Why Edinburgh students keep stopping screenings of this anti-trans film

Students and staff at the University of Edinburgh are planning to block a screening of controversial anti-trans documentary Adult Human Female on campus for a third time. 

The screening has been organised by Edinburgh Academics for Academic Freedom (EAFAF) and is set to take place on Wednesday (22 November). 

Two attempts have already been made to show the film – once in December 2022 and another in April 2023 – but both times protesters blocked access to the venue and the events were eventually cancelled. 

Students, staff and local LGBTQ+ people are keen to keep the film off the university’s campus due to its anti-trans sentiments, protests of which have resulted in controversy and criticism from the right-wing press.

A large turn out against the film is expected to take place once again, despite the previous backlash protesters faced.

What is Adult Human Female?

Adult Human Female is a 2022 documentary film directed by Deirdre O’Neill and Mike Wayne which describes itself as “the first UK documentary feature to look at the clash between women’s rights and trans ideology”. 

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It has been heavily criticised as being transphobic and presenting a one-sided, anti-trans viewpoint.

The film posits that “the trans movement” has “captured the big institutions” including the police, political parties and universities and these bodies have “taken up the cause in the name of inclusiveness”. 

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“But is it really harmless when men identify into the female sex?,” the its synopsis questions, “Is it progressive for doctors to modify the bodies of young people in the name of changing their ‘gender’?” 

The documentary features notable gender critical activists and voices, including Julie Bindel. 

Despite protests against the film’s screening, it has been available to view on YouTube since December 2022

What have protesters said? 

At previous screening attempts, the protesters – including students, local LGBTQ+ people and members of the Edinburgh Staff-Student Solidarity Network (SSSN) and University and College Union (UCU) – described the film as “dangerous” because it makes the “assertion that ‘trans women are men’” and that “non-binary people do not exist”. 

“The assertion that ‘trans women are men’ is a transphobic statement. The belief that gender should be rigidly tied to assigned gender at birth based on genitals is not a neutral, objective statement,” the SSSN said in a statement. 

“This is directly harmful to trans people, and is used to deny us appropriate care and respect by delegitimising our experiences.”

During previous protests, opponents of the film waved trans pride flags and held signs which read ‘transphobia isn’t feminism!’ and ‘trans rights are human rights’. Videos also showed groups of protesters performing the conga to Lady Gaga’s iconic hit Born This Way.

Ahead of the third screening and protest, posters were placed around the university’s campus, calling on people to rally against the institution providing its rooms to groups which wish to “spread their hateful ideology on campus”.

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A post from the SSSN on X/Twitter, described how it is “nauseating” have to write about the film on Trans Day of Remembrance. 

“Third time’s a charm! Maybe they’ll finally get the message that they are not welcome on this campus… let’s show them!!!,” the group said. 

What have organisers said? 

In response to the planned protest on the 22 November Reality Matters, the production company which created Adult Human Female, said the accusation by staff and students that the film is transphobic is a “lie”.

They added that they hope the university “will not allow these censorious authoritarians to get their way”. 

The University of Edinburgh previously told PinkNews in a statement it was “disappointed” the film was blocked from being screened.

“At the university we are fully committed to upholding freedom of expression and academic freedom, and facilitating an environment where students and staff can discuss and debate challenging topics,” a spokesperson said.

“We are disappointed that again this event has not been able to go ahead.”

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