Oxford University dons back queer students opposing ‘gender-critical’ Kathleen Stock talk 

Kathleen Stock speaking at a university debate

More than 100 Oxford academics have signed a letter supporting queer students at the University of Oxford in opposing a talk by so-called ‘gender-critical’ activist Kathleen Stock.

The former philosophy lecturer, who quit her role at the University of Sussex in October 2021 after being heavily criticised for her views on the trans community, is due to give a talk at the university’s 200 year-old debating society on 30 May as part of its Trinity Term card. 

Stock’s appearance at the Oxford Union has resulted in Oxford’s first-ever Trans+ Pride being launched to coincide with the date she will speak in a bid to “fight for trans rights and combat transphobia”. 

In April, the university’s LGBTQ+ society asked the Oxford Union to rescind its invitation, stating it was “appalled” by the planned appearance of the controversial academic. Following this, the society’s president was targeted with death threats.

The society has also written a letter, now signed by more than 100 Oxford academics.

The letter argues that Stock’s talk wouldn’t be “an open discussion or balanced debate” and states “trans students should not be made to debate their existence”, the Telegraph reported on Saturday (27 May).

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In response to accusations that the society are trying to de-platform the professor, the letter adds: “Disinviting someone is not preventing them from speaking.”

‘Rapid and massive supportive respones’

Addi Haran Diman, president of the Oxford University LGBTQ+ Society and doctoral researcher in politics at Lincoln College, wrote and organised the letter. Diman thanked the academics who supported Oxford’s LGBTQ+ students in a statement.

“We thank the academics who stand by us,” Diman wrote. “The rapid and massive supportive responses completely overwhelmed us and will embolden our efforts.”

Among the signatories from Oxford academics is Professor Max Van Kleek, who said it was “critical” to support trans students in a time of “increased hostility, violence, and discrimination” against the trans community. 

“The trans movement are not enemies of free speech; they have every right to protest speakers who frame them as anything but our full, valid, equals,” the dons’ letter reads.

“Debate is essential for a vibrant democracy, and we champion it. But what the discourse needs now is more civil conversations and less bad-faith argumentation.

“The theoretical debate over gender does not matter – what matters is trans people’s basic living conditions, autonomy, dignity and respect. Freedom of speech matters, but we shouldn’t forget the right to protest.

“We call on the media and university to take trans voices seriously and treat them with respect.”

‘That’s not how free speech works’

In an interview with the Telegraph on Sunday (28 May), Stock reiterated her belief that trans women are not women. 

“It’s hard to believe now, but when all this started, I genuinely thought that people didn’t understand the issues and if I just explained them, they would concede that transgender women are not women and that facts have to triumph over feelings,” she said.

Stock added that despite her gender-critical views, “trans people should be afforded the full protection of the law”. 

Regarding her upcoming appearance at Oxford University, the former lecturer said: “I felt pleased that some prominent academics still understand the value of institutions that foster open debate, and were prepared to say so.

“Oxford students are going into the world with a huge amount of advantage, given their educational background, and a bit of humility wouldn’t go amiss.

“No one group of students should be the judge of what others get to hear. That’s not how free speech works.”

Stock argues against trans inclusion

Prior to quitting her role at the University of Sussex, Stock said “many trans women are still males with male genitalia” and argued against trans women’s inclusion in single-sex spaces, which is protected in the UK under the 2010 Equality Act. 

Stock has also argued that self-ID “threatens a secure understanding of the concept ‘lesbian’” and equated trans people with those who claim to be “trans-racial” or think of themselves as another race.

Despite student pushback, more than 40 of the university’s leading academics – including evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins – have signed an open letter in support of Stock’s appearance and “free speech”. 

In response to the LGBTQ+ society’s opposition to the talk, the Oxford Union announced it would offer support and welfare resources on the evening of the event.

Stock has made headlines in recent months, both for her co-founding of The Lesbian Project, a group created exclusively for cisgender lesbians, and for her involvement in upcoming Channel 4 documentary Gender Wars.

LGBTQ+ activists have expressed fears about the documentary, which claims it will attempt to find common ground between the trans community and their opponents.

PinkNews has contacted Kathleen Stock’s representatives for comment.

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