Students and student-run organizations at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, are protesting the institution’s decision to invite a noted anti-trans activist to speak on campus on Tuesday.
Lawyer Robert Wintemute is giving a speech at the university entitled “The Sex vs. Gender (Identity) Debate In the United Kingdom and the Divorce of LGB from T.” Wintemute is a member of the United Kingdom-based LGB Alliance, which claims to advocate for lesbian, gay and bisexual causes but which activists at McGill have pointed out is actually part of a “Christian right-supported campaign to ‘divide and conquer’ the LGBT community.”
LGB Alliance, which is listed on the website of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism as an extremist hate group, espouses anti-transgender views under the guise of being pro-gay and pro-women. Further, the group has actively worked against the interests of people it supposedly seeks to protect — it has endorsed conversion therapy for gay and lesbian people, for example, and one of the group’s founders has filed a lawsuit against the LGBTQ Stonewall landmark in New York City. One activist affiliated with the organization, who unsuccessfully ran for Parliament in the U.K., has claimed that being gay is a choice. The group’s charitable status was challenged last year when LGBTQ advocates noted that it doesn’t actually work to help lesbian, gay or bisexual people.
“We will get around to it,” one of the group’s co-founders said in response to the lawsuit.
By granting LGB Alliance members a platform to share their transphobic views, McGill University is “actively contributing to the genocide of trans people across the world,” student organizers wrote in an open letter challenging Wintemute’s presence on campus.
McGill University has tried to justify Wintemute’s planned speech by saying that it “serve[s] as a platform for critical conversations” and is “not an endorsement of any speaker’s views.” But student organizers have said that the university’s explanation ignores the paradox of intolerance.
“As much as McGill may try to absolve itself from blame by claiming its right to academic liberty, we must refute that argument by stating that the tolerance of intolerance ultimately results in the wiping out of tolerance,” organizers wrote. “Would McGill give a platform to an openly misogynistic lawyer advocating actively for sending women back into the kitchen, under the guise of debate? No. Then why would McGill do the same, albeit to trans people?”
Celeste Trianon, one of the organizers of the protest against Wintemute’s presence at McGill, spoke to Truthout about the dangers of allowing anti-trans speakers to promote their viewpoints at institutions of higher learning.
“The LGB Alliance…has directly contributed to the hundreds of anti-trans bills introduced in the United States and the failure of the Gender Recognition Act reforms in the UK,” Trianon said in an email to Truthout. “It is responsible for making trans people refugees of their own states and countries.”
“Every extra minute of airtime given to an anti-trans activist may result in further rollback of trans rights,” Trianon added. “Every such minute will contribute to the premature deaths of trans people worldwide.”