Mass student walkout from Hannah Barnes gender critical event at LSE

Published On: May 23rd, 2023

On 23 May 2023, a mass student walkout occurred in one of the LSE’s largest amphitheatres, the Old Theatre in the LSE’s iconic Old Building.

The lecture, which was organised by two professors at the LSE who helped to lobby the School Management Committee to leave the Stonewall LGBTQ+ charity, featured author Hannah Barnes. Barnes is a BBC journalist who had just published the gender critical-leaning book Time to Think: The Inside Story of the Collapse of the Tavistock’s Gender Service for Children.

In the middle of the lecture, around 100 students stood up and walked out, as an act of silent protest against the anti-trans propaganda appearing in the book, and against the coordinated anti-trans campaign at the LSE that had led senior managers to disaffiliate from Stonewall.

LSE Mass Student Walkout

This report and the video of the walkout below was forwarded to us from students who participated.

The book

Hannah Barnes’ book has received lots of positive attention from media in the UK, which has been increasingly enveloped in trans-panic over the last few years, including in otherwise left-leaning outlets like the Guardian. This is the result of years of focused right-wing anti-trans campaigning in the UK that spreads misinformation about trans healthcare.

However, the Hannah Barnes book has also come under serious criticism for bias, for “think of the children” panic, and for failing to centre the experience of trans people and trans children.

A few of the most egregious problems with Time to Think are summarised below. In short, it may be summarised as ‘bad science’ with a serious anti-trans bias, masquerading as ‘fair journalism’.

  • Hannah Barnes and the sources she cites are not neutral. At least 6 of the clinicians interviewed were found to be associated with anti-trans groups that support conversion therapy. In particular, many names cited in the book are found on this anti-trans influence map. In contrast, she nowhere mentions that the majority of Tavistock clinicians (50 out of 85) found the Tavistock closure was politically motivated and will have a negative impact on children’s healthcare. Here is their open letter.
  • Barnes’ book very misleadingly suggests ‘the science is not settled’. No science is complete, but the key facts about trans healthcare are indeed settled, such as that trans gender-affirming care broadly helps, while doing nothing is not ‘safe’ or ‘neutral’—it is gender disaffirming and harmful. In contrast, gender affirming care is well-confirmed to have a positive impact on children (cf. Scientific American, Julia Serano).
  • Barnes’ book ignores that only a tiny minority of trans people regret gender-affirming care, much less than the average of 14% of other surgery regrets (which don’t have reactionary books). People who need this treatment understand and want it. (See e.g. this meta-analysis of over 8,000 trans patients.)
  • Barnes’ book describes ‘puberty blockers’ in a biased way, centring fear-mongering, uncommon uses on criminals, and rare side-effects, instead of centring their many happy recipients (including for every-day uses like period pain). The Lancet describes a more balanced view, including the incredible harm done by denying them to children who need them.
  • Legal guidelines for minors’ consent to medical decisions already exist in the UK. Barnes’ book suggests there is a gap in British law when it comes to healthcare for trans children, when there is not: Gillick Competency applies to all healthcare, including trans healthcare. When underage women seek contraceptive care, their bodily autonomy is prioritised and taken into consideration. The autonomy of trans minors is no different. (For a better resource see this Gender GP article on trans children’s autonomy.)
  • Estranged parents are treated as an authority on trans experience. One whole chapter of Barnes’ book centres the parents’ feelings while admitting the actual child patient, who is now an adult, is not in communication with the author or with the parents.

Further criticism of the Hannah Barnes book can be found in the “Puberty Blockers” episode of the Prominent Corrections podcast. A helpful resource for avoiding misinformation on trans healthcare in the UK is Health Liberation Now.

The Walkout

On the day of the event, nobody on stage was trans: it was chaired by David Kershaw from LSE Law, and  included Lucinda Platt, a professor of Sociology and Social Policy. Both had been actively lobbying senior managers for the LSE to disaffiliate from Stonewall, and we have received reports that both expressed anti-trans sentiments in public forums at the LSE.

In short, the event was a group of non-trans people discussing how a “scandal” surrounding the rights of a minority they are not a part of.

The event began as normal for the first twenty minutes, and the room appeared to be mostly full. Suddenly, one student stood up in the middle of the audience, and was followed by the majority of the room standing up with a great rustle.

The panel attempted to continue to chat as most of the audience left the room one-by-one, until only a mostly-empty room remained. A video of the event was forwarded to us by one of the participants.

The Question Period

Most of the remaining people in the audience appeared to be supportive of gender critical perspectives on trans healthcare. However, a few critics of the Hannah Barnes book also remained in the audience, which can be heard in the YouTube recording of the question period.

The event was live-streamed online, where a large gender critical group watched and tweeted jeering responses to anyone critical of the Hannah Barnes book.

After the event, students remained on Houghton Street to graciously circulate handouts correcting misinformation in the Hannah Barnes book. (The handout is here.)

One LSE professor leaving the event was heard saying to a student, “I am ashamed of all LSE students today.”

At Rejoin Stonewall, in contrast, our sources tell us that the rest of LSE is extremely proud of them.