string(9) "edinburgh"

‘Blatantly transphobic’: Screening of Adult Human Female in Edi goes ahead amidst protest

The screening was the third attempt by the group Academics for Academic Freedom after the previous two were cancelled


A third attempted screening of the film Adult Human Female took place yesterday in 40 George Square, where it was met with around 100 protesters, and pushback from university staff and students.

The documentary claims to “look at the clash between women’s rights and trans ideology”, and was hosted by the Edinburgh branch of Academics for Academic Freedom (AFAF) – a group which believes that academics should be allowed to “put forward controversial and unpopular opinions, whether or not these are deemed offensive”, arguing that academic institutions “have no right to curb the exercise of this freedom.”

Whilst the event took place within the 40 George Square lecture theatre, students and staff protested the screening by sharing speeches of trans love, chants of solidarity, and dancing, as well as a ceilidh band.

The chants outside 40 George Square included: “Trans kids are under attack what do we do? Stand up fight back!”, “Trans rights are human rights!”, and “What do we want? Trans rights! When do we want it? Now!”

In response to the protesters, ticket holders to the event walked past whilst saying “Shame on you!”

A quiet space that was set up to allow students to meet and protest in a peaceful environment was reportedly shut down, with Trans and Non-Binary Liberation Officer Robyn Woof posting to Instagram: “The university staff evicted the pre-booked safe space tonight and it had to be moved to a students association building.”

Ahead of the screening, AFAF posted to X: “We look forward to being left alone to hold our screening and discussion of Adult Human Female in peace.”, and also said in a separate post: “A few censorious individuals mustn’t be allowed to dictate what can and can’t be discussed on our campus.”

— Edinburgh Academics for Academic Freedom (@EdinUniAFAF) November 11, 2023

The event follows another event earlier this semester by the group, which focused on the book launch of “Sex and Gender: A Contemporary Reader”, which was met with similar protests by staff and students.  

Additionally, the screening comes just two days after the Trans Day of Remembrance, which saw students, staff and the public come together on Monday to share their thoughts in a Vigil hosted by the university’s Liberation campaign alongside other university societies.

Ahead of yesterday’s event, Gender Liberation released a statement on social media, which can be signed by staff, students, and student groups, which stated that: “Almost a year after the first attempted screening, we believe it is pointless to yet again try to prove to the university management that a product so blatantly transphobic is, in fact, transphobic.

“We have tried and we have been ignored. Instead, we wish to emphasise that the university is, now without a doubt, knowingly endangering the well-being, safety, and dignity of its trans students.”

In response to the protest, a representative from Gender Liberation told The Edinburgh Tab: “Adult Human Female is a film which first denies the existence of transgender people and then tries to prove that if they do exist, they are dangerous. It claims gender holds no complexity and ignores the ways in which our understanding of it has changed over centuries.

“Judged on its academic merits, it appears confused, self-contradictory, and cherry-picked; this is because it was produced for a specific target audience of people who already hold gender-critical beliefs in order to manufacture the legitimacy of these views.

“The University of Edinburgh management knows this because, over the past year, students and staff alike have written countless statements, posts and emails explaining it to them. Therefore, we view their decision to attempt yet another screening of Adult Human Female as unequivocally transphobic.

“We encourage everyone to read the detailed breakdown of the documentary written by an anonymous contributor and circulated by the Staff Student Solidarity Network. We also recommend people to read Staff Pride Network’s explanation of why the film does not serve productive academic debate.”

We also spoke to the university’s LGBTQ+ liberation campaign officer, who said: “The fact we had to protest the screening of ‘adult human female’ is appalling to me. It shows that the university continues to prioritise and give a platform to people with transphobic views under the premise of ‘academic freedom’ and ‘freedom of speech’.

“This continues to hurt the trans* and gender non-conforming community at Edinburgh University massively and has nothing to do with their ‘inclusion’ policies that they pride themselves on.

“This is not a disagreement of ‘opinions’, people’s lives and safety are on the line here. The fact that we were asked to leave our safe space for protestors just shows this to me even more. This is not a ‘debate’ under ‘academic freedom’ nor was it ever one.

“But we will continue to protest such events, and we will continue to call on the university to stop giving hate speech a platform.”

Gender Liberation’s full statement can be read here.

A University of Edinburgh spokesperson said: “We remain steadfast in our commitment to upholding freedom of expression and academic freedom. It is in this context that the group Edinburgh Academics for Academic Freedom (EAFAF) held a rescheduled screening and discussion of the documentary ‘Adult Human Female’ on the University campus.

“The decision to allow an event or discussion to proceed was made in line with our policies and is not an endorsement by the University of any views. We firmly uphold the right of people to take part in peaceful and lawful protest and we put measures in place to allow the event to proceed with the safety of both attendees and protestors as paramount.”

A spokesperson for AFAF said: “We understand that some people disagree with the views put forward in the film, and we are relaxed about people making their views felt through peaceful protest. We have never sought to prevent events going ahead which promote a different perspective.

“We believe that it is important for a diversity of viewpoints to be presented and discussed. This is fundamental to the purpose of a university – the pursuit of knowledge through calm and careful debate. So we think that while it is fine for people to disagree it is not OK for them to try to prevent other people from attending.

“We deplore the attempts by protestors to intimidate our guests. Attendees told us it was frightening to have to walk past ‘men in masks holding a ‘Fuck TERFs’ banner and shouting abuse’. This is not peaceful protest: it is harassment. The misrepresentation of the views presented in the film by those trying to close it down is contributing to a toxic climate on campus for those with what might broadly be described as ‘gender critical’ views’.