In the past week, the National Union of Students in Britain cancelled a scheduled address by author and iconoclast Germaine Greer.
The change of heart came about because of Ms Greer's views on transgenderism – and in particular how it relates to women. As far as I can tell, Germaine Greer was not scheduled to address the NUS event on this issue.
I do not know Ms Greer's views in detail, having only read scant reports about them in the press. I have not heard Ms Greer speak on them and have not read anything she has written about them. So, this piece is intended neither as an apologetic for nor a criticism of those views.
The issue I want to address is whether the NUS should make a practice of effectively closing down a debate before it has begun.
Clearly, the NUS has a responsibility to guard its public podium. A national body ostensibly representing students and their best interests has a duty, for example, to avoid promoting the extremist views of religio-political figures who serve as recruiters or apologists for terrorist agencies.
The fundamental direction of the teachings of such figures has been recognised, by a fairly broad public consensus, as harmful to the fundamental social order.
They call for, among other things, the end of social cohesion and the violent overthrow of society's institutions.
Society has no qualms about denying these people a public platform – though, thankfully, we still wrestle with ourselves to avoid what Orwell called "thought crime"; the oppression of people who dare even to think differently.
However, there are other ethical and moral questions for which the jury of informed public opinion is still very much in deliberation – if not decidedly hung. This is arguably true in the case of transgenderism.
As yet, there has been no wide-ranging public debate on the issue, in terms of its potential impact on the social fabric and, perhaps especially, its consequences for the development of children and young people.
Most of the noise we've heard in the media has been about the challenges facing individual adults who choose to undergo transgender medical procedures.
We've also been treated to a number of reports on children who have requested gender realignment. If some of these reports are accurate, a growing number of children are dissatisfied with the gender assigned them by nature.
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