A Professor of Criminology at the Open University has described how she was compared to a ‘racist uncle at a Christmas dinner table’ for her gender critical beliefs.

Professor Jo Phoenix has crowdfunded more than £80,000 to fight her current employers for not protecting her from a bullying campaign after she expressed views about the silencing of academic debate on transgender issues.

She claims the Open University, who she began working for in 2016, ‘shattered’ her dreams and made her feel ‘like a pariah’. 

Professor Phoenix said she has been publicly vilified and suffered public harassment for launching the Open University gender critical research network.

She also said her view that male-bodied prisoners should not be allowed in female prisons resulted in her being compared to a transphobic and racist.     

By bringing the Open University to an employment tribunal, she hopes to protect female academics from ‘the vicious bullying perpetrated by those who disagree with our beliefs on sex and gender’. 

The Government’s policy to house transgender women in female prisons was ruled lawful by the High Court in July earlier this year amid claims from an inmate it raised the risk of sex attacks. 

In 2018, Karen White – who was born a man but was placed in women’s prison HMP New Hall after telling authorities of his identification as a woman – sexually assaulted two female inmates.

Professor Jo Phoenix said the Open UIniversity made her feel 'like a pariah' when she began expressing views about the silencing of academic debate on transgender issues

Professor Jo Phoenix said the Open UIniversity made her feel 'like a pariah' when she began expressing views about the silencing of academic debate on transgender issues

Professor Jo Phoenix said the Open UIniversity made her feel ‘like a pariah’ when she began expressing views about the silencing of academic debate on transgender issues

Criminology professor Jo Phoenix has raised more than £80,000 to fund her battle with the Open University and protect female academics from 'the vicious bullying perpetrated by those who disagree with our beliefs on sex and gender'

Criminology professor Jo Phoenix has raised more than £80,000 to fund her battle with the Open University and protect female academics from 'the vicious bullying perpetrated by those who disagree with our beliefs on sex and gender'

Criminology professor Jo Phoenix has raised more than £80,000 to fund her battle with the Open University and protect female academics from ‘the vicious bullying perpetrated by those who disagree with our beliefs on sex and gender’ 

Karen White, pictured above cross-dressing, claimed to want to transition to a woman as a ruse to target female prisoners. He is now being house in a male prison

Karen White, pictured above cross-dressing, claimed to want to transition to a woman as a ruse to target female prisoners. He is now being house in a male prison

'Predator' Karen White used a 'transgender persona' to attack vulnerable women, a court has heard. He is pictured in March this year, during his time in a women's prison

'Predator' Karen White used a 'transgender persona' to attack vulnerable women, a court has heard. He is pictured in March this year, during his time in a women's prison

Prosecutors questioned whether White really wanted to transition to become a woman, or just used it as a ruse to target other women. He is now being housed in a male prison. He is pictured in 2016, before his arrest, when he was known to cross-dress, but had not begun gender reassignment

White pressed his penis against a woman inmate in women's jail HMP New Hall (pictured)

White pressed his penis against a woman inmate in women's jail HMP New Hall (pictured)

White pressed his penis against a woman inmate in women’s jail HMP New Hall (pictured)

Prosecutors claimed White – who had a history of sex attacks – used a ‘transgender persona’ to gain access to vulnerable females. White was ordered to serve a life sentence in a male prison for the jail sex attacks. 

The High Court heard that trans women make up around one per cent of the female incarcerated population, but are responsible for around six per cent of sexual assaults in women’s prisons.

In 2020, official figures showed that transgender prisoners carried out seven sex attacks on women in jail.  

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) policy allows prisoners to be housed according to their gender identity ‘irrespective of whether they have taken any legal or medical steps to acquire that gender’.  

MoJ figures, though, also showed that 11 transgender prisoners were sexually assaulted in jails in England and Wales across 2019.

Campaign group Stonewall called the figures ‘upsetting’. 

Professor Phoenix, though, has also faced a backlash for openly criticising the influence of controversial LGBT charity in the UK. 

Stonewall runs a programme, Diversity Champions, where companies sign up and pay for advice from Stonewall on how to create an inclusive environment for LGBT workers.

However, a raft of organisations including Ofcom, Channel 4, the Cabinet Office and the Equality and Human Rights Commission left the initiative following criticism of its hard-line policies and widespread outrage after its boss said believing a person’s sex cannot be changed is as bad as anti-Semitism.  

The BBC is also understood to have dropped the scheme after it emerged the broadcaster showed staff a controversial ‘genderbread person’ graphic in equality training using material from Stonewall.

The 'genderbread person' graphic shown to employees at the BBC earlier this year. The broadcaster is understood to have dropped the charity's scheme

The 'genderbread person' graphic shown to employees at the BBC earlier this year. The broadcaster is understood to have dropped the charity's scheme

The ‘genderbread person’ graphic shown to employees at the BBC earlier this year. The broadcaster is understood to have dropped the charity’s scheme

An investigation by Nolan Investigates, a podcast run by 5 Live presenter Stephen Nolan, found that the image was presented to employees as part of an internal BBC course set up in conjunction with the lobby group.

The ‘genderbread person’ graphic depicts sex as a spectrum and defines gender identity as ‘how you think about yourself’. 

It was apparently shown to BBC staff with no alternative explanations despite these ideas being contested. 

A spokesperson for Stonewall said last month: ‘Our work with employers focuses on helping to build an LGBTQ+ inclusive workplace for their employees, and in no way affects their impartiality. Supporting LGBTQ+ people in the workplace should not be seen as a political or controversial act.’ 

Professor Phoenix was also caught up in controversy with another university in 2019 following ‘transphobe’ accusations.

The University of Essex had to apologise in May, 18 months later, after a planned seminar was called off due to protestors.

It was set to explore tensions around placing transgender women – who were born men – in female prisons in Britain.

The Centre for Criminology cancelled the event a few hours ahead of it taking place, citing concerns that the ‘open debate and discussion might be obstructed’. 

The seminar was cancelled partly due to security concerns, but an investigation later found that the decision ‘amounted to a breach of Professor Phoenix’s right to freedom of expression’. 

It follows the resignation of Professor Kathleen Stock, 48, from her position at the University of Sussex last month for her views on transgender people.  

Professor Kathleen Stock resigned from the University of Sussex after facing a campaign of 'bullying and harassment' for her views

Professor Kathleen Stock resigned from the University of Sussex after facing a campaign of 'bullying and harassment' for her views

Professor Kathleen Stock resigned from the University of Sussex after facing a campaign of ‘bullying and harassment’ for her views

A group of masked demonstrators at the University of Sussex staged a protest on campus demanding lecturer Kathleen Stock lose her job

A group of masked demonstrators at the University of Sussex staged a protest on campus demanding lecturer Kathleen Stock lose her job

A group of masked demonstrators at the University of Sussex staged a protest on campus demanding lecturer Kathleen Stock lose her job

The mob of protestors stood in a group on a patch of grass next to a footpath on the university campus holding up signs and chanting loudly

The mob of protestors stood in a group on a patch of grass next to a footpath on the university campus holding up signs and chanting loudly

The mob of protestors stood in a group on a patch of grass next to a footpath on the university campus holding up signs and chanting loudly

The philosophy professor was at the centre of a blazing row – and a student-led protest – at the university after saying she believes gender identity does not outweigh biological sex ‘when it comes to law and policy’. 

She also said that people cannot change their biological sex, sparking anger from protesters who accused her of ‘transphobia’. 

The professor said she was stepping down from her job after facing a campaign of ‘bullying and harassment’. 

Professor Phoenix, meanwhile, says she has been researching sex, gender and justice for two decades and is ‘known around the world’.

She said things ‘started to go horribly wrong’ when she began speaking out regarding her views.

Listing examples of alleged abuse she has faced, she claimed to have been told she is ‘like a racist uncle at the Christmas dinner table’ by a senior manager.

She added that more than 360 colleagues at the university signed a public letter condemning the Gender Critical Research Network she founded and called for her employers to remove all support and funding. 

The professor also said that she was instructed not to speak about her research in departmental meetings.

As a result of the ordeal, she now claims to have been diagnosed with PTSD and has been ‘too unwell to work for months’.

Professor Phoenix said: ‘My hope is that this case will force universities to protect female academics from the vicious bullying perpetrated by those who disagree with our beliefs on sex and gender; bullying that is designed to silence us and our research.

The Open University. Professor Phoenix plans to bring the university to an employment tribunal

The Open University. Professor Phoenix plans to bring the university to an employment tribunal

The Open University. Professor Phoenix plans to bring the university to an employment tribunal

‘We desperately need to show that this type of treatment is unlawful harassment relating to protected gender critical beliefs.

‘These issues of sex and gender are so important, and we need to be able to talk about and research them without fear of being hounded out of our jobs.

‘Above all, I am taking this case to protect academic freedom and freedom of expression.’

The Open University and Stonewall UK have been contacted for a statement. 

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