Author Ian McEwan Criticised Over Transphobic Comments


Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan, the award winning author, was speaking at the Royal Institution when he made the comment that he believes people with penises can only be men.

‘The self, like a consumer desirable, may be plucked from the shelves of a personal identity supermarket, a ready to wear little black number,’ McEwan said during his speech.  ‘For example, some men in full possession of a penis are now identifying as women and demanding entry to women-only colleges, and the right to change in women’s dressing rooms.’

During a follow up Q&A session one member of the audience asked him to clarify what she referred to as offensive remarks.

‘Call me old fashioned, but I tend to think of people with penises as men,’ he replied.  ‘But I know that they enter a difficult world when they become transsexuals and they tell us they are women, they become women, but it’s interesting when you hear the conflict between feminists now and people in this group.

‘It’s quite a bitter conflict.  Spaces are put aside, women are wanting to put spaced aside like colleges or changing rooms, and find from another side a radical discussion coming their way saying men who want to feel like it can come in too.  I think it’s really difficult.  And I think there is sweeping through America campuses a strange kind of victimhood and a sense of purposeful identities that we can’t actually all of us agree with.  Of course sex and race are different, but they also have a biological basis.  It makes a difference whether you have an X or Y chromosome.’

Stonewall have been quick to condemn the statement, describing McEwans views as being ‘uneducated’ and ‘extremely sad’.  They released the following statement;

‘It’ extremely sad to hear such uninformed views from such a respected author.  When people express views that are hurtful or dangerous, they should expect to be challenged and we’re pleased someone called him out.  What’s confusing is that he admitted in his response that we are complex beings – yes we are.  The complexity of gender identity extends beyond genitalia.

‘Trans people need and deserve acceptance and equality.  This sort of commentary doesn’t just denigrate the trans experience, it denies it’s very existence, and that’s especially hurtful for a group of people who have spent their lives fighting to be heard and understood.  It’s a bitter irony that he made these comments on the Trans Day of Visibility.  It shows just how much work we have to do before everyone is accepted and without exception.’


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Amy is a journalist and editor contributing the websites Planet Transgender, Gay News Network, The Bottle Episode, The Retro Box and Claire Channel. Amy is also a published comic book writer and letterer. In addition to her writing Amy has also worked with the Centre For Hate Crime Studies in Leicester and has worked in the capacity of an advisor to the United Nations Entity For Gender Equality and The Empowerment of Women.


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