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Opinion: Freedom of speech is the key issue in row over Julie Bindel’s cancelled talk in Nottingham

today30 June 2022

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How important is freedom of speech? The issue has been thrust into the national spotlight by an episode on our doorsteps – Nottingham City Council’s decision to ban a speech at Aspley Library by feminist and lesbian activist Julie Bindel.

Much as I support people’s right to hold views that others strongly oppose – and to express them – I draw a line somewhere, as I’m sure most reasonable people do.

But can holding a view about gender identify be classed as hatred?

Read more: Author Julie Bindel vows to sue Nottingham City Council over ‘illegal’ library ban

Ms Bindel has been accused of transphobia for saying that trans women cannot legitimately say they are women. Is that so far beyond the realms of reason, so plainly wrong, that anyone holding such a view should be silenced?

I ask these questions because there is a debate going on in the country between those who say that, whatever you were born with, you should be able to declare gender without question from anyone else – and those who think if you’re born a man or a woman, that’s how you remain.

“Debate” is something where each side of an argument puts its views and, hopefully, listens to the other, though our MPs hardly take a lead on this score. If one side is allowed to express its views and the other is silenced, there is no debate.

Indeed, it could be argued that the “cancel culture” is fostering hatred against those who hold the same view as Ms Bindel.

I genuinely don’t want to see transgender people alienated or made to feel uncomfortable but Ms Bindel is not just anybody. She is a veteran author, researcher and campaigner against prostitution and sexual violence by men against women. She’s held positions at various universities around the UK, including Leeds Metropolitan, Brunel and the University of Lincoln.

She has written that gender-reassignment surgery reinforces gender stereotypes, and that the diagnosis of gender identity disorder is built upon outdated views about how females and males should behave.

Might she not have had something worth listening to for the community activists who invited her as part of their campaign to keep Aspley Library open?

The city council says it banned her because her views of transgender rights are at odds with aspects of its equality, diversity and inclusion strategy.

I wonder how many people would support the council’s stance against those who would agree with a meme that circulated on the internet recently. It showed a man looking at a sign that read: “WARNING: This is an inclusive society and if we think you are talking, thinking or behaving in a non-inclusive way, you will be excluded”.

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Written by: thehitnetwork

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