A gay British doctor might lose his job after using his Twitter account to defend trans rights.
Dr. Adrian Harrop currently works as a general practitioner in Liverpool, as well as for CMAGIC, a service set up by England’s National Health Service to provide medical support for trans people.
However, between 2018 and 2019 Harrop became increasingly vocal about transgender rights on his Twitter account — including pushing back against misinformation and transphobia — leading to “hundreds” of complaints to the General Medical Council, Vice reports.
The 34-year-old now faces a three-week tribunal that could result in Harrop being suspended or barred from practicing medicine.
Harrop told Vice that he was the victim of an “organized and orchestrated” campaign against him by “gender critics.”
“I can achieve so much more by just being a doctor than arguing with anonymous people on Twitter,” he said. “I shouldn’t have wasted as much time and energy on that toxic platform as I did, but I still believe it is a genuine moral responsibility for privileged people to stand up for trans rights.”
Harrop said he believes he has a “moral debt to the trans community,” given his “privileged position” as a “gay white cis doctor.”
“If people hadn’t stood up for the likes of me when we were little, fighting against really intense homophobia, there’s no way we could be so open and loud and proud now,” he said.
Harrop noted the ongoing debate in the U.K. regarding transgender healthcare, particularly for children.
“Doctors do have a powerful voice to share, and they should be able to use their voices to bring about positive societal change,” he said.
However, what Harrop said he “didn’t realize” is that everyone on social media is “under constant scrutiny, including by people who want to go against them in bad faith.”
England’s General Medical Council requires doctors to use social media in a way that “justifies your patients’ trust in you and the public’s trust in the profession.”
“Serious or persistent failure to follow our guidance that poses a risk to patient safety or public trust in doctors will put your registration at risk,” the GMC’s guidance states.
Harrop faces 15 charges, including allegations that he used his account to “intimidate” critics by revealing potentially identifying information about them, and that between May 2018 and November 2019 he shared tweets that were “offensive and/or insulting and/or inappropriate in nature.”
In his defense statement, Harrop called himself a “fervent supporter of transgender rights,” noting that his exchanges with other were “humorous or mischievous or aggressive and antagonistic.”
“A number of individuals and campaign groups whose ultimate aim, I believe, is to undermine, if not erase, the rights of transgender people deliberately chose to follow me on Twitter and to read and respond to many of my tweets,” Harrop wrote.
He also accused those who oppose trans rights of falsifying their identities when complaining to his superiors and encouraging others to complain by using written templates that linked to his boss’ email address.
According to Vice, there is evidence that Harrop’s detractors encouraged their Twitter followers to send abuse to him and file complaints.
One woman, who called Harrop a homophobic slur, claimed that he bullied her online and called him a “sick degenerate” who is “a danger to children.”
She then said that if witch burning was “still a thing the faggots would be piling up around me.”
One user tweeted a hand making a gun sign in response to one of Harrot’s tweets, and then deleted it, saying “taken out of context I guess it COULD look like a death threat.”
Harriet deactivated his Twitter account in October 2020 due to the “scale and intensity of the abuse, harassment and threats” he had received.
A professor to whom Harrop reported during his postgraduate training testified to the General Medical Council that she met with him twice in 2018 and “expressed my concern regarding the style and tone of some of Dr Harrop’s tweets and stated that I could understand why some individuals may feel that Dr Harrop was being aggressive.”
Harrop told Vice that he is “deeply sorry” for the negative implications of his tweets, saying he “never imagined” that he would give “cause to investigate my fitness to practice during my career.”
“Ultimately, the tribunal will be deciding whether what I’ve done and what I’ve said deems me unfit for practice as a doctor,” he said, adding that the likelihood of him being erased from the medical register is “virtually nil.”
Harrop warned that what he is facing “could happen to any doctor, commenting on any other important societal issue” like racism or climate change.
Nevertheless, he told his transphobic critics: “You will not win… Although the battles you’re fighting on social media may seem like you’re winning, you’re not.”
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