LSE Vigil and Teach-Out for Transgender Day of Remembrance

Published On: November 20th, 2023

On 20 November 2023 LSE faculty, staff, and students joined with invited speakers to commemorate the Transgender Day of Remembrance, through a vigil and a teach-out organised by Rejoin Stonewall. Participants gathered outside of the Marshall Building on LSE campus, holding posters bearing trans-affirming messages and lighting candles in remembrance.

That evening, the Marshall Building served as a venue for the London Universities’ Council for Academic Freedom (LUCAF) launch event (the council brings together trans-critical staff from various educational establishments across London). The event’s guest speaker, a UK barrister Akua Reindorf, is known for her involvement in the anti-trans movement within British academia and beyond.

Some of the vigil’s participants raised doubts about the event’s scheduling on the Trans Day of Remembrance being coincidental. Some also reported on several Council members’ now-deleted social media posts mocking the Day of Remembrance, further adding to this concern.

Trans inclusive teach-out

Following the vigil, participants moved to the building’s ground floor for a trans-inclusive teach-out.

Transgender and ally speakers remembered their loved ones lost to transphobia, recited pieces by trans and non-binary authors, and discussed their experiences with queerphobia and advocating for themselves and the community in personal, academic, and public settings. They also deliberated about their views on what the concept of ‘academic freedom’ entails, stressing that defending marginalised groups from harassment and oppression is not incompatible with it.

Participants reiterated the importance of upholding the protection of transgender rights and their opposition to any instances of transphobic discrimination.

At the teach-out’s conclusion, participants once again assembled outside as attendees of the LUCAF launch event were exiting the building. They held lit candles, raised posters and waved flags to honour their trans and non-binary siblings and to show their disapproval of the council members’ activity.

LUCAF Response

At the vigil, an organiser of the LUCAF launch event approached participants, distributing flyers intended to clarify the Council’s objectives. In the flyers’ text, it is emphasised: “Students deserve an open and tolerant educational environment where they can develop the skills of critical engagement”, “We support the right to protest and criticise but oppose attempts to obstruct the freedom of others to express their lawful views”.

The indicated stance, however, is at odds with real-life actions of the Council’s members and those affiliated with it, as students’ peaceful protests and disagreement are seen as a direct personal threat and a violation of academic freedom.

The LUCAF event’s description on the LSE website reads: “This interest and debate [about the meaning of academic freedom] has been heightened in the UK by recent legislation on the Higher Education Freedom of Speech Act, as well as by prominent cases of disruption or cancellation of speakers by those with opposing views”, perhaps referring to LSE students’ mass walkout, among other disruptions. 

In the same spirit, the event’s speaker posted the following about the teach-out, implying that a peaceful gathering posed a danger to her:

LUCAF later went on the right wing news outlet GBNews where they falsely reported, “We had demonstrators, and some of them were actually in tears”, and that there were “demonstrators against free inquiry, intellectual diversity, and civil discourse”. They went on to express support for Kathleen Stock as part of their commitment to “free speech”.

More accurate images from the vigil and teach-out can be found below.