Originally Posted 02/16/2016
Peter Tatchell has dedicated his life to fighting for gay rights for the last 50 years. The life long activist, who has participated in countless protests where at times beaten or arrested, has been the victim of yet another no-platforming attempt on a college campus. He has been accused of racism and transphobia by Fran Cowling, LGBT officer at the National Union of Students (British). Cowling, who I believe goes by zir, refused to participate in a discussion unless Tatchell was removed from the panel because he signed a letter in support of free speech in the Observer after Germaine Greer and others have been victims of no-platforming campaigns. Zir said this was an act of inciting violence against trans people.
According to the Daily Mail Peter Tatchell stated,
“Fran Cowling, apparently acting in the name of the National Union of Students, has denounced me as a racist and a transphobe,” he said. “She has a right to refuse to speak alongside me, but not to make witch-hunting, McCarthy-style, untrue allegations.”
He was not only accused of racism and transphobia but misogyny and Islamaphobia. The accuser did not provide actual evidence and Tatchell stated he attempted to email zir to resolve the issue peacefully.
This article in the Guardian Labelling Peter Tatchell as a racist isn’t no-platforming. It’s just ignorance claims that no-platforming is too strong a word because Cowling has a right to not show up to this event in protest. I disagree with the author Archie Bland, who is obviously unfamiliar with the tactics of activists like this. They exaggerate and outright lie, often followed by intense online or even in person harassment campaigns. Their goal is to whip up as much hatred as possible for those they disagree with. A college professor was recently screamed at on a campus for over an hour because of an email that stated people were being too sensitive about Halloween costumes. These are aggressive silencing techniques and Cowling didn’t just state that zir wasn’t attending. Zir stated zir would not attend unless he was removed from the panel. And I think it is fair to deduce that directing harassment towards Peter Tatchell is one of the goals here. If not, why outright lie with the racist accusation most will never bother to investigate.
I’d like to say this was an isolated incident but this behavior appears to becoming the norm from queer youth activists. The LGBT student group at Goldsmiths University of London behaved in a similar way, when they stood by the Islamic student union’s attempt to no-platform Maryam Namazie. She is an ex-Muslim who is risking her life speaking out against horrible treatment of women and gays in Islamic societies. I blogged about that in my post LGBTQ Student Union Group at Goldsmiths University of London- Condemned a Moderate Intellectual Woman- Because When She Criticizes Muslims Throwing Gay Men Off of Buildings- it Hurts Muslim Men of Color’s Feelings.
There was another incident displaying similar, hysterical, irrational far left-wing behavior at the National LGBTQ Taskforce, where mostly trans activists disrupted several panels. Because of the presence of a pro-Israel panel, the event ultimately culminated in activists chanting the phrase “”From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will Be Free,” often interpreted to mean the wiping out of Jews from the area. For some reason, many queer activists have invested themselves in the Palestinian cause, a place where unlike Israel they could easily be beaten or killed for being trans, bi, gay or lesbian. It seems more logical for queer activists to support LGBT and women in oppressive countries. Supporting women’s rights is helpful, because often gay and lesbian rights follow. Also, it would be wonderful to be able to find a solution to the Palestinian situation and Israel is far from perfect. But the area is so volatile, drawing an analogy to say Apartheid South Africa, which these activist do, is very simple-minded and does in fact fuel anti-Semitism. To compare a country formed by people fleeing the Holocaust to an area where Jews have already lived for centuries (with a two state solution initially proposed) who now find themselves living in the middle of a dangerous hornets nest to racist, exploitive, colonizing white South Africans is beyond offensive.
Also the constant accusations from the transgender community that any disagreement with their views causes “the death of trans people” has to end. This is not the best approach to reducing suicide and murder rates of trans people, which are serious and need to be the concern of all. I think Greer is insensitive and rude, but she is not causing the death of trans people. Violent, mostly heterosexual males are. In addition, comfort with ones own identity needs to happen within yourself, not by aggressively silencing anyone that doesn’t 100% agree with your views 100% of the time. And the thought policing tactics of hyperbole and false accusations by Fran Cowling need to be publicly condemned. It has gotten to the point where young college students have been accused of “causing the deaths of trans women” over vagina cupcakes (vulva cupcakes technically). You can read about those examples in my post Cis Women Need to Be Able to Talk About Their Vaginas and College’s ‘Project Vulva’ Attacked For ‘Transphobia’ (I verified the Caller story was real). I have now screen capped several examples of activists telling lesbians that not choosing to date trans woman is causing their deaths.
These emotionally manipulative tactics from some members of this community have to stop, as they are hindering, not helping your cause by alienating people who want to be allies. I understand it is normal for activists for legitimate causes to go overboard with their rhetoric at times. But the logical and reasonable voices from the trans community need to be louder.
Protecting Free Speech is invaluable to our democracy. Our queer youth and this whole Millennial generation and younger needs to be taught ethics, rationalism, debate, and tolerating other’s opinions in our educational systems in the West. A recent Pew poll of adults in the United States showed 40% of young people think the government should illegalize speech that is offensive to minorities. And what speech would that be? Speeches to incite a lynch mob are already illegal and should be. Or would it be “offensive statements” like “the black community has an out-of-wedlock birth problem”, or “Islam has an extremism problem”, or “lesbians have a higher rate of obesity” because these are all things people don’t want to hear and could be deemed “offensive.” But they are true. Since this generation has no tolerance for that discourse, I would not trust them for 2 seconds to decide what is offensive and what is not. The far left is a thought policing entity and our young queer rights groups are reflecting this.
Edit: Saw this great piece by Ian Dunt on Politics.co.uk Ignore the excuses – Peter Tatchell has been no-platformed doing an excellent job of pointing out the true goals of these activists.
Edit: Some commentators have stated Cowling had a right to not attend the event if Peter Tatchell was present and so this wasn’t a case of “no-platforming.” I actually agree perhaps it isn’t the best term. Tatchell wasn’t actually no-platformed by any board. While I believe that it is reasonable to deduce Cowling’s ultimate goal would be to have Tatchell no-platformed on college campuses, I would concede that “no-platforming” may not be the best term for this specific incident. Whereas the Namazie case involved an official request to have her no-platformed. I think we perhaps need a new word for the silencing and intimidation techniques activists of all stripes use when there isn’t an official banning in a public forum. These techniques serve the same purpose but need a different name. And the only way to address these techniques is for others to call them out and vigorously come to the defense of individuals that are targets of this, particularly when they are clearly being smeared and their views mischaracterized.