‘Transphobic’ transgender professor quits university

A leading transgender rights scholar at Sussex University has resigned after claiming she was bullied at the institution because of her gender identity. Robin Gilchrist wrote in a blogpost on Monday that other students…

'Transphobic' transgender professor quits university

A leading transgender rights scholar at Sussex University has resigned after claiming she was bullied at the institution because of her gender identity.

Robin Gilchrist wrote in a blogpost on Monday that other students had been “completely astonished” at her departure. In a letter later released by her department, Professor Joan Hancock also said that she would no longer be active in her position and would instead study at another university, where she will teach and publish on sexual orientation, gender, and the law.

In the blogpost, written from a studio on the South Downs, Gilchrist said that although she does not have to undergo the surgery that would make her a full male and has always been preoccupied with whether she was born in the right body, she believed that gender was a biological reality that “sustains its biological reality” and has the “allegiance of me as a person”.

“I have never been too keen on laws or regulations attempting to legislate with regard to gender,” she said. “But I also feel that governments should not regard only the physical as being appropriate, and the legal, social and economic dimensions of our experience are all equally important.”

Praising the people at Sussex for “the sheer courage and fortitude” they showed in accepting her as a “significantly different, female-presenting, female undergraduate than I actually am”, Gilchrist said she had assumed that they were also accepting her as a person in her own right.

“I believed that every institution should acknowledge the different realities of people of different sexes and genders. My position at Sussex did not permit me to make the distinction I made, and what I saw in Sussex was not a community accepting of my own unique identity.”

Summing up her opinion of the university, she said that its tone has changed since she arrived in 2004, and praised Hancock and the leadership team there for their work in supporting students and staff while safeguarding the university’s academic reputation.

“I firmly believe that institutions such as Sussex University must strive to set an example of tolerance in all that they do,” she wrote. “In the other case in which I have encountered a major university, Harrow, my own position was validated by the feelers it sent out to people of all backgrounds who were unhappy with the campaign it was pushing, because I was the first, and still the only, transgender person to have been part of the same department there.”

In a statement issued by the university on Monday, Hancock said she is resigning from her job as the Faculty of Law leader and a lecturer to ensure students are not negatively affected. “In addition to looking after the interests of students and staff of the faculty, I have taken this action to better reflect my priorities and the university’s overall priorities,” she said.

A spokesperson for the university said: “From the beginning we have made a commitment to all of our students, staff and the community of which we are a part to have a supportive and welcoming environment, which has always been at the heart of our work. We understand the decision of Dr Gilchrist, a professor within the Faculty of Law, and we would like to thank her for her immense contribution to the university and for her contributions in a variety of ways.”

Robert Gildea, chair of the Sussex Human Rights Society, said he was disappointed at Gilchrist’s departure.

“The university is refusing to tolerate a transgender student’s views on her own gender identity, but are completely prepared to tolerate views contrary to gender equality,” he said. “This has resulted in academic freedom being trampled on. The university’s continuing response to student concerns about racism and misogyny within the school of law appears to have all but ignored. We strongly condemn Professor Hancock’s policy that current staff should be forced to resign over the course of one academic year.”

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