Committee Statement re Schools & Gender Diversity Event
Dear Staff Pride Network Members,
An event entitled ‘Schools and Gender Diversity’ has gone live. The Committee are upset and disappointed that another event featuring speakers with a history of transphobia will take place on our campus.
Despite being advertised as a research seminar it is not clear what research is being presented by Dr Benjamin or Prof Moore. We would be interested to hear objective, fact-based, pedagogic research. From what we understand of the work conducted by Ms Davies-Arai of Transgender Trend, they produced guidance for schools in England and Wales which has been resolutely denounced by Stonewall, stating, “It is a deeply damaging document, packed with factually inaccurate content”(1). We feel that the three speakers at this event will provide a biased viewpoint on supporting schoolchildren. The only challenge, if any, will have to come from the audience and will be reliant upon the chair to ensure questions to address the bias are answered.
University senior management invited us to meet with a view to establishing ways in which to reduce the harmful impact of this event on the trans and non-binary community here at the University. They informed us that the University does not endorse this event, it is permitted under academic freedom, and have indicated that they want to work with SPN, EUSA and PrideSoc student network to support trans and non-binary staff and students at this difficult time. Nonetheless we have made it clear that, without a statement to the opposite, the University will be seen as endorsing this event simply by hosting it on University premises and that the Staff Pride Network sees no way to make the event not harmful. We will continue to support staff and students with informative, unbiased events.
The event organiser has told the media that the SPN were invited to participate in this research seminar. In fact, they invited us to participate in an ‘in conversation with’ event on this topic which was proposed as a balanced discussion. We understand LGBT Youth Scotland and Scottish Trans Alliance were also invited to that event and that they declined to participate over concerns for the safety of their staff and that they would not share a platform with speakers who do not accept trans identities as valid. We agree with this stance and declined to participate in any event with these speakers. We met with the chair of the University compliance committee and they advised us that without balance the ‘in conversation with’ event would not be approved. This research seminar approved by the compliance committee appears to be the same event, with the same speakers as the previous proposed event, but without balance. At no point were we invited to participate in the research seminar. Due to the refusal of the organiser to host a different event, we are at initial stages of planning an event to explore the imminent Scottish Government guidance, to counteract misinformation, to include speakers who affirm trans people’s existence, not advocate the rolling back of hard-fought legal rights.
We believe that having these speakers with these beliefs at a University of Edinburgh sanctioned event contravenes the University’s commitment to Dignity and Respect(2) and Trans Equality(3) and these speakers should not be allowed this space. It does not “create a positive culture for our trans and non-binary students and staff where they feel supported and respected to live as their true selves”. Indeed, staff and students have told us they are considering leaving the University due to management appearing to endorse speakers such as these.
Staff Pride Network Committee
From event organisers via Eventbrite:
“We are sorry to inform you that the research seminar on Schools and Gender Diversity has had to be postponed. We aim to re-schedule the seminar early next year.”
The Staff Pride Network Committee are relieved the event is not going ahead at this time and we are working with the University to provide a safe, inclusive environment for ALL staff and students to work and study.