St John’s Gender Equality Festival accused of libel by OUSU campaign leader

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The committee for the St John’s Gender Equality Festival have been accused of libel in a circular email sent by the co-chair of OUSU’s “Mind Your Head” campaign.

The accusation centres around the statement released by the committee on Saturday evening, which apologised “unreservedly” for a “trans-exclusionary” article written for the festival zine by former Magdalen LGBTQ rep Elsa Field.

The committee’s apology, which disowned the practice of “platforming views […] that contribute to a culture of oppression and fear’ was released following a flurry of criticism on social media, most prominently from the Oxford University LGBTQ Society trans rep Rowan Davis, who labelled the article “transphobic”.

Field has since resigned from her post as LGBTQ rep for Magdalen JCR, citing her “personal political views” as irreconcilable with her position.

 The co-chair, who described himself in the circular as an “OUSU welfare campaign leader” slammed the committee’s statement as “inappropriate” and “libellous”, claiming that it both “negatively mischaracterises” and has been used to “demonise” Field, the author of the original piece.

“As someone responsible for promoting mental health at Oxford, I feel strongly that there have been mistakes made that are damaging to student wellness, and that these need to be corrected,” he continued, before requesting a full apology from the committee.

When contacted by the OxStu, OUSU VP (Welfare) Chris Pike stressed that the co-chair’s email does not represent an official OUSU position. Pike noted that, while “the feelings and wellbeing of all students are important, I do not believe that individual wellbeing can be used to excuse systemic oppression, including transphobia.”

Anna Bradshaw, OUSU VP (Women), took a similar line, commenting: “Within OUSU we are totally committed to the representation, inclusion and liberation of trans students.

“Our policy means that we define a ‘woman’ as ‘anyone who self-defines wholly or partially as a woman and/or as transfeminine’.”