Three panelists have pulled out of a University of Melbourne event that featured prominent UK-based “gender critical” feminists and a Victorian Greens member, who was accused of making transphobic comments in the past.
“We regret the following have chosen to withdraw from the event: Paul Barclay (moderator), ABC, Nicki Elkin (in-person panellist), Pride in Diversity, Prof Sally Hines (pre-recorded UK speaker), University of Sheffield,” the organisers posted on the event page.
Trigger Warning: This story discusses transphobic comments, which might be distressing to some readers. For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.
The panel ‘Pride & Prejudice in Policy: What Can Our Public Institutions Learn from the UK’s Stonewall Controversy?‘ scheduled for Tuesday, October 4 at 6.30 pm, is being organised by University of Melbourne’s School Of Historical and Political Studies.
The supposed controversy that the panel plans to discuss is about some UK employers reportedly leaving Stonewall’s Diversity Champions programme over its support of trans issues. “Critics argue that the initiatives embed contested facts and values into policies, compromise public bodies’ independence and impartiality, and facilitate backdoor political lobbying,” the event description claims.
Gender Critical Speakers
The panellists include UK-based “gender critical” lawyer Naomi Cunningham, who has argued against UK’s proposed ban on trans conversion therapy and “gender critical” UK feminist and trustee of the anti-trans organisation LGB Alliance, Kathleen Stock. In August 2022, Stock suggested that public figures should declare if they have “trans-identified offspring”. Both will send in pre-recorded speeches for the discussion.
Former Victorian Greens state convenor Linda Gale, whose election was overturned, after members called her out over past transphobic comments, is one of the in-person speakers attending the event.
The other speakers on the panel are lawyer and broadcaster Jon Faine, Professor Alan Davison, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Technology Sydney, trans activist Julie Peters and UK-based academic Finn Mackay.
Author and University of Melbourne Senior Lecturer Dr Hannah McCann was one of the first to call out the panel, over the presence of some known anti-trans speakers.
‘Importing UK TERF Debates To Our Shores’
The focus is the “toxic” Stonewall debate from the UK. Feels a lot like an effort to import UK TERF debates to our shores. Putting it as a “debate” also plays into both-sides-ism around trans issues https://t.co/MZFsuiEDkP
— Dr Hannah McCann (@binarythis) September 27, 2022
“Some concerns being raised about this event — not least because it features some very prominent trans exclusionary feminists,” McCann posted on Twitter. “The focus is the “toxic” Stonewall debate from the UK. Feels a lot like an effort to import UK TERF debates to our shores. Putting it as a “debate” also plays into both-sides-ism around trans issues.”
Hines was the first speaker to pull out of the event. In a letter to organisers, Hines said she was unaware that the panel was focussing specifically on trans and non-binary inclusion in LGBTQI equality and diversity policies in Health and Education.
“I’m sorry to say that I no longer feel that I can take part due to the presence of high profile UK anti-trans speakers. I was unaware of their involvement when I agreed to take part and didn’t grasp that this was being organised as a debate – with a clear for and against trans inclusion agenda,” said Hines.
“The politics around trans in the UK are extremely toxic. Both personally and professionally I have experienced a great deal of viciousness from key gender critical activists. More importantly, trans communities and individuals have been and are subject to what I believe to be hate speech and practice. I therefore decided a long time ago that I would not engage in events where anti-trans activists are present,” added Hines.
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