AUSA Politics & IR Society cancels talk with Gillian Martin over ‘transphobic’ comments

The invitation was objected by other societies

The University of Aberdeen Politics & IR society has made the last minute decision to cancel a talk with Gillian Martin MSP set to take place tomorrow.

The decision came after the AUSA Trans Students' Forum released a statement yesterday objecting the invitation of the MSP, stating it would "directly harm trans students by normalising an environment of hostility and misinformed bigotry".

STATEMENT:The AUSA Trans Students’ Forum objects to the invitation of MSP Gillian Martin by the Politics and IR…

Posted by AUSA Trans Students' Forum on Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Members said that providing a platform for Martin to speak would reflect poorly on the image of the university.

A day later the Politics & IR society responded by cancelling the talk.

The society wants to refrain from extensively commenting on the situation and focus on the future, but stated that: "As a committee, we came to a collective decision to cancel the event on the basis of ensuring a safe and inclusive environment for both our society members and all students of Aberdeen university".

Dear all, We are posting to inform you that tomorrow's event – a talk with Gillian Martin – is cancelled. When…

Posted by AUSA Politics & IR Society on Thursday, October 31, 2019

Gillian Martin has previously been dropped as Junior Education minister when blog posts from 2007 appeared.

The SNP MSP was an active blogger from the years of 2007-2011, and criticised the political correctness of colleges.

Being a lecturer herself at the time, she described "an orphaned, single-parent, gender-confused, blind, Aboriginal, one-legged, cross-dressing, lesbian, dyslexic, ex-con, Muslim" as being the "Holy grail" for the PR of educational institutions.

She also described trans students as "hairy knuckled lipstick-wearing transitional transgender laydees".

In response to the cancellation of the talk, Gillian Martin told the Aberdeen Tab:

"It’s a real disappointment that the event won’t be going ahead. For one thing, I would have liked the opportunity to directly address the issues that anyone might have raised in relation to the things that were reported about me last year.

"These are issues that I have been able to discuss in satisfactory way with anyone who has put them to me directly in the past. I support LGBTQi constituents in any way I can, as I supported the many LGBTQi students I taught for over 13 years as a lecturer. And the trans people I know personally in my own life have no doubt about my love and support for them.

"I’m confident that a discussion one to one with me would allay any misconceptions and concerns about my views, and would be happy to open my constituency office door to any Aberdeen Uni student living in my constituency who wanted to have that discussion.

"I feel particularly disappointed because I am working with students throughout Scotland on getting better support for estranged students, and I would have welcomed the chance to discuss that at the event and get their views."

Other students are now criticising the decision to cancel the talk in the comments of the Policits & IR society's post on Facebook.

Many think that universities should seek to spark debates, rather than censoring anyone with controversial beliefs.

A comment from Callum Morgan on the official statement points out that Martin has also apologised countless times. A decision to ban her from having a platform implies that the university doesn't believe in change of behaviour.

The LGBTQ+ Society told the Aberdeen Tab they stand behind the AUSA Trans Students' Forum decision to object the invitation.

A spokesperson from Aberdeen University said that "decisions in regard to speakers at student-led events are made by the organisers, in this case the Politics and International Relations Society, independently of the University".

The Aberdeen Tab contacted the AUSA Trans Students' Forum for a comment.