Scottish Poetry Library of ‘institutional transphobia’ after ‘no-platforming’ row

Scottish Poetry Library accused of 'institutional transphobia'

The Scottish Poetry Library has been accused of “institutional transphobia” by trans and non-binary authors following a row over “no-platforming”.

The row, which has been brewing online for some months, has seen the Scottish Poetry Library issue a ban on “no-platforming” that would see it cut ties with authors who criticise other authors for holding anti-trans views.

Several authors had been criticised for holding anti-trans views or for booking other authors with anti-trans views for their events.

In response, the Scottish Poetry Library appeared to defend the authors holding anti-trans views and said it would no longer work with writers who are accused by the anti-trans authors of “orchestrating online abuse”.

The director of the Scottish Poetry Library, Asif Khan, said that there had been social media “pile ons” that had affected the mental health and incomes of those being criticised. Those doing the criticising would be banned, Khan said.

Khan himself has previously been accused of presiding over “a culture of menace and unhappiness”. He previously said that “many of the tropes were racist“, including “bullying, predatory behaviour”.

Now, trans and non-binary authors have written to Khan expressing their “deep concern” and accusing the poetry library of “institutional transphobia” for its move to ban people who are critical of those who hold anti-trans views.

Eleven authors penned the letter, which has been co-signed by more than 140 people – including LGBT+ novelist Kirsty Logan and several academics and prominent figures from the publishing sector.

“We are writing to you as trans and non-binary authors, working in or with connections to Scotland, and supported by people from diverse backgrounds and identities, to express our deep concerns regarding the Scottish Poetry Library’s recent public statement on so-called ‘no-platforming’,” the letter begins.

“We are worried that current communications may reflect serious institutional transphobia, and a failure to understand the library’s obligations regarding trans people’s legal protections from discrimination.

“We have all heard extensive distress from our trans friends, both readers and writers, as a result of your recent communications.

“Despite the library’s previous work supporting LGBT+ writers and events, many trans people do not now think the Scottish Poetry Library is a welcoming and supportive space.

“We also write in solidarity with writers combatting racism, misogyny, ableism and other structural oppressions, so that oppressive action can be freely spoken about.

“We are asking for clarification on your code of conduct, your grievance processes, and the work you do to support and respect trans writers. We hope you will take seriously the need to rebuild trust.”

Khan told The National that the letter had been received and would be considered, but that “freedom of expression should not be a trigger word”.

“Looking ahead, we have an agenda of healing. We will be building bridges with people who feel they are not being listened to.

“The arts in Scotland are great so I’m optimistic.”