Peter Tatchell pulls out of debate with trans-exclusionary professor Kathleen Stock after backlash

Peter Tatchell arrives at St Margaret's Church to attend the funeral for Tony Benn on March 27, 2014 in London, England.

Peter Tatchell has pulled out of a controversial debate with trans-exclusionary professor Kathleen Stock following criticism from the trans community.

On Monday (23 August), the veteran LGBT+ activist announced on Twitter that he was set to appear on the Blackballed podcast alongside Stock, a University of Sussex professor who once branded LGBT+ rights charity Stonewall “a threat to freedom of speech” for its inclusive stance on trans rights.

Peter Tatchell immediately faced sharp criticism from trans people for the decision to take part in the discussion. On Thursday morning (26 August), he announced that he was cancelling his appearance.

In a statement posted to Twitter, Tatchell said he “did not initiate” the debate, adding that he agreed to take part because he opposes Stock’s views on trans issues.

He went on to suggest he believes Stock’s views “should not got unchallenged”.

Peter Tatchell agrees that a trans speaker should have been selected

The two were set to take part in a discussion titled: “Trans rights & women’s rights: Can there be common ground?”

“Some people seem to think the title of the debate reflects my own views. It does not,” Tatchell wrote.

“I had planned to say that trans rights are not a matter for debate, they are not negotiable, and that there can be no common ground with transphobes.

“I believe that in a debate, Kathleen Stock’s trans-exclusionary views can be challenged and that members of the public can be persuaded to reject her opinions and support trans rights.

“However, I agree that a trans speaker would be better suited than me, which is why I have chosen to withdraw from the debate.

“I apologise for making the mistake of previously agreeing to participate. I remain committed to supporting trans-inclusive feminism and will continue to defend both women’s rights and trans rights, as I have done for over 50 years.”

Tatchell closed out his apology by saying he does not support “misogyny, transphobia, or any other form of prejudice”.

The well-known activist has received a range of responses from the trans community. Some thanked him for listening to criticism, while others suggested that he hadn’t gone far enough.

Kathleen Stock also responded to Tatchell’s announcement, writing: “Hate to break this to you Peter, but ‘her opinions should not go unchallenged’ and ‘there should be no debate’ are mutually incompatible positions.

“I wish you well on your quest to avoid cancellation by irrational people. Personally, I’ve found the alternative is more authentic.”

In January, Stock was awarded an OBE for her services to higher education, prompting 600 philosophers to sign an open letter expressing “dismay” at the decision.

In their open letter, the academics expressed concern about a “tendency to mistake transphobic fearmongering for valuable scholarship”.

They added: “Stock is best-known in recent years for her trans-exclusionary public and academic discourse on sex and gender, especially for opposition to [reforming] the UK Gender Recognition Act and the importance of self-identification to establish gender identity, and for advocating that trans women should be excluded from places like women’s locker rooms or shelters.”

Stock denies she is transphobic.