Edinburgh’s new rector Simon Fanshawe has finally spoken out about his trans rights comments

‘I do not and never have campaigned against the legitimacy of trans people’

Following the uncontested election of Simon Fanshawe, OBE, as the new Rector of the University of Edinburgh, he has affirmed that he has never “campaigned against the legitimacy of trans people” amidst an ongoing trans rights controversy.

LGB Alliance’s Fanshawe, who co-founded LGBTQ+ organisations Stonewall and Kaleidoscope, has in the past expressed critical views on self-identification and the LGBTQ+ community’s cohesion.

Simon Fanshawe’s election was met with mixed reactions from the university community, with a petition amassing over 280 signatures calling for his withdrawl, and an LGBT+ staff network at the university calling for the removal of the newly elected rector.

The controversy stems from Fanshawe’s past comments, which some have interpreted as being at odds with the values of inclusivity and respect for all individuals, regardless of their gender identity.

Fanshawe has since responded to the backlash on social platform X, declaring: “Let me be absolutely clear. I do not and never have campaigned against the legitimacy of trans people.Please read what I have written. We need rigorous discussion on how we reach the best solutions for all. Just as we did for all those years in Stonewall which was pretty successful.”

A prominent figure known for co-founding Stonewall in 1989 and the international charity Kaleidoscope, Fanshawe has since taken a step back from both organisations and helped found LGB Alliance later that year when he and 21 other members voiced concern against Stonewall’s support of transgender policies, raising that allowing “primary school children to change their gender identity too quickly”, is “harming gay people and undermining women’s rights”.

In a 2019 interview with Holyrood Magazine, Simon Fanshawe expressed critical views on self-identification and the LGBTQ+ community’s cohesion.

“You can’t self-ID out of female genital mutilation – that happens because you are a woman…Stonewall has confused legal and biological questions with social identity and when you do that, you start to make bad law.”

He further criticised Stonewall’s stance on blending lesbian and gay rights with trans rights, arguing the LGBTQ+ community is “being bombed into an alphabet soup, which is grouping together a whole load of people who are vaguely in a sort of category which is vaguely about sex or sexuality or feelings”.

Speaking to Holyrood Magazine, Fanshawe said: “The Stonewall of today is undermining the rights of lesbians and putting women and girls at risk by ‘unthinkingly’ merging the rights of lesbians and gays with those of trans people through its ‘acceptance without exception’ dogma”.

The university community has voiced a range of reactions to Simon Fanshawe’s election, consequently, his election has not been without its detractors either.

Simon Fanshawe’s election against the backdrop of these policies raises questions about how the university will continue to uphold these values, in light of varied reactions from its community like “Ethel Weapon”, a trans graduate of the university, voicing dismay at Fanshawe’s election, labelling him as “transphobic”.

Conversely, Fanshawe’s election has been welcomed by some, including For Women Scotland, an advocacy group focused on “protect[ing] and strengthen[ing] women and children’s rights”, praising him as a valuable addition to the university.

Vice-principal and secretary of the University of Edinburgh, Leigh Chalmers, told the BBC: “We look forward to working with Simon.”

Meanwhile, Edinburgh Academics for Academic Freedom, a group advocating for free speech and academic liberty within the university, also praised Fanshawe, anticipating a positive influence on the university community.

Congratulations and thank you to our incoming Rector [Simon Fanshawe]. We’re over the moon at this news, and we look forward to welcoming you to [The University of Edinburgh]. You’re the perfect person for the role.”

A University of Edinburgh spokesperson said: “The Rector is nominated and elected by students and staff and is not an appointment of the executive or governing body of the University. All staff and matriculated students are eligible to nominate a candidate. Information about the timeline for the Rectoral elections and how to nominate was shared with all staff and students in December 2023, with a reminder in January 2024. Only one valid nomination was received by the deadline of 5th February. In accordance with the regulations governing the election process, Simon Fanshawe has been named as Rector uncontested.”

The Tab Edinburgh has reached out to Mr Fanshawe.

Cover image via YouTube.

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