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Ann Henderson triggers controversy over ‘transphobic’ Twitter support
by Mei Futonaka, 11/10/18

Content Warning: Transphobia

Ann Henderson, Rector of the University of Edinburgh, has been seen affirmatively responding to tweets by allegedly transphobic organisations.

Henderson’s official Twitter account retweeted about a drop-in session meeting titled “How will changes to the Gender Recognition Act [GRA] affect women’s rights?” The event is supported by the organisations Fair Play For Women, Transgender Trend and Woman’s Place, all of which promote allegedly transphobic rhetoric.

Edinburgh Labour Students Chair, Andrew Wilson, spoke to The Student: “Ann retweeting this seems completely contrary to the work EUSA [Edinburgh University Students’ Association] is doing on the GRA consultation. This could also be seen as her endorsing these transphobic organisations which are in complete conflict to all of… [the Students’ Association’s] policy/safe space policy. Edinburgh Labour Students wishes to reiterate that as long as Ann continues to sideline the legitimate concerns of minority groups, we do not support her holding office in the Labour Party, or our own university.”

There are allegations that one of the groups Henderson has shown support for via her retweet is the body responsible for transphobic stickers seen in bathrooms inside Students’ Association buildings recently.

The Sabbatical Team at the Students’ Association has issued a joint statement as follows: “The organisations responsible for the tweet and its content are explicitly transphobic groups, and are referenced in the recent wave of transphobic materials distributed in the university and Students’ Association’s buildings.

“After raising the issue of these materials and organisations with the Rector in a recent meeting, and hearing her recent speech purporting to support LGBT+ students at the university, we are shocked that the Rector continues to support these organisations on Twitter.

“The university needs to be a place where transgender students feel supported and respected, and as a representative for staff and students, the Rector’s actions are unacceptable. The Sabbatical Officers have contacted the MPs representing the university area, Ian Murray and Tommy Sheppard, to urge they not attend the event referred to in the tweet, and to instead support the advancement of trans rights in the Gender Recognition Act (England and Wales) consultation.”

A spokesperson for the University of Edinburgh said: “The Rector posted these links/made these comments in a personal capacity. The university’s position is one of zero tolerance towards harassment, bullying, discrimination and victimisation of any kind – this includes zero tolerance towards transphobia.”

Edinburgh’s PrideSoc has responded to Henderson on Twitter: “Concerning your recent retweet of FairPlayForWomen, are you aware of the transphobic nature of this event? The GRA has not and will not affect women’s rights. Anyone claiming otherwise is pushing an anti-trans agenda under the guise of feminism.”

The university’s network for LGBT+ staff, Staff Pride Network, also tweeted: “We hope that this was retweeted in error as we do not consider these orgs friends of LGBT+ folks. But we are also very happy to chat with you offline rector about our perspective on GRA reform.”

A previous version of this article omitted the word ‘allegedly’ in the first and second paragraphs. Updated: 20:13, 12 October 2018.

The statement of the Sabbatical Team at the Students’ Association was amended at their request following the publication of the article to reflect their change of opinion. Updated: 11:50, 14 October 2018.

Image: Peter Dibdin