Who is Kathleen Stock? The grim reality of the gender-critical academic’s trans-exclusionary views

Kathleen Stock is set to appear in Channel 4's Gender Wars

Kathleen Stock is widely-known as one of the UK’s most prominent trans-exclusionary voices, having risen to national prominence after views on trans rights caused outrage at the University of Sussex prior to her resignation in 2021.

The writer and academic has continued to generate headlines since her resignation from the University of Sussex, including for her co-founding of The Lesbian Project, a group created exclusively for cisgender lesbians, and for her involvement in the poorly received 2023 Channel 4 documentary Gender Wars, which aimed to explore how sex and gender have become “one of the most polarising issues of our times”.

In March 2024, Stock published a lengthy takedown of American philosopher and gender studies scholar Judith Butler’s new book, Who’s Afraid of Gender? In the book – which is much more accessible than many of Butler’s previous, more dense and complicated works – they explain that “gender” has (unfairly) become a sort of bogeyman for the internet age, with associated anxieties about bodily attributes, sex and relationships.

Judith Butler poses for a photo at the Jewish Museum in Berlin
Judith Butler poses for a photo at the Jewish Museum on 15 September, 2012. (Getty/ Target Presse Agentur Gmbh)

In her takedown of Butler’s book on the ‘free speech’ news and opinion website Unherd, Stock mocked the veteran academic for, amongst many other things, “citing PinkNews as a source of data”. But just who is Kathleen Stock, and why does she feel compelled to take aim at a famous queer theory scholar who helped develop theories suggesting that gender is fluid, flexible and subject to change? Let’s find out.

Who is Kathleen Stock?

Kathleen Stock is a British philosopher and writer who was a professor of philosophy at the University of Sussex until 2021. Prior to this, she taught at the University of Lancaster and the University of East Anglia.

Stock, who identifies as a lesbian, has two sons with her ex-husband, Gregor Beedie. She currently lives with her partner Laura Gibbon, a psychologist at University College London, with whom she shares another child.

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On March 9, 2023, Stock helped to launch The Lesbian Project alongside writer Julie Bindel and tennis star Martina Navratilova, in reaction to trans inclusion efforts.

Bindel has also courted controversy for her views on trans and wider LGBTQ+ issues, with one example seeing the writer tell GB News that lesbians were being “lumped in” with “minor-attracted persons” in the “rainbow coalition”. 

In 2021, Stock was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to higher education.

Her OBE was strongly contested at the time by more than 600 professors who raised the alarm about Stock’s accolade and her reinforcement of transphobia in philosophy.

What are Kathleen Stock’s views on trans people? 

In 2018, Kathleen Stock has said that “many trans women are still males with male genitalia, many are sexually attracted to females, and they should not be in places where females undress or sleep in a completely unrestricted way.”

She has also argued that trans women should be banned from women’s single-sex spaces – something protected by the Equality Act 2010.

Stock has also argued that self-ID “threatens a secure understanding of the concept ‘lesbian’”.

Stock also serves as a trustee of the anti-trans charity LGB Alliance, which regularly campaigns against trans inclusion efforts.

Despite her gender-critical views, Stock denies that she is transphobic. She has previously said that she “asserts the rights of trans people to live their lives free from fear, violence, harassment or any discrimination”.

In an interview with The Telegraph on 28 May 2023, Stock reiterated her belief that trans women are not women. 

Why did Kathleen Stock quit her job at the University of Sussex? 

In October 2021, Stock quit her role at the University of Sussex after students launched a campaign called “Stock Out”. 

The campaign called on the university to terminate Stock’s employment over her trans-exclusionary views and position as an LGB Alliance trustee.

LGBTQ+ students at the university had branded Stock a “transphobe” and accused her of “espousing a bastardised version of ‘radical feminism’ that excludes and endangers trans people”.

Labour’s previous shadow minister for women and equalities, Taiwo Owatemi, commented on the situation by condemning the LGB Alliance and backing peaceful protests against Stock. 

But government equalities minister Kemi Badenoch defended Stock at the time, insisting: “She is probably in step with the majority of the population.”

Trans activists criticised Kathleen Stock’s participation in Channel 4 documentary Gender Wars

A still of anti-trans campaigner Kathleen Stock wearing a blue plaid shirt as she looks off screen from the Channel 4 documentary Gender Wars
People on Twitter criticised Channel 4’s documentary Gender Wars for giving “false legitimacy” and an “unchallenged platform” to anti-trans hate. (Channel 4)

In the weeks before it aired, LGBTQ+ activists expressed fears about Channel 4’s Gender Wars, which the channel claimed would attempt to find common ground between the trans community and their opponents.

Ahead of its broadcast, participants in the film claimed they weren’t informed of Stock’s involvement and were “misled” and “misinformed” regarding the true nature of the film.

The angered participants said they believed it had been agreed that the film would “fully include people’s views, experiences and thoughts on both sides”.

Instead, the film showed trans and non-binary people and their allies taking part in lawful but noisy protest, with few trans and non-binary voices speaking and “only one given any substantial opportunity to speak”.

Students opposed Stock’s appearance at the University of Oxford

On 30 May 2023, Kathleen Stock gave a talk at the University of Oxford 200-year-old debating society as part of its Trinity Term card. 

Stock’s appearance at the Oxford Union resulted in Oxford’s first-ever Trans+ Pride being launched by the university’s LGBTQ+ society.

Before the event, more than 100 Oxford academics signed a letter supporting queer students in opposing Stock’s talk. During the contentious event, Stock’s speech was temporarily stopped after a protester glued themself to the floor while wearing a “No More Dead Trans Kids” T-shirt.