How Queer Theory Became University Policy

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The establishment of an official doctrine on gender identity is an unprecedented threat to academic freedom. Sex and gender should be subjects for debate.

My university has recently established an official doctrine on gender, promulgated by its Equality and Diversity Unit. The University of Oxford declares that sex is not determined at conception but rather ‘assigned’ at birth, presumably on the whim of the midwife or obstetrician. Sex must be replaced for all practical purposes by an individual’s sense of gender identity, which may be chosen from a lengthy menu including nonbinary and genderqueer.

Oxford is not peculiar, for the same doctrine is being instituted across British universities. This doctrine is derived from queer theory, an outgrowth of postmodernism. To understand how this esoteric discourse became the new orthodoxy, we need to follow the work of Gendered Intelligence, the charitable interest company that translates queer theory into public policy. Its chief executive is Jay Stewart MBE, a transman with a doctorate in Visual Cultures from Goldsmiths, University of London. The company started with a grant of £50,000 from the Equality and Human Rights Commission [1]. Now most of its revenue comes from selling training to the public sector, boosted by a gift of £116,000 from BBC Children in Need.

‘Queer theory was the roadmap to my own self-understanding’, declares Stewart [2]. The theory’s high priestess, Judith Butler, argues that ‘the body is not a “being,” but a variable boundary, a surface whose permeability is politically regulated, a signifying practice within a cultural field of gender hierarchy and compulsory heterosexuality’ [3]. The upshot is that gender identity bears no relationship to biology. According to Gendered Intelligence, ‘A woman is still a woman, even if she enjoys getting blow jobs. Thus Stewart was the prime mover in persuading the prison service to prioritise gender identity over sex [4]. The policy recently enabled a convicted rapist to be incarcerated in a women’s prison, simply because he called himself a woman; he then sexually assaulted other inmates.

Like other variants of postmodernism, queer theory has been ensconced for decades in academic disciplines studying culture. Now, however, the theory is being established as official doctrine by universities. Policy goes far beyond what is required by the Equality Act, which rightly forbids discrimination on the grounds of gender reassignment. Indeed, the doctrine clearly contravenes the law in one respect. The Act also protects sexual orientation, but if gender identity supersedes sex, then heterosexuality and homosexuality disappear. Any male can declare himself to be a lesbian, like a bad joke from the 1970s updated for our ultrawoke era. The Edinburgh University Student Association’s LGBT+ Convenor, Ada Wells, demanded that the University expel any lesbian who refused males identifying as ‘gender neutral’ (such as Wells) as potential sexual partners.

Like other variants of postmodernism, queer theory has been ensconced for decades in academic disciplines studying culture. Now, however, the theory is being established as official doctrine by universities.”

Gendered Intelligence plays a key role in training academic staff and administrators. Its course on ‘Trans Awareness’ has been repeated in dozens of universities. Merton College at Oxford, for example, paid the company to train ‘key staff members from the Lodge, Academic Office, Warden’s Office, Finance and Domestic Bursaries, Library, Welfare Team, Development Office, and HR, along with a number of Governing Body Fellows’. The Oxford University Student Union now wants to mandate this training for all staff in welfare roles, to be repeated every two years [5]. The impetus comes not only from students but also from the Equality Challenge Unit, the quango charged with administering diversity to British higher education. The Athena SWAN Charter, originally designed to advance the careers of women in science, is now used as leverage to enforce gender doctrine.

Students who question their own identity are directed to Gendered Intelligence, which also trains university counsellors. When an undergraduate—previously diagnosed with depression—at the Royal Central School for Speech and Drama decided that she was a man, the School paid for mentoring by Gendered Intelligence. (A professor at the School is a trustee of the company and Stewart’s partner.) The mentor researched surgeons who offered elective mastectomy. ‘Surgery will affect sex in many ways’, advises Gendered Intelligence, ‘but the most noticeable effect is a boost in body confidence.’ If gender identity is uncorrelated with sex and is fluid and changing, how then can that identity require irreversible bodily transformations? Logical contradiction is no embarrassment to postmodernism. When a lesbian takes testosterone and amputates her breasts in order to play the part of a man, this is celebrated by queer theory for deconstructing compulsory heterosexuality.

When an undergraduate—previously diagnosed with depression—at the Royal Central School for Speech and Drama decided that she was a man, the School paid for mentoring by Gendered Intelligence…The mentor researched surgeons who offered elective mastectomy.”

The establishment of an official doctrine on gender identity is an unprecedented threat to academic freedom. Sex and gender should be subjects for robust research and vigorous debate. Instead, scholars who query the new orthodoxy of queer theory are subjected to vicious harassment and intimidation. Almost all are women, and many incline towards radical feminism. The culprits are ultrawoke students—most do not identify as transgender but style themselves as ‘allies’—and some feminist academics. They can claim, however, that their aggression is licensed by university policy. After all, universities have granted one particular group extraordinary power to control intellectual discourse. ‘If a trans person informs a staff member that a word or phrasing is inappropriate or offensive,’ warns University College London, ‘then that staff member should take their word for it, and adjust their phraseology accordingly.’

Welcome to the 21st century university, where sex has disappeared, homosexuality is exclusionary, and orthodoxy is enforced in the name of diversity.

Michael Biggs
Associate Professor of Sociology and Fellow of St Cross College
University of Oxford 

[1] Equality and Human Rights Commission, response to Freedom of Information request (FOI 1247 Biggs), 2 October 2018

[2] Jay Stewart, ‘Gendered Intelligence’, Trans Britain: Our Journey from the Shadows, ed. Christine Burns, Cornerstone, 2018, pp. 277–91, at p. 278

[3] Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, Routledge, 1990, p. 139

[4] Stewart advised the Ministry of Justice’s review which created the new policy and now serves on the Prison Service’s Transgender Advisory Board which implements it

[5] Oxford Student Union LGBTQ+ Campaign, 2018 Report on Transgender Experience and Transphobia at the University of Oxford, p. 32. The report literally recommends ‘bi-annual’ training but presumably biennial was intended

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  1. Superb article with much detailed information. In the 50s, 60s and 70s, many young lesbians were expelled from colleges and universities, not to mention jobs, for being lesbian, which, by definition, means for not having sex with men (such as Mr. Ada Wells). The homophobia in the transgender movement is terrifyingly retrograde.

    But even more so is its sexism. This is little more than a men’s rights movement, a means for men to demand sexual, intellectual, and spatial access to women and what belongs to them.

    Not only is physical space taken over, and women’s bodies demanded, but so is the very intellectual understanding of what it is to be a woman: one thing you do not mention is the fact that, in the US at least, Women’s Studies departments and feminist scholarship are all but dead. They have all been transformed into Gender Studies departments, which focus nearly exclusively on transgenderism with a small dash of male gay studies thrown in. Here is an excerpt from the University of California, Berkeley’s page on the history of their Gender and Women’s Studies department (http://womensstudies.berkeley.edu/about/history/); it is typical of how Women’s Studies has regressed in US universities:

    “The Women’s Studies Program became a department in the Fall of 1991. In July 2005, as part of a broader revision of the undergraduate curriculum, we officially changed our unit’s name to the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies. The curriculum currently offers students the opportunity to study women and gender (including constructions of masculinity) through an interdisciplinary curriculum taught by the department’s own teaching staff and by members of other departments (over 100 faculty in other departments and professional schools are affiliated with our teaching and mentoring program). Students learn to apply the methods and theories of social scientists, historians, literary critics, etc., to the study of gender. They explore a growing body of feminist theory that revises our understanding of gender, society and culture.”

    Immediately obvious is that women have disappeared from the curriculum. There is hardly a mention of women in women’s studies anymore (but be assured that we can study masculinity!). There is no concept of sexism, discrimination, male violence, bias, subjugation, or anything related to the position of women in society. It is a gender studies department. Learn about identities! Or a men’s studies department. Same difference.

    What I have believed for a while is that this change, the change in Women’s Studies (and notice the date – it is much earlier than when these notions spread into the larger world) was the true beginning of the transgender takeover of womanhood. Transgenders and postmodernism took over Women’s Studies – and cut off the head off the feminist movement. Radical feminism, socialist feminism, all the forms of feminism that locate the oppression of women in material reality, were deliberately and meticulously replaced by “gender studies.” It killed second wave feminism, and now it has spread to all aspects of university life and the larger culture, too.

    Beware that if there is no material reality to bodies, there is no more material reality to age than to sex. Pedophilia as a legitimate identity is next. Many post modernists, including Butler, themselves not only claim this, but defend it.

    • It’s not the actual men demanding that masculinity be “studied” in such a hateful fashion in order to promote bigotry towards heterosexual men. Nor is it men demanding that they can be women. It’s not a “men’s rights movement” at all; they claim to not be men and vice versa. Rather it’s a mentally ill driven movement that seeks power over others and displays an openly bigoted creed towards heterosexuals and especially males. Hence , all this talk about “toxic masculinity” which is, of course, short hand for non-queer manly sexual expression. They are using the neo-Marxist construct of “oppression” against women now, which isn’t surprising. Did you think yourself immune to the toxic ideas borne of the victim mentality promoted by the idea that privileged, late 20th century western women are actually oppressed that were promulgated in the women’s studies departments?

      • Nothing I love more than a man describing centuries of feminist theory as “victim mentality” and defining “oppression” out of existence. This reply should be in the dictionary under “Manspaining.”

  2. *being lesbian, which, by definition, means for not having sex with men*

    Not a fan of this rigid definition. I volunteer with an LGB support group that sees a lot of men and woman who come out as same sex attracted later in life, and these people often have very complex feelings regarding their past heterosexual relationships and their sexualities in general. The definitions of gay or lesbian that holds the terms to refer to loving women or loving men exclusively, and the bullshit purity politics that comes with them, is a cudgel that swings disproportionately at older members of LGB communities.

    Those exclusive definitions emerged, alongside the growing currency of the term bisexual, as LGB people were increasingly able to come out earlier in life, and live independently of straight-passing relationships. But even today a lot of people’s life experiences place them outside of those labels so defined. There is power and empowerment in gay and lesbian identity, and it does not do to police them too strictly.

    • Thomas Prentice on

      Guess what. Some things are rigid in life, Like ones and zeros. The term “bisexual” should cover your concerns unless you are confused or pursuing an agitprop agenda.

      I certainly don;t have any “complex feelings” about my prior bisexuality — or perhaps future bisexuality — or present homosexuality..

      Generally when someone plays the “complex” card, it is an patronizing indication of status superiority rather than an honest effort to converse.

      there is *** NO EXCLUSIVITY *** to the terms :”loving men and loving women” — this is your projection., Read Kinsey’s studies. Educate thyself. Your laudable experiences as a volunteer at an LGB support group gives you no standing as an “authority” let alone a scholar or reseacrher using the cientific method.,

    • Words have meaning. Often those meanings are precise. A concept like “lesbian” is precise. It means “I like X and only X.” When concepts fall outside a rigid category, such as “I like X mostly, but sometimes Y,” then typically there are other words to represent them, such as, as Mr. Prentice clearly points out, “bisexual,” “unsure,” and others.

      Purposefully muddying up clear, precise concepts like “lesbian” (and “woman”) is popular right now and concerning. It does two things. First, it erodes communication. A word that represents a this-not-that category, like “I am attracted to females and NOT males” suddenly being transformed – by some people but not others – into “I am attracted to females AND males” means the word has no meaning anymore. “Lesbian” means “this precise thing” AND “its opposite” at the same time. Words cannot mean a thing and its opposite and still be a means of communication.

      This is important. Words are not idiosyncratic and individualistic. Words are *social.* They are meant to communicate, which is a *social* function. They must have shared, non-contradictory meanings. Words don’t live in your head or mine, they live in the social connections between us.

      That sort of muddying is sloppy and solipsistic. It is part of the problem with post-modernism that even the most basic *social* function of our *social* species – communication – is now being seen as a form of individual identity. “Words mean whatever I say they mean. They might mean something different, even the opposite, to you.” Absolutely not. That represents a fundamental misunderstanding of what communication is.

      The second thing that such muddying creates is deliberate political degradation. Some categories are as much political as ontological. “Lesbian” is one of those. As is “woman.” Both describe a particular political category, a group of people who are defined materially, but oppressed politically. Once you start to erode the definition of “lesbian” or “woman” to have fuzzy boundaries that anyone can alter or claim, then any political analysis is lost. If “lesbian” has no shared definition and could even mean a thing and its opposite, thereby covering pretty much everyone, then how can we analyze the place of “lesbians” in society? We can’t.

      Many women who are uncomfortable with “lesbian” or even “woman” as clear and specific, even, yes, exclusionary categories are acting out of a type of internalized sexism. The very idea of being “exclusionary” is terrifying because women are supposed to be, above all, accepting, inviting, and non-excluding. Caretakers. Never selfish. That shows confusion about the various meanings of “exclusionary.” A definition can “exclude” other concepts without being mean and selfish. (And a woman can be exclusionary, even selfish, for damn good reasons. But a woman being exclusionary and a definition excluding other concepts – not the same thing.)

  3. Thomas Prentice on

    Astonishing how this Oxford policy is a distorted funhouse mirror image of the distorted funhouse mirror image of PRO-LIFE DOCTRINE AND DOGMA that ‘life begins at conception and not birth.’

    These are BOTH FAITH-BASED ASSERTIONS – RIGID, CLOSED, DOCTRINAIRE BELIEF SYSTEMS ENFORCED BY AUTHORITY.

    The SCIENTIFIC METHOD has been THROWN OUT — or rather “assigned” to the rubbish bin at Oxford.

    Queer Studies is a fraud. An appropriate academic role exists for the studies of SEX, GENDER and PATRIARCHY — in addition to WOMEN’S STUDIES — but Queer Studies is, well, SUCKING for breath as anything legitimate at all.

    When I looked into queer Studies in grad school in the 1990s , I found, to quote Gertrude Stein about Oakland, “there was no there, there.” I am agog that this sheer absurdity has legs, especially given the absolutely self-contradictory density and meaninglessness of the prose hacked out by these Queer Studies hacks.

    A bunch of bourgeois homosexual academics who could succeed in NOTHING ELSSE in the academy or the wider society (h/t George Bernard Shaw) stole the term “Queer” from street activists who used it tactically in the 1990s to fight back against homohating bigots. It presumably gives these preening queer studies academics precisely the same source of misplaced “sitting-on-ass-typing-words = action” delusion as “The ResistanceTM.” One does not hear of “Kike Studies” or “Spic Studies” or “Towel-Head Studies … or ‘Bitch Studies” or “Nigger Studies” now does one? Yet this Queer Studies is embraced in the Academia of the Anglosphere with a “straight” face.

    It used to be that artistic works of breathtaking insight and beauty were produced by individual homo sapiens sapiens many of whom were male and female homosexuals or bisexuals.

    QUESTION: How has it come to be that Queer Studies and the Early Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria (the transgender blitzkrieg) has the power to have such a chokehold on discourse.

    I do not have an answer.

    But upon watching the Al Jazeera investigative series The Lobby – UK, I was struck dumb by the parallels and coincidences between the strategic and tactical similarities among Queer Studies, the Transgender Juggernaut and the general Political Correctness Police State Apparatus on campus and in the media with the Israeli “meddling” and “poisoning” of UK policy. (And US policy in the censored US version.)
    See “The lobby UK” at https://www.aljazeera.com/investigations/thelobby/

    Particularly of note are the use of “shaming” and “guilt-tripping” to shut down any simple questions let alone debate. With Israel, it is with charges of “anti-Semitism” and drowning out ordinary people with imperious declarations of faithful adherence to a two-state solution.

    With the Queer, Transgender, and Political Correctness Police State Apparatus, it is with charges that to merely ask questions or challenge the approved narrative is to display a lack of “compassion.”

    Check out episodes two and three of the Al- Jazeera UK series to see an ordinary woman on her first experience at a Labour Party Conference merely asking ISRAEL SUPPORTRS AT A BOOTH HOW a two-state solution can be accomplished and being shamed and drowned out with a charge of anti-Semitism and imperious declarations of faithful adherence to a two-state solution.

    AND GET THIS: THE PRO-ISRAELI CROWD THEN FILED ANTI-SEMITISM CHARGES AGAINST THIS WOMAN! AND THE LABOUR PARY INVESTIGATED! ACTUALLY INVESTGATED! Go on, watch it, I dare you.

    This all may be the final sign of the looming apocalypse by the final triumph of fear and belief over reason and logic and the scientific method. In any case, the Israelification of the England / US Anglosphere and “Western Christian Capitalist Civilization” doesn’t even have Waterloo on its maps.
    Several years ago I also noted a gusher of Tel Aviv-based gay films which surprised me much given Leviticus and all. The films were well-done except every single one of them ended like Aesop’s fables: with a subtle moral of the story. And the moral is that anything and everything Israel does is A-OK! I later say this practice termed “pinkwashing.”

    RE: “The University of Oxford declares that sex is not determined at conception but rather ‘assigned’ at birth,”

  4. This appals me. Thank you for laying out the very detailed account of how Gendered Intelligence became so influential, so quickly. What can we do, as alumnae of the University or as current members, to take useful action to oppose what is going on?

  5. Queer Theory is utter filth. Parents need to know that schools are opening up their children to proponents of paedophilia, because that was the grand prize of Queer Theory – the removal of age of consent on the grounds that it is fake and arbitrary to claim that a little prepubescent child has no sexual desire, or capacity to consent.
    What on earth is wrong with everyone? Have the billionaire cross-dressers bought out the Universities with donations?

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