Trans row professor breaks silence: Kathleen Stock claims student protests over her calls to protect female-only spaces were fuelled by ‘bullying’ University of Sussex academics in first interview since ‘humiliating’ departure

  • Kathleen Stock, 48, resigned from the University of Sussex last month after students called for her to be sacked for her views on transgender people
  • Professor of Philosophy believes people cannot change their biological sex 
  • On Woman’s Hour, academic said she has ‘no regrets’ over quitting post but said she’d endured ‘low-level bullying’ and ‘reputation-trashing’ at hands of staff
  • She went on to say she was ‘ostracised’ while working at the university and faced a ‘terrible anxiety dream’ seeing her name plastered on posters across campus
  • Stock said she still holds the view that ‘trans women aren’t women’ and ‘trans men aren’t men’ – but said they’re ‘compatible with protecting trans people’ 

The University of Sussex professor who resigned from her post after sparking student protests over her views on transgender issues has claimed that some of the colleagues she worked alongside stoked the row that led to her quitting.  

Kathleen Stock, 48, a professor of Philosophy at the University of Sussex, had faced angry calls to be sacked last month by students at the university following accusations of transphobia after she said people cannot change their biological sex. 

Speaking for the first time about resigning from her post of twenty years on BBC Woman’s Hour today, the academic said she still holds the view that ‘trans women aren’t women’ and ‘trans men aren’t men’ – but said these views are ‘compatible with protecting trans people’. 

She called her departure from the English university ‘completely humiliating’ and ‘a defining moment in my life’ but said she had ‘no regrets’ about leaving and stood by her views that female-only spaces should be protected.  

Stock said returning to campus to retrieve her belongings was an ‘anxious’ experience and that she even felt anxious getting the train to the Woman’s Hour studio, saying ‘my life has changed completely’. 

First interview: Professor of Philosophy Kathleen Stock, 48, resigned from the University of Sussex last month after students called for her to be sacked for her views on transgender people – she told Emma Barnett on BBC’s Woman’s Hour that a small group of colleagues had ‘radically misrepresented’ her views on gender


Stock (left) had faced calls to be sacked amid accusations of transphobia but decided to resign her position – today she spoke to Woman’s Hour for the first time since her resignation

Stock suggested the views of a small number of academics who were against her inflamed the student protests by ‘radically misrepresenting my views’, saying: ‘I don’t know if the student activity would have been there if the colleague activity hadn’t already been there.’

In the 30-minute interview on Radio 4, she described how ‘intense’ student activity came at the end of ‘three-and-a-half years of low level bullying, harassment and reputation trashing’ by colleagues, which began, she says, when she first started to write about gender identity policy. 

Instead of debating her views directly with her, she said some staff had mobilised students against her during lectures.

She explained: ‘There’s a small group of people who are opposed to what I say and instead of getting involved in arguing with me, using reason, evidence, the traditional university methods, they tell their students in lectures that I pose a harm to trans students. Or they go on to Twitter and say that I’m a bigot.’ 

She told Barnett ‘feeling unsafe doesn’t mean you are unsafe’ and she hopes the students realise ‘the world is not as hostile towards them as they think it is’.  

Posters put up in the tunnel from Falmer station to the university’s campus earlier this month said she ‘makes trans students unsafe’ and ‘we’re not paying £9,250 a year for transphobia’

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour Emma Barnett, Stock said returning to campus to retrieve her belongings was an ‘anxious’ experience

The professor said she had ‘no regrets’ about leaving her role and stood by her views that female-only spaces should be protected

The feminist professor, who identifies as a lesbian, said that she first became aware of the complexities of the trans rights movement when she saw ‘men’ on lesbian dating websites. 

When asked by the Woman’s Hour host if by ‘men’ she meant ‘trans women’ she replied: ‘I don’t know what they were’ explaining that physically some had an appearance traditionally considered as masculine but ‘with female names’.  

She explained: ‘The categories are changing in radical ways and “lesbian” is one of them. There’s real pressure on lesbians to accept that trans women can be lesbians and I think that has made lesbians of this in a way that straight people aren’t necessarily as aware.

‘There isn’t the same pressure on straight women or straight men.’ 

She went on to say she was ‘ostracised’ while working at the university and faced a ‘terrible anxiety dream’ seeing her name plastered on posters across campus reading ‘Stock Out’ and ‘Stock is a Transphobe’.  

Stock added: ‘The narrative about me is so far away from what I think I am.’ 

The academic also said that she’s ‘happily’ taught trans students throughout her career and has been contacted by them following her resignation and that her book is not a threat to trans and non-binary people. 

In a letter to staff issued on Friday, University of Sussex’s Vice Chancellor Adam Tickell said they had ‘vigorously’ defended Professor Kathleen Stock’s right to ‘exercise her academic freedom and lawful freedom of speech, free from bullying and harassment of any kind’

Despite the University saying they would not sack Stock, and ‘vigorously and unequivocally’ defending her right to academic freedom and lawful freedom of speech, free from bullying and harassment, she decided to leave last week. 

‘So they’re creating an atmosphere in which the students then become much more extreme and much more kind of empowered to do what they did.

‘I’m not saying that they intentionally set out to cause this point but I do think that academics are treated by students as role models quite often,’ she explained. 

‘If you’re in a class as a student, and your lecturer is saying, look, “there are some views that are just beyond the pale that should never be debated” .

‘Then automatically as soon as you say something that makes you bigot. 

In her own words: What does Kathleen Stock believe about gender and trans issues? 

Kathleen Stock explained her views on trans issues in written evidence to Parliament in November 2020 here:

  • Womanhood and manhood reflect biological sex, not gender or gender identity;
  • The claim ‘transwomen are women’ is a fiction, not literally true;
  • Sexual orientation (being gay, being lesbian) is determined by same-sex attraction, not attraction to gender identity;
  • Spaces where women undress and sleep should remain genuinely single-sex, in order to protect them;
  • Children with gender identity disorders should not be given puberty blockers as minors.

‘You just have to go on to Twitter and see who has said this.

‘This is a a small number of people who really are quite extreme. In departmental meetings, people radically misrepresent my views, saying things like, “Oh, she thinks all trans women are rapists. Or she she’s a bigot. She’s awful, she she doesn’t like trans people”‘.

‘And all of this is totally false. But I am increasingly powerless to change the narrative myself.’   

Last week, Kathleen said she will be leaving her job after ‘an absolutely horrible time’ and ‘a very difficult few years’. 

Equalities minister Kemi Badenoch backed the professor and told the Sky News’ Trevor Phillips On Sunday programme she is ‘appalled’ at the way the scholar has been treated.

Announcing her departure on Twitter on Thursday, she wrote : ‘This has been a very difficult few years, but the leadership’s approach more recently has been admirable and decent. I hope that other institutions in similar situations can learn from this.

‘Am particularly glad to see University emphasising that bullying and harassment anyone for their legally held beliefs is unacceptable in their workplace.’

Professor Stock is an expert in gender and sexual orientation, had been branded a ‘transphobe’ by some outraged students who called for her to be fired in wake of her comments on gender.

Posters put up in the tunnel from Falmer station to the university’s campus earlier this month said she ‘makes trans students unsafe’ and ‘we’re not paying £9,250 a year for transphobia’.

Banners saying ‘Stock Out’ had also been held alongside burning flares and scores of people were criticising her online under the Twitter hashtag #ShameOnSussexUni.

The University’s Vice Chancellor Adam Tickell had strongly defended her ‘untrammelled’ right to ‘say what she thinks’, whilst more than 200 academics from other universities signed a letter calling out alleged abuse from ‘trans activist bullies’.

But on Friday, Professor Stock announced on Twitter that she was ‘sad to announce’ she is leaving her position, and added that she hoped ‘other institutions can learn from this’.

In a letter to staff, Sussex’s Vice Chancellor Adam Tickell said that the university had ‘vigorously’ defended her right to ‘exercise her academic freedom and lawful freedom of speech, free from bullying and harassment of any kind’.

But he added: ‘We had hoped that Professor Stock would feel able to return to work, and we would have supported her to do so.

‘She has decided that recent events have meant that this will not be possible, and we respect and understand that decision.

‘We will miss her many contributions, from which the University has benefited during her time here.’

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