Major English Novelist Bashed for Pushing Back Against Transgender Lobby

Atonement author Ian McEwan is having none of it.

By The Stream Published on April 4, 2016

English novelist Ian McEwan, author of the book on which the movie Atonement was based, has created a stir by addressing the recent transgender debate and weighing in partly on the side of tradition and biology.

While giving a speech titled “Examining the Self” at the Royal Institution of London on Thursday, the “Man Booker Prize” winner offered an unflattering description of the currently fashionable view of the self as self-definable: “The self, like a consumer desirable, may be plucked from the shelves of a personal identity supermarket, a ready-to-wear little black number.”

When later asked to clarify his “offensive” comments, McEwan said, “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.” Continuing, he said:

It’s quite a bitter conflict. Spaces are put aside, women are wanting to put spaces 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 there too. I think it’s really difficult. And I think there is sweeping through American [university] campuses a kind of strange sense 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.

McEwan actually supports the right of transgendered individuals to abandon their birth gender, but his taking this politically correct position hasn’t inoculated him from attack. The gay and transgender rights charity Stonewall condemned McEwan’s remarks in a blog post Saturday, saying, “It’s extremely sad to hear such uniformed views from such a respected author.” The group called his remarks “hurtful” and “dangerous” and said that people who express such views “should expect to be challenged,” noting further that they were “pleased someone called him out.”

The Guardian reports further pushback:

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell described McEwan’s stance on gender as a form of “ethical authoritarianism.” He said: “There seems to be a league table of oppression, where some people fight other people to claim the title of most oppressed. This disempowering holier-than-thou rivalry was never what identity politics was supposed to be about.”

Responding to the criticism in a Facebook post Saturday, McEwan said, “I’m surprised that a couple of sentences of mine during a short q & a session at the end of a lecture I gave at the Royal Institution should have caused a stir.” McEwan also elaborated on his use of “victimhood,” saying, “My remarks concerned the charged atmosphere at many US campuses, where students are seeking ‘safe spaces,’ ‘trigger warnings’ and the ‘no-platforming’ of speakers with views contrary to their own. This represents an assault on freedom of expression.”

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