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Free Speech

Yelling ‘transphobia’ is not an argument

While the Irish Independent may not yield to the bullying and harassment, how many onlookers will close their mouths before they even open them? That is the affront to democracy that should worry us all.

If you haven’t already read Abigail Shrier’s book Irreversible Damage, you should. Shrier scrutinised the transgender craze that is ravaging the lives of teenage girls. She asked questions others avoid and talked to survivors who now regret the hasty and unwise choices they made as children; decisions that left some with mastectomy scars. The Economist listed it as a Book of the Year.

Predictably, Shrier’s book upset that militant band of transgender activists who demand affirmation despite the cost. Last weekend, their apoplexy hit the stratosphere following a review in The Irish Independent.

The self-styled Trans Writers’ Union projected their outrage across Twitter in a bizarre thread of Tweets.

They judged the review “harmful to transgender people,” and agitated that it might cause grave offence — stir up hatred even. Let’s be clear, this is a book review. The only hatred I could see emanated from Trans Writer’s Union who seemed unable to countenance any opinion different to their own.

It is tempting to dismiss the rest of their rant as petulant juvenile nonsense, but the sense of entitlement is breath-taking. This is a group that expects to be heard; it also seeks control of the narrative. After deciding that Emily Hourican — the reviewer — was not trans, they shrieked, “If the Irish Independent was at the most basic level, committed to best practice, they would have made any attempt to hire a trans writer.”

I suspect they meant someone who thinks like them. I am a trans writer — and I have already reviewed the book myself — but I came to similar conclusions as Hourican. It’s not being transgender that drives my thinking, it’s science and reason.

In an attempt to shut down debate they urged “allies and all trans people” to send a volley of letters to the editor, tactics that are also wearily familiar on this side of the Irish Sea. Why labour over counter arguments when you can scream “transphobia” instead? Last year, when the pressure group Stop Funding Hate piled onto The Spectator they tried to shame advertisers into pulling their advertising. Meanwhile, The Morning Star was forced to apologise  after publishing a political cartoon.

But these outrageous campaigns impact across society. While the Irish Independent may not yield to the bullying and harassment, how many onlookers will close their mouths before they even open them? That is the affront to democracy that should worry us all.


Debbie Hayton

* This article was first published by Unherd on 19 January 2021: Yelling ‘transphobia’ is not an argument.

By Debbie Hayton

Physics teacher and trade unionist.

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