It came after the writer and actor revealed he ‘won’t abandon’ his long-standing friendship with JK Rowling – despite the deep controversy about trans issues that now, in my view, taint the author’s legacy.
Seeing a member of our community, who is also such an influential person with a lot of power to potentially change people’s hearts and minds on major issues, standing by someone like that is frustrating, to say the least.
He has a responsibility to call out problematic rhetoric, especially if it comes from someone he considers a friend.
Being willing to do so doesn’t make you a bad mate, it makes you a better one.
If you don’t hold those you love accountable, then more people will suffer.
I’ve always thought positively of Fry, having enjoyed his work on various TV shows and films.
Like millions of others, I see him as a witty, entertaining and intelligent man, who isn’t afraid to go against the grain and stand up for what’s right.
That’s why his stance is even more disappointing.
It is no secret that J. K. Rowling has been accused of echoing transphobic rhetoric, with the controversy initially erupting after she published a blog in 2020 on her website about sex and gender issues.
Since then she has certainly not softened her position, and seems to have redoubled her efforts to regularly share or ‘like’ incendiary articles or comments related to trans people on social media.
Personally, I consider Rowling, whether it is intentional or not, one of the leading figures in ‘debate’ on trans issues in the UK, as she regularly trends on major social media platforms and hundreds of articles have been written about some of her many comments – with new ones popping up whenever she posts something online.
As a trans person it is obviously hugely upsetting to see this unfold and continue to escalate, and continues to be a constant source of frustration and sadness for me and many of my friends and family.
Whenever it happens I notice a real dampener hit the community, who now have to contend with even more negativity and misinformation thrown their way. Whenever I see her name trending on social media, I just know something bad has happened.
It never seems to stop, and seems so pointless, as the real threat here is male violence and discrimination.
While I understand Fry not wanting to end a friendship, this whole ‘debate’ goes a lot deeper than a disagreement, and sitting on the fence is inevitably going to upset a community that’s struggling because of it.
As someone people look up to, Fry has a lot of responsibility to use his voice to fight for the LGBT+ community which, let’s not forget, he is a part of.
We can’t really tell a grown man who he should or should not be friends with, but I don’t think Stephen Fry being criticised for it is unreasonable.
If one of my friends came to me and said they were deeply hurt and distressed by something another friend of mine said, I would struggle to see how to justify maintaining that relationship without the latter person apologising and stopping what they were doing.
And it’s happened.
I’ve had instances where I have had to challenge my friends, and explain to them that things they’ve said are offensive or inappropriate – and those difficult conversations haven’t damaged my relationship, they’ve made them stronger.
It happened a few years ago with a particular friend of mine, and while he got quite defensive at first, he was later able to reflect and come back to me, thanking me for actually calling him out on some of the things he said, and helping him learn and grow.
Having open and honest conversations with your friends is incredibly healthy, especially if they are saying something that you find offensive and harmful to you or your community.
Because the anti-trans campaigners, many of whom, rightly or wrongly, consider Rowling an ally, aren’t just disagreeing with trans people about some benign topic – they are, in many cases, campaigning to undermine and strip away trans people’s dignity and legal protections.
It’s clear that trans people need allies more than ever, who unequivocally call anti-trans rhetoric out for what it is – and it is sad that Fry has chosen to maintain a friendship with someone who has faced accusations of sharing that same rhetoric.
During the fight against Section 28, the Thatcher government’s 1988 ban on the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality, there were many influential figures that stood by and didn’t speak out, no doubt out of fear of how they would be treated as a result, and what friendships they would lose.
I believe that a similar culture is beginning to rear its head again, as anti-trans rhetoric becomes stronger, hate crimes are on the rise, and the backlash against LGBT+ rights as a whole becomes stronger.
At the very least, I hope Fry can use his friendship to try and reason with his friend, and get her to realise that this apparent crusade she is on is misguided, and remind her that consequences of repeating anti-trans narratives can have devastating consequences on the community we are both part of.
I can’t say I’m hopeful he’ll be successful, even if he tried, given how Graham Norton was denounced and hounded online for the crime of simply suggesting the media speaks to trans people and their families instead of celebrities.
Bad things happen when good people do nothing to stop it – I just pray that people like Fry will realise this before it’s too late, and before trans people’s dignity and rights will get undermined and stripped even further.
And that’s more important than any friendship.
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