“I don’t believe in transphobia”: Germaine Greer speaks out at the Union

Jenny Steinitz & Olly Hudson 26 January 2015

Germaine Greer, renowned feminist, today answered challenging questions on her alleged transphobic views and actions.  She said:

"I didn’t know there was such a thing [as transphobia]. Arachnaphobia, yes. Transphobia, no.”

Speaking at the Union, Greer referred back to controversial events at her former college in the 1990s, Newnham, in which she unsuccessfully opposed the appointment of her transgender colleague Rachel Padman to a fellowship. Greer claimed that her opposition was not derived from her gender identity, but rather to the way she was appointed by the college.

She further argued that the surgical procedures and medical treatments associated with transitioning are “unethical” because they “remove healthy tissue and create lifelong dependence on medicine”. She expressed hope that, in the future, there will be less emphasis on surgery, and more opportunities for individuals to exist within their own sexualities and orientations.

Greer also spoke about what she perceived as a need for women to be more proactive and to confront men when they act inappropriately.  She called out Harriet Harman on not being “smart enough” for the front bench, the Everyday Sexism campaign for making misogyny sound sexy, and the No More Page 3 campaign for ensuring that the Sun is now “wedded” to Page 3 girls “until the Sun finally sets."

In reference to the protests outside and the CUSU LGBT+ boycott, one first year student commented: “I was interested to see [Greer] because she is so influential in the feminist movement. I don’t agree with her opinions on trans people, but I still think it is worth going to see someone, even if they have a nasty aspect to their views. We should challenge, rather than completely shut down debate."

A rival counter-event was staged by CUSU LGBT+ in order to protest what one student described as Greer’s “hate speech”. Roz Kaveney, academic and trans rights campaigner, used the event both to denounce Greer and to provide an insight into the long and, at times, painful history of the trans movement.

Em Travis, first-year MML student and event co-organiser commented to The Cambridge Student:

“It was amazing to hear about the history of trans activism and feminism from some of the awesome people who have been right at the heart of it. The safe, comfortable space we wanted was totally embodied in the atmosphere of the whole room, it was even better than we expected and I’ve never felt so at home in any group of people.”

TCS has historically stood in support of the trans community against transphobia in the media