Screening of ‘Adult Human Female’ at Edinburgh University cancelled due to protests

Student and staff groups have claimed the film is ‘transphobic’

A screening of Adult Human Female, a controversial film about gender identity, was cancelled due to protests on Wednesday night at Edinburgh University.

It was due to be shown at a venue in George Square at 6pm, when a large crowd gathered outside to protest against what some students and staff have accused of being a “transphobic” film.

The venue was moved to Old College at the last minute, after it became clear that the protestors did not want the film to be shown. A message was posted on the LGBTQ+ society’s Instagram to alert protestors to go to this location.

Adult Human Female is a 92-minute documentary by independent filmmakers, which claims to highlight the clash between women’s rights and gender identity. The directors, Deirdre O’Neill and Mike Wayne, have previously said: “We hope it makes an intervention into the struggle and contributes to understanding, provokes discussion and eventually transforms the situation we find ourselves in.”

The university says it stands by its decision to allow the screening to take place.

This week there has been outcry from Edinburgh’s UCU, Pride Society, and Students’ Union. The SU said it believes the “event will contribute to an unsafe and unwelcoming environment on campus for our trans members.”

Speaking to The Edinburgh Tab earlier this week, one of the film’s directors O’Neill said: “We note that no evidence of transphobia in the film has been cited because none exists”.

Today, the directors reiterated their beliefs the film is not transphobic and the confusion of “transphobia, bigotry and demonisation” means “having a debate around this issue [is] so difficult because feminists are dismissed as fascists”.

Members of the university’s feminist and LGBTQ+ societies were the main protestors on Wednesday, who succeeded in preventing attendees to the event from entering the venue.

A video of one activist was also put on Twitter, and has now attracted over one million views. Upon saying, “I’m a representative of the Students’ Association, I’m not here to represent the Students’ Association, I’m here as a trans woman…”, she was audibly met with laughter.

A long statement was made by Edi Youth In Resistance and Staff Student Solidarity Network Edinburgh after the screening was stopped. “Shutting down this event is not an attack on academic freedom, it is an assertion of our right to feel safe on campus”, they said.

“Anyone who tries to normalize beliefs and practices that go against the patriarchal system of forcing male and female as rigid social and economic roles on everybody is labeled ‘woke’, and any criticism of their dogmatic and imperious management of people based on their bodies is branded ‘canceling’ and ‘silencing the debate’.”

Lisa Mackenzie, a lecturer at Edinburgh who was due to speak after the screening, described the situation on her Twitter: “I’ve turned up to the screening of Adult Human Female to participate in the discussion afterwards, and a group of students has occupied the lecture theatre in a bid to stop the screening from going ahead.”

A university spokesperson said: “We stand by our decision to let AFAF hold the screening of Adult Human Female. As part of our commitment to freedom of expression and academic freedom, it is our duty to make sure staff and students feel able to discuss controversial topics and that each event allows for debate.

“In line with our commitment to fostering an inclusive, supportive and safe environment for our whole community, we put measures in place to mitigate any risks associated with the event. However, when it became clear that safety could no longer be guaranteed for all present it was decided that the event should not continue.”

They added: “We always encourage respectful debate and discussion whenever there are differences of view or opinion and ensure that attendees of all events are aware of, and comply with, the university’s dignity and respect policy, so that those wanting to attend feel able to contribute.”

Earlier this week, Deirdre O’Neill, Co-Director of Adult Human Female, said: “On the BBFC certificate, one interviewee quotes the discriminatory language in order to condemn not endorse discrimination. The film catalogues case after case of women being abused and harassed for raising concerns that their sex based rights are under attack. Yet of this there is not a word from those who want to cancel the film.

“We note that no evidence of ‘transphobia’ in the film has been cited because none exists. We urge people to watch the film and debate the issues. We think that an appalling culture has developed on university campuses, promoted by students and the UCU, that effectively cannot deal with reasonable arguments. It is a deeply authoritarian mind set that is danger to democratic values.”

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