SPN Committee statement regarding the appointment of Simon Fanshawe to Rector of the University of Edinburgh

The Staff Pride Network Committee had a blog here expressing their disappointment and worry about the appointment of the new Rector and the processes that led to this, but the University has required us to remove the blog due to their perception that drawing attention to Simon Fanshawe’s publicly available views on trans people (and our opinions on their potential effects) may run counter to the university’s Dignity and Respect policy. We look forward to an equally robust discussion about whether Fanshawe’s views and actions as Rector are in line with the same Dignity and Respect policy. 

A reminder that we are available on Instagram and Twitter/X as @UoEStaffPride.

University Alumni have also started this petition calling for Simon to be removed as rector which you can sign

Edinburgh University Students Association Sabbatical Officers have also released a statement on this matter

The SPN committee does not condone harassment or the targeting of any individual person. If you independently wish to make comment on this matter, we suggest you to contact the relevant area in the University’s senior management, or organisations who have authored any open letter, and not any individuals named in this response.

In solidarity with our trans & non-binary members

CW: transphobia, anti-trans violence

Dear network members,


We wanted to reach out in solidarity with our trans & non-binary members this morning to acknowledge the harmful impacts of the actions of the Prime Minister and other parliamentarians yesterday. Rishi Sunak’s hateful, transphobic comments are despicable. Once again witnessing political point scoring in the UK Parliament at the expense of trans people, made even more despicable and callous as the fact that murdered teenager Brianna Ghey’s mother was visiting parliament at the time, will have hit many of us hard.


But we shouldn’t need the presence of a grieving mother, nor another dead trans person, to make change. Our political opposition shouldn’t only call out transphobia when it suits them, and then continue to harm the rights and freedoms of trans people in this country and abroad.


It has, however, been pleasing to see support from people, particularly cis people who might be speaking out for the first time, across the country in response to this interaction in parliament. We also take this moment to acknowledge the people that have called out this hate speech, and who make continuing efforts to stand with trans people in the daily challenges faced in this country.


We encourage those of you who are not trans/non-binary to check in with your trans & non-binary friends & colleagues today. The repeated attacks on this community will be taking its toll. Be patient, remember people process trauma in their own way. If you want to reach out to the network please get in touch. There are also other resources available in the area through LGBT Health & Wellbeing, both their helpline: https://www.lgbthealth.org.uk/services-support/lgbt-helpline-scotland/ and specific trans support: https://www.lgbthealth.org.uk/services-support/trans/


We also acknowledge that these forms of support are not the only thing we need to do as a community to continue addressing this form of hate. The SPN will continue to work for trans equality & trans liberation tirelessly, and we welcome the contribution of ideas to help in this regard.


In solidarity,

Alex & Katie

Alex Morzeria-Davis (they/them) and Katie Nicoll Baines (she/her)

Co-Chairs, Staff Pride Network for LGBT+ Colleagues & Allies

Why pronouns matter


Staff Pride Network logo featuring 4 hearts with trans flag detailing

I See You: A Reflection on Trans Visibility Day

Rev Dr Urzula Glienecke (she/her) 

(written 12th April 2023) 


Flat heart-shaped decoration featuring the words "No child should group up feeling afraid of being their true self"

Just yesterday somewhere in the depths of the social media I saw a conversation between a mother and her trans son. It went something like this: 


– Happy belated Trans Visibility Day! 

– Yeah mom, it was last week 

– 👀 

– Mom, that’s not how you use this emoji! 

– I wanted to say “I see you, son!” 


It moved me to tears. I don’t know if it was a conversation that really happened, but that doesn’t really matter. What matters is that it could have been and (according to the famous German author Erich Kästner) that makes it true enough.mI have learned that being seen for who one truly is, being listened to can be one of the most important and profound human experiences. So, here’s a message to say “I see you!” I have also been listening to stories: real life-stories of real non-binary and transgender people about their joy, suffering, identity. 

Church altar decorated with trans pride flag hanging on the wall behind the alter with progress pride flag (including intersex circle) draped over the alter.

On the 31st of March we celebrated Trans Visibility Day at the Augustine United Church. There were agnostics, atheists, shamans, pagans, Christians and those who “hadn’t been to church since they were 10” in glorious, colourful, celebrating, vulnerable and powerful diversity.  


I gathered impressions, prayers and reflections by some of the people who were there. Here they are:  


Maxwell who led the event:  

“Vigil: Transgender Day of Visibility 31 March 2023 

Transgender Day of Visibility was started in 2009 by trans activist, Rachel Crandall from Michigan as a reaction to the lack of LGBTQI+ recognition of transgender people. It is observed on the 31 March every year. 

Thankfully, transgender people are becoming more recognised as members of the LGBTQI+ community. This has been an important shift. The advent of Trans Pride events throughout the UK is a sign of the increasing visibility of the trans community. 

This year, for the first time ‘Our Tribe’, the LGBTQI+ ministry at AUC that works in partnership with Metropolitan Community Church, decided to celebrate the day. 

So, on Friday we held a Vigil. We worked hard to invite as many people as possible – and it paid off, there were nearly 60 people who came to the event, including many trans young people. 

We invited speakers from the cross-section of the trans community to tell us why trans visibility is important in the world today and to reflect on what inspired them about the trans community. Having visible role models and out trans people who can inspire is vital to enable people of all ages to recognise themselves and be able to come out. Solidarity in the trans community is important along with supporting one another. Listening to the speakers was very moving and hearing the lived experience of trans people and our allies was inspiring and encouraging. 

We had the opportunity to take part several rituals. 

We decorated hearts and stars to hang on light trees. 

We dropped stones into a pool of water. 

We wrote our names on canvas, to mark our visibility. 

Rev Elder Maxwell Reay offered individual glitter and oil blessings. 

All these rituals encouraged us to feel more visible as members of the trans community and as allies. 

The Vigil ended with a prayer, written by Lewis. 

A little goes a long way – a little love, a little hope, a little joy, and a little glitter! 



A little goes along way! 

Water, Oil, Glitter. 

Anoint your heart saying: 

Blessed is my heart that can love and be loved unconditionally. 

Anoint your body saying: 

Blessed is my body that travels each day with you. 

Anoint your surroundings saying: 

Blessed is this space that it may be a safe haven for all 

Anoint those who you love saying: 

Blessed are our connections. 

Anoint your ministries and work for social justice saying: 

Blessed by the spirit through all that we do. 

We are all anointed. 

Water, oil, glitter 

A little goes a long way. 

Written by Maxwell Reay for Transgender Day of Visibility 2023 


Prayer for Transgender Day of Visibility 2023 

Liberating One, you know each one of us by our names. 

Our gender identities are a gift from you, which we celebrate. 

You called us out and have enabled us to live a true, whole life. 

You made us and from our first moment You knew who we are. 

We know we are precious to You and that You care about our lives. 

We know that there have been trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming people throughout history. 

Help us find these ancestors and learn from them. 

Thank You for the trans people who are visible in our society. Support us in our vulnerability. 

Let us take Pride in our lives and in the lives of the trans and non-binary communities. 

We thank you for the freedoms we have in Scotland, 

but we know there is still much to do. 

Give us hope that we will see our efforts come to fruition. 

We ask that the Gender Recognition Reform Bill will become Scottish law. 

Give us strength to rebuff the transphobia that we experience all around us. 

Give us courage to face the impact of transphobia in our daily lives. 

We ask for safety for all trans and non-binary people. 

For those who have been hurt or assaulted, we ask for healing of body and mind. Bring us wholeness through Your Love. 

For those who battle with discrimination and oppression, bring them endurance for the task ahead. 

We have reflected and celebrated our lives and the life of the transgender community. 

We ask for peace that is unshakable and hope that will not burn out. 

In the name of Wonder, Liberation and Wisdom bring us peace. Amen.” 

Written by Lewis Reay for Transgender Day of Visibility 2023. 



When I was a child I didn’t know anyone like me. I thought I was the only one in the whole world. And this deepened my feelings of fear and shame. So one thing I really like about being visible is that I can be a role model to others… and, in a way, help and comfort my younger self“. 



Maxwell facilitated the meeting and invited some trans people and Fiona to talk about what they find inspiring about trans/nonbinary and gender non-conforming people and why they feel it’s important to be visible. All the speakers were very hopeful and encapsulated the message that trans people are an important part of society, fully loved by God and bring unique perspectives on what it means to be human. Maxwell invited everyone to draw and write on wooden hearts and stars, it could be anything about trans people or the queer community that inspires them or they appreciate, or anything they felt lead to write/draw. There was a whole beautiful array of colours and messages when the hearts and stars were hung on fairy light trees. The whole evening was celebratory and positive, and everyone seemed to really benefit from being there.” 


It was a joy and a privilege to be there, to listen, to celebrate, to see and to be seen! 


Statement from Staff Pride Network regarding the protest against planned screening of Adult Human Female 


We co-organised a protest with Cabaret Against The Hate Speech to take place when the screening of Adult Human Female was due to place. Our protest demonstrated support for trans rights at the University of Edinburgh in a peaceful and non-confrontational manner. We published a blog detailing all the reasons the film is anti-trans and why it does not represent a suitable opportunity for respectful debate or discussion: https://blogs.ed.ac.uk/staffpridenetwork/2023/04/14/is-screening-adult-human-female-an-opportunity-for-respectful-debate-and-discussion/ 

Another group chose to peacefully protest the screening by sitting in front of the doors to the venue. While they were not affiliated with our protest we support their right to protest peacefully as they see fit. It is our understanding that the screening was cancelled because there was no way to safely access the building. We are not privy to the specifics of that decision making process. We continued with our peaceful, non-confrontational demonstration which created a supportive environment to show that many staff and students at the University of Edinburgh are supportive of trans rights. 


More detail if you’re interested: 

We are aware that our protest about the screening of a this anti-trans film has attracted widespread media attention. This comes with an alarming amount of misinformation, which this blog will address. Some of our members are now receiving direct messages of hateful abuse which have undoubtedly been fuelled by the heavily-biased media coverage. 


The headline of one major news outlet refers to the screening of a “gender film”. This headline is designed to attract the attention of the majority of the readership who are concerned about a so-called ‘attack on gender’ by LGBTQ communities, which is in fact being staged by the “gender critical” movement, who made this film. The film is not about gender. It disregards gender entirely in favour of making a baseless argument that only sex at birth is real. Such a doctrine is harmful for cis and trans people alike. Gender is real, that is why trans people exist. 


Members of the University of Edinburgh Staff Pride Network, and students, UCU and UNISON members, staged a peaceful protest across the pavement from the lecture theatre, which was led by Cabaret Against The Hate Speech. We did not obstruct entry to the venue. We sang songs, we created an atmosphere of positivity and love in the face of the oppression of the most vulnerable of our community. Our policy was clear throughout: do not directly engage with anyone there to watch the film or support the screening. Although unfortunately we were directly harassed by persons who were there for the film screening.


As the screening was open to the public those present included an MSP, members of the Scottish Family Party (who are publicly anti-women’s rights, anti-LGBT rights, anti-abortion to name but a few) as well as the woman who flashed the public gallery in the Scottish Parliament during the final gender recognition reform bill debate. The same woman attempted to confront our protesters while our co-chair was giving a speech. 


The University of Edinburgh staunchly upholds the values of “Freedom of expression”. Nevertheless, there is currently an atmosphere in which staff at the university are intimidated for voicing opposition to the platforming of misleading propaganda, with false accusations of “obstructing academic freedom/freedom of expression” being directed at us. Note: Academic freedom and freedom of expression are not the same thing. 


A direct-action group barricaded the entrance to the university building. And while the Staff Pride Network had no role in this, we respect their freedom to protest in any way they wish. We recognise these protesters were asserting their belief that de-platforming hate-speech is a necessary and effective counter to the spread of misinformation. 


We are also within our own rights to appeal to the university about how freedom of expression policies should be applied in an equitable and inclusive way. That is why no university member of staff would stage a protest that would frustrate any process of academic freedom. That the mainstream news outlets accuse us of attempting to block academic freedom is paramount to obfuscation. The debate about academic freedom is a straw man argument designed to distract the casual observer from what is really happening. 


We believe that film is not academic, because of its biased and low-quality coverage of the subject matter. To call it such is an embarrassing slight on the academic standards that we uphold. The film fully disregards the dignity and respect of trans people and covertly advocates for the removal of their current legal rights and protections, as stipulated in both university policy and law. 


We did not stop an 80 year old woman from seeing her film. The film is freely available online and has been for over a year. The screening of it on university campus is simply a power-flex by the creators. This is yet another example of the perpetrators playing the victim. 


The lived experience of trans people is not a debate. 

How about we stop attacking trans people and address the REAL inequalities in the system?

-anonymous queer, cisgender woman


The co-option of feminism as mechanism for attacking trans rights makes me sick. I do not recognise the questioning of gender identity as a valid form of academic praxis that is without harm. I don’t want to operate in an academia that condones academic methods that are rooted in colonialism and oppression of others. I thought we were trying to de-colonise our institutions, move away from out-dated modes of thinking and foster scholars to become qualified critical thinkers capable of contributing to wider society in a way that makes our world a better place? Perhaps that is naïve and idealistic, but it’s the future I choose and a future I will continue to advocate for.  


Women are a historically oppressed and marginalised group and the structural mechanisms that enable our oppression are widespread. These ‘academics’ and anti-trans activist organisations masquerading as ‘women’s rights’ organisations, have invested time and money trying to address what they see as a structural mechanism for women’s oppression – the rights our country (and others) afford to transgender people. This blog unpacked very clearly the arguments that proponents of gender-critical ideology cite as reasons we should restrict the rights of trans people. The rationale anti-trans people impose is that by restricting trans rights we will in turn protect the rights of women (by which they mean cisgender women, not trans women, of course). This is despite countless evidence that shows if you enable trans people to have equal rights it does not have negative consequences for cisgender women. Their arguments that laws might be exploited by predatory men might be a valid question were the emphasis of the argument placed on how we understand and then prevent predatory behaviour by those men, as well as supporting survivors of said behaviour. Instead, they labour the misapprehension that predatory men are somehow equivalent to trans women. Their refusals to engage with real evidence, or the misappropriation of existing evidence, and their reliance on false equivalences make it impossible to have reasonable conversations with these gender critical believers, let alone have a proper academic discussion.  


The existence of trans women and their presence in women’s spaces is not a threat to me. However, after years of campaigning for trans equality and trans rights, I can’t help but feel threatened by the presence of gender-critical people. That sick feeling in my stomach is a sign of discomfort. It’s the warning sign that my trans friends and colleagues are at risk of being attacked for simply being themselves. If I feel this fear as a cisgender woman, how do my trans friends and colleagues feel? I remind myself that with any significant cultural change you are going to come up against those that hate what you’re trying to do (usually because they also hate the people you’re trying to advocate for), and they will rationalise their resistance as not hateful but reasonable because their rights matter too. These same arguments have applied by white supremacists against the civil rights movement, by various flavours of anti-gay activist in numerous countries past and present and by men’s rights activists rallying against legislation to support equality for women, to name but a few. Admittedly some are upfront with their hate, some are a little more covert, but it doesn’t take much to recognise the shared tactics: the spreading of misinformation, the accusations of cult status on the marginalised group they’re attacking and the fear-mongering about the danger to women & children.  


I wish these people would consider redirecting their time and money into addressing the very real problems faced by women in the UK today. Maybe they could get angry about our sexist benefits system that penalises women with more than 2 children, and isolates those in abusive relationships as being dependent on their partner/spouse? Or how about our broken criminal justice system that is structurally failing survivors of sexual violence who are disproportionately women? Or maybe in our own institutions where the pay gap still needs addressing, particularly in senior positions? I want us to build a culture of mutual respect that is currently impossible when our trans colleagues and students are forced to justify their existence and defend their right to access spaces on a daily basis. These anti-trans activists keep accusing us of trying to silence them (despite their very vocal mouthpiece on a university platformed blog, and numerous events where their views go unchallenged), that we are refusing to come together but fundamentally why would someone willingly choose to engage with their oppressor? I’m not going to advocate for that. I will continue to advocate for equal rights for trans people because I know it does not threaten my autonomy as a cisgender woman. I know with greater equality there comes less oppression due to gender stereotypes. Including trans women in my understanding of womanhood only serves to expand what it means to be a woman. I will not be restricted to my biology and my capacity to reproduce – that’s exactly what the patriarchy wants.  

Gate-keeping women’s spaces doesn’t protect women.

-anonymous bisexual cisgender woman


You may think from the discourse that there are at least 2.5 billion trans people, but the fact is in absolute terms there are far more women who look like me accessing women’s spaces than there are trans people who exist in total. The consequence of setting up gate-keeping around women’s spaces being for “biological women” is not sexual predators with male pattern baldness being kept out of women’s spaces, but the constant questioning of the right of women who look like me to be there. 


I get harrassed constantly for the fact that I have short hair and a low centre of gravity. I last had “oi, are you a boy or a girl” shouted at me last week. Depending on the situation, I either ignore it or reply, “why does it matter?” which they always find very confusing. A woman in a group I was running at work said, “why are you wearing men’s shoes?” and I said, “I’m not, they’re my shoes and I’m a woman”. She did not comment further. 


When I booked a bed in a women’s dorm room and fell asleep after arrival, I woke up to a pair of anxious eyes asking me in Spanish if I was a girl. I said, “I’m sorry”? in English, and she immediately relaxed (presumably because she heard my voice) and acted like she hadn’t said anything. 


The last time a conference had a designated women’s space, I popped in there to have a sensory break and was followed by a woman who told me that “excuse me, this is a woman’s space”. And I said, “yes, I know”, attempted to read my book, but had to put up with her flustering and trying to apologise because “I thought… *gestures at my t-shirt and slacks*”. I actually left the room because she was being so weird at me and SHE FOLLOWED ME to try to apologise again. Her comfort, not mine. 


The last time I had someone challenge my right to use a women’s toilet, I was going into a single cubicle in a pub and the male shift manager shouted at me from the bar, pursued me across the room, knocked on the door until I unlocked and opened it and then said, “wrong toilet, I’m afraid”. I replied, “I’m afraid not”, and shut the door in his face. He then had to serve me a drink five minutes later. I carry a radar key for this reason. 


Now, this is the reality of my life, and the one concession I was willing to make to deal with it was getting my ears pierced, which for some reason people find reassuring. My internal image of myself does not have pierced ears but I can’t see or feel them so I don’t care. But the fact that I had to do it should be a matter of shame for every feminist who whines on about the abolition of gender while proclaiming they can always tell. You cannot. You are, in fact, quite incompetent at telling. 


In the ten years since I cut off my long hair for the final time (which in itself had been a concession to this problem), the volume of incidents has dropped significantly. Many people will initially misgender me, then quickly say, “oops” and then gender me correctly without having the emotional breakdown they used to, which is fine. The feminist battle to challenge gender stereotypes has been working, and the effort to create inclusive spaces has been bearing fruit. The attempts of awful people (and you are awful) to turn the clock back and start demanding proof of biological womanhood isn’t going to result in chromosome checks as a condition of entry to their lesbian book group. Such groups just won’t have a sustainable membership because LGBT people all know perfectly well what transphobic dogwhistles look like and we will boycott them into oblivion. The broader cultural impact of such moral panics will be cis men and women who do not adhere to stereotypical gender presentation being given odd looks and treated with suspicion on entering the room. And there are millions, M.I.L.L.I.O.N.S., more of us than there are trans people. 


Now, I regard every gender policing person I have embarrassed the hell out of as one more person who is going to think twice before challenging a trans person who will be more upset with having their gender questioned than I am. But it is really annoying, and it is a burden I would rather not live with. If you think that “clarifying” the Equality Act will somehow further the cause, you are quite wrong, and you and your children will suffer the consequences of your own actions. Attacks on trans women are attacks ON WOMEN, and your inability to see this is your hubris. 


Is screening “Adult Human Female” an opportunity for respectful debate and discussion?

By a trans member of staff at the University of Edinburgh who has chosen to remain anonymous


In December 2022 the University of Edinburgh cancelled a planned screening of “Adult Human Female”, a film that has received criticism for its one-sided and inflammatory depiction of trans people, after protests that the event would “contribute to an unsafe and unwelcoming environment on campus” for the trans community lead to a judgement by the University that “safety could no longer be guaranteed for all present”. This decision was met with calls of censorship by the filmmakers and their allies, and the University has now agreed to reschedule the screening for the 26th April, to be followed by a panel discussion. The University has argued that this film should be screened in the interests of academic freedom, freedom of expression and “facilitating an environment where staff and students feel that they are able to discuss challenging topics”. However, I argue that this film is not of sufficient academic standard to merit a showing on University campus, nor would a screening encourage “respectful debate and discussion”. If the University goes ahead with this event as planned, it would implicitly endorse unacademic and biased perspectives, thereby failing to uphold its own legal obligations “to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all employees whilst at work”, and failing to properly apply law and the University’s own Dignity and Respect Policy.


In order to explore this topic with nuance we must first examine the relevant context. There has been a 400% increase in journalistic coverage of transgender issues in recent years, with noticeable trends of oversimplification of the facts and concepts underpinning the debate, and inaccurate reporting around statistics and the law. A critical discourse study of representation of trans people in the British press carried out in 2019 by Paul Baker, Professor of Linguistics and English Language at Lancaster University, concluded that:

[While] on the surface there appear to have been improvements […] there are large swathes of the press which write about these topics in order to be critical of trans people and many articles which consequently paint trans people as unreasonable and aggressive. The picture suggests that the conservative press and most of the tabloids have shifted from an openly hostile and ridiculing stance on trans people towards a carefully worded but still very negative stance.


Such “carefully worded” negative coverage exemplifies tacit (or “dog whistle”) transphobia, defined as “actions designed to harm or take away trans people’s human rights […] even when not expressed in explicitly transphobic language”.


Moreover, further critical discourse studies have corroborated Baker’s findings, adding that their research had revealed linguistic patterns among journalistic coverage of trans issues which undermine point eight of the National Union of Journalists code of conduct, that a journalist should produce “no material likely to lead to hatred or discrimination on the grounds of a person’s age, gender, race, colour, creed, legal status, disability, marital status, or sexual orientation”, noting that “negative representations of transgender identities are offered to the readers, which contribute to the reinforcement of hate and transphobia” and linking the evolution of this coverage to rising rates of transphobic hate crimes (a 500% increase in Scotland between 2011/12 and 2021/2).


This anti-trans movement has been led by well-funded lobby groups who use recognised techniques of cognitive radicalisation to push its agenda under the cover of “reasonable concerns” and “free speech”. The main arguments of this movement, often self-titled “gender critical”, hinge on rejecting the concept of gender as a whole, asserting that biological sex is binary and immutable, positing trans people and their allies as delusional, and that any education on the topics of gender is ideological dogma. These assertions reject a wealth of academic research and oversimplify complex topics such as biological sex (biologists have been arguing that biological sex is not binary since the 1960s, and there is already a plethora of academic writing on how sex is a social construct). They also rely on outdated notions that transgender identities are a mental illness. Much has already been said about the flaws in trans-exclusionary logic. Suffice it to say the basic cognitive dissonance at the root of this movement renders debate extremely difficult; by rejecting the concept of gender identity, the entire academic field of gender studies is also rejected along with upwards of 60 years of research and analysis. The movement has received criticism for citing sources which have been roundly debunked for their methodological flaws and bias. It relies heavily on anecdotal evidence and lived experience, while rejecting the same from trans individuals and allies. For these reasons it is nigh impossible to have a productive conversation in good faith with “gender critical” activists, as has been documented myriad times.


Now that the stage has been set, let us turn out attention to “Adult Human Female”. The film’s main thesis, that trans rights threaten women’s rights, relies on the same assertions mentioned above: that gender does not exist, that biological sex is binary and unchangeable, and that at best trans people are deluded, at worst they are using trans identity to act with criminal intent. The film bases its entire argument on the idea that the trans rights movement is eroding women’s rights, right down to the definition of the word “woman”, hence the film’s title. Ignoring the fact that the philosophical thesis of “Adult Human Female” as the only definition of “woman” has itself already been thoroughly dissected and disproven, the name of the film itself is a well-known dog whistle, (a seemingly innocuous phrase designed to communicate hidden meanings to those “in the know” and to stoke outrage when criticised by those aware of its true significance): it directly references a publicity campaign by prominent anti-trans activist Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, AKA Posie Parker which was roundly condemned as transphobic. Keen-Minshull has spoken openly about how she believes transition is “preposterous” and that single-sex toilets should be policed by “men with guns.” She has engaged in public harassment of trans women, and has been linked to alt-right/neo-Nazi groups.


This film repeats Keen-Minshull’s (provably false) rhetoric that trans people are a threat to women and children, equating transfeminine people to male predators masquerading as women to get access to women’s spaces, and trans-inclusive education as “grooming”, a refrain recycled from Anita Bryant’s 1977 campaign to stoke moral panic against homosexuality in the name of protecting children and the family.


“Adult Human Female” focuses in particular on the prison system, competitive sports and public toilets. It paints trans women being placed in women’s prisons as a threat to the other inmates, with no acknowledgement of the extreme threat, both of psychological harm and physical violence, that trans people face if placed in a prison that does not correspond to their gender. Furthermore, the film does not acknowledge the abuse already inherent in prison systems, as perpetrated by both inmates and staff regardless of gender, nor does it seek to address this issue in any way beyond scapegoating trans inmates, who themselves are disproportionately the victims of sexual violence in prisons, as reported by Just Detention International:

One study of California prisoners found that 59 percent of transgender women housed in men’s prisons had been sexually abused while incarcerated, as compared to 4 percent of non-transgender inmates in men’s prisons. […] Once targeted for abuse, the majority of transgender survivors are subjected to repeated sexual assaults.


Turning its attention to competitive sports, “Adult Human Female” once again uses selective sources, this time to make the outdated and biologically inaccurate argument that “biological men” are innately stronger and faster than “biological women”, thus positioning trans women at an advantage if allowed to compete in women’s sports. This assertion not only perpetuates the misogynistic stereotype that women are biologically weak and need to be protected, it is also based on oversimplified and inadequate science:

Currently, there is no direct or consistent research suggesting transgender female individuals (or male individuals) have an athletic advantage at any stage of their transition (e.g. cross-sex hormones, gender-confirming surgery) and, therefore, competitive sport policies that place restrictions on transgender people need to be considered and potentially revised.


Policies that are based on similar pseudo-scientific theories have been shown to perpetuate racism as well as transphobia, finding that “testosterone regulations disproportionately affect women of colour from the global south.” According to Dr Vanessa Heggie, Historian of Science & Medicine, “the problem with sex testing for sports is that none of the ‘kinds’ of sex correlate perfectly with sporting ability, so any test will exclude competitors with no physical advantage.” Many factors besides biological sex can give athletes an “unfair advantage”, from socio-economic background to height, but we do not currently separate most sports by either of these categories. Indeed “Adult Human Female” altogether ignores the very real possibility that women’s sports exist as a separate category in part to prevent women from competing against men in order to protect the fragile male ego from the risk of female victory. The film promotes the idea that trans athletes are trying to “cheat the system”, perpetuating the transmisogynstic idea that trans women are simply men trying to use the guise of womanhood to get an unfair advantage. Such demonising ideology not only adds to the hostile discourse surrounding trans people, but in this case contributes to an atmosphere of stigma, discrimination, and even gender-based violence keeping trans people out of sport, access to which is considered a human right by the International Olympic Committee among other organisations. It also contributes to misogyny more widely: “‘Gender critical’ feminists are constructing and mobilising very particular, contested versions of biological ‘facts’ that are also lending support to the politics of anti-feminist organisations.”


The film once again turns to recycled bigotry and fearmongering in its assertions about the threat of allowing trans people access to the public bathrooms or changing rooms that align with their gender. Transfeminine are now painted with the same demonising brush once used for lesbians and bisexual women, implying that their presence in women’s bathrooms or changing rooms is inherently predatory. Not only has this been disproven, it also contradicts evidence suggesting that queer people of all genders and sexualities are often targeted with harassment or assault in these spaces based not on their biological sex, but entirely on their queerness. Queerphobic attacks like this are motivated by the very rhetoric of fear and disgust this film espouses against trans people. Furthermore, this rhetoric also negatively affects anyone who does not conform to rigid ideas of gender, and threatens freedom of expression for all. After all, the only ways to ensure that people are using the “right” bathroom are either by policing the way people dress and present themselves to more rigidly adhere to binaristic ideas of gender, or by performing invasive and degrading checks. Once again, the film plays into the misogynistic trope of women as weak and needing to be protected, an idea that has fuelled systemic violence for centuries and contributed to the oppression and victimisation of the black, gay, and now trans communities. It fosters a culture that puts trans people in danger not only of attack, but of the psychological and physical health consequences of avoiding using public bathrooms when needed for fear of reprisal. Myriad research by academics, healthcare professionals and sexual assault and domestic violence organisations has shown that best practice with regard to public bathrooms and changing rooms is to be trans-inclusive, or even to de-gender these spaces altogether and provide private cubicles. All of this research is absent from the film, the better to maintain its transphobic agenda.


The film obsesses over the imagined intrinsically predatory nature of transfeminine people to the point where it somehow ignores the existence of transmasculine people altogether. Unless, that is, it can set these people up as yet more victims of a “gender ideology” which indoctrinates young “girls” and persuades them to make irreversible changes to their bodies that they will undoubtedly come to regret. This not only further emphasises the film’s fundamentally misogynistic theme of innate female victimhood, removing all agency from these people in the name of “protecting” them, it also misrepresents the process of transition and statistics on detransition. Puberty blockers, a temporary and reversible medical intervention postponing puberty allowing adolescents more time to discover their gender, are associated with vastly reduced rates of suicidality among trans people. The referral period for gender affirmation surgery for trans people is at least 5 years in the UK, contradicting the sensationalist notion that children are being rushed into irreversible medical intervention. Rates of regret among those who have had gender affirmation surgery is incredibly low, lower than the average rate of regret following commonplace but serious surgeries unrelated to gender affirmation, despite the former’s much higher level of scrutiny. Detransition rates commonly cited by anti-trans activists come from studies that have since been debunked for their serious methodological flaws. Furthermore, studies show that the majority of those few who do detransition cite external factors, such as societal discrimination and unsupportive family, and that:

A care environment that welcomes and normalizes authentic expression of gender identity, affirms surgical goals without judgement, and de-stigmatizes the role of mental health in the surgical process are foundational to mitigating the occurrence of any form of regret.


Contrary to scientific findings, “Adult Human Female” asserts that gender diverse education and gender affirmation brainwashes children into making serious and irreversible medical decisions. This editorial decision at best infantalises transmasculine people of any age, at worst repeats the tired and offensive rhetoric of gender diversity as mental illness, thus contributing to the kind of hostile environment that contributes to the very transition regret they claim to deplore.


As evidenced by these points alone, “Adult Human Female” was made with no academic rigour and no respect for the trans community, and a screening will not result in a “respectful debate and discussion”. It advocates for the banning of trans people from single-sex spaces, in direct opposition to current anti-discrimination law, and disregards the advice of the World Health Organization by proclaiming the prejudiced view that trans people are mentally ill.


And then we have the panel members. All of them are contributors to the film and represent the same opinions I have debunked above. The panel will be comprised of the filmmakers, Dr Deirdre O’Neill and Professor Mike Wayne, a self-identified “gender critical” member of staff, Dr Shereen Benjamin, Lisa Mackenzie from the “gender-critical” policy analysis collective Murray Blackburn Mackenzie, and Susan Smith, the co-director of For Women Scotland, an organisation that has repeatedly spread fearmongering misinformation about transgender identities and related legislation. For example, For Women Scotland stated with no supporting evidence that “every country” with self-ID laws have had these laws abused by “predatory males and other criminals and fraudsters” (although no evidence of such abuse appears to exist, according to Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the U.N. independent expert on sexual orientation and gender identity). It also claimed that the GRC reform will provide trans people with additional protections in conflict with the Equalities Act (2010), where in reality it will only make the process of obtaining a GRC easier and less demeaning for trans people, and will not affect their protections which are already in place under the Equalities Act (2010). This biased nature of the panel undermines the claim that there will be space for respectful debate at this event.


It seems clear to me that the purpose of this film and this event is to promote misinformation and discrimination against trans identities, encouraging transphobic hatred in a concerted effort to undermine and overthrow the human rights of trans people, as set out in the European Convention on Human Rights, the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Equality Act 2010. The anti-trans lobby would have us believe that the refusal to platform their baseless fearmongering constitutes censorship, and that trans rights activists are some kind of internationally organised elite cabal. If that sounds like familiar rhetoric it’s because the ostensibly liberal “gender critical” movement has attracted the attention of alt-right fascist groups who are now influencing the movement in turn. The fear of an imaginary well-organised, well-funded global movement for trans rights is ironic, considering that between 2009 and 2018 Europe received USD$707.2 million in “anti-gender funding” with money coming in large part from fundamentalist religious organisations from Europe and the United States and “influence factories” and “laundromats” run by Russian Orthodox oligarchs. The sinister undercurrent of dark money, right wing organisations, radical figures and extreme ideology within the anti-trans movement is explored more in this award-winning limited series podcast.


The University’s argument that hosting this screening promotes “freedom of expression” not only undercuts its reputation for academic rigour and impartiality, it also fundamentally misunderstands this right as it is laid out in Article 10: Freedom of Expression of the Equality and Human Rights Commission: “Article 10 protects your right to hold your own opinions and to express them freely without government interference”. Nowhere in Article 10 is it stated that freedom of expression includes the indiscriminate right to a platform, nor the use of a University venue to disseminate one’s views. Refusing to host a screening of this film would not constitute “government interference”. It would not prevent the film’s supporters from holding or discussing their views, nor would it prevent anyone interested from seeing the film, which is freely accessible on Vimeo and Youtube. Cancelling this event would simply be the decision of an academic institution not to endorse a blatantly unacademic film and a biased panel event. As Article 10 also states:

Public authorities may restrict this right if they can show that their action is lawful, necessary and proportionate in order to […] protect the rights and reputations of other people. […] An authority may be allowed to restrict your freedom of expression if, for example, you express views that encourage racial or religious hatred.


Evidence shows that anti-trans stigma “limits opportunities and access to resources in a number of critical domains (e.g., employment, healthcare), persistently affecting the physical and mental health of transgender people.” And there is already legal precedent for deplatforming views that encourage discrimination. Hosting, and thereby endorsing, a one-sided event promoting anti-trans stigma constitutes a failure to provide the University’s Public Sector Equality Duties as laid out in section 149 of the Equality Act (2010):

  1. A public authority must, in the exercise of its functions, have due regard to the need to—
    1. eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited by or under this Act


Moreover I submit that this film and panel event both constitute harassment as per section 26 of the Equality Act (2010): “unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic [gender reassignment]” that has the effect of “violating [the] dignity” of and “creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment” for trans staff and students. I also believe that hosting a screening of this film would be in breach of the University’s Dignity and Respect Policy:

Expectations of the University as an employer and provider of education will be to ensure that:

  • It fosters a positive culture for working and studying which permits freedom of thought and expression within a framework of mutual respect.
  • It treats staff and students with openness, respect and dignity at all times.
  • Complaints of harassment, bullying or discrimination are treated seriously and with discretion.
  • Staff and students feel safe and are listened to when raising concerns about behaviour.


The only way the University could provide objective justification for going ahead with this event would be if it were to also show an equivalent film showing the counterarguments to “Adult Human Female” and provide an unbiased panel. However even then we must consider the issue of weighting. When equal platforms are offered to both sides of a debate, especially by a respected academic institution, these two sides are positioned as equally weighted, regardless of the result of the debate or the quality of scientific and academic evidence supporting either side. Political commentator John Oliver has illustrated this issue with regard to the climate change debate. The university has an important gatekeeper role here. Offering “Adult Human Female” as one side of an argument bestows upon it more academic merit than it deserves, much as offering a platform for climate change deniers skews the legitimacy of an otherwise valid debate.


In platforming the views of people who seek to spread misinformation and further persecute a marginalised group, the University of Edinburgh is in dereliction of its duties to prevent discrimination and the spread of misinformation, to protect the trans community, and to provide a safe and healthy environment for work and study for a disadvantaged and underrepresented community. According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s guidance on gender reassignment discrimination: “Indirect discrimination […] happens when an organisation has a particular policy or way of working that puts people with the protected characteristic of gender reassignment at a disadvantage.” A policy of “academic freedom” is all well and good when it does not directly disadvantage a protected group. Consider how it would look for the University to host an event in the interests of “academic freedom” about the (non-existent) dangers that homosexuals pose to children, and you will better understand why this event is discriminatory. I would argue that the University has objective justification for cancelling the event in the form of “taking positive action to remove discrimination” at the University. Sharon Cowan and Sean Morris put it best in their journal article “Should ‘Gender Critical’ Views about Trans People Be Protected as Philosophical Beliefs in the Workplace? Lessons for the Future from Forstater, Mackereth and Higgs:

In advocating for freedom of speech, it might be tempting to turn to the state as an entity which should remain neutral, ensuring that groups with opposing beliefs tolerate one another. But legislation such as the EqA [Equality Act (2010)] does not adopt a neutral position, nor should it. The purpose of such legislation is to advance equality by making discrimination unlawful, protecting those vulnerable to less favourable treatment because of a protected characteristic.


As a trans member of staff and a graduate of the University of Edinburgh I have borne witness to the changing attitude towards trans people within the University over the past few years. Before the heightened profile of our community in the news, there was ignorance, yes, but overall an atmosphere of respect, safety and dignity for the trans community here. Now, the University pays lip service to this community, even as intolerant rhetoric is protected and sanctioned in the name of freedom of thought and expression, despite the fact that such rhetoric contributes to an increasingly hostile environment for trans staff and students. I include below some examples of this increasing hostility:


The University spends what little time it dedicates to trans issues on virtue signalling. All actual work to make this community feel supported and respected falls upon the Staff Pride Network and PrideSoc, who do all they can within a framework that protects bigotry couched in academic terms and condemns proportionate upset from the objects of that bigotry as aggression or delusion. My trans colleagues and I have advocated for extensive and mandatory trans-inclusive sensitivity and unconscious bias training, but the University will not make room in its budget for the appropriate resources beyond optional training and toolkits that must be sought out and a short “Diversity in the Workplace” training course which was already out-of-date when I took it as a new member of staff.


And now we are expected to engage in “respectful debate” about our innate criminality and right to autonomy at an event that spectacularly fails the University’s Public Sector Equality Duties to “foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it” with a panel made up exclusively of people who fundamentally do not believe in our existence, our lived experience, our very sanity. These people made a film about us without our input, and with absolutely no respect for our dignity and rights, nor the science that supports affirmation, nor our right to self-determination. They appear averse to “respectful debate” on good faith terms, they will not have their minds changed, and they simply seek to indoctrinate others with their pseudoscientific, fear-based vitriolic hatred. Most people affected by the content of this film will not feel safe in such an environment, meaning that the film’s inaccuracies will likely go unchallenged, and transphobia will gain yet another foothold on our campus. “Adult Human Female” contributes to an environment of intolerance, hostility and violence and it would be an act of extreme negligence for the University to host, and thereby legitimise, such a baseless, fearmongering piece of propaganda. To quote philosopher Karl Popper:

If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. […] We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.


I urge the University to spend some time reflecting on its duties of academic rigour, bipartisanship, and the prevention of discrimination, as well as its understanding of the right to freedom of expression. I advise it to seek to find a more sensible interpretation of Article 10, one which does not apportion extra rights and protections to hate groups, nor encourage and platform such rhetoric that would impinge upon the rights to safety, autonomy and education of one of its most vulnerable communities.


Further resources:

“About Hate Crime: Transgender Hate.” Stop Hate UK, 30 Mar. 2022, https://www.stophateuk.org/about-hate-crime/transgender-hate/. Accessed 12 Apr. 2023.

“Equality Act 2010.” Scottish Trans, 16 Feb. 2021, https://www.scottishtrans.org/trans-equality/equality-act-2010/. Accessed 12 Apr. 2023.

“LGBTQ Detainees Chief Targets for Sexual Abuse in Detention.” Just Detention International, Feb. 2009, https://justdetention.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/FS-LGBTQ-Detainees-Chief-Targets-for-Sexual-Abuse-in-Detention.pdf. Accessed 12 Apr. 2023.

“Why Is ‘Gender’ a Man in a Dress | Agnieszka Graff in the Cycle ‘Poland for Beginners’ #KPLive.” Performance by Agnieszka Graff, YouTube, Archiwum Krytyki Politycznej, 12 Dec. 2014, https://www.youtube.com/live/ogj4iwsFus4. Accessed 12 Apr. 2023.

Ainsworth, Claire. “Sex Redefined: The Idea of 2 Sexes Is Overly Simplistic.” Scientific American, Nature Magazine, 22 Oct. 2018, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/sex-redefined-the-idea-of-2-sexes-is-overly-simplistic1/. Accessed 12 Apr. 2023.

Burns, Christine. Trans Britain: Our Long Journey from the Shadows. Unbound, 2018, https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/ed/detail.action?docID=5650123. Accessed 14 Apr. 2023.

Burns, Katelyn. “The Rise of Anti-Trans ‘Radical’ Feminists, Explained.” Vox, 5 Sept. 2019, https://www.vox.com/identities/2019/9/5/20840101/terfs-radical-feminists-gender-critical. Accessed 14 Apr. 2023.

Bustos, Valeria P et al. “Regret after Gender-affirmation Surgery: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Prevalence.” Plastic and reconstructive surgery. vol. 9, no. 3. 19 Mar. 2021, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8099405/. Accessed 12 Apr. 2023.

Datta, Neil. Tip of the Iceberg: Religious Extremist Funders against Human Rights for Sexuality and Reproductive Health in Europe 2009 – 2018. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, 2021, https://www.epfweb.org/sites/default/files/2021-08/Tip%20of%20the%20Iceberg%20August%202021%20Final.pdf. Accessed 14 Apr. 2023.

Dietze, Gabriele, and Julia Roth, editors. Right-Wing Populism and Gender: European Perspectives and Beyond. Transcript Verlag, 2020, De Gruyter, https://doi-org.ezproxy.is.ed.ac.uk/10.1515/9783839449806. Accessed 12 Apr. 2023.

Eyre-Morgan, Milo. “How to Spot TERF Ideology 2.0 2.” Cambridge SU, Oct. 2021, https://www.cambridgesu.co.uk/pageassets/resources/guides/spottingterfideology/How-to-Spot-TERF-Ideology-2.0-2.pdf. Accessed 12 Apr. 2023.

Faye, Shon. The Transgender Issue: An Argument for Justice. Penguin Books, 2022.

Flores, Andrew R., et al. “Challenged Expectations: Mere Exposure Effects on Attitudes about Transgender People and Rights.” Political Psychology, vol. 39, no. 1, Feb. 2018, pp. 197–216., https://doi.org/10.1111/pops.12402. Accessed 14 Apr. 2023.

Fuentes, Agustín. “Opinion: Biological Science Rejects the Sex Binary, and That’s Good for Humanity.” The Scientist Magazine®, 12 May 2022, https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/biological-science-rejects-the-sex-binary-and-that-s-good-for-humanity-70008. Accessed 12 Apr. 2023.

Gilbert, Susan. “What’s behind Gender Panic in the Restroom?” The Hastings Center, 29 June 2022, https://www.thehastingscenter.org/whats-behind-gender-panic-in-the-restroom/. Accessed 12 Apr. 2023.

Glicksman, Eve. “Transgender Today.” Monitor on Psychology, vol. 44, no. 4, Apr. 2013, https://www.apa.org/monitor/2013/04/transgender. Accessed 12 Apr. 2023.

Graff, Agnieszka, and Elżbieta Korolczuk. “Anti-Gender Campaigns as a Reactionary Response to Neoliberalism.” European Journal of Women’s Studies, vol. 29, no. 1 (supplement), 21 June 2022, https://doi.org/10.1177/13505068211065138c. Accessed 12 Apr. 2023.

Graff, Agnieszka, and Elżbieta Korolczuk. Anti-Gender Politics in the Populist Moment. Routledge, 2022, Open Access Publishing in European Networks, https://library.oapen.org/handle/20.500.12657/50542. Accessed 12 Apr. 2023.

Hasenbush, Amira, et al. “Gender Identity Nondiscrimination Laws in Public Accommodations: A Review of Evidence Regarding Safety and Privacy in Public Restrooms, Locker Rooms, and Changing Rooms.” Sexuality Research and Social Policy, vol. 16, no. 1, 23 July 2018, pp. 70–83., https://doi.org/10.1007/s13178-018-0335-z. Accessed 12 Apr. 2023.

Hines, Sally, and Tam Sanger. Transgender Identities: Towards a Social Analysis of Gender Diversity. Routledge, 2012, http://library.oapen.org/handle/20.500.12657/30602. Accessed 14 Apr. 2023.

Hines, Sally. “The Feminist Frontier: On Trans and Feminism.” Journal of Gender Studies, vol. 28, no. 2, 17 Feb. 2019, pp. 145–157., https://doi.org/10.1080/09589236.2017.1411791. Accessed 14 Apr. 2023.

Hines, Sally. 2020. “Sex Wars and (Trans) Gender Panics: Identity and Body Politics in Contemporary UK Feminism.” The Sociological Review, vol. 68, no. 4, July 2020, pp. 699–717. doi: https://doi.org/10.1177/0038026120934684. Accessed 14 Apr. 2023.

Jones, Charlotte, and Jen Slater. “The Toilet Debate: Stalling Trans Possibilities and Defending ‘Women’s Protected Spaces.’” The Sociological Review, vol. 68, no. 4, July 2020, pp. 834–851., https://doi.org/10.1177/0038026120934697. Accessed 14 Apr. 2023.

Leng, Mary. “Amelioration, inclusion, and legal recognition: On sex, gender, and the UK’s Gender Recognition Act.” Journal of Political Philosophy, 1– 29. https://doi.org/10.1111/jopp.12295. Accessed 12 Apr. 2023.

Lugones, Maria. “Heterosexualism and the Colonial / Modern Gender System.” Hypatia, vol. 22 no. 1. Winter 2007, https://muse-jhu-edu.ezproxy.is.ed.ac.uk/pub/3/article/206329. Accessed 12 Apr. 2023.

Maskaliūnaitė, Asta. “Exploring the Theories of Radicalization.” International Studies. Interdisciplinary Political and Cultural Journal, vol. 17, no. 1, 30 Dec. 2015, pp. 9–26., https://doi.org/10.1515/ipcj-2015-0002. Accessed 14 Apr. 2023.

Matouk, Kareen M., and Melina Wald. “Gender-Affirming Care Saves Lives.” Columbia University Department of Psychiatry, Dec. 2021, https://www.columbiapsychiatry.org/news/gender-affirming-care-saves-lives. Accessed 12 Apr. 2023.

McMenamin, Lexi. “What It’s like to Fight Bathroom Bans as a Trans Student.” Them, 31 Mar. 2023, https://www.them.us/story/bathroom-bans-how-trans-students-can-organize-for-bathroom-access-at-their-schools. Accessed 12 Apr. 2023.

Merelli, Annalisa. “The WHO Says Gender-Affirming Care Is Essential to Transgender Health.” Quartz, 13 Oct. 2022, https://qz.com/the-who-says-gender-affirming-care-is-essential-to-tran-1849654213. Accessed 14 Apr. 2023.

Moreau, Julie. “No Link between Trans-Inclusive Policies and Bathroom Safety, Study Finds.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 19 Sept. 2018, https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/no-link-between-trans-inclusive-policies-bathroom-safety-study-finds-n911106. Accessed 12 Apr. 2023.

National LGBT Survey: Research Report. Government Equalities Office, 2018, Gov.uk, https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/721704/LGBT-survey-research-report.pdf. Accessed 12 Apr. 2023.

O’Neill, Elaine. “Trans Rights and the Labour Manifesto.” New Socialist, 25 Nov. 2019, https://newsocialist.org.uk/trans-rights-and-labour-manifesto/. Accessed 12 Apr. 2023.

Parke, Cole. “The Christian Right’s Love Affair with Anti-Trans Feminists.” Political Research Associates, 11 Aug. 2016, https://politicalresearch.org/2016/08/11/the-christian-rights-love-affair-with-anti-trans-feminists. Accessed 14 Apr. 2023.

Pearce, Ruth, et al. “Terf Wars: An Introduction.” The Sociological Review, vol. 68, no. 4, July 2020, pp. 677–698., https://doi.org/10.1177/0038026120934713. Accessed 14 Apr. 2023.

Phipps, Alison. Me, Not You: The Trouble with Mainstream Feminism. Manchester University Press, 2020, https://www-jstor-org.ezproxy.is.ed.ac.uk/stable/j.ctvzgb6n6. Accessed 14 Apr. 2023.

Provost, Claire, and Peter Geoghegan. “Revealed: US Anti-LGBT ‘Hate Group’ Dramatically Increases UK Spending.” OpenDemocracy, 20 Mar. 2019, https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/5050/revealed-us-anti-lgbt-hate-group-dramatically-increases-uk-spending/. Accessed 14 Apr. 2023.

Ramsay, Adam, and Adam Bychawski. “Minister Met Lobbyists Ahead of Conversion Therapy U-Turn.” OpenDemocracy, 1 Apr. 2022, https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/5050/minister-met-lobbyists-ahead-of-conversion-therapy-u-turn/. Accessed 14 Apr. 2023.

Schafer, Hunter. “How This Transgender Teen Is Fighting against Discriminatory Bathroom Laws.” Teen Vogue, 12 July 2016, https://www.teenvogue.com/story/transgender-teenager-fight-against-bathroom-laws-hunter-schafer. Accessed 12 Apr. 2023.

Schmid, Alex. “Radicalisation, De-Radicalisation, Counter-Radicalisation: A Conceptual Discussion and Literature Review.” The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague, vol. 4, no. 2, 2013, https://doi.org/10.19165/2013.1.02. Accessed 14 Apr. 2023.

Stanley, Jason. How Fascism Works the Politics of Us and Them. Random House, 2018, https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/ed/detail.action?docID=6059961. Accessed 14 Apr. 2023.

Stryker, Susan. Transgender History: The Roots of Today’s Revolution. Seal Press, 2017.

Thorpe, Holly, et al. “Polarising, Sensational Media Coverage of Transgender Athletes Should End – Our Research Shows a Way Forward.” The Conversation, 8 Feb. 2023, https://theconversation.com/polarising-sensational-media-coverage-of-transgender-athletes-should-end-our-research-shows-a-way-forward-187250. Accessed 12 Apr. 2023.

White Hughto, Jaclyn M., et al. “Transgender Stigma and Health: A Critical Review of Stigma Determinants, Mechanisms, and Interventions.” Social Science & Medicine, vol. 147, Dec. 2015, pp. 222–231., https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2015.11.010. Accessed 12 Apr. 2023.

Screening Adult Human Female at the University of Edinburgh: A response

University of Edinburgh Staff Pride Network Committee 

This response also has the support of UCU Edinburgh branch and University of Edinburgh Unison branch. 


Free speech, academic freedom, freedom of expression. These are all phrases applied tactically to justify questioning the validity or the rights of people with marginalised identities. Most will be familiar with the history of scaremongering fostered by right-wing, often religious groups, designed to fuel moral panic directed at the gay community during the AIDS epidemic in the 80s and 90s which extended into legislation (including Section 28 in the UK) which limited the rights of gay people to live freely.  The arguments often centred around the need to ‘protect children’, typically due to the conflation of queer identities with predatory behaviour towards minors. Today, we see the same tactics being levied at the trans community and it is happening here at the University of Edinburgh under the guise of academic freedom.  


On the 26th of April 2023, the group Edinburgh Academics for Academic Freedom plans to screen the film ‘Adult Human Female’. Their event description begins with two provocative questions: 

  1. Is it really harmless when men identify into the female sex?  
  2. Is it progressive for doctors to modify the bodies of young people in the name of changing their ‘gender’? 

These questions on the surface may appear like a reasonable inquiry, when in fact they are a thinly veiled attempt to undermine the lived reality of trans people’s lives. Permit me to unpack this for you, and feel free to skip this section if you’ve already figured it out. 


The first question, by inference, is implying that it might be harmful for “men to identify into the female sex”. This sets up the premise that the organisers believe that trans women, who it appears they are referring to here when they say ‘men’, are just men choosing to identify as women. It questions the validity of their identities and implies it might be a choice taken for potentially harmful reasons.  


The second question is written in a manner that implies doctors are modifying the bodies of young people to change their gender. It centres the medical profession as the ones potentially doing harm to a vulnerable group. “Think of the children” – remember? Now, this could be the set-up for a discussion about surgeries performed to enforce binary gender on intersex children, children with diversities of sexual development, when they are too young to consent to the surgery or haven’t had time to establish their own gender identity before undergoing surgery. Unfortunately, if you are familiar with the content of the film, this is not the case. What do they mean by modifying? Are they referring to puberty blockers which are reversible? Do they refer to well-established hormone therapies based on those used by cis people at many stages of their lives? Do they mean trans affirming surgeries for which the referral period is currently at least 5 years in the UK? This “think of the children” style dog-whistle does not instill much hope that the content of this event will feature real stories from trans people who experience navigating trans affirming healthcare.  

Then there’s the decision to put the word gender in quotes. This implies they do not really believe gender is a real thing (and if you read their blogs on the subject you’ll know this to be true). It’s a consistent belief of those ascribing to the “gender-critical” movement that biological sex is immutable, binary and factual (erasing chromosomal and hormonal variation, intersex lives, and multiple non-European cultural worldviews) and that only gender is a construct. There is an abject failure to appreciate that the way we understand sex is also a human construct, something people have created language around in order to understand and label it. Furthermore, our understanding of both sex and gender, like all scientific understanding, is subject to change when given new evidence and information. 


Then let’s look at who is being represented on their panel. First, we have their film-makers whose expertise lies in journalism and film-making, so one might assume they will be there to discuss production of the film itself? Then we have a panel member who is staff at the University of Edinburgh that has organised a number of anti-trans events and contributed to AFAF blogs questioning trans rights, and another who is a member of a policy analysis collective who regularly writes about trans rights from a gender-critical position. Finally, we have the co-director of an organisation whose primary campaign function has been to prevent the reform of the Gender Recognition Act. So, how exactly will these two questions be treated by this panel? Every panelist appears to have the same agenda.  

  • There is no evidence of trans people forming part of the panel, so there will be no one to represent how trans people might experience the questions posed.  
  • There is also no one from the medical community, or anyone with academic expertise in human biology, available to contribute to these questions.  

We are left to assume that responsibility will lie with the audience. In the face of a panel so clearly opposed to trans rights and trans people existing on their own terms, it will take a very brave person to challenge this ideology. It also begs the question of whether it is even ethical to expect a trans person to put themselves in the position of defending their existence against people so clearly opposed to it. Then there’s the question of the role of allies in this situation. If you are not trans and you understand how hateful and problematic the content of this film is, what is to be achieved by arguing with the panel about it? Do you expect to change their minds? Is this the right environment to attempt to educate the rest of the audience about how problematic it is, given you will likely only have a few minutes to ask one question against the upwards of 90 minutes the film lasts plus the time the panel will have to speak? It is our contention that this is a fruitless task at best and deeply risky to someone’s well-being to be forced into the position of trying to challenge this event as part of the audience. This event represents an echo-chamber of 1 specific viewpoint that is very clearly a vilification of trans people, questioning their right to exist, under the guise of academic freedom. That the event is hosted at the University of Edinburgh only adds to this veneer of credibility as it appears our esteemed institution endorses these hateful views. 


We are putting efforts into supporting a peaceful protest outside the venue that will be an opportunity to take a stand against transphobia on our campus. This peaceful demonstration will take place opposite the Gordon Aikman Lecture Theatre from 5.30pm, allies welcome. Also on the 26th April, at 6.30pm HCA are hosting a talk entitled Saving Lives and the Colonial Project of Gender at the Centre for Global Indigenous Futures by Professor Sandy O’Sullivan, a transgender/non-binary Wiradjuri (Aboriginal) person leading the Intimacies node of the Centre for Global Indigenous Futures at Macquarie University. This talk in HCA was arranged prior to the announcement of the rescheduled screening.  

Lesbian Visibility: What does being visible mean to you?

Pictured: Anna Smith, Staff Pride Network Bookclub Coordinator


What does being visible as a lesbian mean to you?


In lieu of any formal events to celebrate Lesbian Visibility Week, one of our co-chairs and bi-rep, Katie, and our book group coordinator, Anna have had a virtual discussion (over email, fitting in between their busy work schedules!) about what it means to Anna to be visible as a lesbian.


Katie:    The big question: what does being visible as a lesbian mean to you?


Anna:    As a teenager coming to terms with my sexuality, I found the label ‘lesbian’ a useful one. It helped explain me, first and foremost to myself. Others had felt what I was feeling, had made sense of it and were out living their lives. My sexuality and gender presentation – things that marked me as different from my family and most of my friends at the time – also connected me into a wider community of people, existing in the past, present and future. Seeing lesbians in public life reinforced the idea that my identity was legitimate and not something to be ashamed of. As an adult I now try to be visible wherever appropriate, both to signal to lesbians who may be struggling to come out (either to themselves or others) that they’re not alone, and to signal to society in general that we’re a normal part of their world, too. I also hope that this visibility will help me to use my privilege as a relatively well-represented identity within the LGBTQ+ spectrum to be an ally to and advocate for others whose identities are not yet recognised or celebrated.


Katie:    Thank you so much for sharing that, I was wondering if you could expand on a few things for me? You refer to seeing lesbians in public life as important – was this generally or was it specific, perhaps well-known, figures that were helpful?


Anna:    When I was a teenager it was generally people in the arts such as the author Sarah Waters and the musicians Tegan and Sara Quinn who were particularly helpful to me. These women were open about their sexuality, successful in their fields and were creating work that featured characters and narratives that resonated with me. Lesbian pop-culture websites such as AfterEllen (and later Autostraddle) also helped me feel part of a cultural conversation on lesbian and LGBTQ+ issues at a time when I had very few people in my offline life who I felt I could discuss these things with.


Katie:   It just goes to show how important representation is. You also mentioned earlier that being a lesbian is a ‘well represented identity’ could you clarify this a little – do you mean, the average person may know that lesbians exist more so than other LGBT+ identities? Is this related to the fact there are now some quite famous lesbians in public life, politicians and celebrities etc…?


Anna:    Yes, I think ‘lesbian’ is an identity that the average non-LGBTQ+ person will have at least heard of and that many people will understand. For example, I would not expect to have to educate my colleagues, my boss or my GP on the basics of what being a lesbian means. I think this is partly down to the visibility of lesbians in public life, and in particular lesbians working on the creative side of the media in which we are depicted, for example lesbian film-makers, television writers etc. Other folks in the LGBTQ+ community don’t have that luxury because there are always more barriers in place for trans, pansexual or non-binary people (for example) trying to get a platform from which to tell their stories than for gay or lesbian people. Sadly, prejudice from the gay and lesbian communities towards more marginalised sexual and gender identities often contributes to this problem.


Katie: Do you have anything else to add?


Anna: Representation of lesbians has come a long way in recent years due to the work of activists both in and outside the public eye. However, there’s still some way to go, particularly in terms of increasing visibility for lesbians with other intersecting identities such as race, class and disability. I’m hopeful that in the future lesbians (and indeed any LGBTQ+ person), regardless of their situation or background, can see themselves accurately represented in society.



Lesbian Visibility: Shining a Light on Lesbian Authors

by Anna Smith, Coordinator of the Staff Pride Network Book Club


As part of Lesbian Visibility week I thought I would compile a list of books by lesbian authors, with lesbian characters, or both. This list is by no means exhaustive or representative of the objectively ‘most notable’ works around; it’s simply a collection of authors whose work I get excited about. A note of caution – often an author’s work may feature queer women but there is no record of the author’s sexuality, which is fair enough because that’s absolutely their business, but I’m hesitant to apply a label of ‘lesbian’ to these works given how often bisexual and otherwise queer-identified women are erased in LGBTQ spaces and dialogues. I’ve tried to stick to works where either there’s some public record that the author self-identifies as a lesbian, and/or the character in the work only has relationships with female-identified people. Please accept my apologies for (and let me know about) any errors! Furthermore, while I’ve attempted to make the list as diverse as possible I recognise that as a cis, white woman my reading (and therefore my recommendations) will probably have a cis- and white-centric bias, and I would encourage readers to seek out works by and featuring lesbians from the trans, BME, disabled and neurodiverse communities.


Lesbian authors whose work I am familiar with:

Becky Chambers

Chambers’ science fiction series, which starts with The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, imagines a far-future society in which humans have left Earth, met up with aliens, and are now trying to make their way in intergalactic society. Chambers’ novels often feature multiple queer characters and put questions of friendship, identity and cross-cultural co-operation and understanding front and centre. Plus, y’know, spaceships! What more do you want!?

Emma Donoghue

Most famous for the contemporary novel Room, Donoghue has written many novels set in different time periods. I am a particular fan of Life Mask, a work of historical fiction which follows the life of sculptor Anne Damer in the Georgian period. It focuses on Damer’s life burgeoning friendship with – and feelings for – a well-known actress of the time. Donoghue has also written lesbian characters in her short story collections Astray and Touchy Subjects. 


Jackie Kay

Jackie Kay is a Scottish poet, playwright and novelist who I was first introduced to when I read her memoir Red Dust Road, which interweaves reflections on her experiences of being adopted by a white family with the story of how she sought and met with her biological parents as an adult. Red Dust Road is a powerful exploration of identity and the concept of belonging.


Carmen Maria Machado

I read Carmen Maria Machado’s short story collection Her Body and Other Parties on the recommendation of a friend and was absolutely blown away. Often featuring lesbian or queer women, the stories have a way of drilling right down to the bones (sometimes literally, given the often horror-inflected nature of the narratives) of their chosen themes. Despite all being set in worlds which are recognisably present or near-future, there’s a broad spectrum here in terms of the degree to which the fantastical is allowed to manifest, and Machado wields the tools of magical realism with precision and wit.


Tamsyn Muir

I first heard about Muir at Worldcon last year, and have gleefully devoured her short stories Union and The Deepwater Bride, which are wonderfully creepy works of science fiction featuring lesbian characters. Her debut novel Gideon the Ninth has been described by the author as “just a collection of swordfights and people leaning in doorways” but by many other people as a thrilling adventure featuring lesbian necromancers in space. IN SPACE! I am, alas, waiting for it to come out in paperback so haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading it.


Sarah Waters

Queen of lesbian historical fiction, has written several novels with lesbian protagonists. I’d personally recommend Fingersmith as a starting point, a gothic romance set in Victorian England, in which a thief plots to con a reclusive heiress out of her inheritance by posing as a ladies’ maid. Waters’ other works include Tipping the Velvet, Night Watch and The Paying Guests.


Jeanette Winterson

I think most people probably know who Jeanette Winterson is, right? She’s best known for Oranges are Nor the Only Fruit, a novel based on her own childhood and adolescence coming to terms with her sexuality as an adopted child of very religious parents. She’s incredibly prolific and everyone who reads her work probably has their own favourites, but I love The Passion, a fantastical story following two protagonists (one a queer woman) across France and Italy during the Napoleonic wars.


Interesting-sounding books with lesbian authors or characters which I haven’t read:

The Labyrinth’s Archivist by Day Al-Mohamed

A Two-Spirit Journey (non-fiction) by Ma-Nee Chacaby

The Confessions of Frannie Langton  by Sara Collins

A Safe Girl to Love (short story collection) by Casey Plett

The Seep by Chana Porter

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me (graphic novel) by Mariko Tamaki & Rosemary Valero-O’Connell

Shout out to the Lesbrary and Tor Publishing’s Queering SF series are other good sources for recommendations.