Imagine you are regularly invited to visit universities to speak with students (unpaid) on your specialist subject, but in order to be allowed to enter the campus, you are required to fill out a form to confirm that you are neither a bigot nor likely to cause offence or distress to the students. Unfortunately, I do not have to imagine such a scenario.
Last year, I received an email from the president of the Durham University Union, reciting my CV back at me, schmoozing me up in the hope I would agree to take the three hour train journey from London to take part in a debate about prostitution laws. The date was fixed as 31 January 2020. I put it in my diary.
Then came silence. In November I realised I had never received a confirmation, so sent the organisers an email asking if the event was on or not. I got back something that was clearly a fudge, and began to wonder if the usual was happening – had the blue-fringed bellends at the University objected to my presence on campus? I emailed again in early January, just to be sure the event was no longer running, and still heard nothing. It seemed clear that I had been disinvited, and that no one had bothered to tell me.
The reason I am regularly de-platformed (invited, advertised, and then, humiliatingly, disinvited after a kerfuffle caused by Queer Isis) is extremely well documented. But for those not in the know, I am one of those lunatic, fringe feminists that do not think it is possible for a woman to have a penis, or a man to give birth to a baby. My extreme ‘transphobia’ is apparently responsible for thousands of suicides across campuses.
Days before the Durham event I heard from a colleague that she was taking part in 'some debate on the sex trade at Durham University' on 31 January. I am not an investigative journalist for nothing – I contacted the organisers and called their bluff, telling them I was 'delighted that the debate is back on and that I was expected to take part.' It was pretty obvious that I had been blanked in the hope that I would go quietly away. I then received an email telling me the ‘rules’ for my participation.
In order to be allowed to attend the debate, which, as I have explained, is an unpaid gig, speakers were required to sign up to the ‘Durham University Respect and Inclusivity Agreement’; accept that extra security measures would be in place; accept that the Union Society President would make contact with the student union Trans Society in advance of the meeting to listen to any ‘concerns’; and accept that a senior member of the EDI (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) team would attend the event as an impartial observer on behalf of the University.
Reader, I told the organisers where to shove their invitation. The only problem is they had clearly covertly rescinded said invitation, and only reinstated it when they were grassed up by another speaker. I already knew that the eminent academic Jo Phoenix, with whom I disagree about prostitution and a number of other related issues, had been invited to oppose me at the debate. Phoenix had recently been speaking out about being de-platformed by Essex University for the simple reason that she is appalled at the anti-intellectual and anti-academic ethos within universities, as well as the rise of academic populism. I have no idea whether she will still attend the Durham debate, but I do know one thing: Treating invited speakers like dangerous retrogrades – in particular those who give their time to encourage critical thinking amongst the student population – will result in graduates with narrow, closed minds and no ability to form opinions of their own.