I wanted to clarify a few things about this situation, given the interest and the peculiarities of academia that may not be known to many and to add context so that people who should not be blamed for this outcome are not blamed (if blame is deemed necessary for anyone—I prefer to focus on the larger sociopolitical context in which these things happen—I am a sociologist after all—and interrogate this current moment in which a certain contingent of social activists have deemed it not only justifiable, but proper, to silence any discussion about sex and negotiation of competing sex-based and gender-identity-based rights. Some might say, and I might agree, this is part of the larger ‘woke’ movement among those who identify with the Left. I might note that my political beliefs position me on the Left, but I believe in the importance of evidence, reason and logic, and a material reality in which we all exist). On to the context.
#1: This was not a decision of the editorial board or the editor of Feminist Criminology.
I was informed by the editor of the journal about my removal and given this information.
#2: Academic backdrop (getting through the academic speak):
My job is as an associate professor with tenure in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University. That is my primary job. Academics have teaching, research, and service jobs, and serving on an editorial board is both a service-honor job. It is, basically, a recognition that you are a scholar whose expertise and peer reviews are deemed valuable (some esteem or prestige) and comes with the expectation that you review for the journal 3-8 submitted manuscripts per year (depending on the journal, in my experience). Thus, for those concerned (thank you, dear hearts), I have not lost my job job. I have instead been cast out of a position by a professional association and group because they claim I am a ‘transphobe’ whose ‘anti-LGBT’ sentiment and presence is not acceptable for the Division of Women and Crime’s journal, Feminist Criminology.
I consider this slanderous. Feel free to read my writings and decide for yourself, but I have no hate for transgender people and I support non-discrimination and human rights protections for them.
#3: My Article
This labeling of my work as transphobic and me as ‘anti-LGBT’ has followed from my article published in Feminist Criminology in 2020 (Article here.) The article is critical of the Equality Act’s terminological imprecision (conflation of sex & gender identity) and prioritization of gender self-identification over biological sex for currently sex-separated provisions (in all circumstances, no exceptions).
I submitted my article, Scrutinizing the Equality Act, which sought to remedy the lack of consideration for the effect of the Equality Act on females and women (however defined). It was published under a normal process. I submitted to the journal after completing the manuscript; I received a revise and resubmit (reviewers suggest changes and issues to be addressed); I then resubmitted; I received a ‘conditional accept’ [which means the journal is committing to publishing your paper conditional upon successfully addressing a few remaining comments and formatting issues], then it was published. I was told that I might expect people to write a response to the piece. That was great with me because I wanted to stimulate discussion and debate (not foreclose it), and I admit I have only partial knowledge and not all the answers.
The initial response was not too much. I received a number of emails from people thanking me for writing the piece, and a few mentions on twitter (including from people in the DWC) about my ‘horrible, harmful, essay’ and the like, and some chastising the journal for the ‘horrible transphobia’. Several months passed, and aside from a few complaints that came up a few times, I was not aware of much happening. (Of course, I am not privy to what goes on behind the scenes at the journal.)
Early this year (I think), I received two responses to my article, including one that has the term ‘transphobia’ in the title, calls me a ‘cis-white feminist’ and calls my work (and the recognition of the material reality of sex) ‘colonizing transphobia’. While I find the responses to be unconvincing or irrelevant, I did want to stimulate a discussion.
I was encouraged by the editorial board to turn my response around quickly so that these could be published. I wrote the response over the weekend (sorry family!!) and submitted; later an RR, and I resubmitted. It is currently still under review. In the meantime, the 2 responses to my piece appeared online (have been published as online first now for 2 months), and another response was published online recently—which I had not seen or known about.
The posting of article responses without replies is unusual, in my experience, but I understand the pressure the journal has been under, so I have not complained. The editor and advisory board, I believe has been pressured to renounce my paper as transphobic and anti-LGBT—and to their great credit, they have not done so. I knew this was a fraught issue—but one that we must discuss, and I knew it would be difficult.
However, this isn’t how academia is supposed to work or how it works normally. We discuss, we debate, and science proceeds through the resolution of controversy, expansion of understanding, and correction of mistakes.
#4: The Division of Women and Crime Backdrop
I had been a member of the Division of Women and Crime (DWC), since 2002. I received (and greatly appreciated) a student paper award from them while a graduate student in 2004.
The DWC has a listserv. And a vocal crew on the listserv began to complain about several things, among them, ‘Callie Burt’s transphobic article’. Never mind that none engaged with the substance I wrote or identified anything that I wrote that was specifically transphobic. [Because there isn’t anything actually genuinely transphobic, in my view.] The discussions continued, and this included pressure for ‘non-BIPOC LGBTQIA2S+’ DWC ‘leaders’ to step down from their positions. Many did; those that remained created a new Diversity and Inclusion statement (see here or save your time), which included the following.
I might draw your attention to the fact that among the ELEVEN ‘discriminations’ the Board denounces, discrimination based on ‘sex’ is not one of them—predictably gender identity or expression is one of them. Among the additional actions made by this haphazard board with a chair who was unelected and prior to the ‘special elections’ that took place after those elected were encouraged to step down for their lack of diversity, included this:
The editor, who during her term has increased the status of the journal on all metrics of which I am aware, normally selects a board and that is that. I was asked and agreed to serve in the role as a reviewer several years ago. I agreed to review every manuscript that was sent my way, and I was always timely in my reviews.
This new advisory group, it might be noted is composed of 5 individuals at least 3 of whom had previously signed a letter calling my article ‘transphobic’.
Thus, reading this diversity and inclusion statement, it was obvious to me that they didn’t want diversity or inclusion in thought or ideas. I therefore resigned from the Division of Women and Crime with the following email.
I am leaving the DWC effective as soon as Susan removes me from the list, as it is clear you do not wish to have a diversity of LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC voices—as the new inclusivity statement implies. You have made it quite clear that my voice and that of others who have concerns about sex self-ID for access to prisons, rape-crisis shelters, domestic violence centers, etc. are not welcome or allowed here.
I’ve appreciated being a member of DWC for the past nearly 20 years, and I appreciated the focus on women, girls, and crime—that was long overlooked and neglected. Thanks to the incredible work of many people in this group and those that came before this topic is no longer overlooked or under theorized.
However, a division that traffics in mantras and refuses to engage with people raising valid concerns (dismissing people for ‘hateful wrong think’), is not a group I wish to be a member of. For those of you who consider me a ‘meany’, baddie, hater who is a transphobe, you’re probably relieved. But you are wrong. I am not a transphobe, and I do not hate trans people or males or anyone.
Just this week reports came out of a male who self-ID’ed into the women’s prison in Washington state and raped a female prisoner housed there. I think that’s something to discuss; your explicit position is that doing so is hateful transphobia that must be silenced for inclusivity and the well-being of transgender people. But what about females and transwomen who would be harmed by predatory males self-ID’ing into women’s spaces?
Many of you were part of the LGBT movement in the late 1990s/early 2000s, and some of you weren’t. I was. We didn’t effect change by refusing to engage, dismissing those who disagreed, and censoring any discussion of negotiating gay rights. We were successful because we talked. We tried to understand the positions of others and helped them see ours. Maybe your attempts to censor any discussion of sex will work to effect the change you wish to see in the world. Maybe it won’t. Regardless of the outcome, I do not find the division’s silencing discussion of issues, which are complex and multilayered and sometimes uncomfortable, acceptable in academia or in the Division of Women and Crime.
I wish you well, and I’m sad to go. But I refuse to go along silently with a group that calls discussion of gender/sex-self-ID ‘transphobic’ when there are real issues to discuss here that have everything to do with the safety of females and transwomen and nothing to do with hate or bigotry.
#5: The group of 5 advisors takes among its first tasks a vote of ‘non-confidence’ [sic] on my role as a member of the Feminist Criminology editorial board.
The email noted that the DWC board approved their recommendation, which was then sent to the editor to implement.
I might note, I just held a vote at my kitchen table, and I unanimously (1-0) voted in favor of no confidence in the editorial board committee.