'It has given legitimacy to transphobia': Students angered by Royal Academy's apology to artist Jess de Wahls

Royal Academy Schools, the London museum's art college, have taken to Instagram to express their dismay

The Royal Academy Schools students are "angered and disheartened that the Royal Academy has chosen to give legitimacy to transphobia" after the institution apologised to artist Jess de Wahls (pictured) De Wahl: TOLGA AKMEN / AFP via Getty Images; RA: © David Owens

Students at the Royal Academy Schools, the art college run by the Royal Academy of Arts (RA), have waded into the transphobia row that has engulfed the institution. Earlier this week, the RA apologised to the artist Jess de Wahls for removing her works from its gift shop after she was accused of expressing transphobic views in a 2019 blog.

Last week the RA issued an Instagram story statement saying that it had received complaints for selling works “by an artist expressing transphobic views” [the statement does not name De Wahls]. De Wahls said that her work was pulled from the gift shop after a “concerted effort” from online activists over her alleged transphobia.

In a statement posted on Instagram, the Royal Academy Schools students say however that they are “angered and disheartened that the Royal Academy has chosen to give legitimacy to transphobia. We do not condone transphobia in any form.”

The statement adds: “Freedom of speech does not mean hate speech. There is a degrading double standard in play here with the RA using the pride flag on its logo while buckling under pressure from conspiratorial Terf [trans-exclusionary radical feminist] viewpoints.”

The Royal Academy Schools have been a key part of the Royal Academy since its foundation in 1769, the RA website says: “The Royal Academy Schools thrives on the commitment and intellectual inquiry of its students. Our aim is to provide an environment in which you can test and re-evaluate your practice in dialogue with a diverse group of contemporary artists.”

"We are aware of the views of the students at the Royal Academy Schools. Plurality of voices and free thinking are at the core of what we stand for," an RA spokeswoman says.

De Wahls told BBC Radio 4 yesterday that she had accepted an apology from the Royal Academy’s secretary and chief executive, Axel Rüger. “We spoke at great length and he apologised and, yeah, it was a complete breakdown of communication within that institution. And, personally, I believe the apology to be sincere, and I accept.” De Wahls added that she is happy for her work to be restocked in the gift shop.