A talk on transgender rights at McGill University in Montreal was interrupted and ultimately cancelled on Tuesday, after trans rights advocates, who object to the speaker's association with a group they say promotes transphobia, stormed into the event.
The talk, titled "Sex vs. Gender (Identity) Debate in the United Kingdom and the Divorce of LGB from T," was led by McGill alumnus Robert Wintemute and hosted by the university's Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism, CBC reported.
Wintemute is a trustee of the LGB Alliance, a British group that advocates against transgender rights in the United Kingdom, which some British officials and LGBTQ+ groups have called a hate group.
Celeste Trianon, a trans activist who led the protest, said Wintemute's talk excludes transgender people's rights and is transphobic, further discriminating against the community. "The T (trans) is so much more vulnerable than the rest of LGB. I think there's tons of scientific evidence speaking to that," Trianon said.
But Wintemute maintains he does not promote transphobic views and described the reaction to his talk as "hysterical." "I have 37 years' experience defending LGB human rights and I would never associate with any group that 'promotes hate," he said. He added that he came to McGill to promote the message that women have human rights too, but feel intimidated by the trans rights movement.
The CHRLP said the event was not meant to be an endorsement of Wintemute's views, but to be a platform for "critical conversations."
"We understand that these are not consensual topics. However, we believe they can be productively and robustly discussed in an academic setting and could, in fact, be an opportunity to push back against certain views," said Professor Frédéric Mégret from the CHRLP.
However, activists like Trianon remained skeptical. "This form of free-speech absolutism: it has an end. One's rights end where another's begin," Trianon said.