A dedicated, hard-working and passionate activist

There exists a statement of solidarity with Fran Cowling. It’s not clear who wrote it or posted it or is hosting it – it’s just some words floating in cyberspace. It purports to be on a blog called Solidarity for Students with a subhead (or section) called Student Solidarity, but when you click on either one, it just takes you to the page you’re already on. A bit Alice Through the Looking-glass, that.

So these floating words.

We stand in solidarity with NUS LGBT+ Officer Fran Cowling and support their right to choose who they share a platform with according to their own values and beliefs. We believe fundamentally in the right to freedom of speech and association but that both of these carry with them the right to choose to neither speak nor associate with someone and Fran has every right to exercise those rights however they deem fit.

Wow that’s terrible writing. It’s awful bureaucratic boilerplate, but worse, it loses track of the syntax before it gets to the end of those awful sentences. You can’t believe in something and but that something in the same clause, let alone add yet a third item about what Fran has every right to exercise.

Also why is Fran Cowling “they”? The news outlets didn’t call her “they”; did they all have it wrong? Is it just considered rude now not to call people “they”? If so, why? Are we that ashamed of not being trans?


We are appalled at Peter Tatchell’s actions in dragging a dedicated, hard-working and passionate activist through an appalling media circus which has led to them receiving a torrent of vile abuse with no other apparent purpose than to salve his own ego.

Appalled at Tatchell’s actions, but it’s perfectly fine for Fran Cowling to email all and sundry saying how terrible he is. Why’s that then? Why is she allowed to barf all over him while he is expected to shut up and take it? I bet Fran Cowling isn’t such a “a dedicated, hard-working and passionate activist” as Peter Tatchell is.

We believe that whether Peter Tatchell feels he is racist or transphobic is ultimately irrelevant as none of us is best placed to be an objective judge of our own behaviour and Fran’s decision to listen to the voices of People of Colour and Trans people who have raised issues with his behaviour was the right decision for them to make and should be supported. Whilst also recognising that those opinions are not universal amongst People of Colour and Trans people, nor should there ever be expectation that they would be, because neither group is comprised of identical clones and where differing opinions exist the choice of who to side with remains with the individual.

Okay, there’s the nub of the issue.

Why was Fran’s decision to listen to the voices of People of Colour and Trans people who have raised issues with his behaviour the right decision for her to make? What if they’re wrong? What if they’re making it up? What if they’re both? Why is it just self-evidently true that it’s right for her to listen to them and then email a bunch of people to say he’s shitty?

And then the dismissal of the fact that other members of the People of Identity would contradict the ones Fran Cowling “listened to” on the grounds that everybody’s different is just contemptible. Yes, people are different, and if they differ over the facts about Peter Tatchell, then some are right and others are wrong, and it makes a difference which ones Fran Cowling “listens to.”

If the composer of this mess is a student, I seriously hope intensive tutoring is available. It’s desperately needed.

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