Statement on BBC Books and Transgenderism

Gareth Roberts
Jun 4 · 3 min read

This is what happened recently. I’m keeping it simple and factual to avoid any ambiguity.

I was commissioned by BBC Books to write a short story for an anthology of Dr Who stories. I’ve written several Dr Who episodes for tv and many Dr Who books, for BBC Books and for Virgin, the previous licence holder for Dr Who fiction.

I completed and submitted the work.

The publication of the book and its authors was not intended to be announced until early June, but some details, including my contribution, were leaked accidentally.

At this point a section of the Dr Who fandom agitated for my removal. Also, some of the other contributing authors to the book (I don’t know who) threatened to withdraw if I was involved. BBC Books immediately folded to these demands, and I was informed that although I would be paid my story would not be published, as they judged – wrongly, in my opinion – that a potential boycott would make the book ‘economically unviable’.

These tweets in September 2017 were cheerful vulgarity. Like every other reasonable person I deplore and condemn any violence, intimidation or discrimination against any person for their beliefs or for how they present themselves, or indeed any other reason.

When I was a kid in the 1980s and a member of the London Lesbian and Gay Teenage group we referred to ourselves and each other as queers, trannies and dykes. I note that one of these words is now somehow an official initial in the ever expanding lexicon LGBTQ, used now by the British royal family and the Conservative party. I find this irritating but I would never try to prevent people saying it with force or sanction. Freedom to offend is not an attack.

Some have urged me to make a full, obeisant apology. Even if I was inclined to, I don’t think it would have any effect at all – for example, Helen Lewis of The New Statesman is currently being monstered for the most careful, respectful piece on this issue. I’m not bothered very much by words though I’m bothered when they distress my friends and family. But then, that’s how intimidation works. That’s why intimidators intimidate. (And I know for a fact it would be much worse for a woman in this position.)

For the record this is my opinion on transgenderism and its ideology, with no humour or irony attached.

I’ve rejected restrictive cultural gender stereotypes for as long as I can remember. I consider them to be very often harmful and constricting, especially for girls and women. The culture I enjoy most and the artists I like most are people who laugh at, bend and play with these roles.

I don’t believe in gender identity. It is impossible for a person to change their biological sex. I don’t believe anybody is born in the wrong body.

I think it’s wrong to – write a falsehood into law; compel people by law to speak words they do not believe; rewrite the law to remove women’s biological sex-based rights and protections; reinforce gender stereotypes; medicalise children who don’t conform to gender stereotypes. That’s it.

I don’t believe my view should be protected either. People must be protected, ideas must never be. I would ask the writers who objected to my inclusion in the same book as them to reflect on that.

My opinions on transgenderism are neither extreme nor unusual. It would be interesting to know if BBC Books/Random House would be prepared to pull from publication writing by Sharron Davies, Graham Linehan, Linda Bellos, Robert Webb, Germaine Greer, Lionel Shriver, Julie Burchill or Martina Navratilova.

Gareth Roberts

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