Organisers of an event at the University of Edinburgh about gender identity in schools have said LGBT+ organisations have declined to take part, leaving only gender-critical panelists lined-up as speakers in December.

‘Schools and Gender Diversity’ is being hosted at the Teviot Lecture Theatre in the capital on 11th December and is billed as a gathering of views on the updated schools guidance supporting trans young people and a discussion about the safeguards required to “help inform the ongoing public debate in Scottish education”.

The main speakers are prominent gender-critical women, Prof. Michele Moore of London’s South Bank University, and the Founder of Transgender Trend, Stephanie Davies-Arai. If no other speakers step forward, there is likely to be a lack of diversity in views, especially from those with experience supporting trans young people in schools.

University of Edinburgh Senior Lecturer, Dr Shereen Benjamin, told us that LGBT groups were invited to attend, but either declined or failed to respond:

“A range of speakers were invited to take part in this event. We asked LGBT Youth Scotland, and the University of Edinburgh Staff Pride Network, both of whom declined. We also asked the Scottish Trans Alliance to take part, but they did not respond. I am disappointed by these reactions, given that dialogue and debate are key to understanding these complex issues.”

Neither LGBT Youth Scotland or the university’s LGBT Staff Network provided a statement before our publication deadline, despite efforts to contact them.

The university faced a backlash in June this year from its internal LGBT staff network, who all resigned following the announcement of an event on women’s sex-based rights, featuring controversial speaker Julie Bindel.

Elliot Byrom, the trans and non-binary officer with the university’s Student Union, released a statement on Twitter, saying:

Elliot Byrom“As with the event in June, neither the panel nor the framing of this event are balanced, and the perspectives articulated by the speakers pose a real threat to the safety and wellbeing of trans people, particularly young people currently in education.”

“Education is a fundamental human right, and trans students – whether at school, college or university – should be able to access education without fear of harassment or discrimination. A culture of support and inclusion benefits all student, trans and cis.”

“It is frustrating that, despite extended dialogue between ourselves and the University, they have allowed this event to go ahead, even in the knowledge that it will have a significant negative impact on trans members of our community.”

The university itself has faced criticism online, including a number of people upset that the event is being hosted within the university grounds, with bosses sticking to an argument of freedom of expression in this case, regardless of the feelings of trans students or staff.

A spokesman for the University of Edinburgh said:

“Freedom of expression within the law is central to the concept of a university. The University of Edinburgh recognises and upholds the fundamental importance of freedom of expression, and seeks to foster a culture that enables it to take place within a framework of mutual respect.”

Pride Edinburgh, Scotland’s longest running Pride event, use the Bristo Square and Teviot complex for their annual festival, with more than 10,000 people attending earlier this year, just yards from the proposed seminar venue.

Brett Herriot, Chair of Pride Edinburgh, told us:

“We are saddened and highly disturbed with the upcoming seminar to be held at the University of Edinburgh on 11th December.  Whilst the event is being advertised as an open debate on transgender inclusion in schools, if it only features those with outspoken negative views on transgender issues then what’s the point? It seems obvious that this event will be purely negative about trans experiences and one-sided.”

“All sides in this ‘debate’ have called for a higher standard of engagement and discussion, away from social media, but this example isn’t how debate should work. We urge the organisers to rethink the panel to create a balanced discussion, featuring experts with lived experience of supporting trans young people in Scottish schools. If that cannot be achieved, then for the sake of the university’s integrity, the event should not take place at all.”

“We, as always, stand with the trans community as one.”

Pride Edinburgh march – June 2019


  1. they wll only be voiceless if the organisations which claim to represent them continue to refuse to take part in discussions – and then complain that the event does not include their point of view. I think we need to hear them explain their standpoint in a calm atmosphere and answer questions. that is the grown up thing to do

  2. The organisers asked staff pride network to get involved in the set up of the event. They declined. And now they are complaining the panel is not balanced. It is typical of the cancel culture that increasingly exists around the questions of gender identity. All I know is that many professionals who have decades of experience with autistic kids have seen a huge rise recently in kids identifying as trans and taking puberty blockers. They are rightfully worried. There needs to be a conversation. “Genderists” are refusing to present their evidences and call for all discussions to be cancelled if they disagree with the experts platformed. This is very worrying.

  3. Edinburgh Staff Pride Network tweeted a reply to us that they had been asked to suggest speakers but declined. Seems a bit odd that people who are offered an opportunity to take part and mould the event should refuse to, then smear the people that do take part.
    In any event they are organising another Event so we’ll have two to attend! Isn’t that a positive?
    This autism language of “unsafe” and the like has no place at a University. Universities are sites of contested positions, arguing from your corner. It isn’t acceptable that a place that confers degrees should be wrapping students and staff in cotton wool.

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