NUS stabs trans women in the back

Obviously I have titled this blog post with a sensational headline. However, the irony of the NUS’s policies hurting their own members should not be lost on you.

As many of you will know, the National Union of Students (NUS) hates freedom of expression. I wish I was joking. However, student politics are so badly calibrated that Spiked now maintain an index on free speech at universities. Meanwhile, in the real world, over a million people sign a petition to prop up a man who is genuinely acts like a racist and a bigot. Is this the right way round?

Even by their own standards however, the NUS has taken some new giant leaps in curtailing freedom of expression.

According to the New Statesman the NUS recently voted to extend their no platform policy:

the NUS Women’s’ Officers and members of the NUS Women’s committee shall not offer a platform to any transphobic speaker, biphobic or Islamophobic speaker

What Islam has to do with women’s issues I’m not sure. But apparently it is in their remit to ban Maryam Namazie, women’s rights activist, who was recently forced to cancel a talk at Trinity College because of additional restricts placed on her and only her.

Not only does this suppress genuine criticism of Islam (Namazie was raised as as Muslim), but is then entirely overlooked when an Islamic speaker is invited onto campus as they are often homophobic. The simultaneous toleration of Islamic hate speech and suppression of criticism of this is mind boggling.

But it goes on. They also passed the following resolution:

  1. To issue a statement condemning the user of ‘cross-dressing’ as a mode of fancy dress.
  2. To amend the NUS Zero Tolerance Statement policy to cover all NUS events and conferences; and to encourage Unions to ban clubs and societies from holding events which permit or encourage (cisgender) members to use ‘cross-dressing’ as a mode of fancy dress

Lets pretend for a moment that this doesn’t limit people’s freedom (it does) for a completely non-malicious act and that it doesn’t do it in a discriminatory way (it does) by targeting a specific group, in this case cisgender.

What about the affect on trans people?

Realising your transgender and transitioning to your correct gender is an incredibly awkward, long and emotionally-draining experience. Imagine if you are a fresh-faced 18 year old trans woman arriving at university, still living as a man, starting to grapple with these issues.

Where do you start? In my, albeit anecdotal experience, you probably start by cross dressing at nights out. Why? Because that is the most acceptable place to start in terms of being judged by the rest of society. It’s the safest way to start. And still, I imagine it takes a huge amount of courage.

Events, such as Wendy House for example, provide a sheltered way for people to begin experimenting with gender, and perhaps take that first step towards becoming the gender they want to transition to. If we ban that, we put in yet another barrier into the lives of trans people.

If people cannot experiment with gender under the light of a disco ball, where can they? At home, in private, hidden away from society as if it is something to be ashamed about? Is that the society we want?



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This entry was posted on Saturday, March 28th, 2015 at 10:32 am and is filed under Religion & Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.