by Debbie Hayton
Tuesday, 27
October 2020
Spotted
18:00

Privileged students are weaponising trans rights

Ann Henderson, Rector of the University of Edinburgh, is the latest target
by Debbie Hayton
Ann Henderson, rector of Edinburgh University, is only the second woman to hold the position in 170 years

We are in dangerous times when adults who should know better allow student politicians to play the trans card so they can act with impunity. On campuses across the country, the pink and blue flag is being used to excuse the bullying and harassment of anyone who does not adhere to gender identity ideology, and its catechism, “trans women are women”.

The latest victim is Ann Henderson, rector of Edinburgh University. Only the second woman to hold the position in 170 years, her political credentials are exemplary. After becoming one of Scotland’s first female train drivers she rose to the top of the trade union movement and currently sits on the Scottish Labour Party Executive.

But all that was ignored by Edinburgh Labour Students when they uncovered evidence that Henderson had attended a Woman’s Place UK meeting two weeks previously. In an egregious statement that has since been taken down (screenshot below), they accused her of transphobic behaviour and insinuated that her actions were prejudicial to the trans community.

This is nonsense of course. I am trans and I know transphobia when I see it, and this is not it. Woman’s Place UK was set up by female trade unionists to campaign for women’s rights, not to demonise trans people. Their online meeting earlier this month discussed the 2021 census and the need to collect accurate and meaningful data, a concern that I share. It must also be made clear that the Edinburgh Labour Students’ outrageous description of Woman’s Place UK is unsubstantiated and without foundation.

While the students talked about “reaching out”, it seemed that their minds were made up. “Unequivocally” they did not support Henderson holding office in the university or the party.

The time has come for the university and the party to call them to account for their disgraceful behaviour. As students, they are subject to a code of conduct that upholds “freedom of thought and expression within a framework of respect for the rights of other persons.”

This problem is already widespread. The targets might vary but the tactics are depressingly familiar. At Cambridge, a college porter is currently under attack for having the audacity to speak up for women’s rights. Over at Oxford, they went for Professor Selina Todd, who needed to be provided with security guards following threats from transgender activists.

We hear a lot about bigotry in this debate but these woke students should consider what they are doing before they cause further damage to the reputation of their universities. Because if anyone has an “obstinate or intolerant devotion to one’s own opinions and prejudices”, it is certainly not Ann Henderson.

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Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
1 year ago

Many people think the witch hunts of the 1600s were carried out by mobs of superstitious peasants. They were, of course, but they were often guided by an educated elite who knew how to work the mob just enough to get rid of their enemies. Could this be what’s happening here?

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
1 year ago
Reply to  Brian Dorsley

Yes. I think there are many similarities with the Reformation and it’s aftermath. Metaphorical burnings at the moment.

michaelmcclure1953
michaelmcclure1953
1 year ago

I think it is time that universities were equipped legally to deal with the antics of narrow minded students and some of their staff. Freedom of thought must be preserved in universities at all costs.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
1 year ago

One way would be to introduce some form of exclusion risk based on students actively displaying benightedness … when issuing formal communications.

However, being an idiot at social events should be protected in some way …

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 year ago

Universities don’t need legal recourse. They can just say no to the baying mob. The inmates do not get to run the asylum. It’s not exactly a profile in courage for a school leader to say “students and activists do not get to decide who we employ or what viewpoints are considered legitimate. If you disagree, then perhaps this is the wrong place for you.”

Gerald gwarcuri
Gerald gwarcuri
1 year ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Indeed. Universities have the authority to define what course of studies leads to the awarding of a degree ( though some are considering abandoning this authority in the name of (?) “equity” ). Their authority should also include a degree of student discipline. For the good of the students, as well as everyone else.

Many years ago, my older brother was sitting in his freshman orientation class at Regis University, a private Jesuit institution in Denver, Colorado. At the end of his presentation, the Brother leading the session asked the students if they had any questions. One student asked, “Why does the faculty get to choose so many of the courses we have to take, instead of letting us choose more ourselves?” “Because”, answered the Brother, “we are educated men, and you are not.”

That Brother understood something the student apparently did not, i.e., the reason for attending the university in the first place. He set an example that universities should follow today.

Stephen Tye
Stephen Tye
1 year ago

In the real world if a spoilt child demands things, the child gets a metaphorical clip round the ear and thereby stops all its whining and carping.

It’s time these spolit children were taught what the real world is all about.

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
1 year ago

Trans people have got their meal at the table now but if they carry on like they are they will find (to their expense) the majority of the general public abhor greedy bullies always demanding more, more, more!

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
1 year ago

This is not about trans people. It’s about extremists presuming to speak on behalf of trans people.

neilpickard72
neilpickard72
1 year ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Some of them are trans people. Every cohort in society has their share of those who have further to develop.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
1 year ago
Reply to  neilpickard72

I’m sure you’re right. Nevertheless, whatever their own status, they are still extremists presuming to speak on behalf of trans people.

Michael Whittock
Michael Whittock
1 year ago

It seems to me that it’s only the government which can bring an end to the bullying by this tiny minority of people. What they are doing flies in the face of what universities are all about. Unless the authorities are prepared to ban such behaviour and are successful in doing that the government should make such intimidation illegal and impose huge fines or withdraw funding. This is really getting quite serious and action is has become urgent.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 year ago

How about the adults in the room act like they’re the adults in the room and stop indulging every whim of the mob. If they want to howl about a faculty or staff member, they can do so but the university leadership is under no obligation to bow to the mob.

Michael Whittock
Michael Whittock
1 year ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

I doubt the university authorities have the moral backbone for the struggle.

Gerry Fruin
Gerry Fruin
1 year ago

No,no, no Michael Don’t ban, use the master weapon. Ignore them. Let them fly round in ever decreasing circles and soon they will vanish up their own… well that’s enough of that now for some news first turn off the BBC. 🙂

Judy Simpson
Judy Simpson
1 year ago
Reply to  Gerry Fruin

Good tactic. The other is to just say no, we’re not kowtowing to your demands. As much as I hate to blame their parents (I have two children myself), I wonder how often these young people have heard that word. I actually met a mother once who refused to say no to her young children as she didn’t like using negative words. Perhaps this behaviour is the result of that social experiment.

Michael Whittock
Michael Whittock
1 year ago
Reply to  Gerry Fruin

I’ve thought about that but scorn only works with people who have emotional intelligence.

Muscleguy
Muscleguy
1 year ago

Unfortunately the government here in Scotland is deep inside the Trans agenda. Education is absolutely Devolved and always has been in Scotland. The buck stops at Nicola Sturgeon’s door and she only listens to TRA groups. No grassroots women’s groups need apply.

So waiting for ScoGov to do something about this could be a long wait. Fortunately Sturgeon’s days are numbered. The Salmond Inquiry currently grinding it’s way through the evidence, papers having to be prised out of the govt’s hands by recourse to the courts, should end Sturgeon’s tenure which opens an opportunity.

Westminster’s shelving of Self ID, the revelation that puberty blockers are not reversible. That claims of suicide risk in Trans teenagers are vastly overblown and JK ROwling’s bringing all this to greater public consciousness has limited Scotgov’s cover.

The original justification for hte GRA bill being introduced was that England was doing it as well. That is now gone.

So there is hope, just don’t expect the cavalry to come over the hill to the rescue any time soon.

Peter Dunn
Peter Dunn
1 year ago

Wish columnists would stop using the word WOKE..Its now a useless cliche&never did describe the psycopathy of many of these people.
Replace woke with deranged.

Julia H
Julia H
1 year ago

Thank you for speaking out, Debbie. It must be exhausting and frustrating for sensible trans people to witness this appalling behaviour supposedly carried out in their name and have to distance themselves from it time and time again.

Paul Davies
Paul Davies
1 year ago

No sympathy for the Universities and those that run them and teach in them. They have created a rod for their own back especially that appalling specimen of academic iniquity who heads Trinity College Cambridge Stephen Tomes and his pandering to the Chinese.

Gerald gwarcuri
Gerald gwarcuri
1 year ago

I applaud Debbie Hayton for this piece. I would like to see another one regarding athletic competitions based on biological XY chromosome status, which is a pivotal issue for women’s rights. If a level playing field, i.e., fair-play, is the goal, then there could only be one possible policy position. On the other hand, if rigid political correctness is the goal, then we will continue to see biological women unfairly treated in athletics.

ericaconrick
ericaconrick
1 year ago

I would like to thank Unherd for finding a trans writer. That being said, I would like to as the writer what, in particular, she finds objectionable in the phrase “trans women are women”?

George Glashan
George Glashan
1 year ago
Reply to  ericaconrick

the writer probably objects on the grounds that it is a false statement.

“Trans women are biological men who believe that they are women”,

isn’t quite as catchy and won’t fit on most cardboard protest signs

ericaconrick
ericaconrick
1 year ago

Oh, how sad, a self-hating trans woman who writes things like “The inconvenient truth is that transwomen are male.” Debbie, please get help, the adulation of the great unwashed on this site is not enough of a reason to assault your own self-respect.

katiepert1970
katiepert1970
1 year ago
Reply to  ericaconrick

Debbie doesn’t hate herself and clearly has great self respect. Who are ‘the great unwashed’?

ericaconrick
ericaconrick
1 year ago

I wonder how many people here can appreciate the irony and the contradiction at the heart of Debbie’s columns. Many writers here on Unherd, including Debbie, rail against the idea of “Self-ID”, the determination of gender identity by individual disclosure. In Debbie’s case, she Self-IDs as a “trans.” Ironically, however, she fails the only objective criteria for being a trans woman (in the eyes of Unherd.com), by writing things like “The inconvenient truth is that transwomen are male.” Let me say that again: even if you were to accept that Self-ID is the only criteria for being trans and that being a trans woman requires only that a person to earnestly believe their true gender is different from that indicted by their chromosomes, Debbie would fail that test. Debbie is thus, by definition, a cross-dresser, and only trans in the sense of transvestite. Yet, although she does not believe in her own womanhood, she presumes to speak for transgender and transsexual women as if she were one of us. A thinking reader should feel revulsion at what has happened here: the editors of Unherd have used this confused person as a trans Uncle Tom to forward their own exclusionary agenda. To Debbie: There’s nothing wrong with being a cross-dresser, darling, but your identity and experience have NOTHING to do with transgender and transsexual women and you should not presume to speak for us, certainly not in the context of a website devoted to transphobic hate and TERF screeds. Behave yourself.