Germaine Greer Tells Cambridge University Students: Transphobia Doesn't Exist

28/01/2015 13:13 | Updated 29 January 2015
Chris Williamson via Getty Images

Germaine Greer faced the wrath of angry students after claiming transphobia doesn't exist during a highly-contested talk at Cambridge University.

Greer spoke to an audience at debating society The Cambridge Union, and condemned Harriet Harman MP, saying she was "bound to get the wrong end of the stick" as "I’ve taught women fifty times clever than she is".

Her anger at gender stereotyping was initially directed at the "hoards of feminist journalists" who were "too stupid" to understand wider issues. Greer also criticised the Everyday Sexism campaign, saying it made misogyny sexy.

CUSU's Women Campaign opposed Greer's appearance at the Union, saying: "Greer does not represent feminism, and she does not represent us."

germaine greer

Transphobia soon became a target of Greer's speech: "Women are 51% of the world’s population and [I’ve been told] I’ve got to worry about transphobia".

She continued: "I didn’t know there was such a thing [as transphobia]. Arachnaphobia, yes. Transphobia, no.”

Greer's opinions of transgender people are well known - in her book The Whole Woman, Greer described trans women as "men who believe that they are women and have had themselves castrated".

According to Greer, the actions of transgender people are counteracting today's attempts to defeat stereotypes about women. She insists you cannot be a woman because you "want" to be: "There’s a hardship about being a woman...I always wanted to be a Jew, but I can’t be."

Never one to steer clear of controversy, Greer called gender polarity "a delusion, it's a form of body dysmorphia". She called the surgery needed for the transitioning process "unethical" because of the dependence on medication it inevitably creates.

As students responded angrily to her comments, Greer felt the need to defend herself in the debate, insisting transgender people are "the ones throwing stuff at me".

Cambridge University's LGBT+ Campaign boycotted the event, insisting: "The campaign will no longer hold events at the Union until such time as the Union introduces a policy of not inviting those with a history of hate speech."

Robin Cumming, CUSU LGBT+'s Transgender and Intersex Rep, told HuffPost UK: "We felt that to invite Germaine Greer back to speak in Cambridge after her actions against Rachael Padman and given her wider transmisogynistic stance was to sweep these things under the carpet and, as such, implicitly condone them by failing to take a stand against them."

Greer left Cambridge University in 1996, abandoning her lecturing position at Newnham College after campaigning against the election of a transgender fellow, Rachael Padman. Numerous current students expressed their unwillingness to have her back.

Student Em Travis wrote in favour of the boycott for Cambridge's LGBT+ magazine, Get Real. They described Greer's views as "twisted and misinformed", adding: "I do not want to share a building with Germaine Greer. I don’t particularly want to share a city or even a planet with her, for that matter, or with any other person who contributes to the marginalisation, oppression, and death of my trans siblings."

The society organised an alternative event to "discuss the history of trans feminism, and think through how feminism can be made more trans-inclusive" with trans feminist activist, Roz Kaveney, as guest speaker.

The LGBT+ and Women's Campaign also distributed leaflets about Greer's history of transmisogyny outside the Union before her talk.

15 Things To Know About Being Transgender By Nicholas M. Teich

CONVERSATIONS