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Journalist Abigail Shrier to speak at the University about gender ideology, free speech

Queer organizations on Grounds react negatively

The event will take place in Minor Hall room 125 on Wednesday, October 11.
The event will take place in Minor Hall room 125 on Wednesday, October 11.

Independent journalist and author Abigail Shrier is set to speak at the University for an event entitled “An Evening with Abigail Shrier” hosted by the Jefferson Council and Common Sense Society. Her controversial talking points, including her investigation of what she calls “a trans epidemic” in young girls across America and its subsequent impact on free speech, have warranted a mixed response from the student body. 

Shrier is a graduate of Columbia College, Oxford University and Yale Law School and a recipient of the Barbara Olson Award for Excellence and Independence in Journalism. Her book, entitled “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters” was published in 2020 and has received both accolades and criticism for its portrayal of the causes underlying an alleged uptick in trans-identifying teens across the United States.

In a blog post announcing the event, Jefferson Council Executive Director James A. Bacon described Shrier’s work as “an impressive feat of journalism,” suggesting that regardless of the controversy surrounding her work, Shrier’s views are not stereotypically culturally conservative.

“She strikes me as an old-fashioned liberal who believes what old-fashioned liberals believed before progressives rose to cultural and political dominance,” Bacon wrote in the post.

Bacon’s praise for Shrier’s work has been met with equal amounts of disapproval from other organizations and individuals at the University — a multitude of whom have already expressed concern about the problematic and potentially hostile environment that Shrier’s presence could foster on Grounds for LGBTQ+ students.

As early as Thursday, anonymous posters began cropping up across Grounds in advance of Shrier’s upcoming visit.

“Hey Abigail,” the posters read, “the only real ‘irreversible damage’ is the harm trans people face, and the only real ‘transgender craze’ is the hatred against them that you perpetuate. U.Va. is not a home for hate.”

These signs, though unclaimed by any specific group on Grounds, carry echoes of student sentiment regarding the limits of free speech that resonated across Grounds during former vice president Mike Pence’s appearance at the University in 2022. Pence’s talk was also hosted by Young Americans for Freedom, which will be co-sponsoring Shrier’s talk next week.

Other organizations on Grounds have explicitly expressed their concerns over Shrier’s anticipated arrival. When asked for comment, the Queer Student Union responded in cooperation with other Queer organizations on Grounds in a collective, written statement that adamantly opposed Shrier’s book and the transphobic language and arguments within it. 

“We are dedicated to creating a safe environment for LGBTQ+ students,” the statement read. “We will continue fighting against these institutions and individuals who perpetuate harmful rhetoric and actions.”

Some members of Sigma Omicron Rho, a queer and gender-inclusive fraternity, shared a similar reaction to the event. Oliver Lesher, Sigma Omicron Rho president and fourth-year College student, said the event is also notable because it takes place on national coming-out day.

“We were disappointed but not surprised,” Lesher said in an interview with The Cavalier Daily. “There has been a history of anti-trans speakers coming to Grounds, especially near and around important holidays to our community…we can only assume it was a very deliberate decision on their part.”

Lesher reiterated Sigma Omicron Rho’s continued commitment to creating a safe space on Grounds for marginalized students who might feel discomfort with speakers like Shrier coming to Grounds.

“Sigma Omicron Rho, as an organization and as individual people, stands for the creation of spaces where all minority communities can come together and thrive together,” Lesher said. 

The talk will take place in Minor Hall room 125 on Wednesday, October 11. Tickets to the event are free with general admission to the public and may be reserved through the Jefferson Council’s Eventbrite here.

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