Graham Linehan: what did Father Ted creator say on Nolan Live? Twitter ban and transphobic comments explained

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The Irish writer is best known for his sitcoms like Father Ted, Black Books and The IT Crowd

Graham Linehan, the Irish writer behind hit sitcom Father Ted, appeared on the BBC One TV show Nolan Live in which he said that his anti-transgender activism had “taken his family away”.

This is everything you need to know.

Who is Graham Linehan?

Linehan is an Irish TV writer and director, best known for creating or co-creating sitcoms like Father Ted, Black Books and The IT Crowd, and has written for other shows such as Motherland, Count Arthur Strong, The Walshes, Brass Eye, Big Train and The Armstrong and Miller Show.

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Linehan grew up in Dublin and attended Plunkett’s School in Whitehall before enrolling at Catholic University School, a private boys school in Dublin.

In the 1980s, Linehan worked as a critic for the politics and music magazine Hot Press, which is where he met his future partner in comedy Arthur Matthews.

Writer and director Graham Linehan at the 36th annual International Emmy Awards (Photo: Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images)Writer and director Graham Linehan at the 36th annual International Emmy Awards (Photo: Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images)
Writer and director Graham Linehan at the 36th annual International Emmy Awards (Photo: Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images) | Getty Images

Talking to the Independent in 2013, Linehan said that the two started writing sketches together, and “finally I was over in England writing for Select magazine and said to Arthur, “Why don’t we try to make a go of it?” and to my amazement he came over, which I still think is the single luckiest thing that happened to me”.

Throughout his career, Linehan made a number of cameos in the shows that he wrote for, as well as appearances in I’m Alan Partridge, The Day Today, Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace and Little Britain.

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In 2018, Linehan, along with Matthews, announced plans for a Father Ted musical, and in 2021 Linehan said that the musical was still being developed. The musical was intended to finish the series as it would have, prior to the death of lead star Dermot Morgan, however it has since been axed.

What has he said about transgender people?

Until his suspension from the platform in 2020, Linehan frequently posted on Twitter to criticise transgender people.

He first became involved in the topic when an episode of The IT Crowd, written by Linehan, drew backlash online over its storyline. In the episode, a character has a strong transphobic reaction when he finds out a woman that he is dating is transgender.

Linehan said that he thought that the joke was “harmless” and didn’t understand the “ferocity” of the response that it got.

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The writer said that he inserted himself into the conversation when he claimed he saw feminists being abused by transgender activists online.

Writer Graham Linehan during the first LGB Alliance annual conference at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in central London, 2021 (Photo: PA)Writer Graham Linehan during the first LGB Alliance annual conference at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in central London, 2021 (Photo: PA)
Writer Graham Linehan during the first LGB Alliance annual conference at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in central London, 2021 (Photo: PA) | PA

Talking to The Times in 2019, Linehan said: “I just became drawn into it because some of the positions were so obviously bad for women. There’s an ideology in it that erases women.”

Linehan has denied being transphobic, and told the Irish Times in 2019: “I don’t think I’m saying anything controversial. My position is that anyone suffering from gender dysphoria needs to be helped and supported.”

He went on to add that transgender activists “don’t realise the damage done” and said “some people don’t see the problem repeating the dogma [that] trans woman are women”. He added that he has a problem with “privileged white people saying you must accept anyone who says that they are a woman”.

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Linehan continued: “Some people have a seriously held belief that trans women are literally women. So if someone who identifies as a woman is attracted to a woman, they are considered a lesbian. There have been protests at pride parades in London and New Zealand, from lesbians who say this is affecting lesbians on the ground.”

He also said that “a lot of transgender people agree with me” and that he has “a number of friends who are trans, and they don’t agree with this dogma”.

In 2018, Linehan was issued a police warning after Stephanie Hayden, a transgender woman, reported him for defamation, harassment and misuse of private information. Hayden said that Linehan had continuously referred to her as “he”, and tweeted the name she had prior to transitioning and pictures from her pre-transition as well.

Linehan was visited by West Yorkshire Police and given a verbal warning to not contact Hayden again in the future.

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Graham Linehan attending the protest in Glasgow Green campaigning against proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act (Photo: PA)Graham Linehan attending the protest in Glasgow Green campaigning against proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act (Photo: PA)
Graham Linehan attending the protest in Glasgow Green campaigning against proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act (Photo: PA) | PA

In a radio interview, Linehan compared the transgender movement to “something terrible like Nazism”. During the interview, which was held on the American radio platform Resistance Radio, Linehan said that he feels compelling to speak out against the transgender movement because “it’s too important to the women in my life and it’s too important to me”.

He said: “I’m not in a position where I can now answer the question honestly of, if you were around the time of something terrible happening like Nazism, would you be one of the people who said, “This is wrong”, despite being opposed?

“I feel happy in myself that I’ve been one of the people standing up and saying, “No, this is wrong,” despite everyone telling me not to do it.”

The writer also said that the transgender movement “provides cover” for “fetishists, con-men, and simply abusive misogynists” and that “eventually people will break and realise this is just wrong”.

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In 2018, Linehan praised the anti-transgender protesters who attended London’s Pride event, and called them “heroes”.

 Graham Linehan repeatedly used Twitter to spread anti-transgender messages (Photo: Hollie Adams/Getty Images) Graham Linehan repeatedly used Twitter to spread anti-transgender messages (Photo: Hollie Adams/Getty Images)
Graham Linehan repeatedly used Twitter to spread anti-transgender messages (Photo: Hollie Adams/Getty Images) | Getty Images

He also attempted, in 2019, to have the £500,000 lottery grant that was to be awarded to the charity Mermaids, an organisation for transgender children and teenagers. Linehan attempted to rally the users of the website Mumsnet to have the National Lottery Community Fund retract the grant, however after a review, it went ahead. In response to Linehan, YouTuber Hbomberguy ran a 57-hour long fundraising campaign which raised a further £270,000 for the charity.

Appearing in an interview on BBC programme Newsnight in 2020, Linehan said that there are “parallels” between doctors treating young transgender children with treatments like puberty blockers to Nazi experiments.

When Linehan was asked if he was “seriously trying to say that children going to the doctor and saying they’re worried about their gender is akin to children being experimented on in Nazi concentration camps”, Linehan replied: “I’m afraid I am.”

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Following the interview, Linehan was criticised by Lord Eric Pickles, the UK special envoy for post-Holocaust issues, for trivialising the Holocaust.

Talking to Pink News, Pickles said: “Forced medical procedures conducted by the Nazis in concentration camps were vile experiments in eugenics, clinically pointless, indifferent to human life and tinged with sadism.”

It was in June 2020 that Linehan was permanently suspended from Twitter for “repeated violations of our rules against hateful conduct and platform manipulation”.

The suspension came after Linehan replied to a Women’s Institute post wishing a happy pride to all of their transgender members with: “Men aren’t women tho.”

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Linehan attempted to get around the suspension by creating a new account under the guise of a trans man.

Before that account was also banned, he called Colm O’Gorman, the executive director of Amnesty International Ireland, a “traitor to women, gay people and yourself” for signing an open letter from the Transgender Equality Network of Ireland.

The non-binary flag is yellow, white, purple and black (Photo: Hollie Adams/Getty Images)The non-binary flag is yellow, white, purple and black (Photo: Hollie Adams/Getty Images)
The non-binary flag is yellow, white, purple and black (Photo: Hollie Adams/Getty Images) | Getty Images

Linehan, in 2021, also created a fake account on the lesbian dating app Her and publicly posted screenshots from the app of users which were non-binary and trans women to his blog, stating that they should not be allowed on the app because they “are not lesbians”.

In response to Linehan, Her tweeted: “Let’s make this clear: HER is an app for ALL WOMEN and queer folx. It is not our, or anyone else’s place to question or invalidate another’s identity. We are here for ALL WOMEN including the trans community.”

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Linehan posted an “updated” version of his profile on the app in which he said: “As a lesbian and queer person (which now means straight), I’m appalled at this attempt to invalidate my identity.”

Linehans account was promptly deleted.

What did he say on Nolan Live?

Linehan appeared in an interview with BBC’s Stephen Nolan on Nolan Live, in which he spoke about his personal life following his years of online anti-transgender behaviour.

He said: “Before this, all I was going you know [was] writing comedy and playing board games and being silly on the internet, and then I just said, “Hang on a sec, stop calling these women terfs, stop sending them abuse, let them speak” and for that they just destroyed me.”

“Terfs” refers to the acronym “Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist”, which describes an anti-transgender facet of the femininsm movement.

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Linehan said that “they took everything from me” and that “they took my family”.

He had previously been married to writer Helen Serafinowicz and the two have two children together. It was revealed in 2021 that Linehan and Serafinowicz had separated.

What has the response been like?

The consensus online to Linehan’s appearance on Nolan Live is that that writer had “gotten what he deserved”.

One person wrote: “I can’t stop laughing at that video of Graham Linehan sobbing that he lost his family. Never before has someone gotten what they deserved and humiliated so publicly this is f**king awesome.”

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“Graham Linehan crying over losing his family because of his war on trans people is like seeing the grand wizard of the KKK losing his family because he’s racist. I literally do not care,” wrote another.

Podcaster and writer Owen Jones also wrote: “Graham Linehan has tearfully claimed that supporters of trans rights have taken his family away. I’m sorry, but that simply isn’t true. His *obsession* with trans people may have done that, but trans people didn’t force him to become obsessed with them.”

Deputy Metro Editor Ross McCafferty wrote: “It is, ironically, a spectacularly unfeminist argument to say that Graham Linehan has ‘lost’ his family because of his trans fight, assigning absolutely zero agency to his wife.”

YouTuber Ellen Rose tweeted: “Re Graham Linehan saying “they took my family”. No, trans people didn’t take your family. They didn’t kidnap them or force them to leave. Your family left of their own accord, due to your behaviour. I truly hope you can snap out of it, for your sake, but mostly for trans folk.”

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