Protest at Oxford Union over Kathleen Stock’s gender-critical talk

A large crowd assembled outside the Oxford Union to express their disapproval of a lecture delivered by Kathleen Stock, a gender-critical academic. Despite facing opposition from some students, Stock remained resolute in her decision to proceed with the talk, which has been labelled transphobic by critics. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak supported Stock’s right to speak, stating that universities should foster debate and not suppress it.

Stock resigned from her position at the University of Sussex in 2021 following student protests against her book, which questioned the significance of gender identity compared to biological sex. The protest at Oxford was organized by the university’s LGBTQ+ Society, with approximately 200 participants gathering at Bonn Square before proceeding to the Oxford Union. Although police were present, the demonstration remained peaceful.

Protesters clarified that their objection was not to Stock’s freedom of speech, but rather the use of the Oxford Union platform to promote anti-trans views. A trans teacher named Alexandra expressed her pain at the thought of students debating whether her fundamental rights should be protected.

The lecture was momentarily disrupted by two trans rights protesters, who were subsequently removed by security. Another protester appeared to have glued themselves to the floor. Despite the interruptions, some audience members encouraged Stock to continue her talk.

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Stock emphasized the importance of people hearing her perspective and standing up against those attempting to silence debate. She rejected the notion that her views constitute hate speech and argued that controversial ideas should be publicly scrutinized.

Dr. Michael Biggs, an associate professor of sociology, warned that campus censorship endangers the fundamental purpose of universities. He believes that understanding opposing views is crucial and that academics should not shy away from discussing sex and gender issues, despite potential backlash from students.

Amiad Haran Diman, president of the university’s LGBTQ+ Society, revealed that they had received death threats following their opposition to Stock’s invitation. Zoë-Rose Guy, the society’s vice-president, acknowledged Stock’s right to free speech but argued that speaking at the Oxford Union is a privilege, not a right.

Oxford Union president Matthew Dick defended the decision to host Stock, asserting that speakers who incite hate would not be invited during his tenure. The Oxford Union maintained that attendees would have the opportunity to respectfully engage with and challenge Stock’s views.

Despite the controversy surrounding the event, the LGBTQ+ Society emphasized that their protest was not a hate campaign against Stock but rather a celebration of trans joy and kindness. The Oxford Union, a private members club, operates independently of the university and the student union. The recent decision by the student union to separate from the Oxford Union debating society was confirmed to be unrelated to Stock’s invitation.

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Jamie Cartwright

Jamie is a keen traveler, writer, and (English) teacher. A few years after finishing school in the East Mids, UK, he went traveling around South America and Asia. Several teaching and writing jobs, he found himself at The Thaiger where he mostly covers international news and events.

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