A law student at Abertay University in Scotland is being investigated after making comments during lectures asserting that only women have vaginas and that men are the physically stronger sex.
The British daily newspaper The Times reported Saturday that Lisa Keogh is now facing disciplinary actions after her classmates reported her for saying that women were born with female genitals and that “the difference in physical strength of men versus women is a fact.'"
The 29-year old law student, who is in her final year, is now afraid that any sanction from the school might hurt her aspiration to become a human rights attorney. Keogh reportedly made remarks about biological sex during seminars on gender feminism and the law.
According to Keogh, she was muted by her lecturer during a video seminar when she raised concerns about trans-identified males being able to take part in mixed martial arts matches. She said she made a point that a trans-identified male "had testosterone in her body for 32 years and, as such, would be genetically stronger than your average woman."
“I thought it was a joke,” Keogh said about receiving an email that accused her of making bigoted comments.
“I thought there was no way that the university would pursue me for utilizing my legal right to freedom of speech.”
Her classmates that reported her, who are reportedly younger than she is, said she referred to women as the "weaker sex."
Keough is accused of calling classmates “man-hating feminists” when one classmate suggested that all men were rapists and pose a threat to women.
“I didn’t deny saying these things and told the university exactly why I did so,” Keogh told the newspaper.
“I didn’t intend to be offensive but I did take part in a debate and outlined my sincerely held views. I was abused and called names by the other students, who told me I was a ‘typical white, cis girl.’ You have got to be able to freely exchange differing opinions. Otherwise, it’s not a debate.”
She further reiterated that she was not trying to be unkind but stating basic biology. She said that she was previously employed as a mechanic, and her male colleagues could lift heavy things she could not in the workshop.
Abertay University, a public university in Dundee, has a misconduct policy that forbids the use of "offensive language" or discriminating against transgender identity.
The school’s bullying and harassment guidelines prohibit actions that are “reasonably considered by that person to have the effect of violating their dignity or of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them, even if this effect was not intended by the person responsible for the conduct.”
Scottish Parliament member Joanna Cherry supports Keogh, arguing that the student is unfairly subjected to a disciplinary procedure that could result in expulsion for merely stating an opinion rooted in biology.
Cherry, a member of the Scottish National Party who represents Edinburgh South West and is the deputy chairwoman of the Lords and Commons joint committee on human rights, has described Keogh's ordeal as farcical. She wrote the university to inquire what it would do to protect student rights outlined in the European Convention on Human Rights.
The university reportedly said it did not comment on disciplinary matters, according to The Times.
Other students in the United Kingdom have faced punishment for expressing their beliefs on controversial issues. One example is Felix Ngole, a Christian student expelled from his social work master’s program at the University of Sheffield for posting about his religious beliefs on sexuality on Facebook.
In 2019, the Court of Appeal overturned a previous court ruling against Ngole.
Repercussions on similarly-phrased speech have not been limited to higher education settings.
Social media giant Twitter updated its terms of service forbidding "misgendering" in 2018 around the time it permanently booted Canadian feminist journalist Meghan Murphy from the platform after she wrote that "men aren't women" and referred to a transgender-identifying male as "him."
Last week, the social media platform blocked the account of Francisco José Contreras, the deputy of Spain's Vox Party, for 12 hours after tweeting that "a man cannot get pregnant" because "they have no uterus or eggs."