Initially without any major protests, on Thursday afternoon the HU biologist Marie-Luise Vollbrecht made up for her lecture on dual gender that had been canceled at the Long Night of Science.
Vollbrecht was greeted with loud applause and jeers in the almost full hall. She said it meant something to her to have the chance to repeat the lecture. The media rush was also great, with several camera teams in the hall.
Even before the start, there had been a small dispute between Vollbrecht and the HU history professor Gabriele Metzler on the edge of the panel as to why Vollbrecht did not want to answer any questions after the lecture on site. The two parted, visibly upset. Immediately afterwards, Metzler told the Tagesspiegel: “I understand if she doesn’t want to answer any political questions. But scientific questions about a scientific lecture must be allowed. Otherwise we are not a university.”
Vollbrecht confirmed at the beginning of the lecture that he did not want to answer any questions in the hall. But you will do that from 7.30 p.m. on YouTube and Twitter.
Before the biologist’s lecture, it was quiet in front of the Humboldt University. Only one Berlin police car was parked on Dorotheenstrasse, but there were initially no protests against the controversial department. Participants in the lecture had to register in advance, and private security staff from the university checked bags upon entry.
Shortly after the start of the lecture, three annoyed HU students left the building. They really wanted to see Marie-Luise Vollbrecht’s lecture, but had forgotten to register in advance. On the building’s stairs, the law students gossip about the security staff who denied them entry. “Do we look like left-wing terrorists,” one of the students asked the other two.
The lecture was over after 40 minutes, there was great applause and a bouquet of flowers for Vollbrecht.
Vollbrecht, who is currently a doctoral student at the HU, spoke under the title “Gender is not equal to gender. Sex, gender and why there are only two genders in biology” – just as it was intended for the Long Night. The Humboldt University had canceled the original date on the Saturday before last at short notice due to security concerns.
Critics of Vollbrecht and subsequently their supporters had previously announced protests and demonstrations. The call for protest initially came from the “Working Group of Critical Lawyers” (akj), a group of students. They were not only at odds with the title of the lecture, but above all with the fact that Vollbrecht had previously co-authored an article in the “Welt” that had often been criticized as hostile to trans. In the run-up to the catch-up event on Thursday, the akj no longer publicly called for protests.
Vollbrecht had previously given the lecture on YouTube. She explains why, in her view, there are only two genders that people keep until the end of their lives. There is no in-between, nor are there any nuances in the expression. That is the state of biological research.
However, many in biologists see it differently: Research on the subject of gender is certainly more complex and is only just beginning. There is no consensus in research as to what definitely determines gender.
There had been heated debates about the cancellation. After Vollbrecht’s lecture, there should be a panel discussion on the subject of academic freedom at the HU from 7 p.m. Both events were fully booked.
Federal Research Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger (FDP) should also be included in the panel discussion. She had complained about the cancellation of the event in the “Bild” newspaper.
On Thursday, she clarified on Twitter that she rejected the allegation of transphobia. “On the contrary: there must be no discrimination based on gender identity.” In this context, she also defended the Self-Determination Act, with which the traffic light coalition wants to make it easier to legally change the gender entry. The minister maintained her criticism of the rejection.