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Peter Tatchell's Canterbury Christ Church University LGBT 'transphobia' row

By Chris Pragnell

Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has accused a national student LGBT representative of inhabiting “a twisted world of political correctness”.

In an exclusive interview with KentOnline, the activist strongly denies endorsing remarks that “a man who lops of his sexual organs does not automatically become a woman”.

Mr Tatchell gave a keynote speech this week at a public discussion at Canterbury Christ Church University called Re-Radicalising Queers.

Peter Tatchell at a protest in London
Peter Tatchell at a protest in London

The event hit national headlines after Fran Cowling, the LGBT representative for the National Union of Students, refused to share the stage with Mr Tatchell.

Miss Cowling had branded Mr Tatchell "racist and transphobic" after he signed an open letter to the Observer newspaper last year supporting free speech.

The letter followed controversial comments by renowned feminist Germaine Greer who had said that a man who lops off his sexual organs isn’t automatically a woman.

Mr Tatchell maintains that while he didn’t agree with Ms Greer’s remarks, he had supported her right to make them.

The Observer letter did not make him transphobic, he said, and Miss Cowling was wrong to refuse to attend last night’s event on that basis.

Mr Tatchell told KentOnline: “I don’t know Fran’s motives. To be generous I suspect that in her twisted world of political correctness she bizarrely believes she’s doing the right thing.”

Despite emailing Miss Cowling four times ahead of Tuesday’s event to resolve the issue, Mr Tatchell says his offer of an olive branch has been snubbed.

He has ruled out legal action against her saying he would “not stoop to that level”.

“Fran Cowling is quite entitled to not speak alongside me. That’s her human right,” he said. “But she has got no right to smear me with false allegations of racism and transphobia which she has refused to substantiate.

Mr Tatchell denies "transphobia" accusation
Mr Tatchell denies "transphobia" accusation

“Fran believes that she’s defending black and transsexual people. But we don’t do that by making untrue claims against someone who has championed anti-racist and pro-trans policy for decades.”

The debate, in the Powell Lecture Theatre, was opened by vice-chancellor, Professor Rama Thirunamachandran.

A panel of activists included Prof Bee Scherer of CCCU; Sue Sanders of School's OUT; Paul Twocock of Stonewall; and Rt Rev Dr Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham.

Members took part in a roundtable discussion before fielding questions from the audience.

The event was hosted by CCCq - Canterbury Christ Church University's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer and Intersex staff network.

In 1998 Mr Tatchell was famously arrested in Canterbury for interrupting the former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr George Carey’s Easter sermon in protest over gay rights.

Miss Cowling has not commented to the press.

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