“Content Warning: Transphobia.” So begins a news report from Edinburgh University’s student paper, The Student. The report reads:
Ann Henderson, Rector of the University of Edinburgh, has been seen affirmatively responding to tweets by transphobic organisations.
Henderson’s official Twitter account retweeted about a drop-in session meeting titled “How will changes to the Gender Recognition Act [GRA] affect women’s rights?” event is supported by the organisations Fair Play For Women, Transgender Trend and Woman’s Place, all of which promote transphobic rhetoric.
The Gender Recognition Act 2004 is a U.K. law which allows persons over the age of 18 with gender dysphoria to legally change gender if they provide medical certification and proof that they have lived as the opposite gender for at least two years. However, the law is currently under review as the Government considers whether to remove these prerequisites and lower the age to 16. Naturally, this proposal is quite controversial.
So, to clarify: Henderson retweeted an event, where the title was framed as a question related to this possible change in the law. Notwithstanding, The Student’s report continues:
Edinburgh Labour Students Chair, Andrew Wilson, spoke to The Student: “Ann retweeting this seems completely contrary to the work EUSA [Edinburgh University Students’ Association] is doing on the GRA consultation. This could also be seen as her endorsing these transphobic organisations which are in complete conflict to all of… [the Students’ Association’s] policy/safe space policy. Edinburgh Labour Students wishes to reiterate that as long as Ann continues to sideline the legitimate concerns of minority groups, we do not support her holding office in the Labour Party, or our own university.
Of course, these allegedly “transphobic” organizations represent a range of feminist and parental perspectives which many readers would find commonsensical. Nevertheless, this is how the university responded:
A spokesperson for the University of Edinburgh said, “The Rector posted these links/made these comments in a personal capacity. The university’s position is one of zero tolerance towards harassment, bullying, discrimination and victimisation of any kind — this includes zero tolerance towards transphobia.”
One might reasonably wonder whether this includes “zero tolerance towards harassment, bullying, discrimination and vicimisation” of those who simply recognize the existence of the Gender Recognition Act’s surrounding controversies. After all, that’s all Henderson did. But Edinburgh University’s failure to defend its Rector — who has done nothing wrong — will no doubt make her refutation of these baseless smears more difficult.
Meanwhile, Iain Macwhirter, a syndicated columnist, BBC TV/radio presenter, author, and former Rector of Edinburgh University, wrote on Twitter:
My successor as Edinburgh Rector, @ann4rector is accused of transphobia merely for retweeting an event discussing the Gender Recognition Act.
— Iain Macwhirter (@iainmacwhirter) October 12, 2018
If only there were more adults like Macwhirter on campus.