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Voices: Eddie Izzard’s Soccer Aid message has been deliberately ignored by those who’d rather rant about gender

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“No celebrity has ever disappointed me as much as Eddie Izzard,” read one rant on Twitter following the star’s appearance on TV this year for Soccer Aid.

You read that right – “disappointed”. Disappointed... after the comedian took part in ITV’s Who Wants To Be A Millionaire alongside Jeremy Clarkson and fellow comic Omid Djalili, to try to win a million pounds for Unicef, and separately broadcasted a poignant plea about saving children in Yemen. Sorry, what?

In the latter example, the three minute video sees Izzard introduce viewers to Raghad, a young girl, and her story of living in conflict. Izzard, who was born there, prefaces the segment with the words: “I was born in Yemen. And I just want to say, that the people who live there are real, human people like you and me, who – through no fault of their own – find themselves in the middle of this hellish situation. It’s got so bad now that Yemen is often described as ‘the worst place on earth to be a child’. Children are always the worst affected by war.”

But this hard-hitting address has been deliberately ignored, and the issue co-opted by some who’d rather rant about Izzard’s appearance. Why? Because the star was wearing lipstick.

Certain fans even accused Izzard of “jumping on a fashionable trans bandwagon” to in some way advance her career (as if a stellar 40-year stage and screen career needs advancing). “Why wasn’t he using ‘she’ pronouns all that time if this is what he actually thinks?” one person tweeted.

Yet as one defender pointed out, Izzard – who came out as gender-fluid in 1985 – has been saying “f*** gender” for decades. “Being outraged at her pronouns and appearance now just makes you look like a t***”, the person tweeted.

Another reminded social media users that Izzard has “never said that she is a woman over a man, just that she prefers she/her pronouns but absolutely doesn’t mind what she is called as long as it is respectful”.

Izzard has indeed spoken out in the past about people who (intentionally or otherwise) get her pronouns wrong, telling them to “have a cup of tea” and to “relax”. The star asked to be referred to as “she and her” back in December, explaining that she sees her gender-fluidity as a “superhero” quality, and the request went viral.

She also said: “I just want to be based in girl mode from now on – and added: “If it’s not affecting someone, then why do you need to lean in and stop other people just trying to create a little space for themselves to be positive? This is not an attacking thing, this is just existing.”

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When I saw the reaction on social media, and the fact that #EddieIzzard was trending, I’ll admit I groaned. I knew exactly what it would be like. A talented, scintillating comic like Eddie Izzard speaks out about a vital, global issue while doing nobody any harm at all – by simply wearing make-up, as she’s done for decades – and certain sections of social media explode with outrage. How achingly predictable.

In the original video message, Izzard ends with this: “I don’t know about you but I don’t want to live in a world where children feel scared and unsafe. That’s not a good world.” She is talking about war-torn countries like Yemen, Syria, even Ukraine, but the message applies more widely than that, too – to all kids who feel alone and frightened, who don’t feel accepted, who might be confused about their bodies, their gender, their identity.

“We can come together and try and make things a little bit better for them,” Izzard ends. Hear, hear. It’s a message we should all be listening to. Especially on Twitter.

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