- Firstly it flags up to everyone that this speaker is a transphobic bigot, that the content of his or her output includes hatred for and abuse of trans people. It makes an issue where there would otherwise have been no issue. Crucially it means the issue in question is transphobia not trans people. The issue here has been Germaine Greer, not trans people, as has so often been the case in the past.
- Secondly it forces them to defend their stance on trans people, ie. to defend bigotry, hatred and discrimination. It puts them on the defensive, again it means the issue is them not trans people. This is important because it frames the starting point of the debate as being their transphobia. They are the problem.
- Thirdly it exposes the gaps in attitudes towards inclusion, equality and diversity at the institution concerned, as it has done in Cardiff. It forces the university’s management to defend it’s stance, something which, in this case has exposed it as talking the talk but not walking the walk on trans inclusion and equality.
- Finally it enables other students, student unions and academic staff, as well as others outside the university to demonstrate their support for trans students and their contempt for transphobes. This is probably more important than most people think. No-platforming represents a vehicle by which fellow students can show their solidarity (yes I know solidarity is an outmoded word but that is in itself a problem) to trans students. Rather than trans students watching some classmates going to listen to a transphobe, and possibly coming away saturated in disinformation having soaked up TERF mendacity, they see fellow students signing petitions and attending meetings and demos to protest against these bigots. The effect of this cannot be underestimated.
Ultimately No-platforming is different from censorship or silencing, although many people, particularly TERFs and their friends in the right-wing media want us to think differently. No-platforming is about local people, showing solidarity with those in their midst who are subject to the kinds of lies, abuse and misrepresentation that bigots dish out, deciding they are going to support their peers. It is the very opposite of censorship, it is ensuring that those who are subject to intimidation and abuse in an attempt to silence them, are not put in a position where they are feel uncomfortable either expressing their views or being somewhere on campus. Censorship is top-down, the exercise of power to prevent a point of view being heard at all. No-platforming is bottom-up, it is a collective action of those whose voices are rarely heard. We recently saw a well-known writer come out as trans. They do not have to fear being placed in such a situation, their freedom of expression is not at issue. Ordinary young trans students at university don't always want to loudly proclaim their transness, many simply want to blend in and get on with their lives without harassment. This is what no-platforming is about. Ultimately it is the opposite of censorship, the opposite of silencing.