Does it pay to tell the truth?

Are you familiar with Professor Kathleen Stock? She teaches at the University of Sussex and has recently published a book in which she questions the notion that gender identity is more “socially significant” than biological sex. That’s when the roof fell in on her.

An anonymous campaign was mounted at the university, accusing her of being transphobic. Professor Stock tweeted that “students shouldn’t just expect to hear their own thoughts reflected back at them”. In response, a masked protestor stood on the university sign with a poster saying “Stock out”.  Professor Stock posted another tweet: “Couldn’t begin to adequately thank the hundreds of people who have helped or encouraged me in the last few days so I won’t try here, except to say you have my undying gratitude, and I certainly now know who my friends are.”

On BBC ONE’s Question Time  on Thursday night, the subject came up again, and presenter Fiona Bruce called on panellist Robert Winston (you know, the guy with the generous moustache) for his views, given that he’d been Chancellor of some university or other. Here’s what Winston said:

‘I was rather hoping that you’d be interested in my opinion as a biologist , which is  a lot more important… I will say this categorically: that you cannot change your sex. Your sex is actually there in every single cell of the body. You have chromosomal sex , you have genetic sex,  you have hormonal sex, you have all sorts of psychological brain sex. They are different, and we are very confused about this unfortunately, and regrettably it’s got into this argument that people will now accuse me of being transphobic. My saying this will result in me getting a huge amount of hate mail. There are of course issues about young people who are confused about their sex. It does affect a whole lot of issues in schools and elsewhere in society. Of course we should accept people as they are. But overall I think it’s a very sad thing that we can’t discuss biological science without getting caught up with something completely emotional.”

I know what he means and I couldn’t agree more. The trans question aside, there are any number of areas where, if you state some facts, you will be overwhelmed by condemnation on social media, with calls for you to be sacked – or, in my case, struck off the BBC’s list of commentators (Kindly stop laughing, Virginia).

Of all places, universities should allow, in fact encourage free speech. And when discussing issues, people should accept facts (such as those outlined by Robert Winston) and stifle their outrage simply because they don’t like the facts.

Otherwise we’ll all transform ourselves into mini-Trumps.  

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