Student sacked from editor job for saying ‘women don’t have penises’

A student has been fired from his editor job at a top uni after becoming embroiled in a transphobia row for saying ‘women don’t have penises’.

Angelos Sofocleous was sacked from his post at Durham University’s philosophy journal ‘Critique’ after just three days for writing a tweet deemed ‘transphobic’ by fellow students.

The 24-year-old faced disciplinary action last month after he re-tweeted an article by The Spectator on his personal Twitter account, adding the comment ‘re-tweet if women don’t have penises’.

The tweet sparked outrage across the social media platform, and Mr Sofocleous was dismissed from his position at the publication, as well as being ‘forced’ to resign as president-elect of Humanist Students.

The postgraduate Philosophy and Psychology student was also fired from his position as general editor of Durham University’s online magazine, ‘The Bubble’.

Collecting hundreds of comments, the tweet has since sparked a row around Humanism, trans rights and freedom of speech.

In the now deleted re-tweet, Mr Sofocleous shared an article by Spectator writer James Kirkup titled ‘Is it a crime to say women don’t have penises?’, with the comment: "RT if women don’t have penises’.

The post received backlash from former chair of LGBT Humanists Christopher Ward, among others, who claimed the post was ‘factually incorrect’ and not ‘worthy of a debate’.

He wrote: "As former chair of LGBT Humanists UK, the opposition I experienced from a number of longstanding Humanists members to trans people and trans issues was a stain on an otherwise great organisation.

"And here’s the new President of Humanist Students RTing horrific transphobic s**t."

Standing by his tweets, Mr Sofocleous wrote: "I may be wrong and women might indeed have penises, although I don’t believe that to be the case.

"But the backlash that took place after my comments, particularly within the organisation, convinced me that, unfortunately and surprisingly, there are certain issues within the humanist movement which are undebatable.

"No effort was made, beyond name-calling, derogatory comments, and ad hominem statements, to convince me of the truth of the other side’s position.

"These events involved a retweet of mine saying ‘RT if women don’t have penises’, and certain other criticisms of the transgender movement, as well as suggestions to improve the movement’s actions.

"Sadly, these views were taken to be ‘transphobic’ by individuals who cannot tolerate any criticism, either of their movement or their ideas, and are unable to engage in a civilised conversation on issues they disagree on.

"These are individuals who think they hold the absolute right to determine which ideas can be discussed and what language can be used in a public forum."

In August, Mr Sofocleous was sent an email from Ryan Lo, the president of the university’s Philosophy Society, saying the group had taken a vote to relieve him of his position, deciding his tweets served to ‘belittle trans experiences’.

Writing on the Critique journal’s Facebook page, Mr Lo said: "Durham University Philosophy Society has a duty to act within the best interests of all of its members, therefore is committed to equality and diversity and to our democratic principles as a group of Durham Student’s Union.

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"When our executive team and group members vote on elections and group decisions, we encourage that they consider Durham SU’s commitment to inclusivity, equality of opportunity for all, and the promotion of diversity.

"This includes all gender identities, but would emphasise that how each individual votes is a matter of personal judgment and interpretation.

"This is fundamental to the democratic spirit of our group and is why we have policies in place so these decisions can be voted on, not made arbitrarily.

"Durham University Philosophy Society stands by the policies adopted by the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion team within the Department of Philosophy, therefore we do not tolerate practices of racism, sexism, or trans-exclusionary sentiments."

The new editor-in-chief of Critique, Sebastian Sanchez-Schilling, tweeted saying he was ‘happy to announce’ the publication would not be ‘tolerating trans-exclusionary radical feminists or bowing to their pressure’.

The twitter row has sparked debate over free speech. Journalist Toby Young replied to Mr Sanchez-Schilling, tweeting: "As the editor of a philosophy journal at one of Britain’s great universities, how do you justify not tolerating dissent from campus orthodoxies?

"Shouldn’t you be encouraging debate about important issues rather than stifling it?"

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