The gender-critical feminist Dr Kathleen Stock was forced to temporarily halt her contested appearance at the Oxford Union after a trans activist glued themself to the debating chamber close to the speaker’s chair.
Stock, who argues that transgender people cannot expect all the rights afforded by biological sex, had been speaking over the sound of up to 200 people protesting outside about her invitation when a group of activists stormed the debating chamber on Tuesday.
The trans rights protesters, who waved flags and shouted slogans, were booed by members of the audience and some were escorted out by security. Another protester, wearing a T-shirt saying “no more dead trans kids”, glued themself to the floor less than 2 metres from Stock’s chair.
Stock was urged by the audience to continue but she said she could not go on until given approval by security.
The arrival of police officers in the chamber was greeted by cheers. They initially struggled to remove the activist but after about 20 minutes they were led away by four officers.
When the event continued, Stock was asked to offer solutions to the culture war on the trans issue. She said: “I don’t blame that protest, it wasn’t traumatic for me. You can disagree reasonably and still be friends.”
But she said she was worried when people felt “intimidated” into not challenging what she called the “propaganda machine” of trans campaigners.
Stock urged her detractors to read her book Material Girls. She said: “I want trans people protected from violence and discrimination.” She insisted she was not anti-trans despite what her critics said.
In her address, Stock said it was “not fair on females” to share spaces such as changing rooms and bathrooms with trans women because of the potential threat of violence. “Why should females take this burden on?” she asked.
Stock added: “We are supposed to care about women. It is a risk of a man saying he is a woman and going into a space and taking advantage of that.”
Stock called for the creation third spaces to protect trans people.
Challenged on her beliefs about trans identity, Stock said: “I’m definitely saying something that is unpopular as you can all tell. But if you don’t go with reality it will hit you in the face. You can’t overcome your body. When you are lost in the fiction and can’t talk about reality you’ve got a problem.”
As Stock’s speech was about to begin a march of more than 100 protesters gathered shouting: “Out of the closet into the street”. They held various banners protesting against Stock’s invitation to speak, including: “Our existence is not a debate”, “Take Stock of Trans Joy” and “Trans Power”.
The march was led by Amiad Haran Diman, the president of the university’s LGBTQ+ Society, holding a banner that read: “Trans Women are Real Women.”
A handful of counter-protesters also gathered. Rebecca, wearing a body camera and holding a sign saying “Doc Stock Rocks”, said: “So far it feels peaceful but I’ve been to a few events in the past and it’s been far from peaceful.”
Organisers of the Trans+ Pride demonstration insisted they did not want to stifle free speech.
Diman, who is studying for a PhD in politics, told the Guardian: “I will be on the frontline to make sure that everyone can come in. I’ll make sure that the event goes ahead, because I don’t believe in violence. I believe in the rule of law. And I’ll be fighting for her freedom of speech.”
They said the demonstration was about supporting the trans community.
Diman said: “I don’t care about Kathleen Stock and I don’t care about Oxford Union. They love attention. But I care about the trans members of my community who need to know someone has their back. Someone is caring for them. So that’s what the protest is about.”
Diman added: “[Stock] wants to be the polite voice of a trans-exclusionary movement, but I don’t believe in her good faith. I don’t think she wants to have a civil conversation. If you look at her behaviour online it is very hostile. I think it is hateful and intolerant.
“I’m very ready to have a conversation, but if the Oxford Union had wanted to have this real conversation they would have invited an expert on gender identity or on trans healthcare; instead they invited someone who has no expertise and who just abuses people.”
Peter Manshausen, one of the protesters, questioned why Stock had been given a platform by the Oxford Union.
He said: “I’m a PhD student studying climate change. If you debate climate change, you don’t put a climate change denier and a climate scientist together. That’s a false balance. If you debate trans rights, you don’t put up someone who denies the existence of trans people on the same platform as someone who may speak up for trans rights.”
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