Edinburgh LGBTQ+ officer claims university hosted ‘highly transphobic’ seminar
The officer was ‘personally appalled’ the event was allowed to take place on campus
Jaime Prada, Edinburgh’s LGBT liberation officer has accused the speakers in the Sex, Gender and Schools seminar of spreading “highly transphobic messages”.
The co-chairs of the University of Edinburgh Staff Pride Network claim that one speaker was “ableist and transphobic”.
Speakers at the event, which was hosted on campus, allegedly said that expanding conversion therapy to trans people would “silence those who wish to question young trans people”.
The organisers of the event, Edinburgh Academics for Academic Freedom, responded saying that “there was no transphobic content in our event”.
The seminar which was held on Tuesday 7th in 50 George Square aimed to “explore the environment in which children and young people come to identify as transgender” as well as examine how “discussion has been closed down, including in university departments of education”.
The speakers at the seminar were Stephanie Davies-Arai, Professor Michele Moore, and Dr Shereen Benjamin. Stephanie Davies-Arai is part of the Transgender Trend organisation, a group that believes that “no child is born in the wrong body”.
Despite the organisers claiming that the seminar would use “critical and evidence-based dialogue”, according to Jaime, the messages were being “defended without providing data or academically sound sources”.
The two co-chairs of the Staff Pride Network who attended the event claimed that there was “no presentation of research data provided to the audience” and that the speaker’s presentations “consisted of selective and non-rigorous presentation of evidence” which was used to “back up their scaremongering tactics.”
During the seminar, a safe space was set up in the Chaplaincy by Jaime and the other trans representatives to ensure those who were affected had a place to go.
Dr Katie Nicoll Baines and Jonathon MacBride, co-chairs of the University of Edinburgh Staff Pride Network both attended the event and said that the event consisted of the three speakers raising “concerns” about the increasing numbers of young girls being referred to gender identity clinics.
The two claim that one guest speaker made “ableist” and “transphobic” comments suggesting that those who present as transgender also have higher rates of autism and other mental health conditions, which some took as implying that this could be another reason to doubt trans identities.
The Staff Pride Network also described how all three speakers proposed that rather than “affirming a young person’s gender identity” teachers instead should “question why a child might be expressing themselves in this way”.
The speaker from the University of Edinburgh allegedly suggested that parents and teachers should use the Transgender Trend guidance for schools, a document which has been “widely rejected by LGBTQ+ organisations” due to it being criticised as “dangerous to trans youth”.
The co-chairs go on to claim that the same speaker also suggested that parents should be critical of schools celebrating Pride month, as it might indicate that the school is “affirming trans identities”.
When the speakers were invited to comment on the implications of extending the conversion therapy ban to trans identities they allegedly thought that it would “further silence those who wish to question young trans people”.
Overall the two co-chairs from the Staff Pride Network felt like there was a clear message to parents and teachers that they should be wary of “gender identity ideology” which they thought had been compared to “brainwashing” young people and that this ideology is becoming a “social contagion”.
Jaime and the other liberation officers said they are currently working to “hold the group accountable” and “prevent similar events from occurring on campus”.
A form has been provided for those who have been affected to fill out, which will be used to measure what has been described as “the harm these instances cause to our student population”. Jaime said that they were “personally appalled that this event was allowed to take place on campus”.
In regards to the allegations against the speakers, Edinburgh Academics for Academic Freedom said: “There was no transphobic content in our event. Those who attended had the opportunity to raise queries and disagreements, and make their own points, which is what discussion events are for”.
A spokesperson for Edinburgh University said: “The University of Edinburgh is committed to fostering a welcoming, inclusive and supportive environment for its whole community, where there is no place for any form of discrimination.
“We are also committed to defending freedom of expression and academic freedom, to promoting respectful dialogue and supporting all our staff and students. Given the size of our community, it is inevitable that the ideas of different members will conflict. We encourage respectful debate and discussion whenever there are differences of view or opinion. We take any complaints seriously and would encourage students to use official reporting channels.
“The University’s Compliance Group considers any request for an event that might breach our legislative duties or our Dignity and Respect Policy. All considerations are informed by our deep commitment to the importance of freedom of expression and academic freedom within the bounds of the law.”
Transgender Trend has been contacted for comment.
Featured image: Shutterstock / woolver (Edited)