THE third attempted screening of a gender critical film at the University of Edinburgh has gone ahead despite hundreds turning out to protest.

Previous attempts to show the film on the university’s campus in December 2022 and April 2023 were cancelled after activists blocked entrances to the lecture theatres.

The controversial film questions whether transgender women are “really harmless” and has been branded as “dangerous” by critics who claim it promotes transphobia.

The screenings have been organised by the group University of Edinburgh Academics for Academic Freedom (Edinburgh AFAF), which is made up of university staff concerned about what they term the “censoriousness” climate surrounding discussions about transgender rights.

However, many student and staff organisations – including the university’s Staff Pride Network made up of LGBT+ employees – have expressed displeasure at university management allowing the film to be shown.

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They joined together to protest outside 40 George Square – where the film was due to be shown – on the central campus of the university on Wednesday evening.

Attendees were booed as they entered the building and several speeches were made denouncing the film in-between chants of “trans rights now” and “no TERFs on our turf”.

Protesters also played hits from Lady Gaga and Whitney Houston. 

At least 30 members of police or campus security guarded the entrance to the building, only allowing people to enter once they had shown a valid ticket.

Ahead of the screening, Edinburgh AFAF said that the views espoused about transgender people in the film were being “misrepresented”.

A spokesperson said: “Of course we understand that some people disagree with the views put forward in the film, and we are relaxed about people making their views felt through peaceful protest.

“We have never sought to prevent events going ahead which promote a different perspective.

“This is because we believe that it is important for a diversity of viewpoints to be presented and discussed. This is fundamental to the purpose of a university – the pursuit of knowledge through calm and careful debate.

“So we think that while it is fine for people to disagree it is not OK for them to try to prevent other people from attending.

“The misrepresentation of the views presented in the film by those trying to close it down are contributing to a toxic climate on campus for those with what might broadly be described as 'gender critical' views'.

“In addition, they risk stirring up anxiety amongst trans colleagues and students by, incorrectly, suggesting to them that the film seeks to deny trans people the same rights as everyone else.

“By allowing Edinburgh AFAF to attempt to show the film for a third time university management are clearly demonstrating that they do not believe the film to be harmful to any members of the community, and that it does not breach the dignity and respect policy.”

However, not all staff are in agreement about the academic legitimacy of the film.

The National: A banner at the Adult Human Female protest at Edinburgh University A banner at the Adult Human Female protest at Edinburgh University (Image: NQ)

Jonathan MacBride, a member of university staff in the School of Informatics and social and events officer for the Staff Pride Network, told The National that the film was “propaganda”.

“As a staff member it’s incredibly frustrating to see university management support this event three separate times and not see them publicly support trans people,” he said.

“I want to see them say that trans people matter and I haven’t seen them say that yet.

“Trans people, of all ages, are being victimised by the people who want to show this film.

“They aren’t showing this film because people haven’t seen this film. Everyone who is here tonight has already seen it.

“They’re just here to hurt trans people. The film isn’t about women’s rights. The film is propaganda for people who want to deny the existence of trans people.

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“They might pretend to not be transphobic, they may say they support trans people. They don’t mean it. They’ve shown time and time again when the veil drops that they don’t care about the lives of trans people.”

Eva, a member of the university’s Socialist Workers’ Student Society, said the amount of police presence at the protest was “ridiculous”.

“Every time the university has allowed this film to be shown we’ve come out and protested against it,” she said.

“We’ve shown time and time again that the student corpus is vehemently opposed to it and yet university administration feels that it must keep on pushing transphobic content.

“The level of security is ridiculous. In my opinion, the number of police officers in attendance has risen because of the number of weekly student protests that have been happening at the university.

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“Last week. there was a pro-Palestine sit-in at the library and we were all e-mailed about how students and staff were feeling threatened by it when it was entirely peaceful.

“As a response it seems that the university is feeling the need to show this iron fist against protest. But, honestly, it’s just making people more angry on campus.”

The university maintains that allowing the event to go ahead was “not an endorsement” of any views.

A spokesperson said: “We firmly uphold the right of people to take part in peaceful and lawful protest and we have measures in place to allow the event to proceed with the safety of both attendees and protestors as paramount."