I recently sat rivetted in the Gielgud Theatre watching Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible (1953). The play is a dramatised account of the 17th century witch trials in Salem, USA. The respectable folk of Salem cast the first stone against innocent people because they had good reason to deflect scrutiny from their private lives. Others who were not central protagonists joined in because they were petrified of the mob hysteria. Miller wrote the play as an allegory of the 1950s McCarthyite era in the USA when the Government accused people of being communists and then persecuted them. It has stood the test of time and has equal resonance with the transgender body politics of the 21st Century: accusers are self-righteous critical social justice warriors (backed by the Government and civil institutions) and the witches are ‘transphobes’.
The writer, broadcaster and comic Andrew Doyle describes the faithful adherents of the postmodern, non-theistic faith in transgender identity as the New Puritans. Under the guise of protecting the human rights of women and children, non-believers are accused of cunningly hiding our true devilish nature, which is the desire for trans genocide. Like the witches of yore, when we protest our innocence, this is taken as further evidence of guilt. We are no longer strung from trees but expunged by other means – the refusal to debate with us, the denial of platforms from which to speak to others, impugning us professionally, bringing lawsuits against us, depriving us of livelihoods, and so on.
In the world of celebrity, those who do not express unequivocal adherence to the new faith often cringingly ‘confess’ to the sin of unwitting transphobia. The most recent example is the singer Róisín Murphy. Predictably, her fulsome apology to her LGBT fans for comments on Facebook about the need to protect vulnerable children and the harm of puberty blockers has not appeased the zealots. Her record label has declared it will no longer promote and market her forthcoming album and is “in touch with various organisations about how best to use proceeds in support of combating transphobic hate in solidarity with the community”.
In contrast, the comedy writer Graham Linehan has a long history of refusing to capitulate. Over the years he has assiduously spoken the truth: there are only two biological sexes, women don’t have penises, the gender identity clinic for children at the Tavistock was a moral scandal, and when men who identify as women are given permission to enter women’s sex-segregated spacesthey prove themselves to be no less sexually predatory than other men. Despite his success as the brilliant writer of Father Ted, The IT Crowd and Black Books, Linehan’s courage has cruelly cost him his career.
Linehan’s recent cancellation by the Edinburgh Fringe is just one example of his overall persecution. Brendan O’Neill, author and Chief Political Writer for Spiked, has argued out that it points to:
a moral disarray in the cultural establishment; to a strange, swirling climate not only of censorship but also of double standards, hypocrisy and prejudice.
Where the Fringe cancelled Linehan for defending women, it embraced the notorious comedian Frankie Boyle. Boyle has kept his head below the parapet of transgender politics and is thus morally ‘clean’ for the LBTQIA+ social justice zealots who leave him to make jokes about raping and killing women.
TalkTV recently conducted an interview with Linehan on his cancellation by the Fringe. The host, Rosanna Lockwood, acting as judge and jury, insisted it was because of his unacceptable, abhorrent views that all trans-identifying people are “nonces”. Linehan robustly denied this accusation as demonstrably false, but provided evidence that there are central figures in the LGBT community who are guilty of sexual crimes against children and who gain protection through a veil of silence. For example, Stephanie Hayden, the man who brought a (failed) legal case against Linehan of libel and of ‘deadnaming’, has been exposed as having previously been convicted of indecent assault on a 14 year-old boy, and under his male name is a registered sex offender.
Lockwood smugly treated Linehan’s protestations as further proof of guilt but gave a panellist, the LGBT rights activist and ‘national treasure’ Peter Tatchell, a free pass to dodge Linehan’s evidence. Tatchell has long been dogged by the accusation that he is an apologist for child sexual abuse. In the 1980s, he contributed a chapter to an anthology called Radical Perspectives on Childhood Sexuality, Intergenerational Sex, and the Social Oppression of Children and Young People (1986). In 1997 he wrote a letter to the Guardian claiming that some of his friends “had sex with adults from the ages of nine to 13. None feel they were abused.” He now distances himself from these views, arguing that he was conned into expressing them and that he is morally opposed to paedophilia.
In 2018, figures released by the Ministry of Justice showed that half of all trans prisoners have been sentenced for more than one sexual offence, almost all against women and/or children. As the organisation Sex Matters points out, the criminal-justice system panders to rapists, child abusers and other violent men who claim to be women. It demands at every step that these men’s victims use their female pronouns, concealing the truth of male violence. When women try to speak in public, the police fail to protect them. When women are assaulted by these men, the police and Crown Prosecution Service are reluctant to bring charges.
Sarah Jane Barker, who has completed a life sentence for kidnap and attempted murder, is the most recent example. He has been cleared by the courts of intentionally encouraging the commission of an offence when he told the approving, cheering, whooping crowd at London Pride, where the Metropolitan police passively stood by:
If you see a TERF, you should punch them in the f**king face!
Linehan shines a light on the injustices to women and children that the New Puritans cannot bear to be exposed. They often ‘feminise’ him as weak, as having brought the demise of his career on himself. In another moral universe, however, Linehan would be seen as a hero in a specifically masculine sense. In the language of machismo, Linehan has had the ‘balls’ to boldly walk with his sisters in our struggle.
If there is a God looking down from heaven, as the first Puritans believed, I imagine that when Linehan’s time comes, he will be ushered through the Pearly Gates with all the other flawed humans standing up for true justice. In the meantime, he can look forward to the cold comfort of earthly vindication. Perhaps one day, his full-throated accusers will disavow that when they publicly denounced him for being a “nonce-finder”, what they really meant was that they too were concerned that paedophiles exist within the LGBT movement, hiding under the cloak of being women. Let’s hope, for the sake of safeguarding children, as well as justice for Linehan and all the women bravely waving a red flag, that society dares to come to its senses sooner rather than later.
Heather Brunskell-Evans is the author of Trans Gender Body Politics.
Stop Press: John Boyne, author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, has apologised to Graham Linehan for joining a pile-on against him in 2019.