In a recent Sunday Times column, Jeremy Clarkson discussed the prevalence of transgender issues in the news and admitted he doesn’t know any transgender people personally. Although he makes jokes and uses problematic language throughout the piece, he posed an important question: “What if you’re wrong?”

It’s easy to roll our eyes at trans issues. But what if we’re wrong? Jeremy Clarkson Jeremy Clarkson Next image › As we all know, JK Rowling recently expressed an opinion on the transgender debate, and she wasn’t just cancelled, she was erased. They put her in the delete bin, and then afterwards, all her former fans, and even the actors and actresses she’d made famous, emptied the bin into a landfill site so seagulls could feast on her eyes. Mercifully, I’ve always known I would not suffer a similar fate, because I’ve always had exactly the same views on transgenderism as I do on Victorian literature or trees. It’s not something that’s ever interested me, so why should I bother forming an opinion on it? If I want to get fed to the seagulls, I could think of a million other ways of going about it, all of which would be far more satisfying than calling Eddie Izzard a man or laughing at Sam Smith’s insistence that an interest in angling makes you a “fisherthem”. The fact is that I don’t know any transgender people. I once saw a very tall lady in Selfridges who had an Adam’s apple and hairy hands, but that’s it. That’s my only actual real-world experience of the issue and it left me completely underwhelmed. However, in recent times, the transgender issue has come to dominate the news so completely that I’ve been forced to pay a bit more attention. We are being asked whether schoolchildren should be allowed to change gender and whether a man can go to a women’s prison. This is big stuff, when you think about it. And there’s more. In the past week alone, there’s been a row about the new gender-neutral lavatories at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith and we learnt that officers in the Metropolitan Police are to be stopped from investigating crime so they can spend more time learning about “faer” and the hundred or so different pronoun options that are available to modern-day youth. And then there was Baroness Fox, who was uninvited to speak on the cancel culture at Royal Holloway, University of London, because she’d retweeted a Ricky Gervais joke about transgender people. Meanwhile, we have Piers Morgan, who’s making a good living from the debate, and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, whose charity will now be supporting the Global Boyhood Initiative, which challenges traditional gender roles. Oh, and on Thursday, World Athletics, the governing body for those who like to run around and jump over things, announced that anyone who went through male puberty may not take part in female events unless they are — deep breath — DSD (differences of sex development) intersex people whose testosterone levels have been below 2.5 nanomoles per litre for a period of at least two years. It would be easy at this point to roll your eyes and think the world’s gone mad. But hang on a minute. Because what if you’re wrong? When I was at school in the Seventies, we were aware that the homosexual act was kind of technically possible, but the notion that anyone would do such a thing was of course laughable. And then a few years after Rock Hudson died of Aids, Freddie Mercury got it and died too. We were in shock. You mean he . . . you know? And then Elton John announced he had a predilection for members of the same genital grouping. And suddenly the floodgates opened. In school we’d always joked that one of the teachers was gay, then it turned out he was. And so was one of our friends. And now, just 40 years on, I feel weird for never having tried it. I went to a gay wedding last year and in January I spent a happy week cruising (on a boat) round the Caribbean with a gay couple. And it’s not a recent thing, either. It wasn’t invented by Alan Turing. Leonardo da Vinci was gay. So, probably, was Richard I, and James VI, and Florence Nightingale. Sir Ian McKellen reckons even Shakespeare swung both ways. Gayness, then, has been around since the very beginning. Well, not the very beginning obviously — we wouldn’t have got far if Eve had been a lesbian — but close to the beginning. So, what if it’s the same deal with transgenderism? Has that also been going on for years? Will we discover in the coming decades that half those brave Tommies in the First World War trenches were secretly hoping to have their old chaps shot off so they could go home and put on a frock? Think how infuriating it must be to those who really were born in the wrong body We know that in the early 20th century, a boy in California decided he was a girl. She called herself Lucy, married a man and, when that failed, opened a brothel. Where, during a routine venereal disease check, it was discovered that she had a penis. So, off she went to prison. And that, to me, has some troubling Turing overtones. I realise, of course, that the whole trans debate has been hijacked by lunatics who glue themselves to stuff and claim to be from a gender that doesn’t even exist, and I know too that there is some kind of civil war going on between fiercely women women and women who just say they’re women. This creates a noise that’s annoying to most of us, but think how infuriating it must be to those who really were born in the wrong body. I believe that this is possible and I accept that it creates several problems for society, and not just in the lavatory or in a prison or in the school high-jump competition. But how can we address these issues when every teenage halfwit is muddying the waters by claiming to identify as a bat and inventing a pronoun that wouldn’t even be allowed in a game of Scrabble? “Faer”, my arse.
Jeremy Clarkson, Sunday Times, 26/03/23

If Jeremy Clarkson had hoped to make a splash with his column in The Sunday Times this weekend, he surely didn’t anticipate the furore over Nazi Barbie getting covered in tomato sauce in New Zealand, nor the Wizard Author coming to her defence while spreading misinformation, some of which was quietly deleted without correction.

Despite the chaos, Clarkson managed to assemble some words in his column. The Sunday Times published it, even though it contained a few lines expressing sympathy for trans people. He even mentioned wishing he had had some homosexual experiences in his youth.

Barely anyone noticed for more than five minutes because of the chaos unfolding on the other side of the globe and the nonsense being spouted back in the UK to defend it.

I don’t read much Jeremy Clarkson. Why would I? The man is known for his arrogance and controversial statements. But, apparently, he’s quite likable on his farm show. Mostly, when it comes to minorities, Jeremy Clarkson is not a friend.

He’s the guy Brexit supporters love because he says what they want to say but don’t have the courage to, despite Clarkson actually writing an article arguing against Brexit.

So, it’s not surprising to see him writing in The Sunday Times or discussing transgender people. Nor was it shocking to see him making ridiculous jokes and dismissing young trans people. It wasn’t news to read that Clarkson has no grasp of queer history or understanding of trans people.

However, Clarkson surprised many by asking one simple question of those who rage against trans people: “What if you’re wrong?”

This seemingly small question jumped from the page for those who have watched the relentless tsunami of transphobic hate build over the past few years, fuelled by media outlets like The Sunday Times, The Times, The Telegraph, and the Mail. To see one of their prominent anti-woke correspondents just ask that simple question, “what if you’re wrong?” stood out.

Introspection isn’t really a strong suit for transphobes. Not that I’m saying Clarkson is transphobic, I don’t actually think he is. As he says in his own piece, he doesn’t know any trans people. He’s never met any trans people apart from one “very tall lady in Selfridges who had an Adam’s apple and hairy hands, but that’s it”.

He’s never knowingly spent any time with trans people, and he just doesn’t give a shit about the issue, which is where we find most people in the UK. In fact, he writes, “However, in recent times, the transgender issue has come to dominate the news so completely that I’ve been forced to pay a bit more attention.”


Clarkson’s article might not be most helpful for transphobes, but rather for people who are somewhat uncertain about the issue. These individuals don’t really understand the fuss or know what’s going on, and they may feel slightly uneasy about it.

Often, the news presents them with reasons to believe that it’s all a bit “off,” showcasing trans people as deviants, rude individuals, sex criminals, or those who force others to use specific language. Many times, the news is disingenuous, presenting the worst examples as representative of the entire community.

The phrase “what if we are wrong?” is not something you’ll typically hear from a transphobe. But for someone on the fringes of the movement who is open to considering this question, it could be eye-opening.

When you look past everything else Clarkson said, it’s not about applauding his honesty or giving him credit. The point is that the situation for the trans community is so dire that even a small ray of light can make a difference. Those four words open a crack.

We, as a community, may not have the platform, clout, or recognition to reach these uncertain individuals. Our voices are often drowned out by endless cisgender people discussing trans issues. But Clarkson has the power to reach them, and if those four words change even one person’s perspective, the ripple effect could be significant.