A person holds a placard that reads "Trans Rights are human rights"

Trans rights protesters return to university campus

An event by a university feminist group was forced to relocate after being picketed by trans rights activists. 

Women Talk Back!, the University of Bristol feminist society, was planning to host the event, titled Feminist Lawyers Talk Back!, on Friday, April 28, at the Queen’s Building.

However, the presence of some 30 protesters from trans rights groups including Trans Liberation Front Bristol and local punk band The Menstrual Cramps, forced the event to relocate. 

The protesters consider WTB! to be anti-trans due to the group’s exclusion of trans women and history of campaigning for single-sex (trans exclusionary) spaces on campus. 

Friday’s event, titled Feminist Lawyers Talk Back!, would have brought four leading female legal professionals to speak on their experiences of advocating and litigating for women and the barriers women face in a legal context. 

According to Women Talk Back!, their event was only permitted by the University of Bristol on the condition that the group pay for security at the event, which would cost several hundred pounds. 

In a statement made prior to the event on Friday, Women Talk Back! said: ‘It is a disgrace that, in 2023, the University of Bristol’s campus has become such a hostile environment for democratic debate, freedom of assembly and freedom of speech. 

‘Our priority is ensuring that women’s voices are heard and that they feel protected when speaking out. We have found an alternative venue and security will be in place. We have made every effort to ensure that Feminist Lawyers Talk Back! Is a success and we look forward to a fantastic public event.’

A crowd of 30 people at a demonstration. Many hold placards and flags. They are all standing facing the camera.
Protesters outside the Queen’s Building at the University of Bristol. Image: Wong Yat Him.

In 2021, WTB! Was sanctioned by Bristol Student Union for only having female members. The group launched a legal challenge to the sanction resulting in an agreement between WTB! And the SU that the group could ‘lawfully offer single sex services and be constituted as single sex associations, where this is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim, in accordance with the exceptions set out in the Equality Act.’

Instead of the SU definition of woman as ‘all who self-define as women, including (if they wish) those with complex gender identities that include ‘woman’, and those who experience oppression as women’, WTB! Was permitted to define woman as ‘a female of any age’. 

Previous events organised by WTB! have featured speakers like Raquel Rosario-Sanchez and Julie Bindel, who has been criticised for claiming that transgender women are not women. In 2022, Sanchez lost a legal battle against the University of Bristol after she alleged that the university failed to protect her from bullying by trans rights activists who targeted her for being involved with women’s groups Women’s Place, which has itself been the target of trans rights demonstrations in Bristol in recent years.

Feature image: Wong Yat Him.

Did you go this protest? What did you think? Let us know in the comments or at thebristolactivist@protonmail.com.

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