This week, I found out that Manchester Debating Union, a society at Manchester University’s Students’ Union, had booked Julie Bindel as a speaker for a debate they were hosting entitled ‘This House Believes Porn Empowers Women’. As soon as I noticed the speaker choice, I immediately expressed my concern to Manchester Debating Union (hereafter MDU).
I am the Trans* Rep at Manchester, and am therefore responsible for the representation, but also the safety and welfare, of Manchester University’s trans* students. My main knowledge of Julie Bindel’s work is her bigoted and discriminatory writing on trans* people, and therefore I was very concerned that giving a platform to a speaker widely known for holding transphobic views during Welcome Week, a week designed to welcome new students and encourage their active involvement in sports clubs and societies, would be considerably less than welcoming to any first year trans* students.
Soon after I expressed my concern to MDU, trans* students and allies began to express their concern to me, asking if I could get MDU to replace Julie Bindel with a speaker without a track record of transphobia. They felt Julie Bindel’s transphobic statements and views made them both unwelcome at the event, and unsafe on campus, as it seemed that transphobia was being allowed and possibly encouraged on campus. Unfortunately, MDU refused to replace Julie Bindel with another speaker.
A protest had been organised by Manchester Students’ Union’s LGBTQ Society regarding legitimate concerns relating to Ms. Bindel’s views on trans people, and the impact of providing a platform to a speaker with a known history of making transphobic statements.
However, the following day it came to light that Ms. Bindel had decided not to speak at the event, and the event’s attendants were informed that this was as a result of death and rape threats that she had received. I would like to take this opportunity to state that I absolutely condemn the use of death and rape threats by anyone, for any reason, and that intimidating someone out of attendance by sending them threats of violence is unacceptable and wholly inappropriate. In my work as a trans* activist I myself have been subject to threats of violence, rape and death and it is truly an awful and debilitating experience.
I send my deepest sympathies to Ms. Bindel.
I would like to confirm that these threats had nothing to do with myself or the peaceful protest organised by myself and the trans* students I represent. We collectively condemn the actions of anyone using threats of rape or death to intimidate.
I also would like to re-iterate that our primary concern was for the safety and welfare of the trans* student population, and that it is very upsetting to hear that Julie Bindel’s safety and welfare was compromised in this way.