Ex-trans Christian defends evangelical training event after Oxford college's apology

Libby Littlewood speaks at the 2021 Wilberforce Academy.(Photo: Christian Concern)

A Christian woman who used to be transgender has defended an evangelical training event after an Oxford college apologised for allowing it to take place on its campus.

Worcester College, part of the University of Oxford, apologised for hosting the Wilberforce Academy after complaints from students who found a leaflet connected to the event.

They took particular issue with the attendance of Mike Davidson, founder of the Core Issues Trust, a charity that helps people with unwanted same-sex attraction.

Concerns were also raised about the trust's stance on Islam and a session at the Wilberforce Academy called "The nature of Islam".

Ex-trans Christian Libby Littlewood was both a speaker and delegate at this year's Wilberforce Academy, where she shared her experience of living as a transgender man before detransitioning.

She said the academy was a chance for like-minded Christians to speak about issues "from a well-researched and sensitive place".

"Wilberforce Academy was, for me, an opportunity to share our experiences, which are so often silenced by one-sided politics and public intolerance," she told The Tab.

Wilberforce Academy is a weeklong training programme for young Christians that is run each year by evangelical campaign group Christian Concern.

Worcester College said it was a "serious failure" to host the training event and that it would be conducting an "urgent review" of its booking processes "to ensure this does not happen again".

"We deeply regret the distress caused to students, staff and other members of the college community by the presence of the Wilberforce Academy conference," said a spokesperson for the college.

Littlewood said the event has been misunderstood: "To hear terms like homophobic and Islamophobic being associated with this week of open and careful reflection, upon 'a leaflet being left behind at breakfast', seems a great disservice to the point of the whole week." 

She said members of the ex-LGBT community like her should be free to discuss their morals and opinions in a way that is "received and respected, as we receive and respect others".

She also defended the session on Islam and the attendance of Davidson, saying his personal testimony was "often misunderstood and misinterpreted". 

"For many of us at The Wilberforce Academy, the scales of our educational backgrounds had been skewed too far to the pluralist extreme, at odds with our Christian faith. We needed to learn how to engage with Islam and open a dialogue," she said.

Littlewood fears that Worcester College's review will lead to the exclusion of conservative Christian voices.

"Will we have a space, in which we can meet like-minded individuals and discuss politics which may be at odds with the current zeitgeist?" she said.

She is urging Provost David Isaac to uphold free speech.

"I spent a week learning how to stand up for what I believe in and that it's okay to do so," she said.

"Will David Isaac consider my experience when he decides how he wants to change the booking process at Worcester College?

"Will he consider the experiences of my peers at The Wilberforce Academy?

"Does he only listen to intolerant voices that want to silence any dissent from prevailing cultural orthodoxy, or will he defend free speech and allow his college to host people with differing viewpoints?

"It appears that the former is the choice he is making."