Home Media Watch An open letter to James O’Brien about trans people

An open letter to James O’Brien about trans people

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Dear James,

I’m a fan of your show. I don’t like everything you have to say, nor how you say it, but I know that in listening I will learn, particularly from the wide range of intelligent people who phone in, so thank you for that.

Perhaps you would indulge me here a little as I try to guide you on an issue you seem to be having some problems with – the ‘transgender debate’.

Yes, yes, I know you said you are wary of this one because it just annoys everybody, and I promise this isn’t going to be an abusive letter in any fashion. I hope you not only read it but also sit with what I’ve said.

I don’t speak for anyone but myself, but I hope, as a trans man who lives and works in a world full of trans people, I can reflect thoughts and feelings I often encounter, and which resonate with me.

What prompted this letter is your show on Wednesday 30 November.

You talked about racism and anti-Semitism, calling them out for what they are, but when a caller raised the issue of increased attacks on trans people, you very quickly put forward the ‘other side’ in a way I assume would never occur to you to do with the previous subjects. You wouldn’t, for instance, defend Nigel Farage’s position on immigration, would you?

I know, I know, you don’t think these things are comparable. Farage is, after all, a hideous human being, something we can both agree on. Those standing against trans people are just trying to protect women and girls and how could anyone have a problem with that, right?

But what, exactly, are they ‘protecting’ them from? If it’s the attempts to reform the Gender Recognition Act, I assume you think self-ID means anyone who wants could use women’s spaces. I’m afraid I have something to tell you. Are you sitting down? Trans people can do that already. It has nothing whatsoever to do with Gender Recognition Certificates. All those do is allow trans people to marry and be buried with dignity. Do you object to that?

You might find this shocking, so hopefully you’re still sitting down, but trans people have been using single-sex spaces for your entire life. In all that time, when men have wanted to attack women or girls, they’ve just walked right in, dressed as normal, and done it.

If there was going to be a problem with trans people in single-sex spaces, we would have heard about it by now. You maybe don’t know, but there is an actual documented problem in women’s bathrooms, but that’s people being attacked because someone has assumed they are trans because they do not look ‘womanly’ enough. I know because it happened to me for decades when I lived as a butch lesbian before I transitioned (10 years later, much happier now, thanks for asking). Makes you wonder who it is, exactly, that is really enforcing strict gender stereotypes, doesn’t it?

Similarly, self-ID is the law of the land in many countries around the world (Argentina not long ago celebrated 10 years), including one you know well – Ireland. Others include Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Ecuador, Iceland, Luxembourg, Malta, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Portugal, Switzerland and Uruguay.

None of the claims made by those opposing trans people have come to pass in any of those 18 countries.

Not a single one.

You’ve no doubt read many articles about trans people over recent years, we certainly have been a hot topic! The Times, Telegraph and Mail between them do at least 10 a week which of course makes this all seem like it is a much bigger problem for everyone, not just us trans people.

Did you happen to notice how many of those articles were written by trans people? What about how many were written by a handful of people who have made turning the public against trans people their personal beat and been given all the column inches they desire to do it?

I’ll give you a clue…the first number is close to zero. Probably around the same as the number of refugees allowed to write about asylum in the same publications. Only trans people full of self-loathing are allowed to speak on their pages.

Tell me, James, would you base your information on refugees and immigrants from only Brexity writers who think they should not be allowed in the UK at all?

What about newspaper articles about black people in the Mail, do they dictate your views on race?

If not, why, then, do you allow the same people to shape your opinion on trans people?

I’m sure you’re completely unaware of the 30,000 people who marched in London for Trans Pride over the summer. It was, after all, ignored by every major publication and news channel. 12 people, however, turn up to protest against trans people and you can be sure it will be all over those same papers, particularly your father’s old paper, the Telegraph. How far it has fallen since his day, huh?

So, if we have all these stats and facts and studies on our side, I guess you’re now wondering why trans people won’t just debate the matter?

In regard to what is happening in Scotland, there have been two public consultations and multiple debates, with the voices of trans people rarely heard. We had to rely on others to advocate for us.

Still, it was found that those campaigning against trans people were unable to back up any of their claims. It was also shown – with peer reviewed studies – that trans people are not the danger we are painted out to be.

Despite constant claims to the contrary, there has been plenty of debate over many years, most of it one-sided, and the transphobes still lost. You just didn’t hear about them because the results didn’t go the way the media wanted so they ignored it.

The Scottish Parliament Committee wrote, “The majority is satisfied that the Bill will not change the effect of a GRC, which is that the individual is legally recognised in their acquired gender. Further, the majority recognise that, when asked about evidence of abuses or concerns, no witness was able to provide concrete examples.”

Surely, if trans people are such a threat there would be concrete examples from somewhere in the world, wouldn’t there? Unless, of course, you think we are master criminals who would give even Batman a run for his money.

The entire trans panic is built upon urban myths, scare stories and trans-exclusive echo chambers that have the ear of journalists and editors at many of the mainstream papers. Unsubstantiated anecdotes held up as proof in the paper of record.

Have you ever met a trans person, James? I’m sure you know plenty of gay people. Is their existence all about sex or are they fully formed people just trying to get on in this world, like everybody else? Are you still afraid for your daughters of lesbians being in changing rooms like they told you to be in the 1980s?

Do you not see how every single argument against trans people is that recycled homophobia of your youth? The kind you would be only too happy to dedicate hours of your show to rightly calling out because you grew up with it all around you and know it well.

Do you know that JK Rowling, the woman you seem to have real sympathy with in all this, recently wrote in an article for The Times that trans people don’t deserve the right to be presumed innocent? We are to be presumed sexual predators until we can prove otherwise. Does that seem fair?

Well, I say ‘we’ but Rowling and her friends don’t really mean people like me. As a trans guy, our existence tends to muddy up their half-thought out arguments too much, so they like to just pretend we are misguided women who couldn’t hack it as a butch lesbians.

Do you agree that there are certain minorities who have no right to a presumption of innocence, James?

If you do, perhaps that’s a topic you’d like to discuss on your show one day.

While we’re here, here’s the saintly JK Rowling liking a tweet from Libs of TikTok, one of the vilest and most dangerous accounts online, when they were making fun of criticism of Kanye West, you know, the guy who just recently got banned from Elon Musk’s Twitter after he said he loved Hitler and then posted a swastika.

You probably also missed her sending flowers and ‘much love’ to Marilyn Manson, the performer accused of multiple sexual assaults, amongst other things.

But trans people, that’s where the real concern should lie, right?

If you, like many who support her, think she hasn’t actually done anything transphobic, perhaps this might help explain why that is yet another load of nonsense.

What about women’s sports, surely trans women have an advantage there, I hear you ask with your first-year biology. The studies are out, and they are clear trans women on hormones do not maintain an advantage, quite the opposite actually.

If you don’t want to believe the experts, how about we play a game where we guess the names of all the trans women who have qualified for the Olympics since we’ve been allowed to take part more than two decades ago. There are only two of them, so it shouldn’t be hard to recall their names, although one of them didn’t even compete as she was only an alternate.

To be fair, it’s a tough question because nobody ever remembers the athletes who come last like Laurel Hubbard. Is that dominating? One nothing finish in over 20 years of trying? Does that strike you as a problem about to overwhelm women’s sport?

Now you’re probably thinking about the swimmer, Lia Thomas, as your big gotcha because she actually won a race, albeit in college, but did you hear about all the ones she lost in the same competition, placing well down the order?

Are trans people not even allowed to win one out of 10? As people cry about fairness for ‘women and girls,’ where is the fairness for trans people in all this? Are we just not allowed to win anything, despite time and time again science, results in the field and the athletes themselves overwhelming saying trans people have no advantage and are welcome in their sports?

As for trans kids, making them go through the wrong puberty is not a neutral act any more than letting cancer run through them untreated until they turn 18. Studies show us repeatedly that children know who they are, we should believe them.

We give cis kids puberty blockers all the time to treat precocious puberty and we have very clear data on what the long-term impacts are – none. It’s a pause button. When the blockers are stopped, puberty restarts. And, although I know you’re not stupid enough to believe this stuff, I’d just like to confirm that nobody is cutting the breasts of pre-pubescent girls (the clue to this lie is that they haven’t even started growing them if they are pre-pubescent).

Surgeries rarely ever take place on trans kids, but cis parents make decisions on what gender their intersex children should be without having any clue what will happen further down the line.

But that’s ok, right?

a timeline of medical procedures

I guess I should probably stop now, I have gone on a bit, haven’t I? That’s because there is so much to say, and I haven’t even got to all of it.

I hope you’ve read this. I hope you’ve read this far. I hope you can see how you’ve been led down this path by a media you detest, and I hope that you will use your platform to help others see that too.

But, perhaps more than anything, I just hope that trans people can be left alone to live our lives. We never asked for all this, all we want is access to health care and to be able to live with dignity.

How can that be a threat to anybody?

And, if you’re still struggling, ask yourself who is worried about their future more, JK Rowling or the trans people she is leading a crusade against?

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