The Royal Academy of Arts (RA) has apologised to an artist after barring her work from their shop for criticising transgender ideology.
Jess de Wahls had her art removed after a handful of complaints were made to the RA. It also thanked those who had complained and promised her work would “not be stocked in future”.
But after widespread public criticism and the threat of legal action from the artist, the RA apologised and issued a statement admitting it had “betrayed our most important core value — the protection of free speech”.
Compassion, not dishonesty
Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, de Wahls said she believed the complaints had come from a 2019 blog post she had authored.
It said that a woman is “an adult human female” and “not an identity or feeling”. She stressed that she “can not accept people’s unsubstantiated assertions that they are in fact the opposite sex to when they were born”.
De Wahls also criticised the lobby group Stonewall, saying she was “completely at a loss” at to its “updated description of transgender, seeing that, by their logic, almost anybody would fall under this category, including those that don’t identify as trans”.
She told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that she was ‘compassionate’ towards anyone experiencing gender dysphoria but that there is a difference between compassion and dishonesty: “I can’t make myself believe something I don’t believe to be true”.
Freedom of expression
In a statement the RA said: “We have apologised to Jess de Wahls for the way we have treated her and do so again publicly now. We had no right to judge her views on our social media.”
It added: “This has confirmed to us our commitment to freedom of expression and to addressing complex issues through engagement and debate.”
The RA said it would be in contact with de Wahls on restocking her art in its shop.
Responding to de Wahls’ treatment, Maya Forstater, who recently won her appeal to have the belief in biological sex protected by the Equality Act, raised her concerns over the RA’s actions.
She warned how organisations had become “used to overreacting to complaints of transphobia”, adding how “these coordinated complaints ruin people’s lives and their reputations and make organisations fearful”.
After her successful case earlier this month, she said: “I lost my job simply for expressing a view that is true and important, and held by the great majority of people in this country: sex matters.”