Graham Linehan is the man behind some of the UK and Ireland’s most iconic TV shows, such as Father Ted and The IT Crowd. His comedy often relies on a knowledge of certain stereotypes; often regarding women and the LGBT+ community. Often that kind of comedy ends up being put in the category of ‘cutting-edge commentary about offence’, and when I was younger, these jokes seemed innocuous at best. Yet recently, those jokes are cast in a paler, less forgiving light. Like many writers, he’s used his platform as a well-renowned writer to let his opinions be known, and his recent opinions about trans-women, are not good.
In a recent interview with Derrick Jensen Resistance Radio, Linehan likened speaking against trans human rights to speaking up against Nazism. He said, “I feel happy in myself that I’ve been one of the people standing up and saying, ‘No, this is wrong,’ despite everyone telling me not to do it.” He feels that cis women are under threat because of trans women. He claims that trans women are men wishing to infiltrate female-only spaces as a way to oppress women more. At first glance, this is chilling. Making a comparison between any group and the Nazis is controversial at the best of times, but here it seems like he’s actually saying that Trans people are the Nazis, which is absurd given that the LGBT+ community were actually victims of the Nazis.
Since the term ‘transgender’ became popular, there’s been fear-mongering reminiscent of the Section 28 days, when being gay was illegal for very similar safety concerns. In the 80s, people were worried gay people were going to hurt your children. Now, people are worried trans-women are going to hurt your wives. Same sh*t, different era. It doesn’t take a genius to notice the similarities in the rhetoric surrounding trans people and the rhetoric that surrounds gay people.
What’s worse, is that he’s framing his disdain for trans-people as support for cisgender women. He seems to think his anti-transness is helpful to ciswomen because ciswomen apparently need protecting from trans-women. It’s the whole ‘bathrooms’ thing all over again. If you’re trans, you are far more likely to experience violence than a cisgender person, even in a bathroom, so this fear that cis women are in danger from trans people is completely unfounded.
Linehan claims to be an avid supporter of LGBT+ and women’s rights, yet looking through his work and social media feeds, evidence for this is hard to find. In The IT Crowd, an episode features Douglas Reynholm, playboy and typical ‘lad’ kinda character, in a relationship with a woman who loves beer, pizza, and sex. Then, as Reynholm finds out she’s trans, he spends the rest of the episode beating her up. That’s the joke, apparently. And not only does it play into the narrowness of gender identity, but it also relies on the audience agreeing with the character’s actions. Either I just don’t get it (which is entirely possible), or that kind of narrowmindedness and bigotry just isn’t funny. It’s hard to find violence against women funny even if it is under the guise of comedy, particularly when the life expectancy for a black trans woman is only 35 years old.
In 2017, a British trans woman was actually granted asylum in New Zealand because of the persecution she was facing. The New Zealand government said it would be “unduly harsh” to force her to live in Britain. Linehan wants us to believe that his criticisms of trans people are helpful, that he’s actually a really great feminist, that he’s right and everyone else is wrong, basically. It makes me wonder how he can ask of such things given how his rhetoric fuels the violence trans people face daily.
Unsurprisingly, he has received a lot of backlash for his statements regarding trans people. he’s been sent death threats and all sorts of horrible things – the kind of messages usually reserved for women and trans people, funnily enough. Of course, this is horrible. Yet he now seems to be using these horrible messages to fuel his fervour as if he’s some kind of martyr for the anti-trans cause. What’s scary is that he genuinely seems to think he’s right. “My feeling is I can’t, because it’s too important. It’s too important to the women in my life and it’s too important to me,” Linehan said when asked if he’ll stop talking about trans people. He’s even posted a list of ways to talk to people who disagree with him on Twitter, I suppose as a handy guide for those who are ‘gender critical’ and want to bully trans people online.
Many people’s concern with trans people is that they just don’t understand it. They don’t understand how a person’s gender could be different from their sex, or how a person could be born in the wrong body altogether. Well, you don’t have to understand it. You just have to not bully trans people or want to take away trans people’s human rights. But if you want to understand it, all you have to do is shut up and listen. Thanks to the internet, at the few clicks of a button, you can have access to scientific research, and testimonies from trans people themselves. It’s so important that us cis people, or any person who doesn’t face oppression, learns to shut up and listen. After all, we have two ears and one mouth, and perhaps it’s best we use them proportionately.
Written by Rochelle Asquith