Rishi Sunak backs so-called ‘gender-critic’ Kathleen Stock amid Oxford Union row 

Tory prime minister Rishi Sunak has come out in support of so-called gender critical academic Kathleen Stock, saying people should “understand those we disagree with”.

The unelected PM weighed in on the on-going row over the Oxford Union, the University of Oxford’s 200-year-old debating society, hosting a talk by Stock on Tuesday (30 May).

The event has faced fierce opposition from the university’s LGBTQ+ society due to her anti-trans views, with president Amiad Haran Diman – who goes by the name Addi – telling PinkNews about a death threat they received in the wake of the row.   

Speaking to The Telegraph, Rishi Sunak said a “free society requires free debate” and we should all be “encouraged to engage respectfully with the ideas of others”. 

He continued: “University should be an environment where debate is supported, not stifled. We mustn’t allow a small but vocal few to shut down discussion. Kathleen Stock’s invitation to the Oxford Union should stand.

“Agree or disagree with her, professor Stock is an important figure in this argument. Students should be allowed to hear and debate her views.

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“A tolerant society is one which allows us to understand those we disagree with, and nowhere is that more important than within our great universities.” 

‘Dismayed and appalled’

In April, it was announced that the former University of Sussex philosophy professor had been invited to give a talk at the union during the Trinity term. 

The university’s LGBTQ+ society was quick to criticise the decision in a statement shared on social media, saying it was “dismayed and appalled” by the choice to offer Stock a platform. 

“Once again, the union is disregarding the welfare of its LGBTQ+ members under the guise of free speech,” the group stated. 

Stock has previously said self-ID “threatens a secure understanding of the concept ‘lesbian’”, and has spoken out against single-sex spaces being inclusive of trans women, stating: “Many trans women are still males with male genitalia, many are sexually attracted to females, and they should not be in places where females undress or sleep, in a completely unrestricted way.”

Despite this, she has repeatedly said she is not transphobic and hit back at the student group, writing on Twitter that their statement contained “several falsehoods” and was “probably defamatory”. She also condemned the death threat received by Addi.

Several colleges at the university, including St Anne’s and St Hilda’s – both originally all-women’s residences – as well as Edmund Hall, Mansfield and Christ Church, subsequently passed motions condemning her appearance. 

In response to the row, Oxford University LGBTQ+ Society has launched Oxford Trans+ Pride which will offer a contrasting event to Stock’s talk this afternoon (30 May). 

The event began at 2pm in Lincoln College, with panels of trans, non-binary, gender-non-conforming and intersex speakers.

Following this, it will move to Bonn Square in the city centre where protestors will hold a rally promoting trans rights.

“The previous protest for queer rights in Oxford got around 200 attendees, we’re hoping to get double or triple that,” Addi told PinkNews earlier this month. “We need that because there will be counter-protestors and hateful transphobes. 

“To counteract that, we need a loud voice.”