We’ve written a letter to Lord Grabiner, Master of Clare College, Cambridge, sticking up for Kevin Price, a porter at the college who has been targeted by student activists for not signing up to the trans agenda. Last week, Mr Price stood down as a Cambridge City Councillor and resigned his membership of the Labour Party because he felt he couldn’t vote for a motion that began with the words: “Trans women are women. Trans men are men. Non-binary individuals are non-binary.”
In his remarks to the Council, which have attracted the ire of student activists at Clare College, Mr Price affirmed his commitment to trans rights, but noted that trans rights sometimes conflict with women’s rights and criticised the unwillingness of trans activists and their allies to enter into a discussion about how to balance these competing rights in a calm and evidence-based way. Instead, they are prone to making blanket assertions – such as “trans women are women”, which effectively means trans rights should be given priority over women’s rights – and brand anyone who disagrees with those assertions a “transphobe” or a “bigot”. If we understand Mr Price’s argument correctly, he felt he couldn’t vote for the motion because it was siding with those who adopt this dogmatic position, refuse to acknowledge that supporting the rights of transwomen in some cases breaches the rights of women and expressing a view that effectively means that trans rights should always take priority.
All of these points strike us as perfectly respectable. In particular, Mr Price’s view that that trans rights can sometimes conflict with women’s rights – and treating transwomen as indistinguishable from women is tantamount to prioritising trans rights over women’s rights – is one that is widely held by a number of feminist academics, including Ms Selina Todd, Professor of Modern History at Oxford. Choosing to defend some women’s rights at the expense of some trans rights – objecting to transwomen competing in women’s professional rugby matches, for instance – does not make Mr Price a “transphobe” any more than defending some trans rights at the expense of women’s rights would make supporters of the Council’s motion “misogynists”. Both points of view are reasonable, neither comes anywhere near to being “hate speech” and no one expressing either point of view deserves to be called a “bigot”.
Nevertheless, this is not how trans activists and their allies at Clare College see the matter. According to a recent article in Varsity, the Union of Clare Students (UCS) has issued a statement condemning Mr Price for showing “a brazen contempt for the rights of trans and non-binary people”. The UCS’s LGBT+ Officer Frankie Kendal labelled Mr Price’s views “transphobic” and said “trans and non-binary students should not have to interact or rely on him for support in any way”. Furthermore, a Clare student called Victoria Longstaff, a former Students’ Union Women’s Campaigns Trans Rep, said that Mr Price is “unfit both to hold public office and to be in a position of responsibility over students” in light of his views. She also said that transgender students interacting with him in his capacity as a Clare porter is “a potential risk”, and that because of this she “must support either his resignation or his suspension from his duties at the college”. UCS added that Clare College’s Senior Tutor would be meeting with Mr Price, with the clear implication that he would receive a talking-to for expressing his gender critical beliefs.
We have asked Lord Grabiner to issue a statement of support for Mr Price, making it clear that his employment status is secure, that his views do not make him a “transphobe” or a “bigot”, that he is not a “potential risk” to any students, trans or otherwise, and that if students at Clare continue to make derogatory and potentially libellous comments about him they will be disciplined, up to and including dismissal from the College. We’ve also asked him to consider giving both Mr Kendall and Ms Longstaff a formal warning, making it clear that any further statements of the kind they’ve already made about Mr Price will lead to them being disciplined.2020-10-29-Letter-to-Lord-Grabiner