Unless you’ve been living in a remote nuclear bunker for the past two years which, I have to concede, is highly unlikely, you cannot fail to have noticed the tortuous national conversation which has been taking place in every pub, living room and social media feed across this great Not-As-United-As-It-Used-To-Be Kingdom.
I’m talking, of course, about the recently-closed public consultation on updating the 2004 Gender Recognition Act, where it is proposed that people who identify as the gender other than that which they were assigned at birth can identify as the opposite gender with less state intrusion, less expense and less humiliation. For more detailed information, check out OutNews Global’s Charlotte Dingle here.
None of us can pretend that everyone is singing from the same La Cage Aux Folles songsheet, and there are some very real concerns, chiefly around the concept of self-ID. Self-ID has been discussed ad nauseam across the LGBTQ and mainstream press, so we’re not going to repeat the arguments here. However, while anyone is entitled to an opinion about anything, it really is bad form to start attacking one side or the other in a debate which does not impact directly on you.
So, while some lesbians are entitled to express concerns about self-ID (without, I hasten to add, resorting to some of the vile abuse which is all too prevalent these days), and while some trans people are quite entitled to vociferously defend the concept (with the same caveat about online and real life abuse), those of us whose identity sits outside those groups really need to take a step back and let those more directly impacted by the proposed changes to the Act sit in the driving seat. Nobody likes back seat drivers.
Someone who seems to have ignored this sensible advice is writer Graham Linehan, one of the team responsible for penning the brilliant sitcom Father Ted, which I loved. I also have fond memories of his legendary turn in the “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” episode of “I’m Alan Partridge”.
For reasons best known to himself, Mr Linehan has taken it upon himself to become a self-appointed spokesperson for lesbians across the nation. Annoyingly for Mr Linehan – and I know this not only because OutNews Global shares office space with DIVA, but also because I am a functioning human, lesbians are quite able to speak for themselves and many, unsurprisingly, are not especially keen on mansplaining. Even lesbians with passionately held, diverse views can have a respectful debate WITHOUT THE INPUT OF A HETEROSEXUAL MALE SITCOM WRITER as evidenced here, in a discussion on BBC Woman’s Hour between feminist campaigner and journalist Julie Bindel and DIVA publisher Linda Riley.
Mr Linehan has taken against Linda and hasn’t held back on Twitter. I am not going to dignify Mr Linehan’s comments by repeating them here but, whether or not you agree with everything Linda says and does, accusing her of “throwing lesbians under a bus” is a strange, perhaps even unhinged, accusation. Linda has been a prominent campaigner for lesbian rights since the 1970s, even longer than Mr Linehan, and since then she has launched several LGBTQ+ initiatives, been a Stonewall Ambassador, become a political adviser on LGBTQ+ issues, and been appointed a patron of more LGBTQ+ charities both in the UK and US than I can remember. She frequently appears in the press, on television and radio where she is a leading voice for lesbian visibility and for equality, diversity and inclusion. Since taking over at DIVA, she has launched the DIVA Music Festival, the DIVA Literary Festival, Radio DIVA and the DIVA Awards. Let’s face it, she’s going to need a bloody big bus.
Next up, our friends at Pink News, who reported on a radio interview where Mr Linehan invoked Nazis as some sort of comparison with trans rights campaigners. I’ve heard the interview and it’s a bit ranty. I can confirm that Nazis do come up, which is not something I appreciate outside of The Sound of Music. As former London mayor Ken Livingstone has learned to his cost, bringing Nazis into any conversation, unless you’re talking about actual Nazis in actual Germany in the actual 1930s and 40s, is a sure sign of a desperately weak argument.
Anyway, Mr Linehan hasn’t taken kindly to Pink News’ story, so has decided to label the website as “the magazine for straight men who identify as lesbians”. He’s pleased with this comment – so much so that he’s made it into the pinned tweet at the top of his Twitter feed. I’m forced to ponder whether Mr Linehan’s legendary sharp wit has been somewhat blunted in recent times.
What’s worse than Nazis? Think about it, think…yes, you’ve got it…PAEDOPHILES!
It wasn’t so long ago that homosexuality and paedophilia were talked of in the same breath although, it should be pointed out, the overwhelming majority of child molesters are heterosexual men. Reassuringly, Mr Linehan has not regurgitated that nasty old falsehood…instead, he’s decided that trans people are responsible for a recent rise in convictions for child abuse. Apparently, men are identifying as women just so they can go around abusing children.
It’s hard for a journalist to admit that they don’t know what to say, but I really am dumbstruck. Whatever your views on the Gender Recognition Act and the rights of transgender people, invoking paedophilia is seriously scraping the bottom of the anti-trans barrel. It makes me quite nostalgic for the old Nazi analogies, as it happens.
Mr Linehan is still on his high, patriarchal horse while trans people up and down the country are living in fear of abuse every day of their lives. Mr Linehan needs to understand that the drip, drip, drip of anti-trans propaganda has genuinely deleterious consequences: self-harm, social ostracisation and – at its worst – suicide.
So let me indulge myself and speak directly to Mr Linehan:
“Please treat people with respect. Trans people are not Nazis and they are not paedophiles. So try and be nice…go on, go on, go on, go on, go on…you’ll feel better for it.”