UNIVERSITY of Edinburgh bosses have said they are “disappointed” that the rescheduled screening of a controversial film which debates whether transgender women are “really harmless” was cancelled after activists blocked the entrance to the venue.

In December, the first planned screening of the documentary Adult Human Female had to be cancelled after transgender rights activists prevented attendees from accessing the lecture theatre.

The event was rescheduled to occur on Wednesday evening, yet activists arrived and placed themselves in-front of the doors of the Gordon Aikman lecture theatre hours before the screening was due to take place.

It resulted in security staff determining that safe access to the venue could not be guaranteed, which caused university officials to cancel the event once again.

A spokesperson for the University of Edinburgh said: "At the university we are fully committed to upholding freedom of expression and academic freedom, and facilitating an environment where students and staff can discuss and debate challenging topics. We are disappointed that again this event has not been able to go ahead.

“In line with our commitment to fostering an inclusive, supportive and safe environment for our whole community, we worked with the organisers and put measures in place to mitigate risks associated with the event.

“However, with protesters restricting access to the venue, safety concerns were raised should the event proceed. It was therefore decided that the screening should not continue.”

Shereen Benjamin of Edinburgh Academics for Academic Freedom, the group who organised the screening, labelled the protesters blocking the doors “censorious bullies”.

A planned protest of the film went ahead in conjunction with Cabaret Against The Hate Speech despite the cancellation.

The Staff Pride Network, who organised the protest, stressed that it not connected to the activists blocking the venue.

It resulted in those who intended to watch the film standing outside the lecture theatre as protesters danced, waved flags and held placards across the cobbled street.

READ MORE: Adult Human Female screening in Edinburgh cancelled for second time

Tom Harlow from Cabaret Against The Hate Speech, said it was the group’s intention to “challenge” and not to “cancel”.

He told The National: “Our goal was always to challenge the hate speech and we are not about cancel culture, but we don't believe that hate, bigotry or transphobia in particular should go unchallenged.

“We’re glad the community turned out in huge numbers today.”

The directors of the film, Deirdre O'Neill and Mike Wayne, said they hoped those who caused the cancellation would be “held to account”. They said: “We are very disappointed that Edinburgh University has yet again failed to protect the rights of women to assemble and discuss issues that affect them.

“The staff and student groups who trampled on those rights should be ashamed of themselves and we hope they will be held to account.”

A member of the group who blocked the theatre pointed The National towards their previous statement, issued following the first cancellation of the film in December 2022.

It states: “Academics for Academic Freedom and this film both espouse intolerant views.

“Anyone who tries to normalise beliefs and practices that go against the patriarchal system of forcing male and female as rigid social and economic roles on everybody is labelled ‘woke’ and any criticism of their dogmatic and imperious management of people based of their bodies is branded ‘cancelling’ and ‘silencing the debate’.

“Shutting down this event is not an attack on academic freedom, it is an assertion of our right to feel safe on campus and not have our fundamental right to exist as ourselves attacked in university facilities.”

Scottish Conservative MSP Tess White has now written to Kim Graham, the Provost of the University of Edinburgh, calling on the screening to be rescheduled once more.

“People were physically prevented from gathering last night, and that continues a worrying pattern for an academic institution that claims to be committed to academic freedom and freedom of expression,” she wrote.

“Warm words are not enough when such fundamental principles are at stake.

“I sincerely hope Edinburgh University will work with the event’s organisers to ensure the screening can still take place, and that it can do so without heavily restricted conditions which limit the level of public participation.”