THE directors of a film whose two screenings at Edinburgh University were cancelled after protesters blocked the entrance to the venue have launched a crowdfunder for an employment tribunal against the University and College Union (UCU).

Deirdre O’Neill and Michael Wayne, who are both members of the UCU, claim that UCU Edinburgh’s description of their film Adult Human Female as “transphobic” and “hate speech” amounts to unlawful discrimination against their gender critical beliefs.

Ahead of the second planned screening in April, which was blocked by a small number of independent activists, UCU Edinburgh wrote to University of Edinburgh bosses to denounce the film as “transphobic” and encourage them to withdraw permission to screen it.

But O’Neill and Wayne believe that calling for the screening to be cancelled was “beyond the pale and unworthy of a place on campus”.

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They said: “We are raising funds to bring an employment tribunal claim against UCU for unlawfully discriminating against us because of our protected ‘gender critical’ beliefs.

“UCU champions those who believe that men who identify as the opposite sex should be treated in policy and law as women.

“We believe this view is harmful to women’s sex-based rights. UCU not only disagrees with our position but opposes our right to screen the film and discuss the issues.

“Gender critical beliefs are protected in law. It is unlawful for a union to discriminate against its members by harassing them or subjecting them to any form of ‘detriment’. UCU has lost many members over this issue.

“We are raising funds to cover the initial cost of presenting our claim to the tribunal. Our solicitor has estimated this at £6500.”

UCU members were part of a peaceful protest organised by the university’s Staff Pride Network outside of the venue where the film was planned to be screened in April.

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However, a small number of activists not affiliated with the Staff Pride Network placed themselves in-front of the doors to the Gordon Aikman Lecture Theatre, forcing the cancellation.

A spokesperson for the Staff Pride Network said that the filmmakers characterisation of the event was "biased to to fit their own agenda". 

A statement read: "The Staff Pride Network supports UCU Edinburgh's position regarding the film Adult Human Female that it is fundamentally anti-trans propaganda designed to spread misinformation about trans identities and conflates the existence of trans people with people who are violent predators.

"The filmmaker's characterisation of the situation is clearly biased to fit their own agenda.

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"For example they state, 'UCU champions those who believe that men who identify into the opposite sex should be treated in policy and law as women'.

"Their choice of language is not consistent with UCU policy on trans inclusion and is yet another example of their refusal to acknowledge trans identities as valid. 

"UCU Edinburgh have acted in line with their policy on trans inclusion in making a formal request to the University of Edinburgh to not support the screening of this anti-trans propaganda.

"The protest against the film that UCU supported was peaceful and did not obstruct attendance. That protest was clearly designed to represent our collective disagreement with the film in a peaceful manner."

Speaking to The National, O'Neill said that the UCU were "actively working against academic freedom" and outlined her hopes for the legal action. 

"We hope that UCU will take a more reasonable position. The way that we see it, at the moment they are actively working against academic freedom. 

"We're not saying they have to agree with out position but what we're arguing is that as a trade union workers should be able to articulate a position without being shut down or demonised." 

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Before the screening took place transgender students at the University of Edinburgh told The National that they felt the film questioned their right to exist and therefore breached the institution’s Dignity and Respect policy.

But the group which organised the film screenings, Edinburgh Academics for Academic Freedom, said UCU's criticism of gender critical beliefs amounted to "censorship". 

"We are sorry that the film-makers have had to do this and we commend their courage," a spokesperson told The National. 

"A trade union cannot represent academic members if it openly scoffs at the exercise of academic freedom, encourages censorship, and uses mob denunciations to scare and discredit anyone who disagrees with current prevailing views.

"We hope that this case will result in national and local UCU leadership making a proper commitment to the defence of academic freedom."

So far, O’Neill and Wayne’s crowdfunder has raised more than £1300.