology
  • But the academic was deemed as transphobic by activists at for her comments
  • Kathleen argued that ‘self-ID’ policies have ‘obvious’ consequences for women
  • She claimed that having transgender flags on campuses was a political gesture 
  • Last month, she decided to leave the University of Sussex after 18 years teaching

A version of this piece first appeared on UnHerd.com 

The hounding of Kathleen Stock was supposed to be a warning to women everywhere: dare to speak out against transgender ideology and expect to be burnt at the stake.

But despite the hell unleashed by trans activists at the University of Sussex, the bullying campaign against this brave academic has backfired.

Those who sought to ruin her life and career, most of whom are not transgender, have been exposed as misogynistic totalitarians.

When Kathleen spoke to me yesterday for a video interview for the website UnHerd, she detailed the true extent of the aggressive campaign of targeted harassment she has recently had to endure at the furious hands of trans-rights activists.

‘I went to work as normal and saw stickers all over my building about the ‘transphobic s*** that comes out of Kathleen Stock’s mouth,’ she says. ‘That was obviously distressing. But the next day, it escalated.’

The hounding of Kathleen Stock (pictured) was supposed to be a warning to women: dare to speak out against transgender ideology and expect to be burnt at the stake

As she walked to campus, she was confronted with posters calling for her to be sacked: ‘Fire Kathleen Stock’, ‘Kathleen Stock’s a Transphobe’, ‘We’re Not Paying Our Fees For Transphobia With Kathleen Stock’.

‘They were setting off flares,’ she remembers. ‘And they later took a picture of a man in a balaclava, all in black, looking just like [a member of the violent Left-wing anarchist group] Antifa. 

‘The imagery was obviously intimidating: holding a massive banner saying ‘Stock out’, while setting off pink and blue flares, because those are the colours on the transgender flag. 

‘I ran back to the station, got the train home, tried to teach a class on Zoom, burst into tears and my dear students said I must be having a tough day and they let me off,’ she says.

‘It was the beginning of the end of the campaign to intimidate me out of my job.’

That campaign clearly had a huge effect on her life. ‘The entire situation was terrible and awful and dreadful,’ she says.

A fellow feminist campaigner and, like her, a lesbian, I have known Kathleen since 2018 when I discovered her academic research on gender identity and women’s rights.

We have remained close since then, and I have looked on with horror at the appalling treatment she has been forced to endure in recent years. 

Kathleen might be a mild-mannered, liberal academic, but she is not one to shy from a fight. Nevertheless, last month she decided to leave Sussex after 18 years teaching: a move that shocked many.

But despite the hell unleashed by trans activists at the University of Sussex, the bullying campaign against this brave academic has backfired

So what was her crime? Earlier this year, Kathleen published a book, Material Girls: Why Reality Matters For Feminism, which bravely questioned the current orthodoxy that gender identity — whether you feel more male or female — is somehow more important than biological sex. 

Feminists like Kathleen know that biological sex does matter — and that this has profound implications for whether or not trans women (who were born male but who live their lives as women) should, for example, have the right to share changing rooms with women.

For this thoughtcrime, she has faced a torrent of abuse which her book brought to a shocking and particularly ugly head.

The campaign began in 2018, after Kathleen published a number of blog posts criticising extreme transgender ideology.

She was concerned that most academics, including philosophers like her, were reluctant to criticise campaigns to introduce ‘self-ID’ for transgender people, which allows them to state that they ‘are’ the opposite sex, and use spaces such as changing rooms designed for that sex.

But to implement self-ID without question is to ignore a key safeguarding problem for women.

As Kathleen puts it: ‘Self-ID policies trade on a fantasy that suddenly putting on a dress or saying ‘I’m a woman’ will change your basic nature. But, in fact, what was there before will be there after.

‘Humans are humans, and if you make it the case that you can self-identify into a better situation than you were in — i.e. a woman’s prison as opposed to a male prison, which are usually less intense, aggressive places — then some people will do it whether they’re trans or not.’

And as both Kathleen and I keep saying, this isn’t about stopping trans people from living their lives in peace. It’s a safeguarding policy for women.

‘These academics [who believed in self-ID] were not attending to the obvious consequences for women,’ she says. 

‘Yet on the other hand, there were plenty of academics who were cheerleading self-ID, ostentatiously moralising about it, and talking about ‘terfs’ [trans-exclusionary radical feminists] and transphobia.’

What particularly baffled her was the claim, widely held by trans activists and academics, that a person’s conviction about whether they are male or female is more important than their sex at birth.

As she puts it: ‘It is a terrible pseudo-philosophy and would fail a first-year essay.’

She stresses: ‘I absolutely believe that trans people should be protected in law, so I’m never going to waver from that.

‘I just disagree about the laws that should be used.’

She was confronted with posters calling for her to be sacked: ‘Fire Kathleen Stock’, ‘Kathleen Stock’s a Transphobe’, ‘We’re Not Paying Our Fees For Transphobia With Kathleen Stock’

Like a number of other women in the public eye who have been deemed transphobic, Kathleen is tired of being ‘lumped in with Holocaust deniers’ as somehow evil. 

‘All we’re doing is insisting on basic, obvious facts of biology and their social significance,’ she says.

‘Nearly 99 per cent of the planet agrees with us [that sex is immutable]. The most I can get out of people is a tentative: ‘Well, we absolutely support Kathleen Stock’s right to say what she thinks,’ but they won’t say: ‘And yeah, of course we agree with her because it’s bloody obvious!’

And this insistence on keeping silent has had a toxic impact on the transgender debate, allowing small groups of vocal and aggressive activists to fill the gap.

For example, Kathleen firmly believes that the LGBT-rights organisation Stonewall is in large part responsible for the current witch-hunt mentality — a vitriol I have seen myself.

In the past few years, Stonewall’s business model, which sees it invited into public and private bodies to vet those organisations on their LGBT-friendly policies, has prioritised a very narrow conception of trans rights.

‘I would say these ‘rights’ don’t benefit trans people,’ says Kathleen. ‘But [thanks to Stonewall] they were embedded in national institutions, Government departments, the Crown Prosecution Service, the European Court of Human Rights, almost all our universities, schools and local authorities. 

‘Our national institutions have almost unwittingly been instruments to be used by extremists.’

Those extremists are swift to accuse Kathleen of ‘weaponising her trauma’ if she ever dares talk about how the attacks have affected her personally. She insists on talking about it, though, because it’s not just affecting high-profile characters like us two.

What was the final straw for Kathleen? She tells me it was when the Sussex branch of the University and College Union (UCU) put out a statement in support of ‘our trans and non-binary students’ and against ‘institutional transphobia’.

‘At that point I was just hanging on,’ she says. ‘I was teaching from home. I saw the posters. I was advised to stay at home for my own protection. The police were coming round. I’m getting security stuff delivered to my house, trying to think about the future.

‘I thought I’d have to stay off campus for the rest of the term but at least I could teach on Zoom. I hoped they would support me.’

And then their union branch issued its damning statement. ‘It was a pompous peroration about ‘standing with our trans and non-binary students against institutional transphobia,’ Kathleen explains. ‘And all they could possibly mean by that was that I was there [teaching at the university].

‘There’s nobody else who speaks out like I do.

‘Plus, every second communication that comes out of the university is about trans and non-binary spaces. There’s a staff network; there’s a Centre for Sexual Dissidence; there’s a Centre for Gender Studies.

‘It’s literally saturated with positive messaging. It’s in Brighton, one of the most queer-friendly places in the world.

‘So all they could mean by institutional transphobia is: ‘We haven’t shut that b**** up yet.’ It came through on my email and it just felt like a punch in the gut.’

Kathleen is not one to shy from a fight. Nevertheless, last month she decided to leave Sussex after 18 years teaching: a move that shocked many

As she points out: ‘This is a union! They are supposed to protect employees from their bosses and to offer solidarity with anyone who is an employee — especially in a university.’

And, Kathleen tells me, this intolerance trickles all the way down from the top of UCU.

As far back as 2019, for instance, Jo Grady, UCU’s general secretary, boasted that she had installed ‘Terf-Blocker software’ on her Twitter account, automatically blocking any account deemed transphobic.

‘Grady is not unusual in academia,’ says Kathleen.

‘She has these relatively extreme views but they’ve become the norm. These people are a small number.’ 

As Kathleen says: ‘Universities are supposed to be places of learning and exploring ideas, including controversial ideas, so it’s a disgrace that this totalitarian approach seems to have replaced open debate and discussion.’

I ask Kathleen if there’s anything we can do. 

‘What we can do is demand that universities reduce the influence of lobbying groups like Stonewall and insist that senior management do not make politically-loaded pronouncements in controversial areas.’

She explains that having transgender flags on campuses, holding quasi-religious ceremonies such as ‘Trans Day of Remembrance’ and so on are not neutral gestures: they are political gestures and managers should not be participating in them. 

Yet despite all the abuse she’s received, Kathleen believes there is better news on the horizon.

She has seen a tsunami of support from government ministers, students, feminists and liberals who are now less afraid to speak out, having been inspired by her and others who have put their heads above the parapet.

‘We’re obviously having some success because I see more and more people speaking out.

I think as the public becomes better-educated about the basic issues and our position, which is the opposite of how it has been represented.

‘One thing that’s happened recently is that The Guardian and the BBC are no longer presenting our views as ‘anti-trans’ or ‘transphobic’. And at least some of the people working there seem aware that there’s actually a proper intellectual dispute here.

‘Beforehand, I honestly think Guardian readers hardly knew about any of the implications of self-identification.

‘They just were being protected from that information, because it wasn’t serving the newspaper’s business model very well.’

What will Kathleen do next? ‘I’m not going to stop,’ she tells me with defiance.

‘In leaving Sussex, I’ve become even more able to speak out and now I’ve got a bigger platform.’

What she does with that platform is yet to be seen. But I suspect it won’t be long until we find out.

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