Right-wing political commentator Matt Walsh spoke at an event co-organized by the Stanford College Republicans (SCR) and Young America’s Foundation (YAF) at Dinkelspiel Auditorium on Wednesday night, urging the audience to reject “insane and poisonous gender ideology.”
The event came the day after Walsh joined Mississippi governor Tate Reeves on Tuesday in signing a bill that restricts youth transition-related health care. Currently, Walsh is promoting his controversial 2022 documentary titled “What Is A Woman?” The film has been criticized for its transphobic content and opposition to LGBTQ+ education in schools.
No protests materialized during the event. Instead, Walsh’s speech was countered by Community Care events hosted by several student groups on campus, including Queer Student Resources (QSR), the Women’s Community Center (WCC) and Students for the Liberation of All Peoples (SLAP).
Speaking to a crowd of around 600 people, including individuals who are not Stanford students or affiliates, Walsh said, “I’m not concerned about your feelings, I’m concerned about the truth. You are either a man or a woman. You don’t get to choose which category you belong to.”
In a Feb. 13 tweet promoting the event, SCR wrote, “With transgender ideology running rampant at Stanford, it is fitting that we ensure Stanford students can answer this fundamental question before they graduate: What is a Woman?”
The hour-long event began with an introduction of Walsh’s film and his beliefs about “binary” gender. The focus of the talk then shifted to audience questions. Topics included parenting, political culture and queer identity.
In an unprompted response to the Feb. 21 op-ed in The Daily criticizing Walsh as “a dangerous presence on campus” for his transphobic views, Walsh said during his speech, “I just want to state at the start that I am sorry… that you think you can get your way with that kind of emotional manipulation.”
Guilherme Souza ’26, who attended the event, said that he disagreed with much of Walsh’s talk, but that he found it interesting to hear from other perspectives. “While it didn’t change my mind, it does make me understand better how other people feel about the stuff,” Souza said.
Souza said that he found the questions posed to Walsh were too easy to answer, with only one student’s question challenging Walsh’s beliefs. “It’s better for you to have questions that actually lead to productive debates rather than just a bunch of ‘yes men’ agreeing with what he says,” he said after the event.
In an email to The Daily prior to the event, Seamus Callaghan, a second-year Ph.D. student at the Doerr School of Sustainability and president of SCR, wrote, “Tonight, we expect some protests of the event.” There were no protests organized outside of the event.
Alternative events were organized by the WCC, QSR and SLAP. Rather than host a protest, SLAP said in a statement to The Daily that the organizers of these events “specifically made the decision to let something more positive stem from this situation.”
The alternative events took place at the same time as Walsh’s lecture and one included speeches by trans authors and artists.
At White Plaza hours prior to the event, SCR members including Callaghan and SCR vice president Stephen Sill ’23 hung up a banner and posted flyers on lampposts. Members of SLAP simultaneously tabled to promote their events.
Other students walked around removing SCR’s flyers.
“I don’t want people to have to walk around and look at these flyers,” first year physics Ph.D. student Erin Fleck said. “It must be really shitty to walk around a place that you’re supposed to feel safe and just see a bunch of signs everywhere attacking your identity and who you are.”
Fleck, joined by Zachary Mauri, first-year Ph.D. student in Materials Science and Engineering, said they were walking to the Stanford Bookstore when they saw SCR members taping the yellow posters up around White Plaza. The two began to remove them.
After seeing flyers around campus and ads on YouTube, Fleck said she felt “really annoyed” and that she couldn’t “escape this thing.”
“That made me really angry because it’s obviously a hate campaign. It’s not trying to produce conversation… It’s just hating a certain class of people because they’re transgender or gender non-conforming or anything like that,” said Fleck.
Fleck and Mauri were approached by Callaghan and Sills while taking down the flyers and were asked why they were removing them. Callaghan and Sills called the act of removing the flyers “fascism.”
“He’s allowed to put them up. But I’m also very allowed to remove them,” Mauri said. “I know that I can remove flyers faster than they can put them up. And also, there’s no amount that they can print that I can’t remove.”
Callaghan said that “SCR is a very controversial group” and faces “political intolerance” from some “radical voices.” SCR publicized their banners being removed and the event being removed from Eventbrite, tweeting on Feb. 17 that “Leftists at Stanford hate the fact that Walsh will be slaughtering the sacred cow of gender ideology on Wednesday, but there’s nothing they can do to stop it.”
On Feb. 24, SCR organizers learned that Eventbrite unpublished the event from its platform as it violated Eventbrite’s Terms of Service due to promoting “hate, violence, or harassment towards others.” The communication from Eventbrite Trust and Safety was confirmed by Senior Director of Student Engagement Snehal Naik in an email to The Daily.
Fleck said that there is “a slippery slope” when it comes to limiting who can speak on a college campus because she said she believes in “being able to express ideas.” Still, she said she believed that the Walsh event crossed a line.
“You can draw a line when it stops being political and it just becomes attacking people based on their identities and saying they shouldn’t exist,” Fleck said. “It’s not providing any kind of discourse or discussion or anything productive towards figuring out issues. It’s just hate.”