Trans rights protester glues themselves to floor at Kathleen Stock’s Oxford Union talk

Around 200 LGBT+ activists protested against a talk by Kathleen Stock at Oxford University’s 200-year-old debating society

Joseph Draper
Tuesday 30 May 2023 22:02 BST
Trans rights protester removed after disrupting Kathleen Stock's Oxford Union talk

A trans rights protester who glued themselves to the floor during a talk by gender-critical feminist Professor Kathleen Stock has been removed by police.

Four police officers spent around 10 minutes attempting to remove the activist, who was one of around 200 protesters to gather at the Oxford Union on Tuesday in opposition to Professor Stock’s appearance following remarks in her book Material Girls, in which she outlined views perceived by some as trans-exclusionary.

Campaigners holding banners that read “Resisting by existing” and chanting “Trans rights – human rights” marched towards the 200-year-old debating society, where police were braced for potential clashes.

Prof Stock had only been talking for around five minutes before three protesters jumped out of the audience chanting “No more dead trans kids.” She began talking again after the near-30-minute interruption.

Taking questions from the audience after police removed the protester, she said: “I didn’t mind that protest. It wasn’t traumatic for me.

“But generally what I find more worrying is when institutions have listened to the protesters (...) and then basically become propaganda machines for a particular point of view.”

During the talk, Prof Stock argued that trans women born male should not be able to access female-only spaces, and also spoke about trans women in prisons.

Prof Stock argued it was “not fair on females” for trans women to enter their spaces, asking: “Why should females take this burden on?”

Riz Possnett, the protester who glued themselves to the floor, said trans rights “should not be up for ‘debate’”.

They said that those who had come to listen to Prof Stock should consider the “dangerous consequences” of her views, adding: “Trans lives and rights should not be up for ‘debate’, but the Union did not even provide that.

“My goal was to show the other side, to ensure everyone who listened to Stock’s talk also considered the dangerous consequences of those views for trans people, particularly trans youth.

“Kathleen Stock is not welcome here. Terfs are not welcome here. We will resist hatred, and we will fight for trans rights. Trans people, including trans youth, deserve to live in peace, safe from bigotry and harassment, with access to life-saving gender-affirming healthcare.

“We grieve for our trans siblings who have lost their lives on waiting lists, we grieve for those who have been murdered, and we grieve for those who died without ever having the freedom to live as their true selves. No more.”

Prior to Prof Stock’s appearance, Oxford University’s LGBTQ+ Society said it was standing up against her “hateful views”, while the university’s vice-chancellor, Professor Irene Tracey, defended the philosopher’s appearance as a matter of “freedom of speech”.

The protest comes after prime minister Rishi Sunak intervened to support the talk, writing in The Daily Telegraph that debate was a hallmark of a “tolerant society”.

Speaking at the rally, Max Van Kleek, associate professor of human-computer interaction at the university, said transgender students suffered from “so much abuse” and were “losing rights around the world”.

“Let us all unite in trans solidarity and show people we are not something to fear,” he said. “We are something to embrace because the future is us – we are on the right side of history.”

A trans teacher called Alexandra said it “hurt” that students were “debating on questions like whether my fundamental rights are worth protecting”, while a student called Eliot added that the protest was “full of anger” because trans rights were under threat.

President of Oxford University LGBTQ+ Society Amiad Haran Diman (second right) holds a banner during protests against an appearance by feminist philosopher Kathleen Stock on Tuesday
President of Oxford University LGBTQ+ Society Amiad Haran Diman (second right) holds a banner during protests against an appearance by feminist philosopher Kathleen Stock on Tuesday (AFP via Getty)

Days before Prof Stock’s talk, a group of Oxford University academics and staff signed a letter supporting the right of transgender students to speak out against the event.

The BBC reported that the open letter, shared on Saturday by the university’s LGBTQ+ society and signed by 100 academics and staff, said: “We believe that trans students should not be made to debate their existence.”

The Oxford Union announced it was to offer “welfare resources” to students attending the talk by Prof Stock. The organisation, which describes itself as the “last bastion of free speech”, said students would be able to “challenge” Prof Stock at the event.

In a statement ahead of the talk, Oxford University LGBTQ+ Society president Amiad Haran Diman said they would not try to block entry or shut down the talk.

“Stock’s right for free speech has never been threatened,” they said. “We will just express our desire for a more civil conversation than this one, advocating against the hateful views that will be expressed there and the decision to amplify them.”

Speaking on Talk TV earlier on Tuesday, Prof Stock said universities had become “timid” in pushing back against “idealistic, illiberal attempts to shut down” free speech.

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