Irish author John Boyne, who recently faced a barrage of criticism after publishing a controversial article in The Irish Times, has spoken about the threats that drove him to leave social media.
Boyne’s new children’s book, which follows a young boy’s journey to understanding and accepting his transgender sister, was published by Penguin last Thursday. Its reception was soured, however, by an article published days before the book in which its author wrote “it will probably make some unhappy to know that I reject the word ‘cis,’ the term given by transgender people to their nontransgender brethren. I don’t consider myself a cis man; I consider myself a man.”
Although Boyne considers himself a wholehearted supporter of trans people and their rights, his refusal to describe himself as cisgender sparked outrage among trans activists.
Speaking before a London lunch with broadcaster Graham Norton, he recalled that “There were two or three days of constant abuse from people who had not read the book. They were sending messages from fake names and it was pretty vulgar at times. One message just said ‘f**k John Boyne.
“I got another message warning me to be very careful of going out alone. There were other messages which commented offensively on my looks, my sexuality, my writing, anything they could to try to hurt me.”
In order to escape these abusive comments and threats of violence, Boyne closed his Twitter account.
“I anticipate returning to social media when all of the brouhaha has died down a bit,” he says. “It’s been a tough week. This has been, without doubt, the most negative experience of my writing life.”
John Boyne responds to article on “cis privilege”
Aoife Martin, a trans woman and director of TENI, published a rebuttal to Boyne’s Irish Times article last week in which she characterised his rejection of the term “cis” as a dangerous means of ignoring his cis privilege.
“In the same way if I were involved in a discussion about, say, Black Lives Matter, I would point out that I am a white person and I am speaking from a position of white privilege,” she wrote. “Boyne, whether he likes it or not, is a cis man speaking from a position of cis privilege.”
In an interview on the Ryan Tubridy Show on RTÉ Radio 1, Boyne responded vehemently to her comments.
Joining Ryan live in studio, author John Boyne talks about his latest YA novel 'My Brother's Name Is Jessica', the themes explored in the book and why he recently deleted his Twitter account @RTERadio1 pic.twitter.com/6lBPOOsie9
— Ryan Tubridy Show (@RyanTubridyShow) April 23, 2019
“Cis male privilege is basically because you haven’t gone through the struggle that I’ve gone through, you don’t know anything about it and you’re coming from a place of ignorance and privilege,” he said.
He continued: “I grew up in the 70s and 80s in Ireland. As a boy, I knew I was gay and it was in a country where homosexuality was still illegal. So I grew up in a school being told I was wrong, I would probably get AIDS and I would probably go to jail. Was that my cis male privilege?
“Then I left school and I became an adult and I was afraid to go into places like The George, I was terrified of it because I felt dirty, I felt shamed, I felt like a less than human person, so I was unable to be my own sexual person. Was that my Cis male privilege?”
Responding directly to Martin, he said “do not take a position that you know who I am, any more than I know who you are. You do not.”
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