Artist ready to sue university over trans rights speech ban The Times 25.11.19

The original article is here.

The artist at the centre of the latest free-speech row is considering legal action against the university that stopped her speaking to students last week.

Rachel Ara said that she had been contacted by lawyers who have taken cases on the issue of free speech and trans rights to see if she would be interested in pursuing a case.

Ms Ara was due to hold workshops with fine-art students and be a speaker at Oxford Brookes on Tuesday and then speak in the evening but her event was postponed with hours to go. Oxford Brookes said that it had intervened because the proper procedures for booking an outside speaker had not been followed by the fine-art faculty.

Ms Ara believes that biological sex matters to being a woman. Other feminists and trans activists campaigners believe that a man is a woman if he identifies as such.

On the eve of the event, Ms Ara said “Terfs Out of Art” campaigners contacted the LGBTQ+ student society at Oxford Brookes, who then wrote to Anne-Marie Kilday, the pro-vice-chancellor, criticising condemning her invitation. “Terf” stands for trans-exclusionary radical feminist.

She has been told that the event was postponed shortly afterwards while the complaint was investigated.

Ms Ara said she was “very much up” for legal action. “There is a small number of people on the art scene who don’t like women,” she said.“I was going to be talking about feminism and art, and the difficulties that exist for women trying to break through. I’m not transphobic. I have been openly gay for 35 years. I think this movement is misogynistic — they are only targeting women. It is misogyny. I suspect they are straight men who are using the LGBT+ movement for their ends.

She said that she sympathised with universities because officials are genuinely concerned that they will be hounded by campaigners and could lose their job if they are accused of transphobia.

Several legal cases are taking place this week involving allegations of trans hate speech.

Harry Miller, who served with Humberside police, was accused of a hate crime after he tweeted about self-identification of gender. He has gone to the High Court in a case against the College of Policing and Humberside police arguing his views “form part of a legitimate public debate” and to classify it as hate speech was to grant a “heckler’s veto”.

In a separate case at a central London employment tribunal, a researcher who lost her job after tweeting that transgender women cannot change their biological sex is defending her right to express her “philosophical beliefs”.

Maya Forstater, 45, a tax expert, was a visiting fellow at the Centre for Global Development, an international think tank that campaigns against poverty and inequality.

Oxford Brookes said: “The university took the decision to postpone a lecture on Tuesday as it had not been booked through the usual process for confirming external speakers. Postponement will allow appropriate time to ensure this process takes place.

“Oxford Brookes is an open environment where academic freedom and freedom of speech are fundamental to our functioning, including debate and the challenging of views. Within this context and our statutory duties, visiting speakers are offered the same freedom of speech within the law as staff and students.”

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