“Deliberative failure” to use the preferred gender pronoun for persons identifying as “nonbinary” now amounts to discrimination in Sweden, following a ruling by a government authority. The ruling was preceded by the enactment of a law similar to the contested Canadian Bill C-16 adding “trans gender identity or expression” as a prohibited ground of discrimination. The authority’s decision confirms Jordan Peterson’s caution, dismissed as “alarmist” by his critics, that the law risks making the use of gender-neutral pronouns compelled speech.
– The deliberate failure of a teacher to use the pronoun with which a student identifies, against the student’s expressed wishes, is a serious form of harassment, a spokesperson declared in the press announcement of a ruling by the Discrimination Ombudsman (DO), an authority under the Swedish government.
– In schools, all students should feel safe and respected and should not be subjected to discrimination. It is particularly important that teachers demonstrate and communicate these values, the spokesperson added.
The DO’s ruling, which was preceded by the adoption of “trans gender identity or expression” as a prohibited ground of discrimination in the Swedish Discrimination Act, has been contested by the Swedish watchdog Academic Rights Watch.
– The decision confirms Jordan B. Peterson’s caution, dismissed as “alarmist” by some of his critics, that this sort of discrimination law eventually makes the use of gender-neutral pronouns compelled speech, Academic Rights Watch Chairman Erik J. Olsson says.
Because of his view, Peterson has been accused of “spreading misinformation and hysteria among people who are unaware of the law and are contributing towards a transphobic discourse.”
Concerning the case of the teacher, the DO writes on its homepage (our translations throughout):
When a student who identifies as non-binary started at the school, the student’s guardian [formerly called ‘parent’, our remark] informed a teacher and a teaching assistant that the student’s pronoun is ‘hen’ [the Swedish gender-neutral pronoun, our remark]. The teacher stated that she cannot use the word ‘hen’ in speech. The guardians informed the school principal of the student’s gender identity and the teacher’s position on addressing the student by the preferred pronoun. Despite the Rector’s promise to speak to the teacher, the student continued to be referred to by the wrong pronoun for more than a semester.
The school conceded to the DO that the student had been discriminated against and “that the situation had gone on for far too long”. The DO now requests that the school pay the student 150,000 SEK (15,000 USD) in discrimination compensation. If school refuses, the DO intends to file a writ of summons with the district court.
The teacher, a devoted Christian, chose to go public with her story in a Youtube video:
– School staff have great power to encourage children that you can be a boy if you feel like it, and a girl if you feel like it, even if you don’t have that biology. And I’m afraid that my daughter is being indoctrinated into that so that one day she’ll say to me: ‘Mom, I feel like a boy. I want to take medicine and have my breasts removed’.
– Another important thing that prompts me to talk about this is that I believe that this is what God wants from me. I am a Christian who believes in the Bible. I believe that God wants me to fight for these innocent children.
The teacher says, moreover, that it was the boy’s mother who approached her with the request that the child be referred to by the Swedish gender-neutral pronoun. She declined but later suggested a compromise where she would use the child’s name instead of some pronoun. However, the mother and the school management did not accept this proposal. The teacher was given the opportunity to change her mind in order to keep her job. When she refused, she was dismissed.
In their complaint to the Parliamentary Ombudsman (JO), Academic Rights Watch alleges that legally compelled use of neutral gender-pronouns for persons identifying as nonbinary violates the second chapter of the Swedish constitution, which prohibits the state from forcing its citizens to participate in political or religious expression of opinion.
– This particular use of the Swedish gender-neutral pronoun is the result of deliberate feminist speech politics, one goals of which is to question sex as an essentially binary affair. The use therefore expresses endorsement of a particular political and religious position on sex and gender which makes enforcing it unconstitutional, says Erik J. Olsson at Academic Rights Watch.
The complaint is currently under investigation.