‘The trans movement is built on fear and intimidation’
Trans rights activists at the University of Edinburgh managed to halt screenings of a gender-sensitive documentary earlier this week. Student groups branded the film “transphobic” and claimed it made transgender students “unsafe.” A mob occupied the screening room and then blocked access to an auditorium when organizers attempted to change rooms. Eventually, security was called and the event had to be cancelled.
The movie that offended her so much is adult human female – a documentary on how trans ideology took over British institutions and why this poses a threat to women’s rights. peppered met with directors Deirdre O’Neill and Michael Wayne to discuss the controversy surrounding their film.
peppered: Did you expect adult human female provoke such a strong reaction?
Deirdre O’Neill: Obviously we expected some kind of reaction because we know how difficult it is for people to speak out about the transgender issue. But attempts to shut down the film came as quite a surprise.
This week was actually the second time the film was canceled. It was canceled in Nottingham in November, prompting a surge of new supporters and prospects. And of course after the other night we have even more Twitter followers and people watching the film on YouTube or Vimeo. So the interesting thing is that the response was overwhelmingly positive.
It’s also important to say that the film isn’t really controversial. Five or ten years ago it wouldn’t have been controversial to say that you can’t change your biological sex, which is the premise of the film.
peppered: Did the film manage to spark a debate?
Michael Wayne: So far people on the other side don’t want to see the film or discuss it. They just want to close it. In this way, this belief system has achieved such acceptance in all of our institutions. It’s a consensus based on fear and intimidation.
When activists managed to get the Nottingham screening canceled in November, the film had not been released online at the time and only around 200 people had seen it at a London premiere. So we can say that none of the 80 protesters who caused the screening to close saw the film. This is not a bona fide engagement. That shows an authoritarian mindset. At the Nottingham event, someone walked into the car park where the protesters were and invited them to watch the film. But they didn’t want to.
The film brings together 15 women and one man and explains the trans debate in 92 minutes. It articulates the arguments for people who have probably heard of it but don’t know all the details. I think trans rights activists are worried that people will see the film and the penny will drop. They are concerned that people understand what is at stake and that it is reasonable to have concerns.
O’Neill: Many people who have seen the film say: Thank you for putting all this in accessible words. Thank you for making the argument easy to understand. Thank you for giving a voice to these articulate women. Thank you for creating a space for women to speak out about their concerns.
peppered: Why did you think it was time to make a film on this subject?
O’Neill: It’s something we’ve been discussing for a number of years. The topic is becoming increasingly clear, especially when working in higher education. I have colleagues and students who are afraid to speak up. It was getting harder and harder to talk about. There is no more debate. The only acceptable position is “trans women are women, trans men are men, all genders are valid”.
The activists have adopted the language of the civil rights movement. If they make it a “rights” issue, no one wants to oppose it. They use the language of a very left, radical, progressive movement. But these ideas are incredibly regressive and take us backwards.
peppered: How can we begin to resist these ideas?
Wayne: I think we need to break the silence. More people need to have the courage to step up and say: we need to have this debate, I have these concerns, let’s talk about it.
Trans activists have run a very clever campaign. They have conquered the people at the top of the institutions. They captured the policymakers, and then politics trickled down. But we need to open the conversation up to everyone else because it hasn’t been discussed enough. The folks at the top of these institutions need to be made to understand that the transgender stuff is built on a false consensus. We need to reset and start this debate over again.
O’Neill: It’s about leading the conversation instead of scolding people. It’s about sitting down and talking. And it’s also about placing the topic in a larger context. On average, two women a week are killed by partners or ex-partners. That should be controversial. But the trans theme takes up all the space. There are so many more important things we could discuss right now, but instead we are told that the most important cause of our time is the right of men in dresses to call themselves women.
Deirdre O’Neill and Michael Wayne spoke to Lauren Smith. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.