The Free Speech Union has recently launched an FOI investigation into the transgender policies of various public sector bodies. For anyone concerned to protect freedom of speech in the workplace, they make for grim, deeply dispiriting reading. But the document released by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is arguably the most egregious we’ve found to date, writes the FSU’s Communications Officer, Freddie Attenborough, for The Critic.
According to new staff guidance, civil servants at the UK’s privacy watchdog have been told to “think” of transgender colleagues as women. The ICO’s “Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy” states that the organisation has an “overarching focus on intersectionality” [i.e., the idea that you can have more than one bite of the woke victimhood cherry] and tells staff that they will “be held accountable for this”. This overarching strategy is then operationalised in the taxpayer funded body’s “Trans Policy and Guidance”, where staff are told that they should “be guided by your trans colleague and their preferences” in an effort to support them, and “must call a person by their chosen or preferred name”.
The diktat goes on to suggest that it is not enough simply to call employees by their chosen gender pronouns, and that staff must show their support for trans colleagues by “thinking of the person as being the gender that they want you to think of them as”.
It sounds ridiculous — and of course it is ridiculous. But it’s also perplexing from a legal point of view.
People that hold gender critical beliefs — i.e., the vast majority of the UK’s population — believe that sex is a material fact, not a social construct and that it can’t be changed. They also believe that, sexually, trans women are male, and trans men are female, while holding that gender identity (i.e., who you feel yourself to be) plays only a minimal role in determining a person’s identity.
It follows, therefore, that many of the ICO’s employees will hold gender critical beliefs, and that they will necessarily be committed to not “thinking” about transgender women colleagues as if they are in fact “women”.
Importantly, that’s something that they are legally entitled not to think.
As per the landmark Forstater vs GCD Europe and Others case, the Employment Appeal Tribunal found that the belief that biological sex is real and immutable, and not to be conflated with gender identity, is covered by the protected characteristic of religion and belief in the Equality Act 2010.
Contrary to much conjecture and abstruse theorising by trans activists and their “allies” in the media, the judgment didn’t “just”, or “merely”, grant protection to those who hold gender critical beliefs but that are also willing to spend the rest of their working lives doing a passable impression of a Trappist monk if ever a “chromosome themed” conversation breaks out over the water cooler. It also ruled that acts of “manifesting” those beliefs through lawful speech and action are similarly protected.
In other words, even the most diehard of placard-wielding, safe-space huddling, Pink News reading, venue barricading, academic cancelling, JK Rowling trolling, workplace snitching trans activists grudgingly appear to concede that gender critical feminists must (for now…) be allowed to continue wallowing in their “transphobic” thoughts.
The ICO, on the other hand, seem to feel that that’s exactly the sort of bleeding-heart liberal appeasement that only ever delays an organisation’s arrival on the shores of The Right Side of History, and that its employees must from now on empty their heads of all gender critical thoughts before entering the workplace.
Speaking to the Mail about the ICO’s policy decree, FSU General Secretary Toby Young said: “The ICO is supposed to be responsible for protecting people’s privacy. How can it be taken seriously in that role if it’s dictating to its employees what they can and can’t think?
“Talk about invasion of privacy!”, he added. “This is like something out of George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.”
Indeed it is. “Power is in tearing human minds to pieces, and” the character of Party member O’Brien explains with exquisite exactness to Winston Smith during the latter’s political re-education, “putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.”