Helen Joyce

From RationalWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Joyce speaking in 2018
It's a social construct
Icon gender.svg
Spectra and binaries
And in the meantime, while we’re trying to get through to the decision-makers, we have to try to limit the harm and that means reducing or keeping down the number of people who transition. That's for two reasons – one of them is that every one of those people is a person who's been damaged. But the second one is every one of those people is basically, you know, a huge problem to a sane world. [...] Whether they're happily transitioned, whether they're unhappily transitioned, whether they're detransitioned – if you've got people who've dissociated from their sex in some way, every one of those people is someone who needs special accommodation in a sane world where we re-acknowledge the truth of sex. [...] Those people deserve every accommodation we can possibly make, but every one of them is a difficulty.
—Joyce advocating the systematic elimination of trans people[1]

Helen Joyce (1968–) is an Irish journalist and former mathematician noted for her anti-trans writing and being porny on train.


Helen Janeith Joyce was born in Dublin, Ireland in July 1968, moving to the town of Bray at age eight.[2][3][4] She is the eldest of nine children, and the only one who isn't a cricketer.[2] Five of her siblings (Gus,Wikipedia Ed,Wikipedia Dominick,Wikipedia Isobel,Wikipedia and CeciliaWikipedia) have played the sport at an international level.[5][6][7] She was raised as a Roman Catholic, but has since become an atheist.[2]

Mathematician to journalist[edit]

At age 16, Joyce moved to England to pursue a career in dance, having been offered a place at a musical theatre school.[8] However, she dropped out after two years, realizing she wouldn't be happy as a professional dancer.[2][8] In 1987, she enrolled at Trinity College Dublin, receiving a BA in mathematics in 1991.[8] She went on to complete the notoriously intense course Part III of the Mathematical Tripos at the University of Cambridge.[8] This earned her a scholarship and a PhD place at the University College London.[8] She received a PhD in geometric measure theory in 1995.[8]

In 2000, having become interested in the "business of telling non-mathematicians about maths," Joyce joined a Cambridge-based maths education initiative called the Millennium Mathematics Project.[8] She spent two years developing puzzles for a partner project of the MMP that allowed mathematicians to interact with schools via video chat.[8] She was named editor of Plus Magazine in 2002, and became founding editor of Significance, the Royal Statistical Society's quarterly magazine, in 2004.[8]

However, after 11 years in the field of mathematics, Joyce "decided she didn't like it any more."[2] She entered journalism in 2005 as an education correspondent for the The Economist.[8][9] In 2010, she relocated to São Paulo, Brazil, where she was the paper's bureau chief until 2013.[8][9] Upon returning to the UK, she served as editor of the international section, and later of the finance section.[9] She left the paper on an unpaid one-year sabbatical in 2022.[9]

Anti-trans punditry[edit]

Drinking the anti-trans Kool-Aid[edit]

Joyce has stated that she first became aware of transgender issues after her editor at The Economist broached the topic during a "fateful lunchtime conversation" in 2017.[2][10] The editor wondered "why so many kids [are] identifying as trans or non-binary," which prompted Joyce to do some research and write an article that was, in her own shifting assessment, "70 or 80% successful" (2021) or "dreadful" (2022).[2][10] In 2018, for a programme celebrating The Economist's 175th anniversary, Joyce proposed the paper "do a debate on trans issues" in keeping with its principle of "open debate."[10] The series ran in July 2018 and featured pieces by both TERFs and trans-rights supporters, including Emily Brothers,Wikipedia Sarah Ditum,Wikipedia Debbie Hayton,Wikipedia and Kathleen Stock.[11]

In December 2018, Joyce abandoned this experiment with listening to both sides, publishing a screed in the far-right web-rag Quillette decrying "the new patriarchy" of "trans radicalism."[12] In a statement published by The Daily Dot, Zeke Stokes, chief programs officer of GLAAD,Wikipedia declared the piece "alarming" and expressed the view that "journalists have an ethical responsibility to hold an unbiased and fact-based opinion on all issues, but especially on sensitive issues."[13] Zach Ford of ThinkProgress, also quoted in the Daily Dot article, similarly called Joyce's journalistic objectivity into question, arguing that the essay collection she curated for The Economist had "justified publishing numerous anti-trans essays" containing "junk science and scaremongering" under the "guise of 'debate'."[13] Joyce maintained that GLAAD supplied the Daily Dot with a "dossier" as part of a harassment campaign against her by the UK board member she believes "co-opted" the organisation.[13]

Joyce became active in the gender-critical community on Twitter in late 2018 and early 2019.[13] In various tweets, she described the provision of gender-affirming care to trans children and youth as "child abuse," "unethical medicine," "mass experimentation," and a "global scandal."[13]

Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality[edit]

Writing and publication[edit]

By her own account, Joyce "went right down the rabbit hole" while on holiday in the summer of 2019, doing "nothing but think about [trans issues]" and "downloading books every night."[10] It was at this point that Joyce "realized that [she] had to write a book" on the subject even though she "still didn't know whether [she] was really ready" for the task.[10] Joyce has also stated that listening to a panel of detransitioners at the November 2019 launch of the Detransition Advocacy Network[note 1] was a key factor in motivating her to write a book.[10][14] As she told the TERF magazine The Radical Notion in a 2021 interview: "It was very straightforward: 'They are sterilizing gay kids. And if I write this book, they might sterilize fewer gay kids.'"[10]

Joyce reportedly "anticipated a rough ride" when putting together the book and faced difficulty in pitching it to publishers.[15] Her manuscript was eventually picked up by independent British publisher Oneworld.[15] It was released as Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality in 2021.[15] The book hit shelves around the same time as a bevy of similarly-subtitled anti-trans manifestos: Material Girls: Why Reality Matters for Feminism by Kathleen Stock,[15] and Hidden Agender: Transgenderism's Struggle Against Reality by Gerard Casey,Wikipedia[15] and Expelli-sexus!: The Reality-Distorting Spell of Gender by Robert Galbraith.[note 2] Trans was met with praise by the trans-hostile UK press, receiving favourable reviews from The Evening Standard,[16] The Times,[17] The Telegraph,[18] The Scotsman,[19] and New Statesman.[20]

The book debuted at number seven on The Sunday Times list of bestselling general hardbacks,[21] remaining in the top ten – at number 10 – for another week before dropping off.[22][23] The book also became a top-ten bestseller on Amazon in the UK.[15]

Claims of 'cancellation'[edit]

Despite the positive sales figures, Joyce's fans became convinced that Waterstones shops were "suppressing sales," reporting that would-be readers were often "obliged to special order" because locations had "one or two copies at most," which were allegedly "shelved in bizarre locations like media studies or stashed under the counter."[15][note 3] Stock amplified these speculations in the Daily Mail, stating that she had been contacted by people claiming Waterstones staff had informed them Trans was "out of print", had a "short print run", or "even that it was being kept behind the counter out of respect for a trans colleague because it was a hate book."[24] Waterstones' official response stated it was "not true that [they were] boycotting the book" and that "stock was low initially as sales exceeded expectations."[24]

Joyce further claimed that she had been snubbed by the BBC radio programme Woman's Hour due to an apparent editorial decision not to mention Trans on air.[24][25] The BBC responded with an official statement declaring that "our wide-ranging book coverage often includes interviews with authors, but of course, we can’t feature them all."[24][25]

UnHerd announced in early 2022 that they would be holding a debate between Joyce and American trans academic Grace Lavery in London that April.[26] Lavery pulled out of the engagement after receiving a wave of online harassment from transphobes, including having misappropriated private photosWikipedia of "consensual, loving and mildly kinky sex" with her husband sent to her mother.[27][28] On February 20, the Twitter user @F4bP4m, a transphobe and supporter of the 2022 far-right Canadian "trucker convoy"[29], suggested that Lavery be barred from entering the UK despite being a British-American dual citizen, alleging she intended to "incite public order offences" on a tour promoting her memoir in the UK.[27][28][30] Lavery fired back with a sarcastic tweet stating "oh I hope the queen dies also."[27][28] This lead to her account being mass-reported by TERFs and permanently suspended by Twitter.[27][28][31]

In July 2023, it was reported that a single West Yorkshire library district had moved Trans, Abigail Shrier's Irreversible Damage, and several other anti-trans books into storage.[32] In other words, the books may still be "found in the catalogue and specifically requested" by anyone wishing to borrow them, but are no longer conveniently housed on library shelves.[32] Asked for comment by the Telegraph, Joyce decried the "little tinpot censors" who allegedly feel obliged to "educate those they think of as racists, homophobes, colonialists, and transphobes."[32] She claimed that cancel culture can be seen in the "insidious stifling of dissent around the edges, whether it's deplatforming, or hiding books."[32] Curiously, she had nothing to say about the all-out war against libraries in the U.S., where books with LGBT themes have represented the bulk of the huge spike in book bans and challenges in 2022-2023, and five states have passed laws threatening librarians with fines or jail for supplying "obscene" or "sexual" (read: LGBT-positive) material to minors.[33][34][35][36]

Criticism of Joyce's evidence and arguments[edit]

In a double review of Trans and Kathleen Stock's Material Girls for the blog Critical Legal Thinking, law professor Alex Sharpe wrote that both books "set themselves against trans rights activism" and thus "advance broader toxic politics that embolden the Christian right, free-speech absolutism, and government attacks on higher education."[37] Sharpe deemed Trans to be "clearly the weaker book," highlighting the contrast between Joyce's "zealous, born again" writing style and Stock's "forensic, Jesuit-like" approach, but found both authors united in "their mission to slay 'sacred cows.'"[37] She particularly took issue with the standard of evidence presented by Joyce in her book: "[Trans] is poorly referenced, contains a great deal of anecdote, draws conclusions barely supported by evidence, fails to weigh evidence properly, or to consider fully or at all counter evidence even where such evidence accords with medical or other consensus."[37] As an example of Joyce's favouring of "outlying figures to medical consensus," Sharpe cited the book's uncritical presentation of the "debunked theory" of rapid-onset gender dysphoria, as well as its reliance on "sexological outlier" Ray Blanchard's "discredited theory" of autogynephilia.[37]

Reviewing Trans, Material Girls, and Julie Bindel's Feminism for Women for the Los Angeles Review of Books, academic Grace Lavery judged Joyce's book "by far the least credible of the three."[38] Lavery determined that Joyce and Stock, unlike Bindel, have "relatively little training in feminist theory," but have nonetheless emerged as thought-leaders of "perhaps the dominant trend in contemporary British philosophy."[38] She found that Joyce, in particular, ignored the long and complex history of feminist discourse on gender, leading to an "emphasis on the novelty of the position [she] calls 'gender self-identification' underpin[ing]" much of Trans.[38] Lavery likened this to Joyce having "wandered into a classroom during the penultimate lecture of the course, declared that feminist philosophy as such is garbage, demanded the right to deliver the final lecture herself, and inexplicably been granted it."[38] She more pointedly characterised the book as an "incoherent set of vapid polemics by an author of singular incuriosity."[38]

A review of Trans by Publishers Weekly branded the book an "alarmist treatise" and a "one-sided takedown," finding that "Joyce's unwillingness to take the claims of trans people seriously undermines her arguments," and that "her talk of the billionaires, academics, and profit-hungry healthcare companies behind 'gender-identity ideology' has elements of conspiracy thinking."[39]

Even the American journalist Jesse Singal, infamous for churning out think-pieces expressing his not-at-all ideologically-motivated concerns about gender identity, judged Trans to be "very thin on citations" in a New York Times review that otherwise hailed the book as an "intelligent, thorough rejoinder to an idea that has swept across much of the liberal world seemingly overnight."[40] Gaby Hinsliff, writing for The Guardian, similarly found "some curious holes" in Joyce's book, while otherwise expressing identification with or at least understanding of "gender-critical thinkers."[41] She lamented that Joyce had produced an "exasperated polemic" accusing "activists" of "so aggressively overreaching" as to incite a "backlash" against "ordinary trans people", opining that the book would have "benefited from fewer pages of highly contentious speculation about what makes people trans" and "more interviews with policymakers, activists, the ordinary trans people she considers misrepresented."[41]

Allegations of antisemitism[edit]

Joyce has come under fire for a passage in Trans that advances the conspiracy theory that "a few wealthy people" have "shaped the global agenda" through charitable giving:[37][42]

A movement that focuses on the levers of power rather than building grassroots support is one in which a few wealthy people can have considerable sway. They have shaped the global agenda by funding briefing documents, campaign groups, research and legal actions; endowing university chairs; and influencing health-care protocols.

One is an American transwoman billionaire, Jennifer [deadname] PritzkerWikipedia,[note 4] a retired soldier, and one of the heirs to a vast family fortune. Pritzker's personal foundation, Tawani, makes grants to universities, the ACLU, GLAAD, HRC and smaller activist groups. To cite a couple of examples, in 2016 it gave the University of Victoria $2 million to endow a chair of trans-gender studies, and throughout the 'bathroom wars' it supported Equality Illinois Education, which is linked to a group campaigning for gender self-ID in the state.

Two other billionaires, neither transgender, also spend lavishly on transactivism.[sic] One is Jon Stryker,Wikipedia another heir to a fortune. His foundation, Arcus, supports LGBT campaign ILGA, and Transgender Europe, which channels funding to national self-ID campaigns. Arcus funds the LGBT Movement Advancement Project which tracks gender-identity advocacy in dozens of countries (and partners with President Biden's personal foundation, which promotes early childhood transition).

[The passage continues in this manner before inevitably revealing that "the third billionaire funder of transactivism is George Soros."]

Critics have pointed out that at least two[note 5] of the three billionaires named by Joyce are Jewish.[37][43][44] In a statement on her website, Joyce rejected the allegation that she believes a "cabal of Jewish billionaires is funding transactivism," stating she did not "deliberately select three Jewish donors," as it had "never occurred to [her] to think about their religions."[45] Sharpe countered in her review of Trans that Joyce ought to have paid "more thought to the selection of wealthy funders" given that "her thesis of a 'global agenda'" is a "classic anti-semitic trope."[37]

Aaron Rabinowitz of The Skeptic linked Joyce's claims concerning the billionaires allegedly "behind the trans agenda" to similar claims made by Jennifer Bilek in a 2018 piece for conservative site The Federalist.[42] Bilek's piece asserted that the trans-rights movement is a front for a transhumanist Big Pharma plot to lure people into a "lifetime of anti-body medical treatments" and a "never-ending saga of body-related consumerism."[42][46] Bilek wrote a similar screed in the Catholic magazine First Things in 2020.[47] Joyce encouraged her Twitter followers to "have a look at Jennifer Bilek's pieces" on the "billionaire funders of transactivism" in January 2021.[42] After the release of Trans in July 2021, Bilek published an article on her blog accusing Joyce of having "used [her] work without attribution," positing that she hoped to avoid the "taint" of "the anti-semitism" and "the conspiracy theorist."[42][48] Joyce has denied Bilek's charge of plagiarism and stated that she unfollowed Bilek on Twitter after she "noticed her speculating about (of course non-existent) links between Judaism and transgenderism."[42][45] Bilek stated on Facebook in January 2021 that she learned of the so-called "jewish[sic] aspect" of the "transgender/transhumanist agenda" from a video by Irish neo-Nazi Keith Woods.[49][50][51] Bilek's claims are cited in Scott Howard's rabidly antisemitic 2020 book The Transgender Industrial Complex.[52][53] The words "Jew" and "Jewish" occur 1,128 times in Howard's book.[54] Howard's publisher, Antelope Hill, mostly reprints old Nazi propaganda.[52][53][55]

Journalist Katelyn Burns called attention to Joyce's incorrect assertion in Trans that George Soros donated $100 million to the pro-LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign in 2010.[56] This seems to have been the result of Joyce confusing the HRC with an actual 2010 donation by Soros to the similarly-named but unrelated Human Rights Watch.[57] Joyce downplayed her blunder as a "minor factual error" corrected in the book's third printing.[45] However, she claimed that because Soros "does fund the HRC" through his Open Society FoundationsWikipedia and the "HRW does campaign for gender self-identification," the correction "makes no difference to [her] point" that "rich individuals and foundations pour money" into trans-rights campaigns.[45] Joyce also highlighted a "multi-million-dollar" donation to the ACLU by OSF in the paragraph about Soros in Trans. ACLU lawyer Chase Strangio noted that this donation was targeted at U.S. prison reform rather than LGBT causes.[58][59] Sharpe, in her Critical Legal Thinking review, called out Joyce for misleadingly presenting donations to "broader LGBT (eg. GLAAD)," "human rights (eg. HRC)," and "civil rights organisations (eg. ACLU)" without showing how much money was specifically allocated toward advancing trans rights.[37]

False narrative of oppression[edit]

In her review of Trans, Sharpe objected to Joyce's attempt to "spin a tale of 'gender critical' hobbits" taking on a "powerful trans cabal backed by billionaires," stating that this David-and-Goliath framing "serve[s] to diminish the harsh realities of being trans in Britain today."[37] Studies have consistently found that trans people on both sides of the Atlantic experience increased rates of poverty,[60][61][62] homelessness,[63][64] unemployment,[61][62][65][66][67][68] and employment discrimination.[66][67][69][70] This grim reality hasn't stopped TERFs (including billionaire J.K. Rowling) from declaring trans acceptance to be a bougie "luxury belief."[71][72][73]

Tucker Lieberman, in a Medium piece examining the dust jacket blurb of Trans, found the double standard set up by its copy to be illustrative of Joyce's moral philosophy:[74]

People are being shamed and silenced for attempting to understand the consequences of redefining 'man' and 'woman' according to feelings rather than facts. And while compassion for transgender lives is essential, it is stifling much-needed inquiry into the significance of our bodies, especially with regard to women's rights, fairness in sport, same-sex attraction and children's development.

Lieberman argued that this framework creates a feedback loop in which cis people "complain that transgender people are focused on their own feelings when they should be thinking or relating in some other way," face criticism from transgender people who dispute "whatever exactly it was that the cisgender people said about them," and finally "feel shame at having been disagreed with, and their negative feelings are an unacceptable outcome of the interaction."[74] In plainer terms, Lieberman held that Joyce is implicitly "telling us whose feelings matter" with her framing, with her conclusion being that "cisgender feelings matter more than transgender feelings."[74] Compassion for the trans community, in Lieberman's inventory of Joyce's worldview, is "anti-intellectual", "a chilling effect", and "otherwise obstructionist", posing a "problem" for the advancement of "science and debate."[74]

Views on the LGB part of the rainbow[edit]

Treating LGB people as rhetorical props[edit]

Weaving a cotton ceiling[edit]

Like many in the anti-trans movement, Joyce professes support for gay, lesbian, and bisexual people when she needs convenient rhetorical props and wants to look less narrow-minded. In November 2019, she penned a piece for Quillette singing the praises of the then-newly-founded pretend gay-rights group LGB Alliance, arguing that it was being unfairly attacked by the "ultra-woke homophobes" of the "self-described progressive left".[75] According to Joyce, this was because the group acknowledges the "importance of biological sex as a driver of attraction," thus making it guilty of "that grave modern thoughtcrime, transphobia."[75] In Joyce's view, the shift toward trans acceptance has lead to the "quasi-spiritual" and "indefinable internal essence" of gender identity replacing biological sex, resulting in the "logical consequence" of same-sex attraction being perceived as bigotry.[75] The notion that radical activists are trying to bully and shame cis lesbians and cis gay men into accepting trans partners they don't want is a common anti-trans scare story.[76]

On September 9, 2022, the first day of a hearing challenging the charitable status of the LGB Alliance due to its doing more anti-trans political lobbying than LGB charity work, Joyce again invoked the "cotton ceiling" in a series of tweets:[77][78]

My dear friends Kate Harris & Bev Jackson, & all the other gay people who demand the right to define their sexuality with no reference to the tenets of gender-identity ideology are being dragged to a costly and vexatious hearing by MermaidsWikipedia and the Good Law Project,Wikipedia who argue, outrageously, that advocating for people who are solely attracted to others of the sane[sic] sex (not the same declared gender identity) is inherently bigoted and hateful. This is profoundly homophobic. We straight people are relatively immune to the pressure to pretend that words in someone else's head can magically turn them into the sex we find attractive. We're the majority. It's lesbians above all who come under this vile, rapey pressure and I t’s[sic] the kids who are likely to grow up gay who are disproportionately being misled by gender-identity ideology, online and in schools, into thinking they need to change their body to rectify their gender non-conformity. So today I am rooting for LGBA, against this mischievous action by 2 groups against a 3rd that shows up their ugly ideology, & which they seek to silence.

I'm not homophobic, but…[edit]

See the main article on this topic: I'm not prejudiced, but...

In a September 2021 tweet, Joyce responded to a mixed review of her book by Washington Examiner critic Ryan T. Anderson, affirming that she "ardently supported gay marriage"[note 6] but doesn't believe its "opponents are thereby homophobes."[79] The review by Anderson, a prominent opponent of same-sex marriage, took issue with Joyce's "rhetoric about 'homophobes' and 'homophobia'", holding that it "abets the very same social and cultural forces that accuse her of being a 'transphobe.'"[80] He further charged that Joyce was a hypocrite for branding opponents of "the legal redefinition of marriage" as bigots while maintaining that opponents of "the legal redefinition of sex" have been "unfairly maligned."[80]

Joyce once again invoked the fact that she supports same-sex marriage as a pre-emptive defence against homophobia in a January 2022 tweet expressing how "enormously grateful" she was for the ruling against "legally compelled speech" in Lee v Ashers Baking CompanyWikipedia.[81] This 2018 case, as its name likely suggests, was Britain's very own "gay cake" Supreme Court decision, and had the same finding as its American cousin Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights CommissionWikipedia.[82]

While discussing how "trans activism" is supposedly creating "loopholes [...] that pedophiles can exploit" and "riding roughshod over child safeguarding," Joyce drew a "parallel" to the alleged "infiltration of gay-lib movements in the 70s."[13][83]

Views on conversion therapy[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Conversion therapy

Transing away the gay[edit]

Joyce has espoused the anti-trans myth that gender-affirmative approaches are actually homophobic attempts to "trans away the gay." In her book Trans, she argues that bans on conversion therapy restrict how therapists may approach young gender-dysphoric patients, legally compelling them to "reinforce their cross-sex identity" at risk of criminal penalties.[84] Joyce claims this means that "more gender non-conforming children" are placed on an inevitable path toward being "socially transitioned and put on puberty blockers and then cross-sex hormones," asserting that these children are "much more likely than the average to grow up gay, as long as they are left in peace to work that out themselves."[84]

Joyce brought up the "transing away the gay" canard in a July 2021 interview on the podcast of British TERF group FiLiA:[14]

But at this event [the 2019 launch of the Detransition Advocacy Network], it was actually all girls, young women – although there are boy de-transitioners too – this, in fact, was all of the lesbians who had, as many gay people do, have been very high gender nonconforming in their early childhood. And in every case basically misinterpreted that gender nonconformity meaning that they were trans, they had removed breasts, they had taken testosterone, someone had lost hair on their heads and had facial hair. A couple of them had had hysterectomy, which has very large effects on your health. And none of which they were told about. My mother had a hysterectomy in her forties or fifties for fibroids, and she wasn't well for a year afterwards, it's a big operation and you know, a 21-year-old has this done and it's meant to make her feel wonderful. And then to affirm her manhood.

So I just sat there listening, and I'd never seen anything so powerful. And I have relatives who are gay. I have young gay relatives and I care a great deal about them. I care a great deal with they[sic] aren't misled into what I see as a conversion therapy. And so at the end of that, I feel well, it's simple. I have to write the book. It doesn't matter what happens because of writing. It doesn't matter if I have to self-publish it. It doesn't matter anything. I just have to write it because I've seen that they're sterilising gay kids. And when you've seen that, it comes with a responsibility. And it's a journalistic responsibility. Somebody has told you their story and you have to pass it on.

At face value, Joyce's concern for the bodily integrity and reproductive rights of gay people appears to be a progressive, anti-eugenicist position. However, its disingenuity is laid bare by the fact that many anti-trans advocates, including Joyce, oppose shifting to a self-identification framework for changing one's legal sex, preferring the process remain highly medicalised (if they support transitioning at all).[85] Many jurisdictions require bottom surgery as a condition of granting a change of one's legal sex (or did so until fairly recently), thus effectively placing many trans people under a government-imposed policy of compulsory sterilisationWikipedia.[86][87][88][89]

From a 2021 interview with Jane Clare Jones of The Radical Notion, it's clear that Joyce's objections to affirmative approaches centre less on gay people, and more on fertility loss and its perceived negative impact:[10]

Jones: There's something about the denial of our animality in this entire discourse, which I find very distressing, because the denial of our animality is a source of a great deal of dis-ease,[sic] I think.

Joyce: Yes, and of missing out on so many of the pleasures of life. I'm a very intellectual person, I spend all my time in my head thinking to myself. But even I understand that what makes life worth living is the smell of my babies when they were born, and touching my mother when I see her again after a long time. And these people, they're telling small children a grotesque lie. I think a lot of those children actually believe that they can change sex; I don't think they understand what your average middle-aged trans person does understand, which is that you can't and that it may still be worth it because they've been so unhappy. There are trans people who undergo these bodily changes and feel a bit better. That's not what the children are being sold. The children are being sold the story that you can change sex. Children don't understand that people vary at the cellular level; they think it is about the clothes or the hair. [Boys] don't understand that they are going to be turned into a simulacrum of a woman that will probably be quite convincing if you start puberty blockers early enough, but they're going to be sterile and probably not have sexual function either.

Jones: [Irrelevant attack on named trans author redacted] I mean, I thought as a society we had all agreed that sterilizing people was a human rights violation. And now you are painting us all as pearl-clutchers, as if only people with the most conservative instincts could be concerned about sterilizing children.

Joyce: It is a massive human rights violation. And when it's been done in the past – like when they non-consensually sterilized black women in America, or in Sweden, when they sterilized people they regarded as 'mentally subnormal,' or, going back further, women who were regarded as being 'ungovernable' – we recognize those things as the most serious category of human rights abuse. And yet, we're actually doing it and we're celebrating it as well. [Parents] get to be interviewed in newspapers and on television, and they get cheered on, and they're sterilizing their children. At age three your child has been put on a path to being a simulacrum of the opposite sex, but they're not going to be a fully functioning human being, if by that you mean somebody who understands their own body, listens to it, has sexual function, is able to have a child if that's what they choose to do. And by the way, the positioning of wanting to have a child as some sort of frivolous thing that no feminist could possibly want to protect … I mean, it's the central fact of my life that I have two children. I also have a PhD in maths and a big job, but I care about the children more than the rest.

In a November 2021 appearance on the YouTube channel Keep Talking, Joyce asserted that puberty blockers are a "massive, massive medical scandal" in which "troubled children" – a category in which she places autistic and gay youth – are being set up for a grim future as "sexless creature[s]" who are sterile and incapable of orgasm.[90] She repeated this claim during an August 2022 interview on Spiked editor Brendan O'Neill'sWikipedia podcast: "And what's happening is children are being sterilised because critics of gender ideology have not been allowed to speak out."[91]

Legitimising "prehomosexuality"[edit]

Joyce claimed in March 2022 that "We've known for many decades that some pre-gay kids are hyper gender non-conforming."[92] Prehomosexuality is a rather obscure term used in conversion therapy literature and promoted by the Christian Right as well as the "ex-gay" movement for that purpose.[93][94] It indicates a child who engages in behavior that is societally considered gender-nonconforming.[95][96] Conversion therapists encourage parents to monitor children for "prehomosexuality" and, if detected, put their so-called "prehomosexual" children through efforts to change their gender-nonconforming behavior in order to (ostensibly) prevent homosexuality from emerging.[97][98]

Though Joyce's word choice mentioned above may seem minor, it becomes more questionable in light of the fact that she has also misrepresented the work of Richard Green,Wikipedia[99] who was involved with similar conversion therapy efforts (he is also cited in a section of A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality about monitoring for "signs of prehomosexuality"). In fact, J. Michael Bailey and Kenneth Zucker are two of his colleagues (especially at the Archives of Sexual Behavior journal that Green founded) who were influential in building a concept of childhood "prehomosexuality".[95]

As for Green's own research, he is quoted in one case as having encouraged a young boy to cease his girlish behavior; he told the boy that "if he continues to do sissy things… he won't have many friends, and people will make fun of him… he'll be very unhappy."[100] In another paper co-authored with John Money, Green stated, "part of the successful rearing of a child is orienting him, from birth, to his biologically and culturally acceptable gender role."[101] In one other case, Green stated that his goal with a child's parents "was to discourage any support of his cross-gender behaviors, and to encourage boyish behaviors".[102] Later in life, one of Green's patients recalls that his treatment instilled "a kind of self-hatred and a loss of a sense of who I really was. I learned to hide myself, to make myself invisible, even to myself. I learned that who I was, was wrong."[99][103] Despite this evidence to the contrary, Joyce claims that, in fact, Richard Green "tried hard to persuade the parents of his 'sissy boys' to be accepting".[104][105]

Steamy ride on the Hogwarts Express[edit]

On February 27, 2024, Twitter user @dschw89 posted a thread about having encountered Joyce and "two other leaders" of Sex Matters on a train the previous night.[106][107][108][109] The user described having covertly watched Joyce working on "some online doc about 'same sex spaces'" on her phone before eventually switching tabs to "Harry Potter fanfic porn."[106] They included a photograph in which the text "he kept pumping" was visible in the very large font that Joyce was using to read.[106]

The fanfic turned out to be a sexually-explicit Draco/Hermione story[note 7] posted to FanFiction.net in 2019.[106][107][108][109] Dschw89's thread quickly went viral, fuelling criticism and mockery of Joyce.[108] Sex Matters whipped out a press release claiming that Joyce has "done a great deal of research" into how young people supposedly "develop trans identities."[110] According to the statement, Joyce has explored the "significant role of fan fiction" in this alleged transification process, having written about the subject in a December 2022 post on her personal blog.[110][111] (The press release also cited a 2016 article on slash fictionWikipedia that Joyce wrote for The Economist a year before she developed an interest in trans issues.[111]) Joyce took to Twitter to confirm she has an "ongoing research project" concerning the purported influence of fanfic in "young women's adoption of trans identities."[112] Gemma Stone of Trans Writes linked Joyce's claims to past anti-trans conspiracy theories blaming the existence of trans youth on "everything from Disney films, to anime, to pronouns in email signatures."[109]

Although Joyce reportedly "casually retweet[ed]" J.K. Rowling while "scrolling porn,"[106] the author has remained conspicuously silent on her fall from grace. In 2005, Rowling expressed exasperation with Draco fangirls in an interview, accusing them of falling prey to the "romantic, but unhealthy, and unfortunately all too common delusion" of being able to reform bad boys.[113]

See also[edit]


  1. The Detransition Advocacy Network (TDAN) was launched to great fanfare in November 2019 with the stated aim of "support[ing] people who have stopped the process of gender reassignment." The Feminist Current reported that over 200 people "packed inside a secret location" in Manchester for the group's launch event. Co-founder Charlie Evans told Sky News that "hundreds" of people had reached out to her seeking help. The group crowdfunded just under £1000 to set up a website. This website was defunct within a year and TDAN hasn't been heard from since.
  2. The existence of this last book is a reality distortion. To be clear: J.K. Rowling has not written this book. Nor has she published any non-fiction book about trans people. Yet.
  3. These are not unusual experiences for anyone who regularly frequents bookshops. What section books end up shelved in can seem like a total mystery to anyone without a library scienceWikipedia degree. A book about historical European queens might be found under biography, history, or women's studies, depending on its focus, tone, or the arbitrary marketing whims of its publisher. Bookshops generally only stock one or two copies of niche titles if they carry them at all. This is the capitalist market at work, not some sinister "woke" conspiracy. Physical shelf space in stores is limited. Books that don't sell take up space that could be occupied by books that do.
  4. Joyce deadnamed Pritzker.
  5. Sources seem to vary as to whether Jon Stryker is Jewish. The Times of Israel included Stryker in a list of prominent "Jewish donors" in the 2012 U.S. presidential election. Sharpe states in a footnote of her Critical Legal Thinking review that "Jon Stryker is not Jewish." In a piece for Tortoise Media promoting his own anti-trans "satire" novel, author Simon EdgeWikipedia asserted that he had failed to find "any suggestion that Stryker is Jewish," reporting that Stryker's "paternal grandfather had his funeral at the United Church of Christ, and Stryker's mother was the daughter of missionaries in China."
  6. The use of past tense, viewed in relation to Joyce declaring "pride" in the success of the 2015 referendum on same-sex marriageWikipedia in her native Ireland in the same tweet, likely indicates that she considers the issue a settled matter no longer requiring her active support.
  7. Due to being set during the pair's final year at Hogwarts, the story has been labelled "child porn", "porn of teenagers," and "underage Harry Potter erotica." Seventh-year Hogwarts students are generally seventeen. However, according to the internal chronology of the series, Hermione's birthday falls just after the start of term. This means Hermione would've been eighteen for most of her seventh year (which, canonically, she didn't attend). Draco turned eighteen near the end of his seventh year, but under wizard law, the age of majority is seventeen. Pointless trivia aside, it's worth asking whether trans-rights supporters presently fomenting a moral panic over fan fiction, a genre reportedly favored by queer writers, are getting a good dunk on a silly TERF or handing weapons to an anti-trans lobby eager to restrict LGBT content. A crusade launched by the religious-right group Warriors for Innocence lead to the collapse of numerous fanfic-oriented communities on LiveJournal in 2007.


  1. Patrick Kelleher, "'Gender critical' author Helen Joyce says she wants to 'reduce' number of trans people: 'Chilling'", Pink News, 3 June 2022
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 "Helen Joyce in conversation with Sir Partha Dasgupta, Caius College Cambridge, 25 October 2022" on YouTube
  3. "Helen Janeith Joyce", Mathematics Genealogy ProjectWikipedia
  4. Birth month from the government record of the Straight Statistics lobby group that Joyce served as a director of from March 2009-March 2010.
  5. James Fitzgerald, "The Cricket Family Joyce", Irish Times, 15 August 2006
  6. Tim Wigmore, "The first family of cricket", The Cricket Monthly, June 2016
  7. "Meet the lawyer who opens the batting for Ireland", The Law Society Gazette, 6 April 2018
  8. 8.00 8.01 8.02 8.03 8.04 8.05 8.06 8.07 8.08 8.09 8.10 Marianne Freiberger, "Career interview: Brazil correspondent, The Economist", Plus Magazine, 12 July 2010
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 "Editorial directory", The Economist, archived on 7 September 2022
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 10.6 10.7 Jane Clare Jones, "'Someone Has to Be the Someone': An Interview With Helen Joyce", The Radical Notion, Summer 2021
  11. Helen Joyce, "After two weeks, our transgender identity series comes to a close", The Economist, 31 July 2018
  12. Helen Joyce, "The New Patriarchy: How Trans Radicalism Hurts Women, Children—and Trans People Themselves", Quillette, 4 December 2018
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 Nico Lang, "Editor’s history of calling trans people 'frauds' shines light on Economist's transphobic tweet", The Daily Dot, 26 March 2019
  14. 14.0 14.1 "#152 Helen Joyce on Trans", FiLiA, 12 July 2021
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 15.4 15.5 15.6 Lionel Shriver, "Trans purity test has lost touch with reality", The Times, 6 August 2021
  16. Stella O'Malley, "Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality by Helen Joyce review: A tour de force", Evening Standard, 12 July 2021
  17. David Aaronovitch, "Trans by Helen Joyce review — Women exist! The facts of biology trump ideology", The Times, 16 July 2021
  18. Kathleen Stock, "Toddlers transitioning, male rapists in women's prisons: this is the book you need to read about trans activism", The Telegraph, 18 July 2021
  19. Susan Dalgety, "Dear Nicola Sturgeon, please read this plea from a sister feminist about the trans debate – Susan Dalgety", The Scotsman, 16 July 2021
  20. Louise Perry, "It’s still possible to 'cancel' gender-critical feminists, but this strategy won't work", New Statesman, 28 July 2021
  21. "The Sunday Times Bestsellers List — the UK’s definitive book sales chart", The Sunday Times, 23 July 2021
  22. "The Sunday Times Bestsellers List — the UK’s definitive book sales chart", The Sunday Times, 30 July 2021
  23. "Times Bestsellers List — the UK’s definitive book sales chart", The Sunday Times, 6 August 2021
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 24.3 Chris Hastings, "Bestselling author who accuses the trans lobby of trying to 'supplant biology' says she has been cancelled by the BBC and Waterstones", The Daily Mail, 28 August 2021
  25. 25.0 25.1 Vic Parsons, "BBC rejects claim it ‘cancelled’ and ‘boycotted’ anti-trans author Helen Joyce", PinkNews, 31 August 2021
  26. "UnHerd Live: Seeking a Way Through the Gender Wars", UnHerd
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 27.3 Maggie Baska, "Trans author Grace Lavery left ‘terrified’ after so-called ‘gender critics’ target her mother", PinkNews, 28 February 2022
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 28.3 Sasha Baker, "Grace Lavery: The Author and Academic Confronting Transphobia, Vice, 8 April 2022
  29. https://web.archive.org/web/20220220054817/https://twitter.com/F4bP4m/status/1495273562889986050
  30. Archived copies of the original Twitter thread (1, 2)
  31. Daisy Stephens, "Professor suspended from Twitter after tweeting she hoped the Queen dies", LBC, 23 February 2022
  32. 32.0 32.1 32.2 32.3 Craig Simpson, "Gender-critical books hidden by 'tinpot censor' librarians", The Telegraph, 31 July 2023
  33. Richard Hall and Alex Woodward, "The book ban surge gripping America’s schools and libraries", The Independent, 24 April 2023
  34. Matt Lavietes, "Over half of 2022's most challenged books have LGBTQ themes", NBC News, 25 April 2023
  35. Hannah Natanson, "Objection to sexual, LGBTQ content propels spike in book challenges", The Washington Post, 23 May 2023
  36. Hannah Natanson, "School librarians face a new penalty in the banned-book wars: Prison", The Washington Post, 18 May 2023
  37. 37.0 37.1 37.2 37.3 37.4 37.5 37.6 37.7 37.8 Alex Sharpe, "Review of Helen Joyce’s Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality (London: Oneworld, 2021) pp 311 RP: £16.99; and Kathleen Stock’s Material Girls: Why Reality Matters for Feminism (London: Fleet, 2021) pp 312 RP: £16.99.", Critical Legal Thinking, 8 October 2021
  38. 38.0 38.1 38.2 38.3 38.4 Grace Lavery, "Criticism Versus Gender Abolition: On Three Recent Books About Gender", Los Angeles Review of Books, 31 July 2023
  39. "Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality", Publisher's Weekly, 2 July 2021
  40. Jesse Singal, "Trans Rights and Gender Identity", The New York Times, 7 September 2021
  41. 41.0 41.1 Gaby Hinsliff, "Trans by Helen Joyce; Material Girls by Kathleen Stock – reviews", The Guardian, 18 July 2021
  42. 42.0 42.1 42.2 42.3 42.4 42.5 Aaron Rabinowitz, "Fears of creeping transhumanism give space for overt conspiracism in Gender Critical communities", The Skeptic, 25 February 2022
  43. Miles Klee, "The Dangerous Alliance of TERFs and Men's Hate Groups", Mel Magazine, 6 August 2021
  44. Larry Yudelson, "'Are you Jewish?'", Jewish Standard, 29 September 2021
  45. 45.0 45.1 45.2 45.3 Helen Joyce, "A rebuttal", 27 July 2021
  46. Jennifer Bilek, "Who Are the Rich, White Men Institutionalizing Transgender Ideology?", The Federalist, 20 February 2018
  47. Jennifer Bilek, "The Billionaires Behind the LGBT Movement", First Things, 21 January 2020
  48. Jennifer Bilek, "Breaking and Entering?", 23 July 2021
  49. http://www.facebook.com/groups/628098324376783/posts/739794973207117/
  50. https://web.archive.org/web/20220713013443/https://twitter.com/christapeterso/status/1366490272637444096
  51. https://web.archive.org/web/20230713105626/https://twitter.com/soundmigration/status/1629759970781675522/
  52. 52.0 52.1 James Finn, "The Transgender Industrial Complex: Racist, Anti Semitic Nonsense", 3 December 2020
  53. 53.0 53.1 Brynn Tannehill, "The Far Right and Anti-Trans Movements’ Unholy Alliance", Dame Magazine, 24 June 2021
  54. Maëlys McArdle, "Comically uninformed books about trans people," 14 January 2022
  55. Lee Leveille, "The Mechanisms of TAnon: Where it Came From", Heath Liberation Now!, 5 July 2021
  56. https://web.archive.org/web/20220306202824/https://twitter.com/transscribe/status/1416757764043513859
  57. Ed Pilkington, "George Soros gives $100 million to Human Rights Watch", The Guardian, 7 September 2010
  58. https://web.archive.org/web/20210718142013/https://twitter.com/chasestrangio/status/1416764676407431168
  59. ACLU, "ACLU Awarded $50 Million by Open Society Foundations to End Mass Incarceration", 7 November 2014
  60. Jamiles Lartey, "Risk of poverty and suicide far higher among transgender people, survey finds", The Guardian, 8 December 2016
  61. 61.0 61.1 Alexia Fernández Campbell, "Hunger, depression and unemployment: Trans adults are struggling", The Center for Public Integrity, 29 July 2022
  62. 62.0 62.1 "Transgender Workers at Greater Risk For Unemployment and Poverty," National LGBTQ Task Force
  63. Emma Jackson, "Why the UK housing market is brutal if you're young, LGBT and homeless", The Guardian, 22 March 2016
  64. Adela Suliman, "LGBTQ People Are 14 Times More Likely to Be Homeless Than Straight People in the UK", Global Citizen, 10 August 2018
  65. Sean O'Driscoll, "Half of transgender people are unemployed", The Times, 21 July 2016
  66. 66.0 66.1 Jo Faragher, "Transgender people more likely to be out of work and on lower pay", Personnel Today, 2 December 2020
  67. 67.0 67.1 David Baboolall, Sarah Greenberg, Maurice Obeid, and Jill Zucker, "Being transgender at work", McKinsey Quarterly, 10 November 2021
  68. James Factora, "Trans Adults Are Twice as Likely to Be Unemployed as Cis Adults", Them, 15 November 2021
  69. Julie Moreau, "'Laughed out of interviews': Trans workers discuss job discrimination", NBC News, 6 October 2019
  70. "Transphobia rife among UK employers as 1 in 3 won't hire a transgender person", Crossland Employment Solicitors, 18 June 2018
  71. Jo Bartosch, "No, Stella Creasy, women don’t have penises, Spiked Online, 30 May 2022
  72. https://twitter.com/jk_rowling/status/1530576557839994882
  73. Kathleen Stock, "Stella Creasy’s bourgeois feminism", UnHerd, 31 May 2022
  74. 74.0 74.1 74.2 74.3 Tucker Lieberman, "What We Can Learn About Helen Joyce in Two Sentences", 6 June 2022
  75. 75.0 75.1 75.2 Helen Joyce, "Meet the Gay Activists Who've Had Enough of Britain's Ultra-Woke Homophobes", Quillette, 4 November 2019
  76. Caroline Lowbridge, The lesbians who feel pressured to have sex and relationships with trans women", BBC News, 26 October 2021
  77. https://twitter.com/HJoyceGender/status/1568153390953152513
  78. Lily Wakefield, "LGB Alliance court case to decide whether anti-trans group is stripped of charity status", Pink News, 9 September 2022
  79. https://twitter.com/hjoycegender/status/1438158311371726855
  80. 80.0 80.1 Ryan T. Anderson, "Trans is a flawed defense of reality", Washington Examiner, 9 September 2021
  81. https://twitter.com/HJoyceGender/status/1479099407588999169
  82. "Ashers 'gay cake' row: Bakers win Supreme Court appeal", BBC News, 10 October 2018
  83. Archived Twitter thread by Helen Joyce
  84. 84.0 84.1 Helen Joyce, Trans: When Reality Meets Ideology, page 422 (Google ebook edition)
  85. Helen Joyce, "Why it's wrong – and profoundly damaging – to make us all agree that someone is whatever gender they say they are: HELEN JOYCE argues the gender self-identification lobby is harming children, women – and trans people themselves", Daily Mail, 3 July 2021
  86. "Why transgender people are being sterilised in some European countries", The Economist, 1 September 2017
  87. "Japan's Supreme Court upholds transgender sterilization requirement", NBC News, 25 January 2019
  88. Samantha Allen, "It’s Not Just Japan. Many U.S. States Require Transgender People Get Sterilized", Daily Beast, 22 March 2019
  89. "Quebec to drop surgery requirement for people who want to change their sex on IDs", CBC News, 9 November 2021
  90. "Episode 21: Helen Joyce - Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality" from Keep Talking
  91. "‘Children were being sterilised but no one could speak out’", Spiked Online, 16 August 2022
  92. https://web.archive.org/web/20220512004251/https://twitter.com/HJoyceGender/status/1505621296230584322
  93. Arthur, Elizabeth; McGill, Dillon; Essary, Elizabeth H. (February 2014). "Playing It Straight: Framing Strategies Among Reparative Therapists" (in en). Sociological Inquiry 84 (1): 19. doiWikipedia:10.1111/soin.12026. 
  94. Bronner, Stephen Eric; Thompson, Michael (2006) (in en). The Logos Reader: Rational Radicalism and the Future of Politics. University Press of Kentucky. pp. 35. ISBN 978-0-8131-9148-5. 
  95. 95.0 95.1 Bering, Jesse (September 15, 2010). "Is your child a "prehomosexual"? Forecasting adult sexual orientation". Bering in Mind (Scientific American). 
  96. Sharp, Gwen (September 17, 2010). "What Does a "Prehomosexual" Look Like?". Sociological Images. 
  97. Buchanan, Wyatt (March 3, 2006). "Report: 'Ex-gay' therapy claims deceptive". SFGATE. 
  98. "Parents offered anti gay therapy for teens". PinkNews. March 3, 2006. 
  99. 99.0 99.1 TransEssays (April 7, 2022). "Conversion Therapy on Transgender and Gender-Diverse Children". Medium.
  100. Rottnek, Matthew (1999) (in en). Sissies and Tomboys: Gender Nonconformity and Homosexual Childhood. NYU Press. pp. 124. ISBN 978-0-8147-7484-7. 
  101. Money, John; Green, Richard (1960). "Incongruous Gender Role: Nongenital Manifestations in Prepubertal Boys". Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 131 (2): 160–168. doiWikipedia:10.1097/00005053-196008000-00009. PMID 13708206. 
  102. Jalopy, Roanne K. (December 29, 2020). "Transgender Trouble: 40 Years of Gender Essentialism and Gatekeeping". Current Affairs. 
  103. Hill, Darryl B.; Rozanski, Christina; Carfagnini, Jessica; Willoughby, Brian (2006-02-03). "Gender Identity Disorders in Childhood and Adolescence: A Critical Inquiry". Journal of Psychology & Human Sexuality 17 (3-4): 7–34. doiWikipedia:10.1300/J056v17n03_02. ISSN 0890-7064. 
  104. Helen Joyce. Trans: Ideology Meets Reality. Approximately page 60.
  105. https://twitter.com/christapeterso/status/1416828950387466241
  106. 106.0 106.1 106.2 106.3 106.4 Archived thread by @dschw89
  107. 107.0 107.1 Pink News: Gender-critical group responds after director spotted reading NSFW Harry Potter fan fiction on train"
  108. 108.0 108.1 108.2 We Got This Covered: Hypocritical British TERF caught red-handed in public 'Harry Potter' erotic fanfic hilarity
  109. 109.0 109.1 109.2 Trans Writes: Sex Matters Director Helen Joyce reads porn of teenagers for 'research'
  110. 110.0 110.1 Sex Matters: Statement on Helen Joyce and fanfic
  111. 111.0 111.1 Helen Joyce: Joyce activated, issue 29
  112. https://twitter.com/HJoyceGender/status/1762445995298746428
  113. The Leaky Cauldron: J.K. Rowling Interview, Part II
  114. https://web.archive.org/web/20220606220025/https://twitter.com/HJoyceGender/status/1533402637999259648