Edinburgh University’s award-winning LGBT+ staff network resigned en-masse this week, claiming Uni bosses tried to censor the group who wanted to speak out about an ‘anti-trans’ event on campus.
The staff network, which won Stonewall’s Network of the Year award in 2018, took the action after a perceived lack of support from the University. The staff network had already raised concerns about the “Women’s Sex Based Rights” talk, which featured feminist Julie Bindel, but were told they could not speak out without bosses permission.
Bindel has used the term ‘Trans Taliban’ and ‘men in dresses’ to describe trans women who disagree with her stance on gender reforms.
When the network wanted to call out the event for its possible risk to transgender students and staff, the University insisted on actions which the group say amounted ultimately to censorship of their views.
Rosie Russell, former Co-Chair of the staff network, attended the womens event and told us:
“As a trans woman I would say [the event] was uncomfortable. There was a medicalisation of trans identities by one particular speaker, which was interesting given the WHO declared transgender is no longer classified as a mental or behavioural disorder.”
“I also have concerns about how the event was chaired, especially the Q&A session, with a number of audience questions simply paraphrased by the chair and not answered at all by the speakers.”
A spokesperson for the University said:
“The University places great importance in the Staff Pride Network and its valuable job in representing the University’s LGBT+ community. We regret, therefore, that its committee members have felt the need to step down. Senior managers from the University have offered a meeting with them to discuss their concerns.”
The network committee have been upset at the withdrawal of Edinburgh University from the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index, citing a lack of investment in maintaining submissions for the Index. There was also a row about the new Rector, Ann Henderson, and her alleged transphobic tweet.
They also highlight the lack of action by Uni bosses after a spate of transphobic stickers were placed around the University campus and said in their resignation letter they were “viscerally upset that the good work over the past 3 years is being undone.”
“Edinburgh University is a fantastic place to work, whether you’re LGBT+ or otherwise. This has all come as a shock to us. But there’s a picture that’s built up over the past 6 months that we are very concerned about here.”
“We’ve been inundated with messages of support from LGBT staff and students and allies, stating that they feel this is the right course of action. I’m very hopeful that the University will work with us to get things back on track.”
Feminist speaker Julie Bindel said on Twitter she had been attacked immediately after the event finished as she left for the airport. This account has been denied by the trans woman allegedly involved, who was also misgendered in this Scotsman article about the incident.
The full text of the network’s resignation letter is below.