It’s now nearly two weeks since my book, “TRANS: When Ideology Meets Reality” was published, and it’s been a wild ride. A few days after launch, it broke into Amazon’s top ten best-seller list. It debuted at number 7 on the Sunday Times’s hardback non-fiction list, and appeared in the Times’s list of the best books of 2021. The reviews were phenomenal, especially David Aaronovitch in the Times (“rigorous and brave”), Kathleen Stock in the Telegraph (“superlative critical analysis”) and Stella O’Malley in the Standard (“a tour de force”). I had a virtual launch with WPUK and a round table with Sex Matters super-supporters. And I got to go on some amazing podcasts, including FiLiA, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Andrew Doyle.
I was also subjected to a smear campaign. I knew I would be, because that’s what happens to anyone who publicly dissents from gender-identity ideology—the notion that what makes you a man or woman isn’t your immutable biology, but what you declare yourself to be. A particularly horrific example that I discuss in my book is that of Michael Bailey, author of “The Man Who Would Be Queen” (2003), in which he describes the links between male sexuality and male cross-sex identification.
“Bailey’s university received complaints alleging that he had broken rules governing research on human subjects, slept with one of those subjects and taken payment to write referral letters for people seeking sex-reassignment surgery—sackable offences, if true. An allegation was made to the state regulator that he was practising psychology without a licence. Rumours were circulated that he had abandoned his family, and that he had a drink problem. His book had been nominated for a ‘Lammy’, an award for excellence in celebrating or exploring LGBT themes. After protests, the nomination was withdrawn. Bailey’s family was also targeted. Andrea James, a transwoman working in consumer advocacy in Los Angeles, posted pictures of his children online, with captions saying ‘there are two types of children in the Bailey household’: those ‘who have been sodomised by their father [and those] who have not’, and asking whether his young daughter was ‘a cock-starved exhibitionist, or a paraphiliac who just gets off on the idea of it’.”
All of these allegations were later shown by medical historian Alice Dreger to be baseless. She writes about this smear campaign in her book, “Galileo’s Middle Finger”. The intention, she concluded, had been to “undermine Bailey’s reputation, undo any positive praise his book received, and make Bailey as personally miserable as possible”.
So I knew what was coming. Those who want to silence me are clearly unable to counter my arguments, and so instead they attack me. The lie they seem to have settled on is that I am, supposedly, antisemitic—a claim so entirely invented that even to rebut it feels like answering the notoriously leading question: “when did you stop beating your wife?” I am said to believe that a cabal of Jewish billionaires is funding transactivism; to have plagiarised an American journalist, Jennifer Bilek, who has speculated on supposed links between Judaism and transgender ideology; and to have made false claims about funding for organisations that promote gender self-identification. Here are my brief rebuttals.
In my book I demonstrate that mainstream transactivism is not a grassroots movement, but a top-down one. One part of the evidence is that rich individuals and foundations make large donations to campaign groups that, among other things, lobby to erase biological sex from law and to enshrine gender identity in its place. Some of that money is tied to campaigns for gender self-ID. I discuss the ACLU, HRC and Stonewall in most detail, but there are many others. And I give a sense of the funding that comes from rich individuals by discussing three examples: George Soros via the Open Societies Foundation; Jennifer Pritzker via the Tawani Foundation; and Jon Stryker via the Arcus Foundation.
This is in no sense “dark money”, and I don’t say it is. The information is readily available because all such American foundations and charities are legally required to publish details of where they get their money and what they spend it on. I found the information on their websites. This makes a nonsense of Bilek’s claim that I plagiarised her: that these foundations donate heavily to campaign groups that press for gender self-ID is publicly available information, and she and I are not the only ones to have pointed it out.
I didn’t deliberately select three Jewish donors; it never occurred to me to think about their religions. Two of the three, it turns out, are indeed Jewish, though that is not something I mention in my book because it is utterly irrelevant. Judging by the tenor of conversation on Twitter, Jon Stryker may or may not be Jewish: his religion appears not to be a matter of public record. I have not sought to ascertain it, because—again—I think it’s irrelevant. I also think it’s interesting that the people accusing me of antisemitic dog-whistles are speculating about someone’s religion, when I did not even speculate about it.
Bilek used to write reasonably interestingly about the money behind campaigns for legal gender self-identification. I tweeted her articles several times, and during a work trip to New York before the pandemic I met her for coffee. It was a helpful meeting, in one way, because I came away convinced that although she had correctly (and without any difficulty) identified some of the funders of transactivism, she was wrong about pretty much everything else. At the time, she seemed to think that Big Pharma was pushing transgender ideology in order to turn as many people as possible into lifelong medical patients. My own research suggested, by contrast, that though America’s profit-hungry health-care lobby has certainly become keen on gender medicine, it jumped on the bandwagon rather than setting it in motion.
But I didn’t gain any new or useful information from talking to Bilek. As any journalist or author will tell you, you generally don’t know in advance which interviews will be fruitful; you certainly don’t quote everyone you talk to. I thanked her for her time, and that was that.
At some point after that I noticed her speculating about (of course non-existent) links between Judaism and transgenderism. I unfollowed her immediately. Since I had no connection with her, it didn’t occur to me to say anything publicly: if I spent my time denouncing people so unconnected with me, I would never get anything done. It would have been as absurd as denouncing Naomi Wolf for her covid-conspiracism just because I read “The Beauty Myth” in the 1990s.
My other supposed “connection” with Bilek came earlier this year, when I was interviewed in an online event run by an Irish gender-critical group, “The Countess Didn’t Fight For This”. The organisers had invited her to join a (separate) panel. As a result, I was accused by others of “co-platforming” her. This meaningless allegation is increasingly commonly used to smear by (non-)association. I’ve accepted invitations to speak at the same conferences as many people I disagree with, and even some I despise; in no case has that indicated my endorsement of their views. In the end Bilek pulled out. I was very glad for the organisers’ sake, but again I saw no reason to say anything publicly.
And finally, I have been criticised online for a minor factual error that has been corrected in my book’s third printing. I said that the OSF made a large donation to the Human Rights Campaign, when that particular donation actually went to another organisation with a similar name, Human Rights Watch. However, the OSF does fund the HRC, and HRW does campaign for gender self-identification, so the correction makes no difference to my point: that rich individuals and foundations pour money into groups that campaign for gender self-identification.
The allegations against me are all either trivial or baseless. They demonstrate that those who dislike my work are incapable of countering it, and so attack me instead. I’d like to just laugh them off. But behind these allegations, it seems to me, are bad faith, malice and a desire to silence me by any means. None of that is funny. On occasion the smears have strayed into actionable defamation. Anyone who comments publicly on me or my book should think carefully about that. People have lost a lot of money in British courts for tweeting harmful lies, or even just retweeting them (repeating defamation is in itself defamation).
I don’t want to end on that negative note. I am lucky to work in one of the few media organisations that still has a strong commitment to robust but honest debate. When the smears against me started, many of my colleagues spoke out in my support. I am grateful to them, especially to my Jewish colleagues, for whom this appropriation of Jew-hatred as a baseless smear must feel particularly vile.