An Open Letter to Peter Tatchell Regarding Fran Cowling, Power, and Public shaming

This is a bit of a departure from my usual blog activity, but it’s been really bothering me and I wanted to get it off my chest..

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EDIT: so this post has been getting a lot of attention, which is nice. I wanted to add a few things to it in light of some of the responses.

1) if you look below, you’ll see Peter Tatchell has given a response. Unfortunately he’s basically ignored the entire point of the article, and instead claimed that he never said he was being no platformed, despite the fact that in the post he made he clearly claims he is a victim of silencing through no platforming, and everyone arguing for him is also describing it as such. He’s saying the problem is just the fact that Fran called him a transphobe and a racist, though of course he still hasn’t shared the actual email so we don’t know what they actually said and are just going by his word (rumour is it was far more nuanced and thought out than he’s claiming).

2) I haven’t been approving most of the comments on this post, simply because most of them were just parroting Tatchell’s original statement and responding to them would have simply been repeating myself which I can’t be bothered to do. They talked about how terrible no platforming is (despite Tatchell claiming he never said he was no platformed) and that Fran deserves it because of what they wrote about Tatchell (despite the fact that none of us have actually seen what they wrote). Of course there was also people saying I should worry about more important things, because of course as we all know it’s physically impossible to care about more than one thing at once.

Basically if you’re not adding anything new to the conversation I’m not going to approve your comment.

3) Check out this other open letter to Tatchell

EDIT 2: Fran has responded to Tatchell’s allegations. Their reasoned and nuanced tone makes a massive contrast to Tatchell’s bombastic and dramatic post about it. Of course it probably won’t get anywhere near as much press as he did, but I hope people will at least consider it before claiming Tatchell is beyond reproach

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Dear Peter Tatchell,

We’ve been talking on Twitter about this but I wanted to write something here to you as there’s a lot that I want to say and a 140 character limit just doesn’t work for me.

The last few days I’ve been reading the many articles based on your statement about NUS LGBT officer Fran Cowling, and how they refused to share a stage with you at an event. Many, many articles. Every single one of these are supporting your claims that you are being unfairly silenced, that this is an example of how freedom of speech is being eroded in universities and activists are becoming unreasonable and turning on innocents.

However what is missing from all this is that you were never actually under attack. Fran isn’t a well known figure beyond their own circles, and they weren’t even making these comments publicly – it all happened in private emails between them and the organisers of the event. They had been invited to speak alongside you, and they responded that they didn’t want to. Now this is something which they are completely within their right to do, freedom of speech is also freedom to not engage. So then it seems the organisers forwarded the email onto you. It’s understandable that you might want to reach out to them, to see if you could talk it through. But they didn’t want to have that conversation with you, which again they are free to do.

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