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Humanists Students president-elect accused of ‘transphobia’ over ‘women don’t have penises’ retweet

Sofia Lotto Persio August 23, 2018
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Trans pride flags flutter in the wind at a gathering to celebrate International Transgender Day of Visibility, March 31, 2017 at the Edward R. Roybal Federal Building in Los Angeles, California. International Transgender Day of Visibility is dedicated to celebrating transgender people and raising awareness of discrimination faced by transgender people worldwide. / AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

The transgender flag. (ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty)

The former chair of LGBT Humanists, the special interest section of Humanists UK, has expressed concern about ‘transphobia’ among members of the organisation.

Chris Ward called out the president-elect of Humanists Students Angelou Sofocleous for retweeting a post that read “RT if women don’t have penises,” which enclosing an article titled “Is it a crime to say ‘women don’t have penises’?” published on The Spectator on Sunday.

The article referred to a series of penis-shaped stickers featuring the transphobic slogan that have appeared in various locations in London and Liverpool in the past week.

“As former Chair of @LGBTHumanistsUK, the opposition I experienced from a number of longstanding @Humanists_UK members to trans people and trans issues was a stain on an otherwise great organisation. And here’s the new President of @HumanistStudent RTing horrific transphobic s**t,” Ward wrote on Twitter.

Ward also attached a screenshot of Sofocleous’s account featuring the retweet, which has since been deleted. In the ensuing exchange, Sofocleous defended himself saying he was merely criticising the “transgender movement.”

He also linked to an essay he wrote recently in which he attacked the “transgender movement” for reinforcing gender stereotypes rather than fighting the gender binary—which Ward subsequently criticised as “dangerous unscientific nonsense laced with prejudicial and loaded comments.”

Ward, who said he met Sofocleous at a Humanists event, believes the organisation needs to take more action in the face of anti-trans views.

(Screenshot/Twitter)

“Humanists UK should have a zero tolerance response to transphobia from members. If somebody in a position of which he is in—President-elect of the national student organisation—tweets such bile then his views are incompatible with humanism and the aims of the organisation,” he told PinkNews.

Ward took issues with Sofocleous’s idea of that trans rights are a matter of debate. “Various individuals abstract what is blatant transphobia to ‘having a view,'” Ward said.

“Dressing it up as academic discourse is a misnomer, because it deliberately ignores the vast pool of scientific evidence and the vastly-held views of the medical community. In fact, it’s more than a misnomer, it’s a cowardly and acceptable proxy to be able to express disgust at trans people,” he added.

Humanists UK was founded in 1967 with the goal of achieving a”tolerant world where rational thinking and kindness prevail” and it counts more than 77,000 members across the country.

The organisation generally holds progressive views. As chair of the LGBT Humanists, Ward spoke at the UN Human Rights Council in June 2017, highlighting the state of trans rights in the US as part of a wider discussion on LGBT+ rights.

“It seems rather ridiculous that I’m having to have the same fight with members who should be on-side,” he said, referring to the views of a “small but significant chunk of the active membership.”

Trans rights campaigners condemned a number of anti-trans stickers, which have been photographed at various locations across London (@sargesalute/Twitter)

Ward told PinkNews that among the example of “subtle transphobia” he witnessed among members of the organisation, he recalled a group demanding to know why the LGBT Humanists panel at the Humanist Convention that year didn’t feature a woman.

“I pointed out that Sarah Brown, a woman, was on our panel. To which they responded: ‘You know what we mean, somebody born as a woman.'” Ward said.

“Later, one of them returned to demand I ‘don’t erase cis people.’ As if cis people are on the verge of extinction. I can’t say I was particularly pleasant to her after that,” he added.

Sofocleous had rejected the use of the term “transphobic” in their discussion. In the article he wrote on the “transgender movement,” he also criticised the use of the word “cisgender.”

“Transphobes reject the term ‘transphobic’ for exactly the same reason racists reject the term racist. It’s a pejorative term and they like to think that they’re nice people—it helps their conscience. I suspect those who disagree with the term ‘cisgender’ do so because they’d actually, and erroneously, prefer to refer to themselves as ‘normal,'” Ward said.

PinkNews has reached out to Sofocleous for comment, but he has not replied. He had briefly took down his Twitter account on Monday, but he returned to the platform the following day. He no longer features the “president-elect” title in his description, which states instead “Durham Humanists President,” among others.

(Courtesy Dazed)

A spokesperson for Humanists UK told PinkNews: “Humanists UK has supported every measure over the last decades to advance the human rights and equal treatment of trans people and will continue to do so. All of our services, from ceremonies to pastoral support, are equally available to all regardless of gender identity. So is membership, and membership of our sections from Humanist Students to LGBT Humanists.

“As well as conducting more same-sex weddings than any religion, we proudly offer ceremonies for people who want to mark their transition and announce their name to the world. This year our celebrant and patron Adele Anderson, herself a trans woman, will be leading one of the UK’s first National Transgender Day of Remembrance Ceremonies as part of our longstanding commitment to the human rights and dignity of trans people and their equal treatment.

“Any allegations of volunteers of ours bringing us into disrepute would be subject to confidential investigations in line with our internal disciplinary procedures.”

Following the publication of this article, Chris Ward has asked Humanists UK to terminate his membership.

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