Greer has previously called transsexuals "some kind of ghastly parody"Wikimedia Commons

The CUSU Trans Campaign has called for Germaine Greer to be disinvited from her appearance on Monday 26th January over a history of comments and actions which the campaign characterises as transphobic.

Sarah Gibson, a previous trans* rep for the CUSU LGBT+ campaign, blasted Greer as a “horrendous transphobe”, and called on the campaign to take action.

“It isn’t acceptable for CUSU LGBT+ to jointly host or publicise events at the Union if they invite people to speak who have a history of directly harrassing [sic] trans women in Cambridge”, Gibson wrote on the campaign’s Facebook group, in a post since removed.

In 1996, Greer unsuccessfully campaigned against the appointment of Dr Rachael Padman to the fellowship at Newnham College on the grounds that Padman, who had sex reassignment surgery in 1982, could not be admitted without contravening the college’s statutes, since she was born (and, at the time, was legally still considered) male.

Dr Padman, however, has released a statement striking a conciliatory tone amidst the controversy.

She told Varsity: "While one might question some of Germaine's judgements, particularly concerning trans women, there is no doubt that her writings inspired a generation of women, and a few men, coming of age in 1970s England and Australia. Rather than look back at the events of 1997, it seems much more profitable to consider the enormous steps made since then: the 2004 Gender Recognition Act; the 2010 Equalities Act; most recently equal marriage in 2014. We should celebrate the fact that whatever happened in 1997 could not happen again today.

"I hope the Union will give Germaine a fair hearing, but of course robustly interrogate her, as befits the academic community that is Cambridge."

Greer was ‘glitterbombed’ at a book-signing in Wellington in 2012 by a group calling itself the Queer Avengers, protesting her previous comments. In a piece later that year for Listener.co.nz, however, Greer said that "having unseen assailants throw a bag of glitter over me in Wellington is neither here nor there", and referred to Padman using feminine pronouns.

CUSU LGBT+ currently hosts a weekly drinks evening every Monday at the Union, including one scheduled for Monday 26th, the night on which Greer is due to appear. A joint Union/CUSU LGBT+ week of events in February 2014 included a debate titled "This House would boycott the Sochi Olympics".

An article on the CUSU LGBT+ webzine Get Real entitled "#boycottuniondrinks Germaine Greer's Union invitation unacceptable" says in a statement signed by the editor, Hesham Mashhour, that the editorial staff of the zine will be boycotting the Union's LGBT+ drinks indefinitely, and asks CUSU LGBT+ to endorse the campaign.

"The response is not good enough," wrote Em Travis, Get Real's comment editor, in the piece, adding: "CUSU LGBT+ needs to take a stand against such negligence by boycotting drinks events and all other events due to take place in collaboration with the Union."

Frances Haynes, one of CUSU LGBT+'s Communications Officers, branded this continuing association with the Union "very worrying".

Union President Amy Gregg, however, has criticised the move as an example of 'no-platforming' and insisted the Union had no plans to rescind the invitation.

She told Varsity: “The Union maintains its commitment to free speech and, as ever, rejects no platform policies. We neither condemn nor condone the viewpoints of any of our speakers, but provide a neutral forum where they may be questioned and challenged by our members.

“We respect the decision of CUSU LGBT+ to issue their statement condemning someone they believe to represent views contrary to their core aims, but our speaker program will remain unchanged.”

Greer’s comments have come under intense criticism in the past for their perceived transphobia.

Following the victory of South African middle-distance runner Caster Semenya in the 2009 World Championships in Athletics in the women’s 800 metres event, after which she was forced to undergo gender testing, Greer wrote a polemical article in The Guardian in which she asked: “What makes a woman?”

In the piece, since taken down, Greer wrote: “Nowadays we are all likely to meet people who think they are women, have women’s names, and feminine clothes and lots of eyeshadow, who seem to us to be some kind of ghastly parody, though it isn’t polite to say so... Other delusions may be challenged, but not a man’s delusion that he is female.”

In her 1999 book The Whole Woman, Greer denounced sex-reassignment surgery as an “exorcism of the mother”, and compared post-operative transsexuals to 'Psycho' character Norman Bates.

“When a man decides to spend his life impersonating his mother... [and] forces his way into the few private spaces women may enjoy... he does as rapists have always done,” she wrote.

This is not the first time a Cambridge campaign group has criticised the choice of a speaker because of their perceived transphobia. As Varsity reported in October, the Women’s Campaign used a similar open letter to condemn the “totally inappropriate and offensive” decision last term to invite Caroline Criado-Perez to speak at the Women of the World Festival, over her disapproval of the word 'cis' ('cisgender', meaning a person who is not transgender).

Meanwhile, Green Party PPC Rupert Read fended off allegations of transphobia and ableism on Twitter over an unrelated incident that bore similarities to Criado-Perez's dispute with the Women's Campaign.

“The attempt [to] force everyone [to] use the term 'cis' troubles me. Many feminists of course share this sense of being troubled at this,” he said. He further defended himself against accusations of ableism for the use of the words ‘moron’ and ‘idiot’, saying “I don’t see it as harmful”.

“[The] Green Party has super-strong pro-disabled and pro-LGBT policies that I back to the hilt,” he continued, saying he was neither an ableist nor a transphobe. 

Travis, who describes themselves on their Twitter account as a “pivotgender/genderfluid femmeboy” said, “I was voting Green. I'm not any more. I'm not voting for an ableist transphobe.” Tim Squirrell, former President of the Union, echoed these concerns, saying “[O]h god you're my PPC and I was considering voting Green until this”.

Today, Read has apologised for voicing his opinion on Twitter in this way, writing that "This is to apologise to all offended by my tweets yesterday.Sorry! To reiterate: I am _completely_ behind Green Party policy on trans issues".

Soon after, Read added that "I'll stay off Twitter 4 a while. It's the worst possible medium 4 discussing these issues,& I don't want 2 cause [or suffer] further offence".

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