The lies of anti-trans rights activists need to be rebutted once and for all

Politics is, more often than not, about the exercise of power rather than truth. A narrative does not need to be honest to triumph: it simply needs to become the commonsense of the powerful. Opponents of the trans rights’ movement — who have the active support of nearly all major British media outlets — have settled on such a narrative: that support for trans people, one of the country’s most marginalised minorities, is misogyny.

The purpose of this is straightforward: like when, in a US Senate race, Lyndon Johnson ordered his campaign manager to claim his opponent had sex with pigs. “Christ, we can’t get away with calling him a pig-fucker — nobody’s going to believe a thing like that,” responded his aide. “I know,” replied Johnson. “But let’s make the sonofabitch deny it.” If supporters of trans rights are forced into a defensive position of denying misogyny, the reality of trans people is erased: the fourfold increase in transphobic hate crimes over five years; the 83% of trans young people who’ve experienced verbal abuse, the 60% who’ve suffered threats and intimidation, and the 35% who have faced physical assault; the one in four trans people who have suffered homelessness and the 1 in 8 who have been physically assaulted at work; the crisis in trans healthcare — the list is truly endless. Those who fuel the vilification of this brutally assaulted minority dominate the media sphere, but cast themselves as the real victims; it is trans people and their allies who are the real aggressors.

Now, hard right commentator Douglas Murray has written a piece attacking me which — other than accurately describing me as a YouTuber — is factually wrong from start to finish. The blog can essentially be summed up as “how do you like them apples! boot’s on the other foot now isn’t it!”: that decent right-wingers have long been maligned as hateful bigots and extremists by the left, so now wouldn’t it be fun to throw that argument back in our faces, in this case by calling me a woman-hating misogynist.

Murray suspects “I tried to get him fired” —a truly bizarre claim that can only be treated as plausible if anyone thinks I have any influence at… The Spectator magazine — and specifically accuses me of having “on a number of occasions libelled” him, which is true if you think the definition of libel is “accurately quoting someone’s own words”, such as:

Murray’s piece asks if I have a “woman problem”: the same Murray who wrote a piece subtitled: “‘Feminism’ isn’t producing guides for helping men. It is producing manifestos for torturing them.”

In a normally functioning media ecosystem, Murray’s own wanton ignorance about trans issues would disqualify him from writing about them. He declares himself “Deeply uncomfortable about the idea of a young effeminate boy being told he is actually a girl or a young tomboyish girl being told that she is a boy” — a ludicrously false claim in a country in which young trans people are instead stuck for years on waiting lists before they can receive gender affirming healthcare.

He accuses me of having “repeatedly tried to destroy JK Rowling’s reputation.” Whatever my views on Rowling, perhaps the most powerful literary figure on earth, I have criticised her a sum total of once over a year ago after she used Twitter to pile on a queer BBC journalist, and repeatedly defended her from a disgusting misogynist attack by The Sun.

He then lists a number of women who are undoubtedly on the other side of the question of trans rights: Kathleen Stock, who I have never even mentioned once; Abigal Shrier, who I have never even mentioned once; Helen Joyce, who, again, I have never even mentioned once. He mentions Selina Todd, whose book on class I wrote a glowing review for in 2014, a quote from which was placed on its front cover (I have since privately asked for that to be removed because of her views on trans rights, but I have never criticised her publicly either).

He mentions Julie Bindel, who has obsessively attacked me for years, but again, despite repeated provocation, I have almost never publicly criticised Bindel, except when she decided to lie about my mother and father less than two months after he died.

He mentions Sarah Ditum, who I have almost only ever interacted with when she has charged into my own Twitter mentions, most infamously when I called on those who could afford cleaners to pay for them to stay home during the pandemic, a saga which became known as ‘cleanergate’. One of the only exceptions to this was to respond, this week, to a column she wrote in The Times newspaper contradicting the testimony of Terry Pratchett’s daughter about her dead father that, were he alive, he would oppose ‘gender critical’ arguments (a term invented to give transphobia a respectable intellectual veneer).

By any objective standard, the vast majority of those I have passionately critiqued are right-wing men, including (on multiple occasions) Andrew Neil, Toby Young, Piers Morgan, and Laurence Fox, as well as male politicians from Boris Johnson to George Galloway to Keir Starmer.

Indeed, on the issue of trans rights, there is nobody I have critiqued more stridently than fallen comedian Graham Linehan — who, last time I checked, is a man — or indeed the journalist James Kirkup.

But the mother of all lies in this dossier of accusations of misogyny pertains to the case of Suzanne Moore, a former Guardian colleague. The entire narrative that has become a media consensus surrounding around her departure from the newspaper is a fiction bearing *absolutely no relationship to reality whatsoever*, which goes like this: Moore was hounded out of The Guardian newspaper by a mob led by yours truly who tried to get her fired because she had the temerity to exercise her freedom of speech regarding issues related to women.

This is what really happened. There is a long running internal dispute over trans rights at The Guardian which — mirroring what’s happened in wider progressive circles in Britain — is largely generational in character. This first bubbled to the surface in late 2018, following a leader piece— which is the “official view of The Guardian” column — on trans rights. This led to staff (not me — I’m not staff, but on a freelance ‘retainer’ contract — more on this shortly) organising an internal, anonymous letter of complaint to management centring on the newspaper’s general coverage of trans issues.

The Guardian US — whose staff have looked on in horror at the mainstreaming of transphobia in UK liberal circles — wrote their own separate private letter. Such was their strength of feeling, they published a public editorial criticising the Guardian’s leader.

Alas, staff felt that satisfactory action had not been taken — leading to a general trans writers’ boycott of the newspaper — and it was decided another letter would be necessary. That came to a head when all ‘out’ trans members of staff quit the newspaper over a period of months. When our final trans colleague left — citing not just trans coverage at the newspaper, but incidents within the workplace — the Pride network (i.e. the LGBTQ group) decided that something had to be done. And frankly, if the LGBTQ group did not decide to do something when all our trans colleagues were leaving, what on earth would be the point in having a LGBTQ group?

At the meeting called by the Guardian Pride group, which I attended, Suzanne’s name was not mentioned once.

Now, the subsequent letter wasn’t written by me, organised by me, or distributed by me. In fact, my name had to be manually added by the organisers because the Google document was only accessible to people with Guardian email addresses, and as a non-staff member, I don’t have one. I don’t say that to wash my hands of it — far from it, I proudly signed it, and from the text, you can see why. 338 staff members signed it.

The letter had nothing to do with Suzanne Moore, as you can see with your own, honest eyes — and the Guardian’s own management know this. But Moore then helped popularise the entirely bogus claim that this letter was an attempt to have her fired. She subsequently published the names of every single person who signed the letter, many of whom were then subjected to abuse on Twitter by the extremely coordinated — and angry — online anti-trans army. The main targets? Women, who were vilified by online transphobic trolls as ‘handmaidens’, causing huge personal distress. Suzanne then wrote for the hard right magazine The Spectator attacking her colleagues and her newspaper, who all responded with silence. It got worse: when Lib Dem politician Layla Moran came out as pansexual, Suzanne ridiculed her over it.

And yet despite all that, Suzanne’s contract was renewed by The Guardian. Her response to her contract renewal? To quit, get a column at right-wing newspaper The Telegraph, and to take part in the classic ‘I’ve been cancelled media tour’ featuring interviews on BBC Newsnight and multiple outlets. Is this the first example in history of someone quitting in protest at not being silenced?

(It gets worse — several journalists have repeatedly tried to get me in trouble at The Guardian over my support for trans rights — including one who publicly decries left-wing ‘cancel culture’).

And yet Suzanne has obsessively publicly attacked me ever since and I have not once risen to this repeated provocation, including when both Toby Young and Laurence Fox repeatedly help spread this lie that I had driven her from The Guardian — whipping up their followers, some of whom subsequently bombarded me with homophobic abuse and threats of violence.

Finally, Murray’s evidence is that, on a BBC television show, I challenged Nimco Ali, godmother to Boris Johnson’s child, about his use of “bum boy”, which she refused to accept was homophobic. This is so self-evidently ludicrous that we don’t need to dwell on it.

Support for trans rights, of course, has nothing to do with misogyny at all. In my own case, the basis for it is the requirement, as a socialist, to use your platform to support the rights of oppressed minorities, the same principle I apply to Islamophobia; and as a LGBTQ person to stand with trans siblings as they are subjected to the same horrors cis (i.e. not trans) gay people were historically subjected to in a media landscape which is overwhelmingly hostile to them.

As all the polling shows consistently, it is women who are consistently — by a big margin — supportive of trans people; transphobia is disproportionately a male problem. Younger people — and disproportionately younger women — are the most supportive of trans people, a source of much of the anxious fury of anti-trans activists who know that, in the near future, they are destined to lose. Cis women are the loudest voices in public life in support of trans rights — whether it be Labour figures such as Dawn Butler, Angela Rayner and Lisa Nandy, or in the media writers such as Ash Sarkar, Ellie Mae O’Hagan, or both Natasha Devon and the late Dawn Foster, both subjected to rape threats as a result.

In all of this, trans writers are both monstered and sidelined — like Munroe Bergdorf, Paris Lees, Freddy McConnell and Shon Faye, whose upcoming book The Transgender Issue is a must read. It is their voices who should be heard the loudest, a principle that, yes, me, a modest YouTuber, have applied to my own YouTube channel.

Today, several self-described ‘moderates’ and ‘feminists’ are gleefully sharing Douglas Murray’s entirely factually wrong piece, purely because it attacks a socialist with the temerity to support trans rights. This itself is indicative of a much bigger problem of what is happening particularly in English political culture, in which hatred and fear of the left — from self-proclaimed ‘centre’ to right — leads to the mainstreaming of the hard right. This is radicalisation happening in real time; the wall between the self-described ‘centre’ and hard right has been breached. We can see where that leads in Hungary, whose ruling party began as members of the Liberal International, and it is a very ugly place indeed.

A final thing. Unlike almost other newspaper columnists, I’m not just attacked online, I’ve been beaten up for my beliefs. A far right extremist is currently serving a prison sentence for attacking me on my birthday for what the judge described as “[my] LGBT and [my] leftwing beliefs.” If that didn’t silence me in either respect, the obsessive tirades of Britain’s commentariat certainly won’t either.

Trans rights, forever.

Author of 'The Establishment' and 'Chavs', Socialist, Guardian columnist. Losing my Northern accent. My views etc... https://www.youtube.com/c/OwenJonesTalks