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NORWAY: Woman Fired for Criticizing Medical Transitioning of Youth Takes Her Former Employers To Court
A woman in Norway has taken her employer to court after she was dismissed in apparent retaliation for statements she made on social media criticizing the practice of medically “transitioning” young women. Rianne Vogels is suing her employer, Papillon, for unfair dismissal over her views on gender ideology after the organization’s management received a single, anonymous email complaint.
Vogels first found her employment at risk just one day after she posted a tweet critical of the surgical and hormonal transitioning of girls and young women.
“Transition … may lead to sterility, sexual dysfunction, lifelong hormone dependency, + complications,” wrote Vogels on February 6, 2022. By the following morning, her manager, Leïla Rezzouk, had already received an email about her tweet from a sender using the pseudonym Ron Scofield. The message, written in English as opposed to Norwegian, included a screenshot of Vogels’ tweet and an accusation of racism on the basis that she had an account on Twitter alternative social media platform Gettr.
Vogels provided Reduxx with a copy of the complaint, which took aim at her online conduct.
“Vogels has also displayed on her Twitter account various instances of content that aims to ridicule or associate transgender persons with crime or sexual deviancy,” the sender wrote.
Reduxx attempted to contact the sender using the email address associated with the complaint, but messages immediately bounce-back with a notice reading that “the address couldn’t be found, or is unable to receive mail.”
The same day as the complaint was sent, Vogels received a text from her employer informing her that her name should no longer appear on documents sent to the organization’s funding partners. She was also told that the Board of Directors would be consulted with regards to her employment. Just 24 hours later, Vogels was summoned to a meeting to be held the following day with Leïla Rezzouk and the Board Chair.
Vogels’ former employer, Papillon, serves as a meeting place for “girls and young women with cross-cultural or migrant backgrounds, aged 15-30,” according to the organization’s statutes, and provides guidance services as well as school programs, according to the organization’s website. Vogels says she has been central in the development of the organization along with her manager, Leïla Rezzouk. Papillon is currently funded by both the private and public sector, and Vogels, who initially joined the team as a pro bono mentor and Board Director in 2018, has more recently acted as the head of strategy and finance.
The anonymous accusations against Vogels have had a ripple effect on one of their collaboration partners. The CEO of an organization that Papillon occasionally works with has similarly been contacted by trans activist groups that are threatening to pull their support for that organization unless it cuts ties with Papillon, based on Vogels’ role at Papillon.
Court proceedings began on March 27, with Vogels claiming she was unfairly dismissed, and Papillon maintaining that management was within their rights to fire her.
As evidence to substantiate their decision, Papillon’s legal counsel presented a 40-page document that included various tweets and ‘likes’ on social media. Attorney Nina Sørensen at Simonsen Vogt Wiig contested that Vogels had not been fired for a single tweet, but for “her statements as a whole and how this appears.” Prior to this incident, neither Vogels nor Papillon had received complaints from clientele about her conduct.
Speaking with Reduxx, Vogels explained that her concerns regarding medical ‘gender’ interventions for youth are based on a lack of research that would indicate the process is beneficial. “As far as I have been able to assess, there is no robust evidence that social or medical transition benefits children or youths, nor have I seen convincing data on adults,” she said.
The number of patients being referred to medical institutions has exploded over the past decade. Between 2007 and 2010, the figure stood at 50-70 consultations per year. Between 2018 and 2021, Norwegian health officials received between 400-600 annual referrals.
On March 9, just weeks before Vogels’ case was brought before a tribunal, the Norwegian Healthcare Investigation Board (UKOM) recommended that national guidelines on the administration of puberty-halting drugs and gender-related surgeries ought to be revised to reflect a lack of medical evidence supporting such interventions.
“The knowledge base, especially research-based knowledge for gender-affirming treatment (hormonal and surgical), is deficient and the long-term effects are little known,” UKOM’s report states. “This is particularly true for the teenage population where the stability of their gender incongruence is also not known.”
Vogels is represented by Birthe Maria Eriksen, a lawyer at ADI Advokater who is known as an expert in matters relating to employee whistleblowers. Eriksen has asserted that case has the potential to set a historic precedent as this is the first time in Norway that a private foundation, organization or company has dismissed a person on the basis of their opinions on a social debate.
Bizarrely, Papillon’s legal counsel has attempted to portray Vogels as being potentially responsible for the whole ordeal, going as far as to suggest that she sent the email herself in an effort to get herself fired.
“My employer’s legal team pointed out that this court case had become a media platform. They then asked me whether I myself had sent the harassing email to my employer. The judge intervened to clarify if they were really asking whether I myself had sent the email from ‘Ron Scofield,'” Vogels told Reduxx.
“In the run-up to the case, Papillon had claimed to be ‘politically neutral’ and that, as a leader at Papillon, my social media should reflect this,” she continued.
“My legal team pulled up an instance where the organization’s CEO Leïla Rezzouk had ‘liked’ a street protest in support of Esben Esther Pirelli Benestad, a trans activist clinician whose medical license had just been revoked. My lawyer and the judge asked the founder whether supporting this protest was a ‘politically neutral’ stance. Rezzouk didn’t appear to understand the question. When asked whether any of my social media posts were acceptable, she said ‘no.'”
Though she has received online abuse since her case became public, Vogels says she has also received encouragement. “The public is rooting for me. Many appear to be shocked by this immediate decision to fire me following an anonymous and harassing email. Many have reached out to me with messages of gratitude or support, even flowers and chocolate, including healthcare professionals, academics, teachers, journalists, concerned parents and a politician,” she said.
One of the witnesses in Vogels’ case is a British women’s rights campaigner who has become a public advocate after she was let go from her position at the think tank The Center for Global Development (CGD) in London. Maya Forstater, co-founder of UK-based non-profit Sex Matters, made headlines when, in 2019, she revealed that her contract had not been renewed by the CGD in retaliation for her views on gender identity ideology. Because she questioned the belief that men could become women, she was singled out by her colleagues and ultimately had her employment terminated.
Forstater then launched a crowdfunder to finance legal representation in order to take her case to an employment tribunal. She garnered the support of high-profile figures, including world-renowned author J. K. Rowling and Irish comedy writer Graham Linehan, and while the initial verdict declared that her views on biological sex were “incompatible with human dignity and fundamental rights of others,” she won her case on appeal in July 2022.
“Rianne Vogels’ case is (as far as we know) the first gender critical belief discrimination case in Europe outside of the UK. My case was based on the European Convention on Human Rights, articles 9 and 10, freedom of belief and freedom of speech, so the principles can be used more widely,” Forstater told Reduxx.
“Listening to what happened to Rianne, it was so similar to my case. She worked for an NGO. She wanted to talk about how the conflation of sex and gender identity impacts on women’s rights, and her employer overreacted to complaints that they should not have taken seriously,” she said.
“So many women and men are facing authoritarian clamp-downs on speech by their employer, and being investigated and punished just for recognizing the basic facts of life. Hopefully with a few more cases they may come to realize that this is unlawful, and costly,” Forstater added.
Vogels’ case against her employer continues and a verdict is expected by the end of the month, but she is far from the first Norwegian have their employment targeted for statements they made on social media.
Including Vogels, at least 15 individuals in Norway are known to have had untraceable emails accusing them of ‘transphobia’ sent to their employers. Seven people – four women and three men – gave brief statements to Norwegian TV 2 under the condition of anonymity, with the men all stating that the emails hadn’t posed a serious threat to their employment. Comments from the women who were targeted were varied, but three out of four indicated that it had negatively impacted them.
One woman in particular is speaking out after her employer received an email alerting them to her alleged ‘transphobia’ in an apparent effort to intimidate her into silence. Sonia Arisland, 42, who works as a teacher at a secondary school in Viken county, told TV 2 that the message was an apparent effort to prevent her from questioning a law that allows anyone over the age of 16 to self-declare their sex.
Her employer chose to report the matter to the police, but as of yet, no formal charges have been filed against the unknown sender, who signed the email Petter A. Hansen.
Arisland took to Twitter to clarify her position. “I am a feminist, anti-racist and socialist on the left. I have also been defined as a ‘TERF’ by activists because I have stated that gender self-identity presents problems that we need to solve.”
The acronym ‘TERF,’ which stands for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist, is regarded by many as an insult or slur. The term is most commonly used to incite harassment, ostracism, or even violence against women who question transgenderism.
Arisland further stated that, in the current political climate, “people who believe that gender must first and foremost be defined by public bodies based on biology, and cannot always be based on a subjective, and for others invisible, inner feeling” are being incorrectly labeled as “far right” or a “transphobe.”
The teacher was also falsely accused of being “one of the most active” in the Norwegian chapter of campaign group Women’s Declaration International (WDI), an organization that calls for the legal recognition and protection of women’s rights and opposes the adoption of public policies based on the subjective declaration of a gender identity. The group has penned a Declaration on Women’s Sex-Based Rights, and supporters are encouraged to add their name to a list of signatories.
WDI Norway has been under fierce attack by trans activists in recent months. Last year, Reduxx reported that an indie video game centered around slaughtering women used a version of the WDI logo in place of Nazi symbolism. The game was designed by transgender programmer Sandra Moen and was released for sale on Steam earlier this year.
Reduxx contacted WDI Norway representative Christina Ellingsen for comment on Vogels’ case and the national crackdown on expressions of opposition to gender ideology. Ellingsen herself was subjected to a police investigation after hate speech charges were filed against her over assertions that men can neither be lesbians nor become mothers.
“It is women who end up face-to-face with the reality of trans activism and the pursuit to erase biological reality; in changing rooms, women’s sports, women’s prisons, women’s health and in the erasure of sex-based data. Criticism of trans ideology will therefore disproportionately come from women,” she said.
“These women are notoriously stalked and harassed by trans activists, via surveillance technologies such as Shinigami Eyes, defamation campaigns on Wikipedia, or attempts to have the livelihoods of these women destroyed,” Ellingsen stated, referring to an “anti-transphobe” browser extension designed by an alleged rapist to target social media users who question gender ideology.
“We do not accept these misogynist harassment campaigns against women. Women have the right to talk about issues that affect their lives without being subjected to threats, stalking and harassment, and employers have a responsibility to uphold the rights of women to freedom from such harassment. We encourage employers to report defamatory emails to the police for harassment.”