McGill, News

Faculty of Law event to host speaker with ties to anti-trans organization

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. 

The Trans Patient Union (TPU), a coalition of Queer McGill and the Union for Gender Empowerment, condemned CHRPL’s response, which the union finds to be insufficient. 

“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. 

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20 Comments

  1. Be wary of anyone who says their ideas are above debate. Professor Wintemute has been in this field for 40 years including academic teaching and research along with a distinguished legal career bringing 17 cases in front of the European Court of Human Rights.

    • But we aren’t talking about “ideas,” we’re talking about rights, such as the right to legally change one’s birth certificate and name to correspond with one’s gender, or the right to access affirmative care. Why should these be up for debate? And I’m truly not sure what Wintemute’s CV has to do with anything. He has made a recent U-turn on trans rights and renounced the Yogyakarta Principles espousing human rights for LGBT folk, to which he was a signatory. Wintemute is far from the first academic/lawyer who has taken a hard right turn and embraced discriminatory views.

      • Killer Marmot

        How do you think rights come into being and evolve without debate? Do you think someone came down from a mountain with our rights inscripted in stone?

    • Having a career does not excuse bigotry. Wintemute is a member of a hate group, and McGill gifting him with a platform to spew his rhetoric is wildly irresponsible.

    • The arrogance and privilege behind thinking that having cishet people sit around debating the rights of a marginalized community, in the most paternal and condescending way possible, is a reasonable situation. Hiding behind “academic freedom” as an excuse to platform and elevate hate as a mental exercise, at the expense of others, is bigotry, plain and simple, and it ought not to be tolerated.

      • Khader Shahwan

        At least 90% of debates and discussions in law schools and social science departments are about rights, most likely attached to a certain minority. Your arguments logically implies that the socratic method needs to be dropped, and thus law schools/social science programs will have to shut down debates and teach only one narrative. To me, this is the first step to transforming our liberal societies to a dictatorships.

    • So what? He’s still a lowlife transphobe.

  2. This article is soft on who the LGB Alliance are. Twenty minutes on Twitter and Google would have produced more depth.

    Who are they? The LGB Alliance have spoken against marriage equality and in favour of conversion therapy. They are closely tied to the Heritage Foundation and have no interest in supporting the actual rights of the LGB world. They exist for the sole purpose of attacking trans rights, its the foundational strategy of the Heritage Foundation at work in their efforts to roll back the rights of the entire LGBTQ+ community in conjunction with their work to also roll back the rights of women. The LGB alliance have very little LGB in their organization, they are a trojan horse.

    The decision to host this discussion in the first place is a prime example of institutional arrogance. Who was the trans person in this debate? Why do cishet people not think that sitting around and debating the rights of community they do not belong to is the height of arrogance and privilege? They didn’t even consider the harm they were inflicting on their own students with this so-called intellectual exercise where they have nothing at stake.

    They imported and platformed hate. That is violence.

    • Khader Shahwan

      Your argument paternalize people, as if they are naive and cannot decide for themselves. If you believe your ideas are worth listening to, bring them to the public market of ideas, and debate the other side on its merit.

      • I refuse to tolerate intolerance. Go read the “Paradox of Tolerance” by Karl Popper and understand that the marketplace of ideas does not have a need for a stall for hate. I’m tired of the notion that we need to listen to this, bigotry does not deserve a platform.

  3. Joanne, you claims about LGB alliance are untrue and potentially libellous. LGB alliance is run by Bev Jackson a veteran Gay Rights activist and Kate Harris, formerly of Stonewall UK. Professor Wintmute is a highly respected human rights expert, who has been shut down by ill informed brats with totaltarian impulses. I hope Professor Wintmute’s talk be recorded, along with a Q and A with the convenor and put up on Youtube or similar so McGill students and others can see/ hear it.

  4. Nicholas H.

    To those suggesting that these ideas are “not up for debate”: there is no right or doctrine that was delivered on high. Rights, especially, need be placed on the rhetorical alter for *anyone* in society to test. If not, I don’t see how any of us can claim our way of thinking is at all durable. This isn’t about Wintemute’s ideas—it’s about the cowardice of educational institutions which, from one end of their mouth, hail the sanctity of free thought and from the other spit on it.

  5. Sorry, but “gender” is not biology (“sex” is); “gender” is just grammar. Wearing heels and a dress doesn’t make me a “woman”; xx-chromosomes does. Women fought for centuries to get the right to vote and to have women’s sports in the Olympics. Now they are in danger of having them erased by “woke” nonsense. I am a feminist. I have nothing against trans people. But I will not allow them to rob me of my hard-fought rights.

    • Sigh. You really do not understand biology, especially as it relates to chromosomes and sex, it’s just not that simple at all. Then we have the “I have nothing against trans people” other than you want to ensure conditions that do not permit them to exist in society. That’s gaslighting on your part as you clearly have something against trans people when you state that you think it’s as simple as “heels and a dress.” As we like to say, your bigotry is showing.

  6. I am disappointed in the abhorrent conduct of the students, the lack of action on the part of the University, and in the lack of fair and reasonable reporting – both by national/regional media and by student-run media. Okay, so the LGB Alliance recognizes sex as binary. Did you consider educating your readers about why that may be? The LGB Alliance had misgivings about a piece of UK legislation related to Conversion Therapy. Did you bother to figure out what that campaign was about? It might interest readers to know that in fact, the LGB Alliance is engaged in a campaign that rejects conversion therapy in all of its forms. All one has to do is visit their website. The article calls the LGB Alliance an “anti-trans organization.” Seems quite untrue when their website expressly states that they “fully support trans people in their struggle, for dignity, respect and a life lived free from bigotry and fear.”
    I expect a lot more critical thinking from students such as yourselves that have the benefit and great privilege of being at McGill and being exposed to a range of ideas. LGB Alliance are hardly a right-wing “trojan horse” as a commentator above suggests, and if you cared to encourage balanced informed discussion, you would find indeed that the organization raises quite important issues affecting lesbians, gays, bisexuals, indeed transgender individuals, and well – women. Yes, our rights and entitlements can and do come into conflict, and we need to be able to talk about that. LGB Alliance and other organizations that are often demonized and de-platformed appear to do so with considerable nuance. You may not agree, but don’t you have to hear the argument before you know whether you agree or not?

    • Wicked gaslighting, but we see you. Bigots love to claim they aren’t bigots, but actions actually speak far, far, louder than words. We don’t want imported UK bigotry here and we have no need, or requirement, to give it voice.

  7. Pingback: Legislative Council passes motions on Uyghur rights, support for trans students - The McGill Tribune

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