Prime Time Editor Defends Graham Linehan Inclusion Following Backlash

Prime Time's Editor Donogh Diamond appeared on 2FM and defending his decision to include Graham Linehan as a contributor on the 'Generation Gender' episode.

RTÉ And The Promotion of the Language of Oppression - Prime Time presenters pictured on set
Image: RTÉ

‘We’re about difficult questions’ — Donogh Diamond, Editor of PrimeTime, on 2FM recently defending their Gender Generation programme

Following the outrage caused by the ‘sensationalist nature’ of Prime Time’s ‘Generation Gender’ report, the show’s Editor Donogh Diamond took part in an interview on the ‘Eoghan McDermott Show’ on 2FM. The interview received criticism from both TENI and the ‘This Is Me’ campaign.

I propose that discussing the validity of trans people and whether or not they should be supported and accepted is not a question that is difficult for Diamond to ask. Quite the contrary, it appears to my mind the laziest, tabloid, sensationalist question that could be asked right now in the pursuit of ratings and profile. In fact, throughout the interview Diamond demonstrates his comfort with these abhorrent and harmful conceptions of trans people and a disregard for the real world effects for the people of this community.

If Diamond is actually interested in the difficult questions he would I reckon, turn that inquiring mind upon himself, his motives, and what he actually hoped to achieve here and why he is seemingly impervious to understanding how discussing the validity of a group of people and whether or not they should have certain rights is harmful to that group. Some questions I feel may be more difficult for Diamond to ask:

How many times did Diamond quote Linehan’s description of a trans woman as ‘an intact man’ and to what end?

Is there perhaps an inherent contradiction between Diamond’s assertion that “We did get the most qualified minds on the issue” and his admission that there were many experts approached who did not wish to participate?

When Diamond says — in defence of Linehan’s inclusion — that he ‘went to the heart of the issue’ in contrast with experts, which in his view ‘speak around an issue and not directly to an issue’, does he realise the implication here that the reasonable, evidence led, and informed testimony that an expert provides would not supply the more sensationalist approach Diamond was seeking and found with Linehan?

When Diamond says in defence of Linehan’s inclusion that he ‘has been at the core of this debate in England’ does he realise that he is identifying harassing trans people and trans allies on Twitter and receiving a warning from the police for this behaviour as the core of the debate and that instead of viewing the Linehan level of ‘discourse’ (dead-naming — misgendering — de-funding children’s charities) as a cautionary example he views it as an exemplar of the one he sought for the programme.

When Diamond defends his programme by citing the legitimacy of a Mother of a 13 year-old girl being concerned with ‘an intact man’ using the same bathroom as her daughter does he realise first of all that to refer to a trans woman or girl in those terms is a negation of those trans women and girls and that further it is incumbent upon Diamond to answer that concern with available research -which points to the fact that trans-inclusive bathroom policies do not lead to increased risks for cis women?

When Diamond says “We have to look at what our audience might be concerned about”, does he realise that not all concerns are created equal and that some concerns have an evidence base and some do not? And that most importantly, we are under no obligation to platform and discuss issues that are rooted in discrimination and othering, or without regard to understanding how this concern mirrors the concern some had and have with regard to gay people sharing our bathroom spaces.

We can and should, however, prioritise voices in this debate who have not received warnings from the police for their online harassment of trans people, who are experts in the field, and who are directly affected by the issue. Prioritise, not deny.

Does Diamond realise that his repeated assertion that he is neutral on this issue and has no ‘particular opinion on what side this should all come down on’ rings hollow in light of his words and actions here? His willingness to call a trans woman ‘an intact male’ even in the quote marks Linehan so perfectly provided for him gives life to his imagined impartiality. It is not neutral to begin from a place of seeing the negation of trans people as a valid position. Trans people exist. Trans people are valid regardless of anyone’s silly, unfounded belief that genitals are the sole arbiters of a person’s sex. Ask the vast majority of endocrinologists, biologists, and geneticists instead of a cis male comedy writer and you’d know that.

Another example of Diamond’s lack of neutrality is demonstrated near the end of the interview where he says the key focus of the show was to ask the question ‘Is it legitimate to ask the question should children be allowed to set off down that road’ and goes on to discuss the worry that the Gender Recognition Certificate will lead children in the direction of surgery/medicalisation. To back up his claim he mentions a doctor who told him about patients who took their Official gender recognition certificate to Poland where they accessed surgery. Only when pressed by the interviewer for clarification did it become clear that these people were adults, not children. Consciously or not Diamond subtly intermingled a concern for Irish children accessing medical intervention with evidence relating to the surgical transition of adults.

Does Diamond realise when he asks with regard to Linehan, ‘Do we deny that voice and why would we deny that voice?’ that he is misrepresenting the argument? We are not denying that voice. That voice already has a massive platform on Twitter and through other MSM. We can and should, however, prioritise voices in this debate who have not received warnings from the police for their online harassment of trans people, who are experts in the field, and who are directly affected by the issue. Prioritise, not deny.

When Diamond says, ‘We think very carefully about young people and what they should be able to do. They’re not allowed to marry, and if they’re under 17 they’re not allowed to have sex…society decided no they’re not equipped to decide this.’ Does he realise this is another attempt to misrepresent the argument and the facts which he does several times throughout the interview? Equating underage sex with the expression of an inherent gender identity is disingenuous and not backed by the evidence which states that supporting children’s gender identity leads to better physical and mental health outcomes.

Balance, with regard to an issue such as this, pertaining to an already stigmatised, marginalised and excluded group, is achieved only with the utmost sensitivity and understanding of the lived experience of the people within that group.

Diamond — “There are a group of Feminists, extremely well known feminists in Britain who think that if you, and while I wouldn’t have any view on this myself, but who consider it deeply insulting that a woman could be created by a combination of drugs and surgery” Does Diamond actually not know that the trans community do NOT believe a woman is ‘created by a combination of drugs and surgery’? Does Diamond realise that this gross misrepresentation of trans people only serves to further misinformation and trans exclusion? To be as clear as possible, a trans woman is a woman regardless of whether they have accessed drugs or surgery and I really would have hoped the Editor of a PrimeTime programme on this topic would be better researched than this.

In Summary: While I commend Eoghan McDermott’s attempt to hold Diamond to account here, overall I found this interview a distressing and depressing listen. Diamond demonstrated to my mind beyond doubt that he is not acting in good faith here, his professed neutrality is disingenuous at best, and he is unconcerned about the real world consequences this ‘debate’ has had and is having for the trans community. I would like Diamond to understand that balance is not achieved by giving voice and platform to both informed experts and abusive commentators.

Balance, with regard to an issue such as this, pertaining to an already stigmatised, marginalised and excluded group, is achieved only with the utmost sensitivity and understanding of the lived experience of the people within that group. I would like him to understand that his actions are harming people. TENI speaks of Trans kids afraid to go to school the day after the programme aired and indeed some trans kids bullied because of it. And of course, they have, because that is one of the saddest aspects of this programme and this interview. They have functioned as a kind of download of the lexicon of trans abuse and negation into Irish homes.

Andrew Galvin can be found on Twitter @MaxHomo.

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