IEA - Dont outlaw gender critical views, says new paper

From: Think Tanks
Published: Thu Aug 24 2023

Trans activists' demands to shutdown dissent is a major threat to free speech.

  • Transgender individuals should be entirely free to identify with their chosen gender - and equally, contrary opinions on trans identity and policy should be debatable.
  • Influential activist groups like Stonewall and Mermaids advocate for gender critical views to be criminalised under ‘hate speech' laws.
  • Expanding hate speech laws threaten debate on controversial issues such as gender self-identification laws, female-only spaces in hospitals, and single-sex sports.
  • Labour MP Graham Stringer says the paper “skewers the authoritarianism and the irrationality of the transgender ideology” while Conservative MP Nick Fletcher says it is a “much-needed wake-up call to libertarians and conservatives”.

As Labour recommits to introducing tougher ‘hate crime' laws, a new paper highlights the need to protect free speech in the face of trans activists' pro-censorship demands.

Marc Glendening, paper author and Head of Cultural Affairs at the free market Institute of Economic Affairs, cites a series of high profile cases to demonstrate that activists “do not aim to win the debate but rather to prevent debate from occurring”, including:

  • Mermaids and Stonewall claiming that opposition to self-identification constitutes ‘hate speech' and that it should be banned;
  • Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer's intention to bolster hate crime legislation to make sure “every LGBT+ crime is treated as an aggravated offence,” raising concerns that ‘misgendering' people could lead to a criminal conviction;
  • Police investigations of individuals for expressing gender critical views under existing public order offence laws and the recording of ‘non-crime hate incidents';
  • Harassment and threats towards gender critical voices such as Rosie Duffield and attempts to physically prevent gender critical voices from speaking publicly;
  • Preventing medical professionals from providing non-affirming gender identity care under the auspices of banning ‘conversion therapy'.

Glendening claims the underpinnings of censorship demands are Frankfurt School critical theory and associated queer theory. These theorists argue that language by dominant groups oppresses minority groups - and, therefore, demand censorship of alternative viewpoints to protect minority groups.

But this censorship prevents necessary debate on controversial policies proposed by trans activists, such as legally requiring others to recognise a person's gender self-identification, mandating trans people's access to single-sex spaces and sports, or permitting puberty blockers for teenagers.

“In a free society, people can, of course, present themselves however they wish, no matter how eccentric this may appear to others,” Glendening writes. “Rather, it is the requirement that society prioritises and gives recognition to these forms of self-perception. It is a demand that others subordinate their own powers of judgement to that of the ideology.”

“Maintaining free speech in this area, as in others, is essential if we are to defend a liberal society based on rationality rather than coercion,” Glendening concludes.

Graham Stringer, Labour MP for Blackley and Broughton, said:

“‘When I use a word' Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, ‘it means just what I chose it to mean - neither more nor less'.

“There are many MPs and activists in the transgender debate who follow in the Humpty Dumpty tradition. Men become women and women become men via a simple declaration. Of course, as Humpty Dumpty realised if words can have any meaning debate becomes meaningless. Analytical criticism becomes irrelevant, and you end up with authoritarianism, which is what the transgender ideologues desire with, of course, them in authority.”

“For those people who don't want to live in a looking glass world I would recommend them to read Marc Glendening's ‘Transgender Ideology: a new threat to liberal values' in which he skewers the authoritarianism and the irrationality of the transgender ideology, hoping that it will have the same fate as the bossy egg.”

Maya Forstater, Co-founder and Executive Director of Sex Matters, said:

“For many liberals the first, second and third response to transgenderism is to shrug and say “each to their own”. Marc Glendenning explains why political transgenderism is a threat to liberal values. He maps out how it corrupts institutions, language, law and social power to shore up the assertion that men can be women, and women men. By trying to accommodate the impossible, it destroys liberty and integrity. As the pamphlet sets out proposed new laws against conversion therapy, and hate speech and for gender self-identity attack freedom of speech and belief, the pursuit of truth and value. This is not just a culture war issue between conservatives and liberals but one that strikes at the heart of liberal values, and warrants serious discussion and debate.”

Sally-Ann Hart, Conservative MP for Hastings and Rye, said:

“We need to be able to talk about what it means to be male or female without being silenced. Lawful speech about sex and gender is not hateful or transphobic and we must not allow trans-ideology to trump common sense. Whilst we all have a duty to be respectful and civil to all people - including transgender people - individuals must retain the right to speak out their belief that sex is a biological fact. Laws on free speech include the freedom to disagree on transgender ideology and any proposal for new laws which would criminalise ordinary language about men and women is unacceptable.”

Nick Fletcher, Conservative MP for Don Valley, said:

“Much of the public criticism of gender ideology has come from women who are rightly concerned about its impact on women's rights and child safeguarding. But the harms caused by gender ideology go much further, as the IEA has set out in this paper. Gender ideologues seek to shut down free speech and to undermine basic science and even our understanding of reality.

“As Marc Glendening says ‘Transgender ideology aims to achieve what it professes to detest and oppose; it is a quest to grasp and utilise social power'. And at the moment it is succeeding. This paper from the IEA is a much-needed wake-up call to libertarians and conservatives who have not yet engaged with this subject. We all need to understand the far-reaching impact of gender ideology, exercise our free speech and join this public debate, and help defend our society's most important values against ideological attack.”

Marc Glendening, Head of Cultural Affairs at the Institute of Economic Affairs, says:

“The freedom of individuals to express opinions on trans issues is under serious threat. This is undermining the ability to have sensible and necessary debates on controversial topics. Just as people have a right to affirm whatever sex and gender identity they so choose, in a truly liberal society others must enjoy the equal right to articulate their positions on transgenderism. A philosophical line in the sand needs to be drawn in this regard if the drift towards authoritarianism is to be halted.”

Notes to Editors

Contact: / 07763 365520

A full copy of Transgender ideology: A new thread to liberal values is available here:

About the author

Marc Glendening is Head of Cultural Affairs at the IEA. His Parallax Views series of YouTube discussions are focused on contemporary issues affecting cultural liberty. Before coming to the IEA, he worked for Policy Exchange focusing on freedom of speech related issues and the political implications of human rights law. In 2011 he co-founded as political director of the cross-party Democracy Movement, the People's Pledge. This campaigned for a referendum on the question of EU membership and included politicians and others with contrary views on Brexit. Marc is a co-founder of the Sohemian Society which is dedicated to the history and liberal values of Soho.

The mission of the Institute of Economic Affairs is to improve understanding of the fundamental institutions of a free society by analysing and expounding the role of markets in solving economic and social problems. The IEA is a registered educational charity and independent of all political parties.

Company: Think Tanks

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