“And you think you’re so clever and classless and free”
— John Lennon in Working Class Hero
We all know the next line in that song, eh.
As long as you’re working for someone else, you are not free “to say and do whatever I please,” as Lesley Gore put it in the song You Don’t Own Me.
OK. Enough of the classic rock and pop songs — though so many of them have such great messages, yes? But I digress.
Freedom of speech and actions are restricted when you are an employee. Most companies have a code of conduct you must follow, including what you say in social media settings. It’s not that the board of directors really cares whether you are, say, a white supremacist or a homophobe or a transphobe. They care about how your opinions expressed publicly might reflect on them — and affect their bottom line. So, you are advised to keep it to yourself, both in the workplace and publicly.
I can see how someone like J.K. Rowling — wealthy and self-employed — might overlook that fact when she defended one Maya Forstater, whose consulting contract with a British nonprofit was not renewed because of complaints about “her open transphobia,” as Dr. Veronica Ivy phrased it in an opinion piece on the NBC News website. As Dr. Ivy puts it: “Freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from the consequences of that speech.” Ms. Forstater lost an appeal to a work tribunal.
As Dr. Ivy says, the case would be “mundane” itself if J.K. Rowling hadn’t decried the decision and spoken out in defence of Forstater’s so-called right to free speech. Rowling sparked an online movement of angry people who feel they know all about everyone’s chromosomal development. There can’t be any variations or abnormalities, in their view.
Says Forstater: “I believe that it is impossible to change sex or to lose your sex. Girls grow up to be women. Boys grow up to be men. No change of clothes or hairstyle, no plastic surgery, no accident or illness, no course of hormones, no force of will or social conditioning, no declaration can turn a female person into a male, or a male person into a female.”
It’s her belief, and it’s her privilege to believe it. Modern medicine doesn’t agree, nor do so many others struggling with gender identity issues at a young age. They didn’t ask to be born that way. They had nothing to do with hormonal misfirings in utero or with the chemicals mommy may have consumed when she was pregnant. Or with the way God made them.
They may not have been fortunate enough to have the normal chromosomal journey their detractors had.
The detractors don’t even want to consider any of that, but many of them do expect you to accept the fact that gay and lesbian and bisexual people are born that way.
They dismiss any possible causes of transgenderism, specifically MtF (male-to-female) transgenderism, and they campaign against trans people.
It’s ignorance, and it’s hateful.
In Forstater’s case, she was pleading to ignore all of that as well as the fact that, as the tribunal judge said in his ruling: “If a person has transitioned from male to female and has a Gender Recognition Certificate, that person is legally a woman. That is not something that the Claimant is entitled to ignore.”
J.K. Rowling sided with Forstater and the angry mob that would go on to delegitimize trans women on social media in the wake of the ruling.
Oh, yes. Big time.