30 May 2023

Protesters ‘full of anger’ at Kathleen Stock’s Oxford Union talk

30 May 2023

LGBT+ activists were “full of anger” as they protested against a talk by feminist Kathleen Stock at the Oxford Union.

Around 200 protesters gathered at Bonn Square on Tuesday, holding banners which read “resisting by existing” and chanting, “trans rights – human rights”, before marching towards the 200-year-old debating society where police braced for potential clashes.

The row has seen the university’s LGBTQ+ Society say it is standing up against the “hateful views” of Prof Stock, while the university’s vice-chancellor, Professor Irene Tracey has defended the philosopher’s appearance as a matter of “freedom of speech”.

The protest comes after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak intervened to support the talk, writing in the Telegraph newspaper that debate was a hallmark of a “tolerant society”.

Speaking at the rally, Max Van Kleek, Associate Professor of Human-Computer Interaction at the university, said transgender students suffered from “so much abuse” and were “losing rights around the world.”

“Let us all unite in trans solidarity and show people we are not something to fear” he said.

“We are something to embrace because the future is us – we are on the right side of history”.

A trans teacher named Alexandra said it “hurt” that students were “debating on questions like whether my fundamental rights are worth protecting”, while a student named Eliot added that the protest was “full of anger” because trans rights were under threat.

Days before Prof Stock’s talk, a group of Oxford University academics and staff signed a letter supporting the right of transgender students to speak out against her.

The BBC reported that the open letter, shared on Saturday by the university’s LGBTQ+ society and signed by 100 academics and staff, said: “We believe that trans students should not be made to debate their existence.”

The Oxford Union announced it is to offer “welfare resources” to students attending the talk by Prof Stock.

The organisation, which describes itself as the “last bastion of free speech”, has said students will be able to “challenge” Prof Stock at the event.

In a statement ahead of the talk, Oxford University LGBTQ+ Society president Amiad Haran Diman said they would not try to block entry or shut down the talk.

“Stock’s right for free speech has never been threatened”, they said.

“We will just express our desire for a more civil conversation than this one, advocating against the hateful views that will be expressed there and the decision to amplify them.”

Speaking on Talk TV earlier on Tuesday, Prof Stock said universities had become “timid” in pushing back against “idealistic, illiberal attempts to shut down” free speech.

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