• Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

Trans Solidarity Community Event takes place on Edinburgh University campus

ByLucy Jackson

Dec 17, 2022
Transgender pride flag flying at full mast at a Foreign and Commonwealth office.

CW: Transphobia

Students and staff at the University of Edinburgh gathered on Wednesday evening to show solidarity with the Trans community in Edinburgh.

The event, ‘Trans Solidarity Community Event’, was organised by Edinburgh University Students’ Association in partnership with the University of Edinburgh’s Staff Pride Network, in response to an event held at the same time by the University of Edinburgh branch of Academics for Academic Freedom (AFAF).

AFAF is comprised of a group of academics at the University of Edinburgh who advocate for the freedom of academic expression on campus.

The group has the support of individuals such as Professor Neil Thin, a senior academic in social anthropology at the University of Edinburgh who was investigated by the university in 2021 for allegedly making ‘sexist’ and ‘racist’ comments, as well as notable figures in the ‘gender critical’ movement including Rosie Duffield MP, Joanna Cherry MP, Kathleen Stock, Susan Dalgety, Allison Pearson, and Maya Forstater.

AFAF planned on screening the film ‘Adult Human Female’ at 50 George Square on December 14.

The documentary has been described as a ‘defence of women’s rights’. It makes the claim that only those born with a female reproductive system can be classed as women, which many have criticised as ‘transphobic’ for erasing the identities of transgender women.

The 90-minute documentary also rejects the statement that ‘trans women are women’ as ‘absolute nonsense’, as well as claiming that transgender people are ‘asking to take rights away from other women’, and that being transgender is an ‘invented oppression’.

The Edinburgh Tab reported that the event was shut down by protesters after the university insisted that the event still go ahead as planned, citing freedom of academic expression.

AFAF has since tweeted that it plans to reschedule the event to take place early next year.

In response to the planned event, the Students’ Association and Staff Pride Network organised a peaceful event which took place at the same time in Teviot Lounge Bar. All five Sabbatical Officers were present at the event, which was attended by approximately 30 individuals.

Organisers behind the event told The Student how it was important to show that staff at the University of Edinburgh stood in solidarity with students surrounding this issue.

Concerns were raised to the university’s Principal, Professor Peter Mathieson, by the Edinburgh UCU branch that the planned event was not in line with the university’s ‘Dignity and Respect’ policy, which states that the university must allow for ‘freedom of thought and expression within a framework of mutual respect’.

Principal Professor Peter Mathieson responded to these concerns by stating:

“Regarding this specific event, as I’ve mentioned before about previous events, as part of our commitment to freedom of expression and academic freedom, it is our duty to make sure staff and students feel able to discuss controversial topics and each event allows for debate.

“If you feel able to, please consider joining the event on the day and to engage in these frank but respectful discussions.”

This comes after a pro-life event took place in a university space in October, with the university similarly citing ‘freedom of expression and academic freedom’.

Robyn Woof, Trans and Non-Binary Officer at Edinburgh University Students’ Association, spoke to The Student in response to the concerns raised around the event. She said:

“The ‘academic freedom’ defence is ridiculous. This factually inaccurate, poorly edited film with puerile language would never be used as the basis of an academic argument. Material like this would only be shown in an academic context as an example of propaganda.

“The university currently allows any form of transphobia on campus providing the words ‘academic freedom’ are attached. They seem to have no interest in the actual content or context of the material and events.

“The university should not have allowed the event in the first place. They then handled the situation poorly. When I arrived at the original venue protestors had occupied the lecture theatre and I witnessed members of the crowd waiting to see the film attempting to force their way past university security into the lecture theatre.

“Despite a clearly hostile crowd and tense situation the university decided to send everyone across to the old college to a lecture theatre at the end of a long narrow corridor. When I got to this location I saw a man violently trying to push past 5 peaceful protestors whilst security stood and watched. I told him to stop and that I would video him, I was then surrounded in a narrow corridor by members of the crowd of around 150 people and subjected to abuse for some time before the building was evacuated.

“It is important that the right of students to peacefully protest on campus is protected. When formal requests are ignored marginalised groups can only get justice through direct action and I’m very proud of what I saw from the student protestors who successfully prevented the screening going ahead.”

Image “Transgender Pride Flag” by Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

By Lucy Jackson

President of The Student.