Mary Beard has defended herself against vicious trolls after signing a letter than many believed was transphobic.
The letter, which was published in the Guardian on Saturday, was ostensibly written to protest against censorship, and called banning speakers because of their political affiliations or opinions "bullying".
Speaking against "no-platforming", which involves people with controversial opinions being given no platform to speak at high-profile events, the letter used the example of protests against feminists Germaine Greer and Julie Bindel, and Green Party politician Rupert Read - who have all made controversial remarks about transgender women.
"'No platforming' used to be a tactic used against self-proclaimed fascists and Holocaust-deniers," the letter says. "But today it is being used to prevent the expression of feminist arguments critical of the sex industry and of some demands made by trans activists."
After Beard signed it, along with approximately 130 co-signatories, she was subjected to sustained trolling and accusations of transphobia.
The most important recent coming outs
The most important recent coming outs
1/17 Kristen Stewart
The actress has finally spoken about her private life, admitting that she is very much in love with her girlfriend and former personal assistant, Alicia Cargile. In the recently released interview with Elle UK, Stewart said: "I think also right now I'm just really in love with my girlfriend. We've broken up a couple of times and gotten back together, and this time I was like, 'Finally, I can feel again.'"
2/17 Cara Delevingne
The supermodel, whose last serious relationship was with bisexual actress Michelle Rodriguez, shared a picture of herself wearing a 'We Are You' T-shirt in honour of National Coming Out Day and added an enigmatic message: "Doesn't matter who you are or what you believe it, we are one! Go get yourself one of these shirts right now!"
3/17 Justine Greening
Justine Greening was the first British female MP to come out, revealing that she is in a same-sex relationship. Greening announced the news on Twitter during the Gay Pride 2016, saying : "Today's a good day to say I'm in a happy same sex relationship, I campaigned for Stronger In but sometimes you're better off out!"
4/17 Kezia Dugdale
The leader of Scotland’s Labour party, Kezia Dugdale, was the fifth key political figure and fourth party leader in Scottish politics to come out as gay. In an interview to a Fabian Review, Dugdale said: “I have a female partner. I don’t talk about it very much because I don’t feel I need to.” Her decision to reveal the information was met with widespread support among Scottish politicians.
5/17 David Mundell
Scottish secretary has come out as gay on his personal website, where he wrote that it was time to "acknowledge in public as well as in private, who I am".
6/17 Miley Cyrus
Miley Cyrus has described herself as pansexual in the interview with the fashion magazine. Cyrus said: “I’m very open about it – I’m pansexual, but I’m not in a relationship. I’m 22, I’m going on dates, but I change my style every two weeks, let alone who I’m with.”
Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for The ONE Campaign
7/17 Bella Thorne
Disney's actress has come out as bisexual following her split from English actor Gregg Sulkin. She revealed the news by uploading a picture of her kissing a girl – and then confirmed the speculation in a tweet.
8/17 Ellen Page
The 26-year-old actor came out in an inspirational speech at the Human Rights Campaign’s youth conference, Time to Thrive, on 14 February this year. She spoke about her fear of coming out publicly and the effect that had on her. She said, to the crowd cheering her: 'My spirit suffered, my mental health suffered and my relationships suffered. And I’m standing here today, with all of the other side of all that pain.' Page said she hoped she could make a difference to others.
9/17 Vicky Beeching
Vicky Beeching, a British Christian rock singer popular in America’s Bible Belt, came out in an interview with The Independent, risking her career. In her interview Beeching talked about her anguish as a teenager as her feelings went against church teachings. Beeching now says she wants to be an advocate for gay rights within the church and came to blows with homophobic US Pastor, Scott Lively. She said to him on Channel 4 News: “I’m taking this step today so young people don’t have to listen to the kind of teaching you peddle, because it damages people.”
Jason Alden/The Independent
10/17 Tom Daley
The 20-year-old Olympic diving champion came out in an emotional YouTube video in December 2013, saying he was 'dating a guy' and in April this year said on ITV’s Celebrity Juice 'I am a gay man now.' This week Daley encouraged gay footballers to come out: 'I think people would be surprised how supported they'd be if they were to come out in a football environment,' he said at the Leaders in Sport conference in London.
11/17 Thomas Hitzlsperger
Speaking of footballers, the German, former Aston Villa player, Thomas Hitzsperger, became the highest profile footballer to be openly gay in January this year – he told the German newspaper, Die Zeit: 'It's been a long and difficult process… only in the last few years have I realised that I preferred living with a man.' The 31-year-old retired from the game in 2013 because of injuries. He said that he had thought about coming out earlier while he was still playing for Wolfsburg, but was warned against it. Afterwards he said 'there was not precedent, so people could only speculate on what would happen.'
12/17 Andreja Pejic
Andreja Pejic is known as the striking Australian model who has done shoots for Elle and Vogue, as a man modelling womenswear. In July 2014 she revealed she had undergone gender reassignment surgery and came out as a transgender woman. 'I hope that by being open about this, it becomes less of an issue,' she told People magazine.
13/17 Sam Smith
The singer and rising star of 2014 came out officially in May this year when he said his album was about unrequited love for a man. Speaking to the Fader he said: 'In the Lonely Hour is about a guy that I fell in love with last year and he didn’t love me back. I think I’m over it now, but I was in a very dark place. I kept feeling lonely in the fact that I hadn’t felt love before.'
14/17 Charlie King
The 29-year-old former The Only Way is Essex star Charlie King said he was gay in an interview with This Morning, only this month. In the interview he said he wanted to be honest about his sexuality to help other people in the same situation feel more comfortable about it.
15/17 Michael Sam
The 24-year-old was virtually unknown at the start of 2014 but came out in February and went on to become the first openly gay NFL player in the history of American football, hitting the headlines all over the world. He was picked up and then dropped in August by the St Louis Rams, and then became part of the Dallas Cowboys practice squad. He said in the New York Times: 'I’m Michael Sam, I’m a football player and I’m gay.'
The actor, Kristian Nairn, famed for his portrayal of the gentle giant Hodor on Game of Thrones came out in March this year. He told the Wall Street Journal he didn’t fit the stereotype of what a gay man is supposed to look like: 'You have to be thin, you have to be tanned… that’s never been be me.' He said he 'wanted to show the world that we are varied people, as everyone else, you don’t have to be any way.'
17/17 Ian Thorpe
Australia’s swimming champion Ian Thorpe denied being gay for years and did not feel comfortable coming out until July this year in an interview with Michael Parkinson. Thorpe is a five-time Olympic gold medallist and has recently retired from the sport, in his 2012 autobiography he said he was straight, and in July he said that being gay was something he was only just telling people: 'This is only something that very recently, we're talking the past two weeks, I've been comfortable telling the closest people around me.'
"Last night I went to bed wanting to weep," Beard wrote on her blog. "OK a rather minor discomfort given what other people suffer for their gender, but pointless and counterproductive."
Clarifying her stance, Beard wrote: "I was NOT signing up to an attack on the trans community. Nor was there any remote suggestion that I was.
"But I do feel there is something wrong here. I feel confident that I am not a transphobe or whorephobe as accused and could provide references to that effect (though I realise that prejudices are not best perceived by those who hold them)!"
She went on: "Anyway since the letter was posted on the Guardian website first thing on Saturday, for two days I have been bombard by tweets (and a few emails). Some tweeters have been very polite in their disagreement; for which, thank you. Others not quite so (i should be clear, though, there have been no threats of violence). I mean bombard. I got 60 tweets in the space of about an hour from one person alone."
I have many faults.But thinking only Oxbridge profs have right to speak,hating SWs & Trans, ignoring claims of marginal groups not amongthemmary beard (@wmarybeard) February 15, 2015
@pastachips upset it too strong a word, battered is better (try getting 60 tweets from same person in hour.. !) have read and refelectedmary beard (@wmarybeard) February 16, 2015
Critics of the letter argued that its source material was "flimsy" and that trans women should have the right to protest against what they believe are oppressive speakers.
- More about:
- Mary Beard
- Germaine Greer
- Rupert Read
- Bethany Black
- Green Party
- Julie Bindel
- Cambridge University