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.
* This article was first published by Unherd on 27 October 2020: Privileged students are weaponising trans rights.