London music school encourages students, staff to report people for being 'terfs'

"'Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist' ideology is a specific form of transphobia," read the poster titled "What is a TERF?"

Mia Ashton Montreal QC

A music school in London is doing damage control after a photograph was shared on social media of a poster that used the derogatory slur TERF to encourage staff and students to report acts of transphobia such as believing that "trans women are not women."

The poster, which was displayed at The Institute of Contemporary Music Performance (ICMP) as part of the school’s Zero Tolerance policy on violence, harassment, and discrimination, has since been taken down and the ICMP has issued an apology in which it claimed the intention of the poster was to help clarify "growing misconceptions" about the derogatory slur.

The acronym TERF stands for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist and is disparagingly applied to all women who reject the idea that males can become women simply by self-declaration and that women must give up their right to female-only spaces to accommodate those males. Furthermore, it is used to encompass any woman who speaks out against doctors attempting to perform sex changes on gender-nonconforming children in the name of "gender-affirming care."

Such opinions fall under the legally protected category of "gender critical beliefs" which were enshrined in law by the landmark Maya Forstater ruling in June 2021. Due to Forstater 2021, people who hold gender-critical beliefs in the UK are legally protected from harassment and discrimination in employment and as service users.

"'Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist' ideology is a specific form of transphobia," read the poster titled "What is a TERF?."

"The primary TERF assertion is that trans women are not women, and accordingly have no place in women’s spaces." 

"This ideology also affects trans men, as TERFs assert that people assigned female at birth, but identify as male, shouldn’t be allowed into women’s spaces either," continued the poster that was supposedly intended to clear up "misconceptions" about women who hold gender critical beliefs. The poster provided a link and a QR code for those wanting to report such supposedly transphobic opinions.

Maya Forstater, one of numerous accounts to share the poster on Twitter, advised any staff or students at the ICMP who might experience discrimination or harassment because of their gender-critical beliefs to use the photograph on page one of their tribunal bundle.

The school eventually retracted the poster and issued an apology just a few hours after the image was shared widely on social media.

"Earlier today on-campus signage at the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance (ICMP) was shared on social media," said CEO Paul Kirkham in the statement. "Our intention, following discussions with our student community, had been to communicate the definition of TERF (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist) to help clarify what we considered to be growing misconceptions around what the term means."

"We got it wrong. The signage is clunky and we can see how it can be misinterpreted as an ICMP view and/or policy. The signage has now been removed and we apologise profusely for any offence caused."

"We recognise that this is a complex and important subject and like most other organisations we’re constantly learning. We work closely with our community and welcome debate in order to make sure we’re providing the best environment we can," the CEO concluded.


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