Durham grad resigns as President-Elect of the Student Humanists after transphobic tweet

He retweeted a tweet saying ‘women don’t have penises’


Angelo Sofocleous resigned from his role as President-Elect of Student Humanists following backlash he faced when he retweeted a transphobic tweet saying "women don't have penises".

In his resignation post, Angelo stated the tweet could have come across as transphobic "by individuals who cannot tolerate any criticism, either of their movement or their ideas, and are unable to engage in a civilised conversation on issues they disagree on."

He also tweeted other criticisms of the transgender movement.

Angelo, who studied Philosophy and Psychology at Durham, is due to start a Masters in Philosophy in October. He was previously an editor at the Palatinate, Durham's student newspaper, and the President of the Durham Humanist Students Society before deciding to run for the role of President of the Student Humanists in November 2017.

Angelo was also fired from his role of assistant editor for Critique, the publication run by Durham's undergraduate Philosophy Society.

Critique denounced Sofocleous' statement, saying it "belittled trans experiences". The new Editor-in-Chief Sebastian has said the publication will "not be tolerating TERFs or bowing to their pressure". The term TERF stands for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist. People who identify as TERFs do not believe that trans women are "real" women because they do not posses the biological traits that women typically have.

Student Humanists are the student branch of Humanists UK, a non-religious organisation that believes in science over the idea of the supernatural when understanding how the universe works and focusses on making decisions based on "reason, empathy and concern for human beings".

Humanists UK have declined to comment on the specific incident but have stressed they "support the freedom of all people to make choices about their own lives to the extent that they do not harm others. In line with this, we have a longstanding commitment to supporting the human rights and dignity of transgender people and their equal treatment."

The Durham LGBT+ association said: "We welcome the decision of the Philosophy Society to not tolerate transphobia or any form of bigotry from their representatives. We appreciate the solidarity from the Philosophy Society despite the backlash they have received over this decision."

Angelo commented: "This is an act of dismissal of free speech, where an individual is punished for making a political statement. It is a disgrace that this came from the Philosophy society, a society which should aim to advance freedom of speech and encourage debate on all kinds of issues, especially issues which affect women. Instead, on this occasion, debate was shut down, and it makes it worse that this was done by two men.

"The statement that ‘women don’t have penises’ aims to attack the concept of gender and criticise whether an individual can claim to be a woman/man just because they ‘feel like a woman/man’. The very notion of ‘feeling like a woman/man’, which is empty if we are talking about gender as a social construct, is what restricts individuals to freely express themselves. In cases where gender has a biological notion, as many trans activists argue, then there is no need to distinguish sex from gender. 'Women don't have penises' is simply a gender-critical statement which says that feelings or emotions should not determine government policy nor dictate the boundaries of free speech, and also aims to protect what it means to be a female in today's society.

"It is a shame that Ry Lo and Sebastián Sánchez-Schilling, because of their hierarchical position, have formed a 'thought police' and scrutinise what others believe without engaging into debate. These are individuals who think they hold the absolute right to determine which ideas can be discussed and what language can be used in a public forum.

"One should be able to criticise the identity of others and whether such identity even exists in the first place. Individuals have every right to think that they belong in any sex/gender/race/age they feel. However, this does not mean that society needs to accept the damaging concrete boundaries that exist between these abstract categories. We should, instead, fight to abolish these restrictive labels and emancipate individuals from them.

"Feminists have spent a century trying to free individuals from the restrictive gender boundaries put on by patriarchal societies. Now, trans activists have brought back gender boundaries while reestablishing the damaging nature of the patriarchy."

The Tab Durham

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