JUST so you know, Adult Human Female, the documentary protesters and Edinburgh University itself have now twice stopped being screened, is readily available on YouTube. I do hope those who tried to stop it being shown have actually watched it.

Because if you want to make a salient point to someone with whom you disagree, it’s always best to examine their opinions carefully in order to form and inform your own.

They used to call it debating, until so many seats of learning got too feart to let that dangerous stuff happen anymore.

Universities were and should be all about debate. Absorbing theories, questioning them, applying intellectual curiosity to them, and then indulging in robust conversations which embrace all sides of the question to hand.

The student body, rather than shouting from behind barricades, should be in lecture theatres arguing the toss with everyone and anyone, not least in the Scottish capital where the Scottish Enlightenment was born and thrived.

Now, too often, universities have become a place where conflicting commentaries are frowned on; where some academics are advised to shut up if they know what’s good for their careers.

When all my friends went to university immediately after school and I didn’t, they used to sneak me into the debating societies so that I could get a taste, however vicariously, of what went on there.

I loved it; the cut and thrust, the assembly of evidence and counter evidence. The often witty attempts to bring the doubters onside. Plus, never once, so far as I was aware, was a guest lecturer effectively banned from contributing to a current issue, however contentious, because some of the student body took a different view. And may have been offended. Taking offence is easier to catch than Covid these days.

Much later in life, I took the second chance offered by the Open University and spent years gaining a humanities degree alongside working full time. I loved that. Especially since the course in question was perfect for the butterfly mentality and insatiable curiosity of a journalist.

It covered music, visual arts, philosophy, science, history, social policy, and international relations and I loved all that too. Even the bits I assumed would be beyond my capacity or understanding, because the learning process is all about fixing that. You don’t know what you don’t know until you’re exposed to it.

Free speech in the nations and regions of the UK has suffered a catastrophic accident in the past few years. Alongside the no-platforming of people who might say something considered “unacceptable”, some academics have lost their jobs because they have refused to accept the new orthodoxy.

Some have left their union, because they don’t recognise it any more. Some researchers – they identify themselves in the documentary – have been advised that unless they stop examining the issues of sex and gender, they will be shown the door.

This is all wrong. Let’s suppose for the sake of argument that a known racist or homophobe had been invited to give a major lecture to a major institution. You could of course insist that he or she were disinvited. That is now commonplace.

Very much smarter is to have them air their beliefs and then have people on hand who can deconstruct their statements and illustrate effectively why what they had to say would be an affront to the people they chose to demean.

The UK Government is in the same game trying to criminalise those who would exercise their right of protest; sometimes, even before they actually do so!

Or stopping and searching someone on the grounds they may be carrying a weapon which they may use. We know you haven’t done anything, but we know your type! Especially if you’re Black.

Some criminal law in England and Wales has become the legal equivalent of predictive text.

Most noticeably, however, there is no real debate over the trans issue because it has been effectively shut down. Even the First Minister, asked about the Edinburgh boycott, said that it was a matter for the university.

No, it’s not. It’s a matter for everyone who cares about freedom of speech and the current vogue in closing it down before a word can be uttered.

Dare to disagree and you are the worst kind of bigot/transphobe/neanderthal. You are not being “progressive”.

In my book, being progressive means being open to argument, not so certain of your rectitude that you will close your mind tight shut and brook no disagreement.

It’s doubtless why so many senior and otherwise bright politicians get themselves into the most ridiculous fankles when asked questions like “what is a woman?” or “do women have penises?”.

And wouldn’t it be just wonderful to observe Sir Keir in a Red Wall seat explaining to a female voter of a certain age why some apparently do?

Yet there badly needs to be a real debate here. In brief, it’s about whether the battle for trans rights, wholly admirable, does or doesn’t impinge on women’s rights. Wholly admirable too.

The policy capture of this issue originated, where else, in America, which is also where the battle over male-born athletes who transitioned and entered women’s sports was fought. A glimmer of logic seems visible in this latter area judging by recent decisions of some sports governing bodies.

There are myriad other issues covered in the Adult Human Female documentary, from the migration of Stonewall as a gay and lesbian rights lobbying group to a trans lobbying one, able to issue tablets of stone as to whether any institution was obeying the rules. The rules as supplied by Stonewall. Always useful to mark your own homework.

In a sense, Stonewall was a victim of its own success having managed to persuade so many policymakers to accept same-sex marriage and civil partnerships. You suspect they became a de facto consultancy looking for a new client base. The Scottish Government, incidentally, became a client. As did, for a while, the BBC.

NOW, ironically, many gays and lesbians feel threatened, and not just by the attempt to portray the fight for trans rights as analogous to that fought for gay and lesbian rights. It’s not, of course, because many of us who were more than happy to join the war on homophobia have become the forces of irredeemable darkness so far as the trans activists are concerned.

You may have clocked, too, that often these protestors are not trans folk trying to get on with their lives, but masked, hulking great blokes shouting in women’s faces.

People also worry that many young children who are same-sex attracted are persuaded when they have these feelings that instead they may have been born in the wrong body.

This is not to argue against gender dysphoria, merely to observe that most people are prone to experiment with their identities until they get past the hormonal rigours of puberty. The eight-year-old daughter of a friend of mine advised her mother last week that she had become engaged to a boy in her primary class.

She will doubtless have many more crushes before she settles on whatever adult identity with which she feels most comfortable. That, sensibly, was the view taken by her unfazed mum, rather more concerned by whether the “fiancé” was vegan or vegetarian, when he came to tea.

The other thing this closed mentality lacks is anything resembling a sense of humour. Trust me, you absolutely dare not crack a joke about any of this.

Not about using plural pronouns for single folk, not about how some health providers mangle the English language in their search for inoffensive language, and most especially about not prefixing your own adult human female identity with the term cis.