Defend Tatchell against these ignorant, dangerous self-righteous NUS lunatics!

February 14, 2016 at 8:59 pm (academe, Beyond parody, Free Speech, gay, Human rights, Jim D, LGBT, Peter Tatchell, strange situations, students, wankers)

Like (I’m sure) most decent people, I was appalled to read in today’s Observer that the NUS’s LGBT representative, one Fran Cowling, has denounced Peter Tatchell as “transphobic” and “racist”.

The “evidence” for this nonsense is non-existent to any rational person, so I don’t intend, here, to even dignify it with a response: Comrade Coatesy deals with it here.

Suffice to say that my immediate reaction was that Fran Cowling, the NUS’s LGBT representative who made these comments, may be mentally ill: certainly, she should not be taken as speaking on behalf of the NUS: the NUS told the Observer “Tatchell has not been ‘no-platformed’ by the union as a whole, and that it was up to Cowling to make her own choices with regard to this event.”

So I assumed this was the reaction of one strange and disturbed individual, carried away by the self-righteous logic of identity politics. Until this was drawn to my attention:

Here is what passed – overwhelmingly – at NUS LGBT conference 2015

Motion 101: End Transphobia, Biphobia and Islamophobia on Campus

Content warning: Transphobia, biphobia, and Islamophobia

Conference believes:

1.1. NUS LGBT has a duty to protect and promote the rights of those who self-define as part of LGBT NUS, on campus at University or college and in wider society.

2.2. All students, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, have the right to a safe environment at their University or College campus where they can learn, develop as an individual, and achieve their full potential. This safe space must include an environment that is free from all forms of discrimination and prejudice including but not limited to: homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, racism, sexism, ableism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism.

3.3. Transphobia is an irrational dislike, hatred, prejudice and/or discriminatory action towards individuals who define as Trans, including (but not limited to) transgender, transsexual, transvestite, and genderqueer people, and anyone who does define into the gender binary norms of society.

4.4. NUS Liberation Campaigns have previously passed ‘No Platform’ Policies in order to protect students from individuals who preach prejudice and discrimination based on an individual’s identity, and who incite hatred against an individual based upon their identity or beliefs.

5.5. The NUS LGBT Campaign and the NUS Women’s Campaign have previously passed policy refusing to share a platform with Julie Bindel, a journalist and author who is notorious for her transphobic publications and views, and other individuals who hold transphobic views.

Conference further believes:

1.1. Julie Bindel is renowned for her transphobic viewpoints, which first came to light in her article Gender Benders, Beware (2004). Bindel has apologised for the ‘tone’ of this article, but has not renounced further writings which argue that Trans people should be denied medical care. Moreover, she has spoken at events such as Femifest 2014 that explicitly exclude Trans people.

2.2. Julie Bindel argued in her latest book, ‘Straight Expectations’ (2014) that that bisexuality doesn’t exist as a sexual identity, thus erasing bisexual individuals’ identities and experiences.

3.3. Julie Bindel has also criticised women who wear the niqab in her article for the Daily Mail: Why are my fellow feminists shamefully silent over the tyranny of the veil (2013); in refusing to believe that Muslim women have made their own decision to wear the niqab she denies Muslim women agency.

Conference resolves:

1.1. That the NUS LGBT Officers and members of the NUS LGBT committee shall not share a platform with Julie Bindel.

2.2. That the NUS LGBT Officers and members of the NUS LGBT Committee shall not engage with transphobic, biphobic or Islamophobic speakers

And here is a motion that passed at NUS Trans Conference in autumn 2015 – note “The sharing of content on social media is also granting a platform … Covering transphobic speech both in a positive and negative light is still granting it a platform”

Motion 108 | Hate has no place on campuses

Content Warning: Transphobia

Conference Believes:

1.NUS has a duty to protect and promote the rights of those who self-define as trans, on campus at University or college and in wider society.

2.All students, regardless of their gender identity, have the right to a safe environment at their University or College campus.

3.Transphobia is an irrational dislike, hatred, prejudice and/or discriminatory action towards individuals who define as trans.

4.NUS Liberation Campaigns have previously passed ‘No Platform’, “no sharing of platforms” and “no invite” Policies in order to protect students from individuals who preach and incite hatred against an individual based upon their identity.

5.Legally “hate speech” does not cover transphobic speech

Conference Further Believes:

1.1. Transphobic, homophobic, biphobic, racist, sexist, ableist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, and/or antiSemitic speakers have no place at universities or colleges.

2.2. “No sharing of platforms” and “no invite” Policies do not limit the freedom of speech

3.3. Transphobic speech should be legally recognised as hate speech

4.4. Transphobia and transphobic speakers have lead to poor access to health care and welfare services by spreading myths about trans people.

5.5. By allowing transphobic speakers onto campus this can affect the mental health of trans students on campus.

6.6. By giving a speaker a platform it is a method to legitimises their views

7.7. The sharing of content on social media is also granting a platform

8.8. Covering transphobic speech both in a positive and negative light is still granting it a platform.

9.9. Transphobic speech is still transphobic hate speech even if they are a member of another or the same liberation group.

10.10. There is no such thing as reverse discrimination.

11.11. Universities and Colleges should be a place for trans people to thrive where they feel safe and accepted.

Conference Resolves:

1.1. To support all campaigns, protests and petitions making people who are Transphobic, homophobic, biphobic, racist, sexist, ableist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, and/or anti-Semitic speakers not to invited onto campuses.

2.2. To not share platforms with and not to invite onto campuses all transphobic speakers including but not limited to: Germaine Greer1 , Julie Bindel2 , Julie Burchill3 and Milo Yiannapolous4 .

3.3. To actively campaign against the platforming and inviting onto campuses of all transphobic speakers at universities.

4.4. To encourage the platforming and inviting onto campuses of people from liberation groups, specifically pertaining to the issue at hand.

5.5. Encourage students’ unions to have safe spaces for trans people, as well spaces where they can operate autonomously

6.6. To work on making transphobic speech covered under the definition of “hate speech


So it would seem that Fran Cowling is not just an individual lunatic, but is acting on behalf of the NUS’s LGBT conference: in which case socialists have a job of work to shake these tossers out of their self-righteous idiocy, before society as a whole declares them  beyond the pale.


  1. Steven Johnston said,

    “So it would seem that Fran Cowling is not just an individual lunatic, but is acting on behalf of the NUS’s LGBT conference: in which case socialists have a job of work to shake these tossers out of their self-righteous idiocy, before society as a whole declares them beyond the pale.”

    Buddy, that ship sailed a lonnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnggggggg time ago.
    They are just good for shits and giggles now.
    How does that quote go in Blackadder the third, about fitting wheels to a tomato? Something about time-consuming and completely unnecessary.

    • Paul Canning (@pauloCanning) said,

      I would love for these people to be irrelevant but they’re not. The politics this represents has screwed up the fight by Muslim people against Islamists and, from my close quarters experience, solidarity work on LGBT issues with the global south. Just look at the numbers claiming that Tatchell is ‘racist’.

      • Steven Johnston said,

        They are, irrelevant that is. No one outside a university campus takes them seriously and I doubt many in the campuses do either.

  2. Lamia said,

    “Content warning: Transphobia, biphobia, and Islamophobia”

    I am disappointed, in fact I am TRAUMATISED by the fact that your own article did NOT contain a trigger warning about this content warning, Jim.

    I thought the internet was meant to be a safe space. Please put cotton wool safeguards in place on your site as a matter of urgency (but not ‘urgency’ in a manner that might cause anxiety).

  3. Glasgow Working Class said,

    I will have to comfort myself hoping that most students use taxpayers money to educate themselves for the greater good off humanity.

    • Political Tourist said,

      Student loans not happened in your area.

      • Glasgow Working Class said,

        I have never had a student loan or required one. Students should not expect automatic handouts from the taxpayer along with subsidised bars. And the more I read about students preventing free speech has given me an antipathy towards them.

  4. Jim Denham said,

    Similar issues are dealt with in Kenan Malik’s article about the “Rhodes Must Fall” stuff at Oxford Uni.

    The “Rhodes Must Fall” campaigners have said that the presence of Rhodes statues at Oxford Uni is, literally, violence. It’s also a form of colonisation. Getting rid of the statue is an act of ‘decolonisation’, and it is a piece of physical self-defence: defending Black students from the violence of having an upsetting statue there reminding them of their trauma.

    Malik gets into the argument here:

    I think the idea that the Rhodes statue is ‘violence’ is ludicrous- as is the argument that Julie Bindel’s ideas are a campaign of physical extermination.

  5. morgansabnis said,

    Reblogged this on Morgan Sabnis and commented:
    Things have got seriously out of hand

  6. Rilke said,

    I had a discussion with an Oxford student about the Rhodes statue. My suggestion was simple; just put up a plaque on it saying that Rhodes was a confirmed racist and coloniser of the British Emprire and giving a few historical details and indicating that such repression is no longer accepted. Thus turning the statue into a historically educational emblem rather than trying to expunge a symbol of a disreputable history that still exists in many forms. He called me a ‘collaborator’ and said I had no idea what ‘trauma black people had to go through when they see it’. I told him, that in that case, the phrase ‘black people’ is so witlessly generalised as to be racist in itself and is therefore derogatory to the actual complex ethnicity of the continent and diaspora. Does he intend West African, North African, Afro- Caribbean, Asian etc, or Kenyan, Nigerian and so on? In any case, the phrase ‘black people’ implies a binary oppostion between white and black that should be deconstructed rather than repeated. Any moral exhibitionist can play that game. It is easy, even I can do it. It is easy, that is why they do it, some cheap moral coin for little effort.

    • Glasgow Working Class said,

      If you get rid of history then there will be no change in society. That is why IS burn books and destroy statues. Students are supposed to be progressive but I suspect we are having a lot of pre brainwashed idiots entering university.

  7. Lamia said,

    Good article Jim. I would like to add that in my view it’s important not to see this just in terms of an attack on Peter Tatchell. Cowling’s behaviour would have been wrong and deplorable whoever it was aimed at – even if there was some justice in her charges. If I may explain…

    In the first place, Cowling made charges via e-mail that Tatchell is a racist and transphobe. She also claimed that she had witnessed Tatchell using racist language, and that she spoke on behalf of many LGBT people.

    Now those are serious charges. Of course, being called ‘racist’ and all sorts of other ‘phobe’ has become an occupational hazard for almost anyone who is not an orthodox Gaurdian-reading SJW, and many of us have learned to roll or eyes and shrug it off. Unfortunately, within many of our institutions and in civic society, such charges can ruin people’s reputations and careers. So if someone is going to make such charges, they ought to be able and willing to back them up. It was not surprising or unreasonable of Tatchell (or anyone facing such charges) to ask Cowling to produce evidence for her claims. She refused to engage with Tatchell. That is in itself dishonest and cowardly.

    Some people would have threatened Cowling with legal action for defamation. That might seem extreme to some, but would not be entirely unreasonable. Tatchell did not. He did make public the information in Cowling’s accusatory/defamatory (take your pick) emails. And for this he has been criticised. But if someone makes accusations in private to a third party that they refuse to justify or substantiate, then again, it’s quite reasonable for the person impugned to make this public. Tatchell is entitled to defend his reputation. Slander done privately is not ‘private’, either legally or morally.

    The response of Cowling’s supporters got even sillier with the accusation that Tatchell had somehow ‘outed’ Cowling. In fact (1) she was clearly out online and it doesn’t take a genius to guess that a LGBT representative is either L,G,B or T; (2) he didn’t explicitly out her anyway. Again, this is nonsensical behaviour regardless of whether Peter Tatchell or anyone else was the person who had been accused by Cowling.

    It was of course only a matter of time before Cowling’s supporters were claiming that she was the victim in this and had been silence, hounded, and ‘had her life attacked’ by Tatchell and his supporters (she had deleted her Twitter account). Finally, the apogee of lunacy was reached with Cowling’s supporters trying to frame the matter as a case of a woman ‘not being believed’, being vilified for ‘having an opinion’, and being the victim of ‘entitlement’ and ‘power imbalance’.

    In fact, the case is more an example of Cowling and her kind having lived too long in a bubble. They have become far too used to denouncing those they disagree with (or simply disapprove of), and expecting (often with justification) for those around them and in institutions to fall in line with their rage. Julie Bindel and Germaine Greer (leave aside whether you approve or disapprove of either; it’s irrelevant) have become declared persona non grata by young SJWs, and it looks like Tatchell was next on the list. Cowling is from that section of the left that supports STWC and Islamists and Tatchell has been a prime irritant to such people.

    Unfortunately for Cowling and co, in this case their tactics backfired dreadfully – and the crybullies are in a tearful rage. Tatchell has received support from across the spectrum by people who find it either absurd or outrageous that he has been smeared in this way. But once again, this matters not just because it was Peter Tatchell in the receiving end. It could have been someone one approves of more or less than him, and the behaviour of Cowling and co would still have been contemptible.

    It is Cowling and co who have become ‘entitled’ – they think that different rules apply to them and that when they throw mud (whether justified or not) their target is not allowed to throw mud back. In fact Tatchell has not thrown mud back, but he would have had fair reason to. In my view, the most odious thing here is not Cowling’s list of charges (though I do think those charges are absurd and possibly actionable) but the fact that having dished it out she could not take it in return.

    That is without getting too much into the way that our current crop of SJWs are so utterly abject in trying to ingratiate themselves with Islamists who would happily throw them off rooftops – by denouncing the very secualrists who would defend their and everyone else’s basic human rights. They are not social justice ‘warriors’, they are moral and intellectual cowards.

    It’s important that when these people try their chuck-and-run tactics, the response to them isn’t just determined by how we feel about the person or people they are targetting. A certain section of young people in our universities are behaving like junior Red Guards, and we can laugh at the start of it but we may not be laughing somewhere down the line. Society and our academic institutions need to stop this. Cowling and her ilk are evidently unsuited in temperament to being university students (they obviously think they know everything already) and they should be kicked out. If they behave like spoilt, thuggish children, they should be treated as such. Students are losing sympathy in wider society because of a small, intolerant minority.

  8. Steven Johnston said,

    The good news is, it resulted in mass of publicity for Tatchell and he was given access to even more “platforms” to make his point.
    I heard on the radio this morning that the NUS have not “no platformed” Tatchell and they are confused as to why people think this is the case. What has happened is that Cowling refused to share a platform with him. Which is different. Now, Cowling has this right, you can’t force her to share a platform with anyone she doesn’t want to.

  9. Lamia said,

    Steven, they are putting quite a spin on what Cowling is reported to have said in her email. She is alleged – and neither she nor anyone else has contradicted this – to have said:

    1) that unless Tatchell did not attend, she would not attend herself.

    That is in itself pretty obviously angling for Tatchell to be disinvited. It’s not outright no-platforming but it’s clearly not merely a refusal but also an ultimatum.

    2) she claimed to have witnessed Tatchell using racist language, and accused him of ‘harrassing’ a BME NUS rep.

    None of that has been disputed. Nor has Cowling or anyone else controverted Tatchell’s claim that he asked Cowling to supply evidence for her charges but refused to reply to him.

    “Cowling has this right, you can’t force her to share a platform with anyone she doesn’t want to.”

    Agreed. But that is not really a sufficient description of a message to the effect that unless someone else does not attend you will not attend.

    She has been sneaky and arguably defamatory. She is lucky that Tatchell is unlikely to sue. If you make serious charges like that, then you ought to be willing and able to back them up. If you instead go into radio silence, that’s not you being a victim, it’s you being dishonest and cowardly. It also suggest that you have simply been engaging in casual defamation. Cowling’s kind have become too used to making vehement denunciations and character assassinations, and then crying victim when challenged to back them up. They don’t deserve sympathy.

    • Steven Johnston said,

      I’m not trying to justify her behaviour, I am a supporter of Tatchell. I wasn’t always but after debating with a Hope not hate supporter of his I saw his virtues. But in this mass-media age can you really “no-platform” anyone? In fact in this case it has been counter-productive as his views have probably reached a larger audience.
      I don’t think anyone has sympathy for Cowling and I bet she loses her postion in the LGBT student organisation.

      • Lamia said,

        I would agree that the focus on the ‘no-platforming’ issue has been somewhat missing the point. What’s really bad are the accusatory/defamatory charges that were then unsupported, and Cowling’s failure to support her own accusations subsequently being presented as evidence that she’s been attacked or silenced (poor thing).

  10. Jim Denham said,

  11. Steven Johnston said,

    I agree that she has defamed Tatchell and I suppose if he sued everyone that did that to him he’d never be out of court. I don’t think she’ll come out of this looking good, she has been the architect of her own downfall and I’ve no sympathy for her either.

  12. John R said,

    Unfortunately, various grouping are now lining up to attack Peter Tatchell.

    “The LGBTIQ Greens do not support Peter Tatchell”

    They were giving their support instead to this Young Greens’ statement –

    “Young Greens stand in solidarity with Fran Cowling.

    The Young Greens offer their support to NUS LGBT Officer, Fran Cowling, who joins a line of NUS liberation officers who have been the target of oppression in recent years.”

    More here –

    So, even within his own Party, the knife is being stuck into Peter Tatchell.

    Within the Labour Left NUS, Shelly Asquith tweeted the following on Feb 14 in relation to Peter Tatchell –

    “Signs of a narcissist: naming a Foundation after yourself.”

    “tbh I love how white males only care about the safety of women when they can use it to further islamophobia ¯\_(ツ)_/¯” (this was retweeted by Asquith).

    Shelly Asquith is the NUS Vice President of Welfare and was Student Youth and Young Trade Unionist spokesperson for the Jeremy Corbyn campaign. She has written in Labourlist in support of Corbyn a few times and I imagine she has or will have some involvement in Momentum.

    I’m afraid that the views of Fran Cowling and many on the NUS Leadership are more widely supported than many realise. It would be surprising if they will not be reflected to some extent in Momentum given Asquith’s position as Corbyn’s “Student Youth and Young Trade Unionist spokesperson” in his Leadership campaign.

    Btw, she also attacked the NUS President (along with Fran Cowling) last October for not wanting to work alongside the Islamist group Cage against Prevent.

    Considering the leadership of Cage quite happily support the stoning to death of adulterers, I can only imagine their views on LGBT liberation.

  13. An Open Letter to Peter Tatchell Regarding Fran Cowling, Power, and Public shaming – Chris Hubley said,

    […] about NUS LGBT officer Fran Cowling, and how they refused to share a stage with you at an event. Many, many articles. Every single one of these are supporting your claims that you are being unfairly […]

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