9 March 2021
My name is Graham Linehan, I am a writer. I’ve written several comedy programmes, the best-known of which is probably ‘Father Ted’ but I’d ask you today to briefly take me seriously because I believe the stakes could not be higher.
Almost four years ago I saw that feminists were being bullied, harassed and silenced for standing up for their rights and their children’s rights. I decided to use my platform on Twitter to bring attention to what seemed to be an all-out assault on women, on their words, their dignity and their safety. Also, I saw that vulnerable children were being fast-tracked onto a medical pathway that carried severe long-term implications.
My position is very simple. I believe everyone should be allowed to talk about these issues. In fact, I believe it is a moral imperative that we do so. I am talking about such matters as… the scandals at the Tavistock, the confusing and misleading advice that Stonewall has been providing to institutions all over the UK regarding the nature of the Equalities Act, the issue of men in women’s sports, in women’s prisons, their rape crisis centres, the destruction of basic safeguarding principles that has led to all this, and the silencing and abuse of feminists, doctors, teachers, academics and writers – anyone, in fact – who questions the fashionable American orthodoxy of gender identity ideology.
For engaging in this debate, I have been the subject of a series of harassment campaigns, including vexatious legal actions, police visits, magazine articles misrepresenting my positions, threatening letters hand-delivered to my home, my wife’s business address released online. . . anything and everything has been tried to silence me and prevent people from hearing the reasonable fears many women have about the impact of this ideology on their sex-based rights.
I have also lost work. As a result of my sudden financial insecurity, my marriage was placed under such a severe strain that my wife and I finally agreed to separate. Believe me, I would rather be writing a farce than living through one. But this is a very dangerous farce, one in which children’s health and happiness are gambled on an ideology that makes no sense, and yet is zealously and obsessively policed by misogynistic activists on platforms that empower them just as they disempower the women they abuse. But it’s not just the platforms or their users who are preventing a debate. Around three years ago, I was among the initial signatories of a letter to Stonewall asking them to help lower the toxicity of the conversation around sex and gender and acknowledge the plurality of views on the subject. The letter was composed by Jonny Best, a gay man and longtime LGBT activist, and the majority of these initial signatories were either gay, lesbian or trans. We wanted to see an end to women receiving death and rape threats for standing up for their sex-based rights. To that end, we asked Stonewall to commit to fostering an atmosphere of respectful debate, rather than demonising as transphobic those who wished to discuss or dissent from Stonewall’s current policies. Stonewall flatly refused this appeal within the day, and continued to dishonestly frame women standing up for their rights as an attack on trans rights. The petition has since been signed by over 11,000 people, many of them gay men and women in despair at what is being done in their name.
JK Rowling is the only the latest and most high-profile figure to suffer the consequences of this fundamentalist view of the issue — the magazine Pink News, which is partly funded by Google, ran 42 stories on her in a single week, that’s six stories a day. But there are thousands more women, who are bullied and slandered and harassed into silence. These women – and they are mostly women – are not famous and so even more vulnerable to the smear campaigns and targeted harassment that JK Rowling and myself have endured. And to briefly pause here, does anyone present know what JK Rowling said that was transphobic? Can anyone produce any transphobic statements by her? You cannot, because there are none. As a survivor of domestic abuse, she wrote movingly about the importance of single-sex spaces to vulnerable women and children, she complained about the erasure of the word ’woman’ in many areas of civic life, and she pointed out, correctly in my view, that we are living through the most misogynistic period we have ever experienced. In place of evidence of her supposed transphobia, we have hundreds if not thousands of youtube stars, Twitter trolls, mainstream media outlets — including the BBC – spreading a poisonous lie intended to blacken her name and serve as a warning to the women who might otherwise find the courage to echo her concerns.
This silencing of women was the main reason I entered this fight. I knew the subject of gender was fraught but I’m political by nature and I couldn’t remain quiet in the face of such vicious misogyny. I presumed that when others saw what was happening that they too would speak up and we would be able to force the debate our opponents were so desperate to avoid. I now realise that I was up against a much bigger beast than I thought. These platforms shape the debate and declare you untouchable when you refuse to play by their rules.
The upshot is that many people presume that I am a bigot. These people also presume the same of JK Rowling and many other left-leaning, liberal and progressive women. If you believe that JK Rowling is transphobic, a woman who has devoted her work and much of her fortune to the vulnerable, the bullied, the forgotten and the abused, then you are under a spell. If you believe that men can fairly compete against women in their sports – including contact sports – then you are under a spell. If you believe that men will not go to the most extreme lengths to gain access to women and children, then you are under a spell. If you believe that children as young as three years old can agree to a procedure that puts them on a medical pathway for life, that arrests their natural puberty, and that has almost no scientific proof as to its efficacy as a treatment for dysphoria, then you are under a spell.
Social media has created a through the looking glass world which is robbing everyone of their ability to think. My final statement on Twitter, the straw that broke the camel’s back, was simply “Men are not women.” A world where statements like “Men are not women” is hate speech is a world on the brink of chaos. Feminists are just the canary in the coalmine in this upside-down world where public discourse depends on the whims of a small group of men in Silicon Valley. Gender identity ideology began in American Universities, is uncritically disseminated by the popular media, but social media companies and their users are the enforcers.
People do not understand the extent to which they have been indoctrinated by this ideology. Women who oppose it are trying desperately to be heard. Helen, who is here with me today is only one example of thousands. I have heard from young lesbians who are frightened that their sexuality will have them labelled transphobic, I have heard from therapists unable to tell distraught children that their favourite author does not want them dead, I’ve heard from detransitioners who tell of young women being groomed by older men in trans youth groups.
The reason you have not heard the things that I have heard is that the discourse is being shaped by trans rights activists. In place of reasoned arguments and democratic discussion, we have mantras like “No debate” and “Transwomen are women”, we have policies passing by stealth, we have bogus statistics about trans murder epidemics and we have the unconscionable weaponising of suicide for political ends.
The discourse is broken. Women’s rights are being stripped away, our children are not safe, and we are not allowed to talk about it. Once again, thank you for giving us the opportunity to address this today and I would be happy to answer any questions that you have.