Students at the University of Edinburgh barred the entrance to screenings of Adult Human Female, a gender critical documentary seeking to interrogate and demolish what the producers call trans ideology. In doing so, the students have stepped into a long history of deplatforming, while also giving additional airtime to the film in the media. Given my area of research, I sat down and watched the documentary, seeking to understand what message it was trying to tell and who was trying to tell it. And I was sorely disappointed, because, frankly, Adult Human Female is an example of amateur hour production values with no inherent or coherent message it wanted to tell.
Yes, the inherent message of the film attempts to promote an anti-gender identity sex based approach to life, but it does so in such a grab bag way that it undermines any points it is trying to make. It is exclusionary in a way that has a black Libyan born lesbian borderline states race based gender theory, has a gay male author make up historic facts about when the T was added to LGBT, and has Julie Bindel accusing The Guardian of being pro-trans because of American ad revenue. And this is before it become inherently contradictory in its entire approach to trans issues; yes, look at the scary men in women’s spaces, but no, children must wait past puberty before they transition.
As with all propaganda it cherry picks, selectively edits, parrots back popular talking points, and victim blames minority groups. The film attempts to make a point, then moves on to the next point, and the next, and the next. Never fully dissecting, never fully interrogating what exactly it is trying to say, other than trans women are scary and not women and are men, and therefore… It is such a deeply flawed production that I am surprised the film makers allowed it to be posted.
But that is not the point. The point is to create outrage, create a lightening rod for bad faith actors to point at the scary trans folk looking to block free speech. The two good points it raises, namely trans activist violence and trans women in sport, are lost in a sea of dog whistles, biological essentialism, and denial of basic facts. The documentary attempts to have voices of authority by bringing in academics and barristers, yet undermines it all by the sloppy chopping and changing. It is laugh out loud bad in multiple places, but I am not the intended audience. The film is designed to appeal to those who need an anti-trans comfort blanket, or to those on the fence to nudge them just enough to fall into exclusionary waiting arms.
No film should ever be banned, it should be picked apart, critiqued, and sent up in a sea of parody. Adult Human Female is simply a badly made attempt at documentary making, falling far short when it is critically dissected, yet it is the veneer of respectability that makes it harmful to anyone who does not have the facts to hand. Simply not engaging or clicking on the video should be enough to send a message, yet in truth, I recommend anyone who wants to see exactly how convoluted and desperate trans exclusionary voices are to watch it and then send it up in a sea of memes. Like Chaplin in the Last Dictator exclusionary voices need to be parodied and lampooned, not treated as voices on high. Dialogue is always valid, bridges should always be built, but when inherent rights are threatened on all sides it takes more than banning films to move forward.
Watch the film, feel yourself getting angry, then see it for the shallow, hollow thing that it is. A desperate attempt at grabbing onto all the driftwood they can because the trans rights and women’s rights ship has sailed off without them. The interviewees talk of a trans reckoning, yet in the long lens of history this film is just one more exhibit alongside Birth of a Nation signposting to a redundant ideological past, this time signalled with red flags waved all the way.