Today I am one of the most loathed figures on the internet. My speaking events have been cancelled. I have been sued. The police have visited my home and former friends have turned their backs on me.
Yet I’m the man who wrote the much-loved Father Ted! Why is it that I’ve become so suddenly unpopular? The thought crime for which I have been tried and found guilty is that I believe biological reality exists.
I believe women are females. I believe everyone should be able to present themselves as they wish but that women’s hard-won rights must not be compromised for the benefit of men suffering body dysphoria – which is to say men who feel they are stuck in the wrong body.
Most of all, I believe that gender ideology, in its currently fashionable form, is dangerous, incoherent nonsense.
I believe trans people –those unfortunate enough to suffer body dysphoria – are having their condition exploited and trivialised by abusive, controlling and authoritarian trans rights activists. And I think women and children are suffering because of it.
Worst of all, I say so, loudly. This makes me Public Enemy No 1.
I make my arguments forcefully because I’m concerned, sometimes with humour because I’m a comedy writer and often while cursing, because I’m Irish. It’s the humour they hate most. It’s kryptonite to these activists.
I’m 51 and I’ve never seen anything like the authoritarianism on display, the desperate desire to shut down the conversation. No genuine civil-rights movement advances in secret but this one has as one of its mantras ‘NO DEBATE’.
So, while we are in a world where male sexual offenders in bad wigs assault female prisoners, where rape crisis centres are defunded because they won’t admit men and where a bloke in a full beard tells schoolchildren that he’s a lesbian, we’re informed with venomous aggression that we may not talk about any of it.
No debate? Oh, there’s going to be a debate all right.
The popular opinion among my detractors is that I’m cherry-picking negative stories to mask a hatred of trans people. In fact, I first came to this debate because I saw women being bullied, losing their jobs and suffering the most intense online harassment I’d ever seen, and I wanted to stand beside them.
Also, as a writer, I couldn’t watch as one of the most important words in the English language, the word ‘woman’, was being changed against the will of those whom it defined.
Suddenly, everywhere you looked, women were being erased, insulted or endangered. Amnesty referring to pregnant women as ‘pregnant people’. Productions of The Vagina Monologues closing because they excluded ‘women who don’t have vaginas’. Women’s toilets disappearing from public life – even though they were introduced to ensure that women could have a public life.
Worst of all, I saw the lack of compassion or empathy for the vulnerable women who are often at the sharp end of the new Gender Theocracy.
The four women attacked in prison by a male sex offender in 2018 (who everyone had to call ‘Karen’ or they were committing a hate crime) are four women too many.
Women in prison often have a history of abuse at the hands of men. Whatever they’ve done, they are entitled to safety from the type of men who helped put them there.
Rational people – and that includes rational trans people – are dismayed by those who have now taken over trans activism.
Body dysphoria is no longer seen as central or even necessary for those who decide to adopt a so-called trans identity.
To see just how elastic and meaningless the word ‘trans’ has become, one only has to look at the definition adopted by the Stonewall lobby group: ‘Trans people may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms, including (but not limited to) transgender, transsexual, gender-queer (GQ), gender-fluid, non-binary, gender-variant, crossdresser, genderless, agender, nongender, third gender, bi-gender, trans man, trans woman, trans masculine, trans feminine and neutrois.’
Neutrois, I discovered, literally just means ‘androgynous’. So androgynous people are trans. That’ll be news to Bake Off presenter Noel Fielding.
Under Stonewall’s definition, everyone is trans, and no one is. A cross-dresser such as banker Philip Bunce, who adopts the female persona ‘Pippa’ for only a few days every week, nevertheless receives the honour of being named by the Financial Times as one of its top 100 women in business.
This was seen as progress, a step forward for women. In fact, it is an insult to women and to those suffering from body dysphoria.
In order to maintain the fantasy that our sex is unconnected to our bodies, the truth must be bent and beaten in the fire of academic language. That is why trans activists talk about sex being ‘assigned at birth’ – an abuse of language, if ever I heard one.
Is the sex of a newborn ‘assigned’ by a capricious midwife? Of course not. Rather it is observed and recorded as a matter of fact.
‘Assigned’ is one of the more successful hijackings of English achieved by gender ideologues, yet you will hear it parroted across many organisations from the NHS to the BBC – the sort of institution where you really would expect people to know better.
Before I knew how toxic trans rights activism was, I wrote an episode of my Channel 4 sitcom The IT Crowd with a trans character. The response was more venomous than I was used to, but as bad as it was, at least I was allowed to write it. That was in 2013.
In 2020, such an episode would never air. And that is because the first generation who didn’t go out to play have grown up to become clones of Mary Whitehouse. The new puritans.
I am not new to outrage. There was fury on the part of some when we first released Father Ted but the executives we had were made of strong stuff and ignored the attacks. The same goes for The IT Crowd, Brass Eye, Black Books, and I guess a few comedies I haven’t worked on.
I’m worried we’re entering an era of pre-chewed, prissy art that offends no one. But it’s not comedy writers who are the victims of all this: it is women who are the real casualties.
Gender ideology is a disaster for women. They are expected to make room for men in their changing rooms and their safe spaces.
They are being robbed of the language to describe their reality by unintelligible academic ‘gender experts’, by teenagers encouraging each other online, by parents who are profoundly mistaken, and by well-meaning people who, confused by the ever-changing terminology, still believe they are defending what used to be called transsexuals.
All these forces working together are, whether they know it or not, providing a smokescreen for fetishists, conmen and misogynists to pursue their own agenda.
In years to come, we will look back at this scandal, at the ruined bodies, the confused crime statistics, the weakening of safeguarding and the rollback of women’s rights and wonder how it was left to go on for so long.