On 23 February, Dr Julia Gasper, a Somerville College alumna and noted anti-LGBTQ activist, engaged in a Twitter dispute with the Oxford University Social Sciences Division.
In the online exchange, Gasper attacked the Bodleian Social Science Library (SSL) for tweeting a photo of various LGBTQ-related texts intended to demonstrate the department’s support for LGBT History Month, which is celebrated in the United Kingdom each February.
The account associated with the SSL had tweeted “We’re celebrating @lgbthm by showcasing our LGBTQ collections!”
Gasper responded, “Oh no, not more of this endless propaganda. I will unfollow you. This is a disgrace to Oxford”. In an immediately subsequent tweet, she wrote, “Most ‘LGBT’ history is invention, fantasy or wild distortion and it has no place in academia”.
Regarding LGBTQ History Month, Gaspar went on to assert, “This unsavoury paedophile movement should have no publicity or promotion from any university.”
When another Twitter user joined the exchange, suggesting that Gasper herself had no place in academia either, she responded by calling the user “a fully-qualified ignoramus and uneducated troll”. She also apparently referred to LGBT individuals as “mentally disturbed”.
The exchange continued sporadically for over 24 hours, with Gasper tweeting primarily in response to other Twitter users. “Universities are for objective research and debate, not ‘celebrating’ or pushing one agenda”, Gasper tweeted on 24 February. Accounts run by the SSL and the University of Oxford did not respond.
Gasper also tweeted Bodley’s Librarian Richard Ovenden directly, demanding that he “remove the most distasteful and inappropriate exhibition of LGBT propaganda from the Bodleian and its websites”.
“I think it’s absolutely horrendous that [Gasper] called [the LGBT movement] a paedophile movement”, said an anonymous undergraduate. “I see the point that perhaps universities shouldn’t politicise, but I think that her comments are clearly geared towards derision of the LGBT community more so than criticising Oxford for giving the movement a platform”.
Gasper earned a DPhil in English Literature from Somerville College in 1987. She specialises in historical literature and is currently a political activist associated with the English Democrats. She has been widely criticised by various LGBTQ groups for her divisive commentary on LGBTQ identities, behaviours, and activism.
In 2012, Gaspar was selected as the UK Independence Party’s Parliamentary candidate for Oxford East, and also campaigned to become a member of the Oxford City Council. During the campaign, she was scrutinised for her anti-LGBT blog posts, in several of which she asserted that same-sex attraction is a “behaviour” rather than an orientation.
In January 2013, it was discovered that Gasper had created an online forum for UKIP members which expressed strong criticism of the LGBT movement. In the forum, Gasper asserted a link between LGBTQ individuals and behaviours involving bestiality and paedophilia. As a result of the consequent scandal, Gasper resigned as chairman of UKIP’s Oxford branch. Her decision was followed by a change in affiliation to the English Democrats.
Image: Ludovic Bertron