Voices: Why do people like Graham Linehan keep choosing Twitter as their hill to die on?

Voices: Why do people like Graham Linehan keep choosing Twitter as their hill to die on?

Graham Linehan, a vocal opponent of trans rights, and co-writer of the classic sitcom Father Ted, is back on Twitter two years after the service locked his account for “repeated violations of our rules against hateful conduct and platform manipulation”.

Elon Musk’s takeover of the platform (contributing to the greatest loss of wealth in modern history) has led to a mass overturning of previous bans, as the tech mogul slackens the reins on content moderation in the name of freedom of speech – with Linehan the latest high profile beneficiary.

It’s a chance to start again. A clean slate for someone who says their refusal to leave the issue of trans rights alone has cost them their career and even their marriage. Alas, after announcing his return with a Father Ted reference, his first move was to post a picture of trans people celebrating the passing of Scotland’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill with the word “bloke” pasted over each one.

In the following week, nearly every one of his tweets has been about trans people, and never with a tone of level discussion or openness, in my opinion: always bluntly, dismissively and aggressively.

His most baffling move so far is to come for H From Steps. “What may connect him to a man serving 22 years for raping and torturing a 10-year-old girl?” asked Glinner on 27 December at the start of a long thread.

The answer was nothing. The singer had used an app that blocked people with transphobic views from appearing in his Twitter feed. One such app, which Linehan admits might not even be the one H had used, was designed by someone subsequently imprisoned for child sex abuse.

The first Tweet in the thread featured a picture of H, real name Ian Watkins, and the mugshot of convicted abuser David Challenor. A reader must wade through 12 Tweets to find the tenuous non-link and a casual glance would imply that H, a gay man and a vocal supporter of trans rights, was involved in something extremely sinister.

Associating queerness with predatory deviance is a well-known homophobic and transphobic trope and H, bless him, has had to fight such associations before – back in 2013 he received so much hate and abuse from Twitter users mistaking him for the other Ian Watkins, a convicted child abuser who used to sing in the (rubbish) band Lostprophets, he had to delete his account.

Once upon a time “@Glinner” was a byword for everything that was great about Twitter. It was one of those accounts you’d recommend to people when they joined. He was silly, interesting, personally engaged and funny, and he used his platform to support the NHS and campaign for abortion reform in Ireland. Then, at some point, he discovered that trans people were asking for basic acceptance, and it seemingly drove him to madness.

He started comparing gender affirming treatment to Nazi eugenics. He continually misgendered trans people and implied that claiming to be trans was often an excuse for men to get entry to women’s spaces – dismissing the overwhelming majority for whom this is simply untrue. He even attempted to block lottery funding going to charities that supported trans children.

In 2021, after several years of claiming that his actions were all about protecting women-only spaces, he joined a female and queer-only dating app so he could expose trans and non-binary members he felt weren’t feminine enough. Graham Linehan, you have to understand, is awful.

Like some irredeemable Irish Darth Vader, Linehan has become more hate machine than man: twisted and, if not evil, then certainly on the wrong side of history. After all, 2022 has seen a 56 per cent increase in reported hate crimes towards transgender people.

We are on the frontier of a crucial civil rights issue. The least Graham Linehan can do is shut the hell up and get out of the way.