An open letter from Oxford liberation groups to The Observer signatories

On Sunday 15th of February an open letter was released in The Observer calling for an end to what it described as “attempts at intimidation” and “silencing” by students campaigning against trans and sex worker exclusionary activists on university campuses.  We as students have a right to decide who is welcome in our homes and the presence of people that see trans and sex workers’ bodies as merely academic talking points rather than as the lived realities of members of our community adds to the discrimination faced by these groups every day.  We are not asking that these people be censored and, of course, we do not have the power to censor them. However, we are requesting that they do not voice these damaging views on our campuses and, consequently, in our homes.


The letter claims that the trans and sex worker exclusionary activists in question “have never advocated or engaged in violence against any group of people” and ridicules the idea that the presence of someone who holds these views is “a threat to a protected minority group’s safety”. In doing this, the authors have ignored repeated attempts to demean and disregard the validity of trans and sex worker lives.  We believe that it is violence when Germaine Greer announces “I don’t believe in transphobia”, or when Rupert Read describes trans women as “a sort of ‘opt-in’ version of what it is to be a woman”.  These are violent acts both in themselves and in their perpetuation of a culture in which physical and sexual violence against trans people and sex workers is both extremely high – around 22% of sex workers in the UK have experienced an attempted rape (WHO) and around half of trans people have experienced sexual violence (FORGE) – and often ignored – only one in five LGBTQ survivors get help from service providers (NCVC/NCAVP).  Julie Bindel’s ‘questioning’ of the validity of trans healthcare is a particularly potent example of this, as it has directly impeded access to life-saving treatments such as hormone therapy which decreases suicidal ideation of trans people from 30% to 8% post-transition (Murad et al., 2010).  Moreover, when Bindel characterises sex workers as living “chaotic, drug-abusing lifestyles, controlled by pimps”, she adds to the stigmatisation of the one in twenty students who are sex workers (Evans, Judith 2013).


By mischaracterizing these anti-trans and anti-sex worker activists as martyrs for the feminist cause, the Observer letter validates a discourse that makes some peoples’ lived experiences of discrimination into something that is up for debate. This is in the face of the overwhelmingly large platform often given to these minority views, with anti-trans and anti-sex worker feminists appearing in high profile publications such as the New Statesman (Glosswitch / Sarah Ditum) and The Guardian (Julie Bindel) on a regular basis.


In a world that consistently devalues the lives of sex workers and trans people it is unsurprising that this article exists, and we are no way suggesting that the authors do not have the right to believe or publish such things.  However, we are particularly disappointed to note that a number of the signatories are academics here at Oxford University.  When we live in a world where only 20% of trans students feel safe on UK campuses (NUS ‘Beyond the Straight and Narrow’) and police invite journalists along to the raids of sex workers’ homes (Guardian 11/12/13), the signing of this open letter sends out a clear message to trans students and students who are in the sex industry that they are unwelcome at Oxford University.  Furthermore, as these members of staff are variously involved in student welfare, this letter is particularly worrying as it suggests that student sex workers and students questioning their assigned genders may not receive the care that they deserve from their tutors.


As such, we condemn the open letter and ask all of the signatories who are members of Oxford University to retract their signatures and to make public apologies for adding to the discrimination against sex workers and trans people within our community.


Anna Bradshaw – Vice-President (Women), Oxford University Student Union (OUSU)

Rowan Davis – Trans Representative, OUSU Women’s Campaign; Trans Representative, Oxford University LGBTQ Society

Otamere Guobadia – President, Oxford University LGBTQ Society

Zuleyka Shahin – Graduate Women’s Officer, OUSU

Jenny Walker – LGBTQ Officer; OUSU Chair of OUSU LGBTQ Campaign

Reubs Walsh BA (Oxon) – Trans Representative, National Union of Students (NUS) LGBT Campaign Committee

Aliya Yule – Women’s Campaign Officer, OUSU; OUSU Women’s Campaign Committee; Oxford University LGBTQ Society Executive





Dhejne, C., Lichtenstein, P., Boman, M., Johansson, A.L.V., Långstr öm, N., Landén, M., 2011. Long-Term Follow-Up of Transsexual Persons Undergoing Sex Reassignment Surgery: Cohort Study in Sweden. PLoS ONE 6, e16885. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0016885 (

Duffy, N., PinkNews, 2015. Germaine Greer: Trans women aren’t women. PinkNews. (

Evans, J., 2012. Report on Student Perceptions of and Participation in Sex Work. Durham University. (

Forge-Forward, 2012. Transgender Rates of Violence. (

National Center for Victims of Crime, NCAVP, 2010. Rethinking Victim Assistance for LGBTQ Victism of Hate Violence and Intimate Partner Violence (A Joint Policy Report by the National Center for Victims of Crime and the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Program). NCVC/NCAVP, Washington, DC, US. (

National Union of Students (NUS), 2014. Education beyond the straight and narrow: LGBT students’ experiences of higher education. United Kingdom. (

Selby, J., n.d. Green party candidate Rupert Read apologises for “offensive” transgender tweets. The Independent. (

Smith, M., n.d. Soho police raids show why sex workers live in fear of being “rescued.” the Guardian. (

We cannot allow censorship and silencing of individuals, 2015. . The Observer, Letters (

World Health Organisation, n.d. Chapter 6, Sexual Violence in World report on violence and health. WHO. (



  1. Womanagainstgender

    19th February 2015 at 22:48

    Radical feminists want to help prostituted people get out of prostitution and into work that is not exploitive to them. There is no hatred or disrespect shown to prostituted persons at all, by radical feminists, you have been listening to the male pleasing so called “sex positives”. Women who are subject to prostitution suffer PTSD & BD (these are caused by the trauma of being used as an object for male gratification, which is a form of abuse). We actually care about prostituted persons and want to help them escape the abusive world that is prostitution. We don’t want to put the rights of males to “buy” these women above the rights of these women to exist as women with self respect and dignity, which is hard for them to have if they have to sell themselves intimately to any male who is willing to pay. We love women and care about their welfare, we do not care about a males right to “buy” a woman as if she was commodity, if you cant understand that, i’m sorry for you. Sex role non conforming children are being targeted by the “trans” lobby which will mean that scores of children will be surgically & chemically mutilated for the grave crime of not conforming to sex role stereotypes &/or being attracted to their own sex. You may not care about young confused kids being manipulated into thinking there is something “wrong” with them when there is not, but we do. Sex role non conforming children DO question their sex (especially if they are gay) they need to be assured that there is nothing wrong with being a sex role non conforming boy/girl it does not mean they are really the opposite sex trapped in the “wrong” body. A lot of straight women are “tom boys” when they are growing up, it doesn’t mean they are really boys. You now have some straight women who think gay men are more sensitive, cool ect and decide to become “transmen” they don’t like the restrictive womens sex role & think mutilating themselves is a viable option. Maybe you think this is progress? Sex role non conforming gay & lesbian young ppl are also undergoing mutilating madness instead of accepting themselves as sex role non conforming “camp” & “butch” lesbians & gays. Maybe you think this is progress? “Trans” is a movement organised by autogynephiliac males (males who get off sexually on the idea that they are women). They are extremely narcissistic (think they are entitled to whatever they want regardless of how it harms others, are extremely manipulative and react with narcissist rage (suicide threats & death & rape threats) if opposed. These autogynephiliac males get off sexually on violating women boundaries, which is why they should never be allowed into womens spaces. Males who get a sexual kick out of wearing “womens” clothing are well known to commit sexual & violent crime against women (look up the stats). These autogynephiliac males have a sexual paraphilia in other words they are sexually excited by the thought of themselves as women (and being perceived as women). Autogynephilia (as with all other paraphilias) is a male thing, which is why you’ll will never see a woman who is in her 40’s or 50’s saying to her husband that she is now a “transman” who must buy herself loads of new y-fronts, and must have “gay sex” with him with her as the “active one” and he must accept that or be branded as “transphobic”. It is only males who (usually) have had very high ranking social & well paying jobs suddenly turn around & say this. Many of these men have been in the military or other “masculine” jobs like I.T. ect. These men are the most misogynistic of all men they reduce “woman” to a set of sex role stereotypes & a “f&@£ hole”. Women are more than sex role stereotypes and our vaginas are not “f&£@ holes” they are functioning organs. Neither do we have a “lady brain” this is more misogynistic hatred, women are not born to be submissive and masochistic, we are socially conditioned to behave that way. Try saying as white person you have a asian brain, cus you like bollywood films, and curry or an arab brain, cus you like belly dancing & see what reaction you’ll get. You people need to actually exercise critical thinking instead of believing everything that is spoon fed to you by the males in charge. You mite think putting a blackout on talking about this horrendous practice will stop people form seeing the truth, but your McCarthy tactics will only get you so far, already people are starting to see through it. The truth will always come out in the end. Are you going to be the ones who explain to the poor little sex role non complying children who have been mutilated why this was done to them, when they are demanding why this was inflicted on them in 20 years or so, when the full horror of this practice is brought to light. As it will be, it is just a matter of time, same as with lobotomies and hysterectomy for “hysteria”. You may well want to think about that, i sure as hell wouldn’t want that on my conscience. I’ll leave you with a quote to joe McCarthy “I think I never really gauged your cruelty, or your recklessness…You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?” Joseph N. Welsh

  2. Daniel

    21st February 2015 at 11:35

    Now i fully understand why radical faminists ( often lesbians) hate trans people. But before reading this manifesto of hate i could not really comprehend it. Good on you for dispersing love, care and acceptance among GLTBI community

  3. Perplexed

    21st February 2015 at 12:34

    You write that “the Observer letter validates a discourse that makes some peoples’ lived experiences of discrimination into something that is up for debate.”

    What do you try to say by this? What on earth is this discourse?
    Is it that an issue (sex work/prostitution, sex/gender practices/identities) should not be debated because someone’s lived experience is at stake? This does not make sense. We could hardly debate anything in this case.

    Of course we have to be able to debate. An of course, one should be sensitive and respectful when discussing / researching others’ lives. But there’s always someone who will be displeased and offended, so simply not touching some issues because they entails people’s lived experiences, is ridiculous.

    Btw, there are also gender-critical transpeople, and prostitutes/sex workers critical of sex work/prostitution.

    Also, claiming someone is “anti-trans” or “anti-sex worker” should be explained. What do you mean by this? That being critical of (some aspects of) sex work/prostitution or transgender identity politics & theory makes you anti-trans/anti sex worker?

    Then some transpeople are anti-trans too..

  4. Postgraduate student

    22nd February 2015 at 07:15

    Difficult to know where to start with this letter but here goes. General points first.

    The real lives of real people are central to discussions and debates that take place at universities everyday. If we can’t discuss people’s lived experience of discrimination then how can we find out what causes it, or how to tackle it?

    There is a real difference between actual violence and somebody saying something you don’t like. Sex workers and Transpeople both experience unacceptable violence, but not from radical feminists. The men who commit this violence are not violent because they have been listening to Julie Bindel, a woman who has devoted her life to tackling male violence.

    Universities are public places where debate takes place on difficult and sensitive issues every day. They are not students’ homes. All students should feel safe from violence, bullying and harassment at university but not from having their views challenged. Sometimes this can be uncomfortable but thst is what university is for.

    More specifically the terms trans exclusionary, sex worker exclusionary and transphobic need to be unpicked. Most of those accused of being sex worker exclusionary are simply people who have spoken in favour of the nordic model which would decriminalise the sale of sex and criminalise punters. This is a model which is actively promoted by large numbers of former sex workers. Those who promote this model have long histories of working alongside and in support of sex workers. It is simply not true to say that they don’t care about sex workers lives.

    Similarly many if those accused of being trans exclusionary actually work alongside trans women in inclusive projects and campaigns. Some are actually transwomen themselves. Questioning the idea that people are born with an inate ‘brain sex’, or raising anxieties about giving puberty delaying drugs to young children is not transphobic. Many Transpeople share these concerns.

    Finally questioning the professionalism and commitment to the welfare of students of academics who simply signed a letter calling for freedoms of expression at universities is a bullying tactic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *

The Latest

To Top