Monday 15 July 2019

Graham Linehan defends his inclusion on RTÉ transgender programme, denies he is a transphobe

Outspoken: ‘Father Ted’ writer Graham Linehan. Photo: Rob Monk/Edge Magazine via Getty Images
Outspoken: ‘Father Ted’ writer Graham Linehan. Photo: Rob Monk/Edge Magazine via Getty Images

Micheál O'Scannail

TV writer Graham Linehan has claimed that opposition to his inclusion on an RTE programme about transgender issues has seen him abused, and his family targeted.

More than 4,000 people have signed a petition calling for Mr Linehan to be removed from the 'Prime Time' panel, due to air on Tuesday.

A trailer for the show said the episode would focus on “the implication of the explosion in the numbers of young people saying they want to change gender”.

It continues, “but Government proposals to allow them to side their gender are not welcomed by all” before Mr Linehan’s commentary slot was introduced.

In the RTÉ excerpt, Mr Linehan said: “You do not tell kids that they have been born into the wrong body just as you don’t tell anorexics that they are fat.”

The inclusion of the ‘Father Ted’ writer led to complaints to both RTÉ and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland claiming Mr Linehan is not qualified to comment on the subject.

Speaking to, however, the Father Ted creator said that his opinion on the issue is based on difficulties faced by his transgender and lesbian friends as a result of trans activism.

The father-of-two, who is an active participant in the debate around the issue on social media, said he expected some of the reaction his comments have garnered, but that protesters have “come after” his family.

“I actually kind of knew that all of this would happen to some extent,” he said.

“I didn’t realise that they would come after my family. They came after my family. They released an address of my wife’s business online, I didn’t expect that.

“I did expect some of the other things that have happened. I knew that there would be petitions about me; I knew that they would try to ‘no-platform’ me. I wasn’t that surprised when t­­­he police turned up because that’s another thing that they do to try harass and silence people.

“I knew what I was getting into because I had had experience of it before and everybody already considered me transphobic so I thought I might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb so I decided to wade in.”

Some social media users have criticised RTÉ’s decision to have Mr Linehan share his views on the topic.

In October, he was given a verbal harassment warning by West Yorkshire police after a transgender activist complained  he referred to her as “he” and called her by names used before she transitioned to a woman.

In the wake of the trailer for the RTE programme being aired, many people posted letters of complaint to RTÉ and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) online. The most common complaints about Mr Linehan’s segment on the show were that he was unqualified to speak about the subject and that the director is transphobic.

Mr Linehan, who decided to become a voice in the debate six months ago after surgery left him temporarily idle, said that he is not transphobic and that his research on the topic and conversations with the subjects of the issue have given him enough insight for his opinion to add to the discussion.

Read more: Petition calls for TV writer Graham Linehan to be axed from 'Prime Time' transgender debate

“Whenever anyone says ‘I’m not something’, it just sounds like ‘I am that something’. Ask my trans friend if I’m transphobic,” he said.

“What confuses me about this, is a lot of people seem to think that a lot of gay people and lesbian people and trans people and me suddenly became bigots overnight. We just suddenly decided to become bigots. It’s such bullshit. It’s a very, very complicated and nuanced conversation and people are dying to have it and it’s being prevented by idiots sending in petitions to no-platform people.

“There doesn’t seem to be a way of convincing them that I’m not [transphobic].

"On Twitter I amplify the voices of 12 or 13 trans people who agree with me, but the word transphobic is now completely meaningless. Essentially, the word transphobic now means you disagree with the ideology and the trans ideology at the moment is just a bunch of ridiculous dogma that if you don’t repeat it like a good boy, then you get in trouble.

“I’ve been looking very closely at this for quite a number of years now and I’ve been speaking and meeting with feminists and trans people and lesbians who are extremely worried about what is happening in trans activism.”

It was for these members of the LGBT movement, who Mr Linehan says are alienated by trans activism that he decided to join the debate. His social media activity acts as a conduit for the proliferation of their ideas.

“Lesbians are at the moment the most underrepresented group within the LGBT movement,” he said.

“They are ignored, they’ve had to protest pride in New Zealand and London and elsewhere just to say please listen to the problems we have with this movement. Young lesbians are being called bigoted for not wanting to include male-bodied people in their dating pool.

“That’s problematic. You have to be able to discuss it and they’re being called bigots for bringing it up. Courtesy is one thing, but when a young woman who told her trans friend that she wasn’t interested in a relationship because she was a lesbian, she was slapped in the face. That’s male entitlement. It doesn’t matter if male entitlement is wearing a dress, it’s still male entitlement and it has to be called out, because otherwise it will harm gay people it will harm trans people and it will harm women.

“They’re worried for many different reasons. They’re worried that trans people are being given false expectations of how wider society would see them. They’re worried that that backlash will actually hurt, not just the trans community, but the wider LGBT community and they’re worried about the effect on women’s rights.

“Women are being told that it is bigoted to not accept male bodied people in their private spaces they’re being told that it is bigoted to complain about male-bodied people winning sports prizes, taking places on all women shortlists and the trans people who I am friends with are concerned that it is destroying a natural alliance that has always existed between women and trans people.”

RTÉ said Mr Linehan was only one of many guests who would appear on the programme, and his opinions helped to form a balanced portrayal of the issues to be discussed.

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