McGill’s Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism (CHRLP), housed by the Faculty of Law, is hosting Robert Wintemute for a talk titled “The Sex vs. Gender (Identity) Debate In the United Kingdom and the Divorce of LGB from T” at 1 p.m. on Jan. 10. CHRLP’s decision to welcome Wintemute prompted outcry from several groups at McGill, including RadLaw McGill and Queer McGill, for his association with a trans-exclusionary advocacy organization. The student groups, along with trans activist Celeste Trianon, are staging a protest at 12:40 p.m. on Jan. 10 in room 16 of Old Chancellor Day Hall, where the “Sex vs. Gender (Identity) Debate” will take place.
Wintemute, who graduated from the Faculty of Law in 1982 and is currently a professor of human rights law at King’s College London, is a trustee of the LGB Alliance—an organization based in the United Kingdom that advocates for the rights of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people only. LGB Alliance is widely regarded as an anti-trans hate group because it only recognizes sex as a binary, invalidating the identities of transgender and non-binary people. The LGB Alliance has also lobbied to exclude transgender people from legislation that would shield them from conversion therapy in the U.K.
In an interview with The McGill Tribune, Trianon, a law student at Université de Montréal, reflected on the interconnectedness of gender, sexuality, and human rights issues.
“What the LGB Alliance does is try to divide and conquer the trans community by attempting to ‘drop the T’ or otherwise remove trans people from the picture,” Trianon said. “We cannot separate trans rights from women’s rights, from gay and lesbian rights—everything’s interconnected. And oftentimes, it is people who are most marginalized or touched by the most intersections that are hurt.”
According to CHRPL co-director Frédéric Mégret, the Centre was approached by Wintemute to host his presentation. Mégret added that the Centre recognizes the concerns that students and other community members have with platforming the LGB Alliance, but ultimately stressed that the Centre is dedicated to upholding academic freedom.
“We are mindful that this is a very problematic organization in many ways,” Mégret said in an interview with the Tribune. “We are also keen on hosting difficult conversations—the Centre has in the past and we think that the ethos of human rights is that ideas have to be voiced and refuted [….] We invite people whose views we occasionally strongly disagree with. The question is whether there’s space for a conversation.”
While not advertised on the event’s web page, Professor Darren Rosenblum will be present to provide a rebuttal to Wintemute, according to Mégret. Yet, several groups at McGill, including RadLaw McGill, Queer McGill, and Black Students’ Network McGill, have spoken out against CHRLP’s decision to platform Wintemute and the LGB Alliance’s values in the first place.
“How are trans and nonbinary people meant to feel that they belong at McGill when its administration makes it clear that our right to legal protection is up for debate?” Jacob Williams, a TPU representative, said in a statement to the Tribune. “The debate sends the message that rejecting trans protections in law is a position worth considering.”
Williams stressed that the Centre’s choice to platform Wintemute is indicative of McGill’s approach to equity at an institutional level. To support trans students, the organization recommends that community members and leaders centre the experiences of marginalized folks at McGill.
“Don’t let McGill’s branding as ‘inclusive,’ ‘equitable,’ and ‘diverse’ obscure the actual experiences of trans people among other minorities at McGill,” Williams said. “When it comes to ‘equity,’ McGill is all bark and no bite. So until we see the results we need, students need to call out McGill’s supposed commitment to ‘equity’ for what it really is: A corporation’s shallow, self-interested marketing strategy that occasionally delivers crumbs.”
For those seeking support, the Trans Patient Union is an advocacy and mutual aid collective by and for trans and nonbinary patients at McGill and can be reached on Instagram. @transpatients.