“worrying”. “awesome.” “shocking.” “Unbearable”. These and other words can be heard in the UK when the language of philosophy professor Kathleen Stock resigns. A few days ago, the University of Sussex announced that Stoke had resigned after weeks of protests at the university against Stoke over her alleged stance on transgender people. The whole issue is complicated, Stock has been in touch with the transgender movement for years. She herself recently said that what is happening now was just the culmination of a longer story. Stock is accused by her critics of abusing her status at a respected university to harass an already notorious minority with anti-transgender statements. Regardless of the exact course of the fronts, and whatever you may think of in such controversies: what remains is also a question of proportionality.
The answer to that depends largely on perspective. There are no really valid numbers for how many people the transgender debate affects. In the UK, the most serious estimates are around one per cent of the population, with a current population of 67 million, 670,000 Britons identifying themselves as trans. This is little, but it is a lot.
In a democracy, everyone’s rights are relevant, and demonstrations around universities are an important part of that democracy. It is also in the nature of things that people can get upset faster and more about issues like gender identity or sexual orientation than about pension reforms or government formation. And sometimes minorities have to be loud in order to be heard. But no one should lose sight of the threshold for militancy.
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