October 27, 2023 - 2:15pm

Few figures are as polarising as Eddie Izzard. There seems to be no limit to the number of interviews with and profiles of the actor, most of them admiring. The latest, an interview in the Guardian, includes his claim to have “both boy and girl genetics” while at the same time asking to be taken “seriously”. It’s hard to imagine any other subject where such nonsense would go unchallenged, but there is a bigger problem with the media’s fawning approach to transgender celebrities.

Referring to Izzard or any other trans-identified man as “she” is profoundly insulting to women. In this instance, it happens to be the Guardian talking to Izzard “ahead of the release of her new film”. The word “her” has no place in that sentence, creating an immediate sense of cognitive dissonance. We know that something is being waved in our faces, challenging us to object to our own erasure. Pronouns are only the beginning, which is why trans activists have made them such a central part of the demands they make on the rest of us. 

Once you uncouple someone from biology, you’ve denied the age-old assumption that we are able to determine other people’s sex by looking at them. Man or woman? Her or him?  Like most women, I know instantly, because the ability to identify a man is essential to assessing risk. It’s one of many reasons why I’m outraged when I see a man referred to as “she”, regardless of whether he’s a celebrity or a sex offender.

For years we were told that using someone’s preferred pronouns was a matter of “being kind”, when it’s nothing of the sort. “Look at this obvious man and dare to challenge a suffocating orthodoxy that insists he’s a woman,” is what it says. Suffocating and silencing, because once you accept that, everything else flows from it — men demanding to be in women’s refuges, changing rooms and prisons.

All those people adding “he/him” or “she/her” to their email signatures are telling us they accept the argument that someone’s sex is a matter of personal choice. If one challenges them, they will retreat into talking about something called “gender identity”, which is invisible and — for most purposes — irrelevant. 

It’s a form of gaslighting, promoting an ideology that’s hugely controversial, not to say scientifically illiterate. When a newspaper or website does it, it’s making a conscious decision, lining up behind the idea that men can become women at will. It could only happen in a culture where women’s legitimate concerns are laughed at and disregarded.

Women’s rights are sex-based. If you muddy the definition of the word “woman” by including men, you destroy those rights. Single-sex spaces become mixed. Crime statistics suggest there’s been a mysterious upsurge in women committing sex offences. Vulnerable women who object to the man in the next hospital bed are told there’s no male on the ward. 

Celebrities love being interviewed, particularly when they have something fashionable to say about gender and identity. It may seem harmless, but it isn’t. Some sections of the media are positively revelling in their own surrender to misogyny. And we shouldn’t be afraid to call it out.

Joan Smith is a novelist and columnist. She has been Chair of the Mayor of London’s Violence Against Women and Girls Board since 2013. Her book Homegrown: How Domestic Violence Turns Men Into Terrorists was published in 2019.