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The UK’s largest academic union wanted “transphobes” forced out of work, feminist members told the Times

The UK’s University and College Union has been encouraging its members to report college staff who disagree with transgender ideology, the Times reported this week. The union said that “transphobes” in academia should be “tackled,” and that the Times itself was “bullying” the union by reporting on its activities.

According to the British newspaper, leaked minutes from a UCU meeting last September detailed the committee agreeing to send a survey to LGBTQ members at universities across the country. These members would be asked if they were aware of “gender critical” consultants and HR employees working at their institutions, and asked to name them, so the union could be “aware of any problems which may arise.”

“Some [of these equality, diversity and inclusion] consultants are transphobes and prominent gender critical activists,” the survey read.

‘Gender critical’ in this case refers to the belief that one’s gender is defined at birth as either male or female, and that granting male-to-female transsexuals the same rights as women undermines feminism. ‘Harry Potter’ author JK Rowling is one of the most prominent gender-critical feminists in the UK.

According to the Times, the minutes of the meeting state that “combating transphobia is important through education but there are a small core of people who are so entrenched in their views and the UCU needs to address this issue…It is important to look at ways of tackling these transphobes as they put forward hostile views which make campuses very unsafe places for trans people.”

Some academics told the outlet that this passage indicates plans by the UCU to force gender-critical staff from their jobs. 

“That passage made my blood run cold,” a UCU whistleblower told the paper. “They mean feminists, like me. There’s no ambiguity, they are talking about their own members. The whole thing is just horrendous.”

Criminology professor Jo Phoenix, who recently resigned from the Open University claiming to have been harassed for her gender-critical views, said that “academics being silenced on gender identity is a huge problem.” 

“What we are seeing is a very high intolerance to academic freedom and plurality of viewpoint,” she explained to the Times. “People don’t want to hear what they disagree with.”

Shereen Benjamin, a former UCU member and lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, told the paper that she was expelled from the union’s mailing list by an email with the subject line “f**king transphobes, f**k off!!,” after complaining about UCU activists using the term “Terf,” an acronym for “Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist.”

The term is commonly used as a slur by transgender activists, sometimes accompanied by threats of violence.

Benjamin had organized a feminist event at the university in 2019, which she told the Times led trans activists in the UCU to organize a “witch hunt” against her. The activists reportedly accused her of making trans people feel unsafe on campus.

The UCU denied that its survey contained any questions about consultants’ views on gender, and did not “ask respondents to identify institutions which employed them.” UCU General Secretary Jo Grady published a video on social media before the Times article was published, accusing journalist James Beal of “hassling” and “bullying” its members by asking them for comment.

Beal’s piece itself was a “dog-whistle transphobic article,” Grady added, a week before its publication.

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