It has recently come to our attention in the Leeds Trinity University LGBT+ Staff Network that a letter to the editor of the Sunday Times is circulating online and has been published in an article by the same paper.
The article and letter in question makes specific references to "the grave concern over close ties between Stonewall UK and UK Universities, threatening academic freedom…leaving academics unable to question the contested notion of gender identity without fear of sanction."
Whilst we respect the need for open discussion on areas of concern for academics within a university environment, we are firmly of the opinion that this should never be to the detriment of a group or an individual's wellbeing. Our priority in working in an education environment is to support all our students, and the letter in question will no doubt cause a great deal of pain and concern for students matriculating in institutions where they are being taught by the same signatories who denounce their right to live authentically.
Modules on gender and sexuality are taught nationwide and round the world, allowing academics and those inclined to explore the spectrum of these notions in literature, film and everyday life. This is not at odds with what we believe to be the core values of Stonewall, an organisation working to improve the lives of LGBT+ members of society across the UK and on an international scale.
The concern seems to be that these modules and the corresponding academic discussion will be limited by the "doctrines" that form part of the Stonewall Diversity Champions Programme, when in fact, this programme is about creating a safe and supportive atmosphere to allow every student the opportunity to learn and grow, knowing they are fully supported by their teachers.
Sensitive discussion around gender and sexuality in an educational environment is healthy and beneficial to all involved. Allowing room for those inclined to question another human being's self-disclosed gender or sexuality, is not.
As an LGBT+ Staff Network, we would like to praise the academics and university staff members who have signed the opposing letter, noting we "…support the rights of colleagues to free speech, and safe debate, but until all LGBTQIA+ people can live, work and learn in our universities without fear or intimidation, it is vital that we stand up and say that we support the rights of trans and other gender-diverse people to be who they are."
Leeds Trinity University LGBT+ Staff Network