A PROMINENT LGBTQ+ activist pulled out of speaking at the Oxford Union last night due to the debating society’s decision to give a platform to feminist speaker Professor Kathleen Stock.
Peter Tatchell wrote to the Oxford Union explaining that he would no longer be delivering his talk, as he “strongly disagreed” with the union’s decision to give “a solo platform” to Prof Stock.
The talk by Prof Stock – a women's rights activist and lesbian – attracted controversy, with Oxford University’s LGBTQ+ society calling for her invitation to be withdrawn. Hundreds of trans-rights activists vented their anger towards the academic.
Mr Tatchell has taken part in over 30 debates at the Oxford Union in the past and has been politically active in Oxford.
He was initially selected to stand as the Green Party’s parliamentary candidate for the Oxford East constituency before a bus accident forced him to pull out.
Writing in a letter to the Oxford Union, Mr Tatchell said: “I have decided, somewhat reluctantly, to withdraw from the debate.
“I strongly disagree with the Oxford Union giving Kathleen Stock a solo platform, without having a trans speaker to counter her viewpoint.
“While I am all in favour of free speech, it is not free speech when trans people are denied a voice in favour of those who want to restrict their inclusion and human rights.”
Mr Tatchell criticised the Oxford Union for hosting a talk which was both “biased and unfair”.
He said speaking at the union would therefore be “inappropriate” and he had chosen to show his “solidarity with the trans community”.
In 1990, Mr Tatchell was one of the founders of the British political group OutRage! and this focused specifically on campaigning for LGBT rights.
Mr Tatchell has also been politically active across the world, as in 1999 and 2001 he attempted a citizens’ arrest of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.
The activist’s position is not aligned with that of prime minister Rishi Sunak, who waded in and said “a free society requires free debate”.
The prime minister called on the university to not allow a “small” and “vocal” minority to prevail in shutting down discussion.
He said: “We should all be encouraged to engage respectfully with the ideas of others.
“University should be an environment where debate is supported, not stifled.
“We mustn’t allow a small but vocal few to shut down discussion.
“Kathleen Stock’s invitation to the Oxford Union should stand.”
The Oxford Union, Peter Tatchell and Kathleen Stock have all been approached for comment by the Oxford Mail.