Decoding the Misrepresentations: A Look at Straw Man Arguments in the Gender Critical Movement

Ever been in a debate where your opponent twists your words, attacks this distorted version, and then claims victory? Welcome to the world of straw man arguments! Today, we’re going to explore how this tactic is used within the gender critical movement.

What’s a Straw Man Argument?

Imagine you’re in a boxing ring, but instead of fighting your real opponent, you’re swinging at a straw-filled dummy. You land punch after punch, and unsurprisingly, the straw man doesn’t fight back. Victory, right? Not quite. This is the essence of a straw man argument – a tactic where someone distorts, exaggerates, or oversimplifies an opponent’s position, attacks this misrepresented position, and then claims to have refuted the original argument.

Straw Man Arguments and the Gender Critical Movement

The gender critical movement, which often questions the concept of gender identity separate from biological sex, has been known to use straw man arguments. Let’s unpack some examples:

Straw Man:

Transgender and non-binary individuals want to erase biological women and men.

Reality Check:

Transgender women, trans men, and non-binary individuals are advocating for recognition and rights, not the erasure of cisgender individuals. They’re asking for a seat at the table, not to flip the table over.

Straw Man:

Transgender rights activists want to allow men into women’s bathrooms.

Reality Check:

The goal is to allow transgender and non-binary individuals to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity. This includes trans men and non-binary individuals using the bathrooms they feel most comfortable with. It’s about safety and dignity, not causing chaos in restrooms.

Straw Man:

Affirming a transgender or non-binary child’s identity is the same as medical transition.

Reality Check:

Affirming a child’s identity can simply mean using their chosen name and pronouns. Medical transition is a separate issue and isn’t pursued without careful consideration. It’s about letting kids express themselves, not pushing them into medical procedures.

Why Should We Care?

Straw man arguments can be misleading and harmful. They can perpetuate misconceptions, fuel division, and hinder productive conversation. In the context of the gender critical movement, they can contribute to misunderstanding and stigmatization of transgender and non-binary individuals.

Wrapping Up

Straw man arguments are like shadow boxing with distorted versions of our opponents’ views. Recognizing them is the first step towards more honest and productive conversations. So, the next time you’re in a debate and your opponent starts swinging at a straw man, call it out. Let’s ensure our discussions around gender and identity are based on understanding, not misrepresentation.

Want to Know More?

If you’re interested in diving deeper into this topic, we highly recommend watching the original video lecture that inspired this article. It provides an overview of arguments used by the gender critical movement. You can watch the video here.

Decoding the Hidden Messages: A Look at Dog Whistles in the Gender Critical Movement

Have you ever heard a phrase and felt like there was more to it than meets the eye? That’s the essence of a “dog whistle” – a term that’s been buzzing around a lot lately. But what exactly does it mean, and how does it relate to the gender critical movement? Let’s dive in!

What’s a Dog Whistle Anyway?

Imagine a whistle that only dogs can hear. Now, apply that concept to language. A dog whistle, in the realm of communication, is a coded message. It’s a phrase that seems ordinary but carries a hidden meaning for a specific group.

Dog Whistles and the Gender Critical Movement

The gender critical movement, which often questions the concept of gender identity separate from biological sex, has been known to use dog whistles. Let’s take a look at some examples:

Dog Whistle Phrase Surface Meaning Hidden Meaning
“Sex Matters” Only your birth sex should matter Used to deny the validity of transgender identities
“Homosexual Means Same Sex Attracted” Gay men are attracted to trans women Used to deny the validity of trans women’s identities
“Defend Women’s Sports” Advocating for fair competition in women’s sports Used to exclude trans women and girls from all sports at every level
“Keep Prisons Single Sex” Advocating for safety in prisons Used to argue for placing vulnerable trans women in men’s prisons
“Woman: Adult Human Female” A biological definition of a woman Used to assert that trans women are men and shouldn’t have protection from misogyny etc
“Defending Sex Based Rights” Advocating for rights based on one’s biological sex Used to argue against rights for transgender individuals
“Watchful Waiting” A cautious approach to medical transition Used to delay or block transition for as long as possible
“Protect Single Sex Spaces” Advocating for the safety and rights of women Used to exclude trans people from single sex spaces
“Exploratory therapy” A therapeutic approach to understanding gender identity Used as a euphemism for conversion therapy

Why Should We Care?

Dog whistles can perpetuate harmful stereotypes and contribute to a culture of exclusion. In the context of the gender critical movement, they can marginalize and stigmatize transgender individuals.

Wrapping Up

Dog whistles are like secret codes in our everyday language. They can subtly convey controversial ideas, making them a powerful tool in social and political discourse. Recognizing these hidden messages is the first step towards promoting inclusivity and combating discrimination. So, the next time you hear a phrase that seems loaded, take a moment to listen closely. You might just hear a dog whistle.

Want to Know More?

If you’re interested in diving deeper into this topic, we highly recommend watching the original video lecture that inspired this article. It provides a comprehensive overview of dog whistles used by the gender critical movement. You can watch the video here


Celebrating Pride: Exciting June Events

Hello SPN Members,

This June, we have a fantastic line-up of events to celebrate Pride Month. From discussions and seminars to performances and marches, there’s something for everyone. Here are the details:

  1. Queer Neurodivergence and Synesthesia: Podcast Discussion with Maike Engage in an enlightening discussion with Maike, a queer neurodivergent psychologist and synesthesia artist. Topics include being queer and/or neurodivergent in Edinburgh/Scotland, accommodating queer and neurodivergent students/staff at universities and workplaces, synesthesia, and more. Interested? Contact Maike via email at synesthes_a@outlook.com.
  2. Little France Pride March Join the LGBT+ Staff networks for NHS Lothian and the University of Edinburgh, along with the Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity for the first Little France Pride March to celebrate the start of Pride Month. The march will begin at 13:30, with participants encouraged to bring flags, banners, and face paint. Additionally, stalls from various staff networks will be available from 13:00 to 15:00 at the Chancellor’s Building reception. Even if you’re unable to participate in the full 1-mile march, come along to learn more about the support available for LGBTQI+ staff and allies. Date & Time: Friday, 2nd June 2023, Stalls open from 13:00 to 15:00, March begins at 13:30 Location: Chancellor’s Building Reception, University of Edinburgh More information and tickets: Eventbrite Link
  3. Sex Education Xplorers at Summerhall: 3rd June A brilliantly performed, funny, and inclusive show, “Sex Education Xplorers” explores the fluidity of sex and gender. The show is performed by the husband of an SPN member and starts its tour of Scotland at Summerhall at 2pm and 6.30pm on Saturday, 3rd of June. Find out more here.
  4. Pride, Protest and Place series: Creative Writing and Protest. Multiple dates: 5th & 6th June 2pm, sign up here. This is a creative writing workshop that will incorporate historical material from the Lothian Gay and Lesbian Switchboard archive. Workshop Co-Ordinator, Eloise Birtwhistle, will talk you through a range of writing exercises and you will explore the themes of queer protest and resistance.
  5. Finding Our Past: How We Collect, Describe, Access, and Use LGBTQ+ Archives Join us for an online symposium on 7th June 2023 from 10:00 to 13:30 BST. We’ll explore themes from our project, such as confidentiality and accessing sensitive material, and discuss how we collect, describe, access, and understand information about the history of LGBTQ+ lives. Project Archivist Louise Neilson will be joined by Hannah Elizabeth, Stefan Dickers, Nicola Maksymuik, and Elliot Holmes, along with Keith Paterson, a former member of the Lothian Gay and Lesbian Switchboard. For more information and to book your place, please visit: Eventbrite
  6. “You are beautiful just the way you are” LGBT+ Inclusive Service: 8th June An inclusive service at the Chaplaincy from 2-3pm, focusing on self-love and acceptance. Get your tickets here.
  7. Pride, Protest and Place series: Zine Making! Multiple dates: 12th & 13th June 3.30pm sign up here. This is a zine making workshop that will incorporate historical material from the Lothian Gay and Lesbian Switchboard archive. Workshop Co-Ordinator, Eloise Birtwhistle, will provide a short introduction in to what zines are and how they have been used in the past, and will guide you through how to get started on making your own!
  8. “Abuse That Dare Not Speak Its Name” Seminar: 14th June Join us for a seminar talk and launch event discussing gay men’s experience of intimate partner violence at the Apex Hotel, Waterloo Place, from 5-6pm. Reserve your spot here.
  9. Bespoke Tour of the Pleasance Sports Complex The Sports Union is organising a bespoke tour of the Pleasance Sports Complex during Pride Month. This initiative aims to improve the health and well-being of all University staff by acknowledging and addressing the historic lack of support for LGBTQ+ individuals in sports and physical exercise. Join us on Thursday, 15 June at 1:00 PM for a 30-45 minute tour of our sporting facilities. Renovations are currently going on in the facility but we can still access a number of spaces. The aim of the tour is to showcase what facilities we have as part of the membership options and what is available to staff, as well as making people more comfortable in accessing the space. We will also have rainbow lanyards and pronoun badges available. To secure your place on the tour, please RSVP to Neil at Neil.Rankin@ed.ac.uk by 2:00 PM on Wednesday 14 June. If you have any specific accessibility needs, please let Neil know in advance so that we can accommodate them accordingly. The tour meeting point will be outside the entrance to the sports facility at 46 Pleasance (What.3.Words: ledge.spicy.train) We look forward to seeing you on Thursday and celebrating Pride Month together!
  10. SPN/EREN Book Club: 20th June Join us for our first in-person book club in collaboration with Edinburgh Race Equality Network (EREN) and SPN to celebrate Pride month. We’ll be discussing Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo, a story of a young Chinese American girl navigating her identity and sexuality in San Francisco’s Chinatown during the 1950s. The meeting will be held in central Edinburgh, with the exact location to be confirmed soon. Register here.
  11. Wellbeing Walk and Bake Sale at Edinburgh BioQuarter As part of the Pride Month celebrations, Edinburgh BioQuarter is planning to host a wellbeing walk and bake sale on the 22nd of June. More specific details, such as the time of the event and the chosen charity, will be announced soon. If you’d like to contribute a cake for the sale, please get in touch with Dom Cairns-Gibson at Dom.cairns-gibson@ed.ac.uk.
  12. Banner Making for Pride Edinburgh: 22nd June Join us at Potterrow Dome from 4-6pm to create banners for the Pride Edinburgh March. Book your spot here.
  13. Edinburgh Pride March: 24th June We’ll meet at Levels cafe on Holyrood Road from 11.30am, then walk down to Holyrood Parliament for midday. Wear your SPN t-shirts and join us in the march. For the complete route, click here. We will have the big SPN banner (see photo above) so all can find us along the route or if you want to meet us at the end by Bristo Square there will be the SPN stand in the window of the Informatics building on the Charles Street side near the brass Rino’s head (on the wall). We’ll be collecting people from there if you want to go to the SPN chillout space.
  14. The BioQuarter LGBTQ+ Staff Committee is holding a Bake Sale, 11-2pm on Thursday the 29th June in aid of LGBT Youth Scotland. If anyone would like to contribute a cake to the stall, then that would be hugely appreciated, and they can be dropped off in the Chancellors foyer any time after 10:30 am tomorrow. They will also be giving out free pride lanyards and pronoun badges (first come, first served).

In addition to these exciting events, don’t forget our recurring monthly socials:

  1. SPN Evening Social: First Friday of the Month Join us for great conversation at The Royal Dick Bar in Newington every first Friday of the month at 17:30. Next date: July 7th, 2023.
  2. SPN Kings Buildings Coffee & Cake: Third Wednesday of the Month Join us at Magnet Café, Edinburgh at 13:00 for free cake and enjoyable company. Next date: June 21st, 2023.
  3. SPN Central Coffee & Cake: Last Wednesday of the Month Meet fellow SPN members at Bayes Café, Edinburgh at 13:00 for free cake and good chat. Next date: June 28th, 2023.
  4. SPN Virtual Social: Last Wednesday of the Month Can’t make it in person? Join our virtual social at 13:00 BST to connect with friends and colleagues. Next date: June 28th, 2023.
  5. Trans and Non-Binary Meetup: 4th Thursday of the Month A safe space for trans and non-binary staff and PGRs to meet, chat, relax, and discuss relevant issues. Held at The Auld Hoose, 5:30-7:30pm. Next date: June 22nd, 2023. RSVP here.

Please remember to keep checking our social media and email updates for any additional events that may be added. Let’s celebrate Pride together in the best way possible – by being our true selves!

SPN Comms & Media Team


When putting together a Pride Month display, Moray House Library staff noticed a lack of children’s books with LGBTQ+ themes. Our Academic Support Librarians are now looking into purchasing titles to add to the collection. Please send us (at StaffPrideNetwork@ed.ac.uk) any recommendations for timeless LGBTQ+ children’s books that you think would make a great addition to our shelves – and feel free to drop by the library to check out our display which includes LGBTQ+ books on Education and Sport.

Media available for Advertising:

📣 Attention #LGBTQ+ community! A research study is being conducted to understand how minority stress and childhood experiences affect depression. If you’re over 18, fluent in English, and identify as LGBTQ+, your insights are needed.

🔗 Take the 10-minute survey before the end of June: https://edinburgh.eu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_6xIkNUowfxdolhk?Q_CHL=qr

⚠️ Content warning: The survey includes questions about traumatic experiences.

📧 Questions? Email: s1530227@ed.ac.uk

This research is approved by the University of Edinburgh School of Health in Social Science Ethics Committee. #Research #MentalHealth #LGBTQResearch #PrideMonth

Bake Sale and Wellbeing Walk

banner-making session

Banner & Placard Making Session Potterrow Dome 16:00-18:00


Poster for Little France Pride

University’s Carbon Sequestration Plans – Climate Action Events

In line with our commitment to social and environmental justice, we would like to share some events being run by the Department for Social Responsibility and Sustainability (SRS). These sessions aim to inform staff, students, and alumni about the University’s carbon sequestration plans: offsetting our carbon emissions by creating woodlands and restoring peatland here in Scotland.

These events present a unique opportunity to learn more about how these initiatives will benefit not just the environment, but also learning, research, and teaching at the University.

  1. Central Area: Tuesday 6 June, 1.30pm to 2.30pm
  2. King’s Buildings: Wednesday 7 June, 1.30pm to 2.30pm
  3. Online: Thursday 15 June, 11am to 12pm

For more information, please visit: Climate Action: The University’s Carbon Sequestration Plan

International Asexuality Day 2023

Today is International Asexuality Day. To our asexual members we wish you a Happy International Asexuality Day and to the rest of our members today is a day to learn, to share knowledge, and to be the best allies you can be to our asexual friends. Feel free to raise awareness with our asexual flag Staff Pride Network logo design (credit to Gill Kidd, SPN graphic design volunteer).





Allyship in Informatics

 by Jonathan MacBride (he/him)  IGS Administrative Assistant 


Today (Monday the 27th March 2023) the School of Informatics emphasised their allyship of trans and non-binary people at the University of Edinburgh. It’s not often as a cis gay man that I see inclusion at a high level. Today I felt that little bit more valued, motivated, inspired, more proud to work in Informatics. Allyship is usually seen where individuals want to make a difference in ways they can achieve. Today the School of Informatics quarterly School General Meeting featured the Director of People & Culture Chris Heunen presenting the School Values, announcing a new family fund grant and then giving time for a former Staff Pride Network Trans & Non-Binary Rep to share insights about being a good ally to LGBT+ people. Dr Gina Gwenffrewi shared some of her personal story, comparing her life as an undergrad at Cardiff University 20 years ago, unable to be her true self, unable to achieve her full potential, to now at the University of Edinburgh where she has achieved her PhD, currently teaching Introduction to Trans Studies to UoE undergrads. It’s quite a turnaround which she puts down to being able to live and study as Gina, focussing only on what she’s here for. Gina highlighted that if we can all show respect and care to trans and non-binary colleagues and students that they will be more successful in their research and work, happier, healthier, more creative, instinctive.  

How do we do that? Baby steps are a start. A Rainbow Lanyard shows others that you are a safe person to approach. Hang one from your pocket or on your office wall if you don’t tend to wear it round your neck. Ask someone which pronouns they use and respect their answer. Add your own pronouns to your e-signature. Many people aren’t familiar with gendered names of cultures around the world so not only does it highlight your understanding of inclusion, it helps others know who they’re replying to. After all, here in Edinburgh a ‘Chris’ could use he/him, she/her or they/them.  

A non-binary Informatics PhD student explains how the world around them impacts their day-to-day life:  

“In most scenarios, I am the first non-binary person my colleagues will have encountered. Maybe English is not their first language, and they have never learned that it is grammatically acceptable and correct to use “They/Them” for a single person. Maybe English is their first language and they have just never had to think in this way before. There is nothing wrong with learning, and making mistakes. However, there is a huge mental load on being everyone’s first learning experience, that could be reduced by faculty members and staff simply by showing support in their actions and using the right etiquette. 

It takes a significant amount of energy (and quite honestly courage) to persevere through conversations where someone is knowingly and consistently using the wrong pronouns for me. All anyone needs to do is ask if they forget, and correct themselves and others when they make a mistake.” 

  • Persie Rolley-Parnell, RAS PhD 

What do I hope was achieved today? Perhaps a few people hearing a trans woman speak in person for the first time, personalising a message which they have only heard in the media. Maybe a message they haven’t heard before, particular to their role in the School, relating it to how they teach, how they interact. A fellow trans and/or non-binary staff member or student could have been sitting there feeling hope, that things in life will get better. Or simply that one person tells another that a trans woman spoke at their School General Meeting. Visibility makes a difference. Personalisation of an issue. 

The Informatics Forum reception has a small stock of the latest design of UoE Rainbow Lanyards, featuring a more inclusive Progress Pride flag. Anyone with a staff card can also get them free from Card Services at the Main Library. They are available to everyone from the Visitor Shop who sell them with a card holder for £2. 

LGBT+ History Month: Calendar of Events at UoE


February is LGBT+ History Month – this year’s theme is Behind the Lens. Join us at an upcoming event!

Some event details will be updated throughout the month. Please check the SPN member SharePoint for the most up-to-date calendar of events.

Table of Events


Date Time Venue Event
06.2.2023 18:00-20:00 Lounge Bar, Teviot
Trans and Non-binary Social Mixer – In collaboration with EUSA
08.2.2023 15:00-16:00 Nucleus Café
Western General / IGC: SPN Coffee & Cake
10.2.2023 17:00-21:00 Meow Studios
[Register for waitlist]
LGBTQ+ Workshop – Photography – Part of the EUSA Celebrating Queer Joy campaign
13.2.2023 17:30-19:30 Lounge Bar, Teviot
Ace+ Social Mixer – In collaboration with EUSA
13.2.2023 16:00-18:00 Sydney Smith Lecture Theatre
[Register here]
Trans Awareness event (for staff) – Hosted by HCA Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee
15.2.2023 13:00-14:00 Magnet Cafe
Kings Buildings: SPN Coffee & Cake
16.2.2023 17:30-19:30 Main Library
[Register here]
Our History: Real Voices – An evening event remembering Lothian Lesbian & Gay Switchboard, co-hosted by SWAN and Lothian Health Services Archive
17.2.2023 14:00-15:30 Meadows Lecture Theatre
[Register here]
Professor Zoë Playdon: ‘Making Trans History, Making Trans Futures’ – Guest lecture, hosted by HCA
17.2.2023 16:00-18:00 Chrystal Macmillan Building
[Register here]
Trans Awareness event (for students) – Hosted by HCA Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee
17.2.2023 16:00-18:45 Dining Room, Teviot
[Register for waitlist]
LGBTQ+ Workshop – Sculpture – Part of the EUSA Celebrating Queer Joy campaign
20.2.2023 16:00-17:00 40 George Square [Register here] PPLS Panel Session: What Barriers to Education do the LGBT+ Community Face?
20.2.2023 17:15-19:00 Centre for Regenerative Medicine
[Register here]
BioQuarter/CMVM EDI Committee Movie Night – with short films from LGBT Health & Wellbeing, followed by discussion and pizza
20.2.2023 18:00-20:00 Lounge Bar, Teviot
Bi+ Social Mixer – In collaboration with EUSA
22.2.2023 13:00-14:00 Bayes Café
Central: SPN Coffee & Cake
22.2.2023 18:00-19:30 Off campus @
Kafe Kweer
[Register here]

The ‘Sissy-photographer’: Gender through the lens of Jürgen Baldiga – Workshop for anyone who wants to understand more about gender variance and art history. No prior knowledge required!

24.2.2023 16:00-19:00 Old College
[Register here]
LGBTQ+ Workshop – Life Drawing – Part of the EUSA Celebrating Queer Joy campaign
27.2.2023 17:30-19:30 Lounge Bar, Teviot
Lesbian+ Social Mixer – In collaboration with EUSA
27.2.2023 – 28.2.2023   12:00-16:00 The Venue, Potterow Dome
[Register here]

SPN – LGBT+ Liberation Campaign collaboration with funding from IAD’s Student Partnership Agreement Fund. Launch event 27.2 @12:00. Submit your work by 25.2: https://edin.ac/40FuTNL

28.2.2023   12:00-16:00 Teviot Study, 13 Bristo Place Edinburgh, Scotland, EH8 9AJ (map)

[£3 at the door]

Film Screening: “Farewell My Concubine”

Palme d’Or winner at Cannes Film Festival 1993. Co-hosted with FilmSoc to mark LGBTQ+ History Month 2023.



Any questions about any of these events? Get in touch: staffpridenetwork@ed.ac.uk


Staff Pride Network Members’ Newsletter February 2023

Go to this Sway

World AIDS Day 2022: Why We’re Wearing Red and Fundraising for Waverley Care


The University of Edinburgh Staff Pride Network have had a long-standing relationship with Waverley Care, Scotland’s HIV and Hepatitis C charity. Cathy and Katie (members of the SPN committee) attended an event for supporters in October to learn more about the work of the charity to support those living with HIV in Scotland. We heard from a great speaker who had benefited from the support that Waverley Care offers, and had since gone on to work for the charity so that he could share what he has learned and gained from his experience with others in need. 

Waverley Care inspired us to support their Wear Red for World AIDS Day initiative, to create awareness of how the work of Waverley Care has provided support for decades, and continues to support, people living with HIV and AIDS.

World AIDS Day is marked every year on the 1st of December, and aims to bring people together to unite in the fight against HIV, raise awareness and challenge the stigma that surrounds living with the condition.

We would like to invite all staff and students at the University of Edinburgh to join us in marking World AIDS Day this year! Please take part by wearing red on World AIDS Day (Thursday 1 December), and by donating at least £1 to our fundraiser for Waverley Care.

Donate now via our dedicated JustGiving page.

If every member of staff at the University of Edinburgh were able to donate just £1 each, that could generate over £15,000 in donations for Waverley Care, a great charity doing incredible work in our city.


We are also delighted to be collaborating with Edinburgh College of Art in hosting an event on the Thursday 1 December at 6pm in West Court (Edinburgh College of Art): The Farewell Symphony, a talk by Sam Moore, is a musing on the AIDS crisis, disappearance, and queer histories. We hope you can join us for the event in your red regalia.

Register to attend The Farewell Symphony via EventBrite.

The event is free to attend, but if you have the means, we suggest that each attendee make a donation of £2 to our fundraiser for Waverley Care.

Donate now via our JustGiving page.

Learn more about Waverley Care.



Join us at Edinburgh Pride 2022

SPN at Pride Edinburgh

We invite members, allies and students to join us for the Pride Edinburgh March on Saturday 25 June!
The SPN marching troupe will be meeting at 11:30 on the day at Levels Café on Holyrood Road. Speeches start at 12:30 and the march moves off at 13:00.

If you can’t make it to Levels beforehand but still want to join in, just look for our marching banner – it will be 3 metres wide and looks like the image above!

For a quiet space after marching:

Members are invited to meet at the Informatics Forum from 14:00 – 17:00. Join us for refreshments and a marching troupe debrief! Please note that this private space is being facilitated for University of Edinburgh staff and students only. Entry will be via Robbie on the march, through the side entrance and building sign-in. Call/TXT/iMessage/WhatsApp (07905517428) or even teams message Robert (Robbie) Court to access later in the afternoon.

Note: We will keep this post up to date throughout the day and I’ll try and share our location during the march. 

Live updates:

Live location: https://maps.app.goo.gl/d8d45uCRVSKGdAi67

14:00 we’re meeting by the rino head / gift shop by informatics

12:40 were by the traffic lights

10:20 myself and the banner are now in levels cafe having breakfast so feel free if you want to be fashionably early.

8:44 Prepping for meeting at levels cafe. The refreshments are all ready at the informatics forum at the end of the Parade route. The banner has poles this year so wind permitting should be above the crowd. [fingers crossed].