Tatchell Defends Stance Following Twitterstorm

Peter Tatchell today defended his stance on trans rights and free speech following a Twitterstorm of abuse, hatemail and death wishes in response to his having signed a letter opposing banning people from speaking publicly.
Acknowledging that he didn’t support every word in the letter and he didn’t agree with everyone who signed it (in fact he didn’t know in advance who had signed it), he asserted that freedom of speech was a fundamental human right.
You can read the letter here.
The Twitterfeed involved over 5,000 vitriolic and negative responses, a large number of which wished him dead and threatened him with murder. Following a sleepless night after such abuse, he fell over a flagstone and banged his head on his way to the LGBT History Conference where he was due to give a speech on Africa’s colonial homophobic legacy. He was clearly upset and in some considerable pain. On his return to London he was found to be suffering from concussion.
Peter stated in response to the deluge of critical responses:
For me, free speech is one of the most precious of all human rights. It is the foundation of a democratic, open society. It should be defended without exception, unless it involves threats, harassment or incitements to violence.
The most effective way to defeat bigoted ideas is not by proscription but by challenging and exposing them – and by presenting better, non-bigoted ideas. That’s why I’ve often accepted invitations to debate homophobes, misogynists, transphobes and anti-Muslim zealots. The feedback I’ve received nearly always suggests that they’ve come out of such debates damaged and discredited.
This was the case when I did a BBC Radio 4 debate on trans issues against Julie Bindel many years ago. Trans activists say she’s transphobic and should not be given a platform. As a result, she’s been banned from speaking at some universities, even on non-trans issues (the latter exclusion seems particularly excessive). But far from gaining from the platform she was given, Bindel emerged from the BBC debate with much of the audience rejecting her point of view. This experience confirmed to me that exposing transphobes in debates is more effective than no-platforming them, as well as being more democratic.