Neil Gaiman attends the Global premiere of Amazon Original "Good Omens", 2019 (Photo by Mike Marsland/WireImage)
Artillery Row

Spare us the pronouns, Sandman

The more you play along, the harder it is to distance yourself from the fallout later

Comic-book fans of a certain vintage will be celebrating the news that Neil Gaiman’s Sandman is to land on Netflix. In much the same manner as his idol Alan Moore transformed both Swamp Thing and his own career, Gaiman staked his claim on a long-neglected, all-but-forgotten corner of the DC Universe and in doing so catapulted himself into literary stardom. A series of beloved fantasy novels followed, as well as children’s books which never talked down to children and treated them as if they too deserved terror and catharsis, just like the grown ups. I have many happy memories of reading Coraline to my kids as they clung to me in fright. “Should I stop reading?” “NO!”

Now, we’re going back to the beginning with Sandman. But then, the cast was announced, and by golly if they haven’t just ruined the good news by announcing the cast’s pronouns. Stephen Fry, you’ll be shocked to hear, goes by “he/him”.

At least, I presume these are the cast’s pronouns, and not those of the characters themselves. No matter how eager Neil is to genuflect to his gender cultist fans, surely even he would not presume to press this reductive, homophobic, misogynistic, but most of all fashionable ideology on his own characters, especially figures like Death (She/Her) and Desire (they/them). 

Gaiman pandering to this nonsense is befuddling. I’ve met him a few times and nothing about him made me think he would fall into step with narcissists who think they can control how others refer to them. Pronoun wankers, as I like to call them. But I thought something was amiss when he didn’t defend JK Rowling from the dreadful, misogynistic abuse she faced merely because she was brave enough to stand up for women’s sex-based rights. 

Given they are equivalent figures in the world of fantasy fiction, I was expecting a statement along of the lines of “JK Rowling wrote movingly about the importance of same-sex spaces to women who have suffered abuse. The attacks on her are disgraceful.” You know, something uncontroversial like that. Or perhaps he would join John Cleese, Tom Stoppard and others in signing the letter of support for her. But no, nothing. He did rush to sign a letter declaring “support for trans and non-binary people” who, unlike Rowling, were not receiving death and rape threats at the time.

Surely it’s possible to support trans/non-binary people (whatever those most elastic of terms are supposed to mean this week) and domestic violence survivors who need sex-segragated spaces? Apparently, not, for even as trans rights activists posted pornography under Rowling’s tweets in which she shared her young readers’ illustrations for her children’s book, he said nothing. That’s the kind of thing Neil doesn’t feel he needs to comment on, while at the same time taking the chance to clear up the mystery of Jenna Coleman’s sex.

Not a single woman should be assaulted in prison by another trans-identified sex offender

A real mystery, to me, at least, is that someone with his imaginative gifts cannot summon up what happens to women in this brave, new world where we pretend we no longer know that Stephen Fry has a ding dong. Women will lose — in fact, have already lost — privacy, safety and dignity, their sports, the ability to freely speak about these issues, and the peace of mind that goes with all those things.

A woman in Scotland is being interviewed by police because she questions this abusive ideology. Men are mocking lesbians on their own dating apps. Lesbians, having nowhere else to go, are removing their healthy breasts because insane people on the Internet have claimed it will turn them into real boys.

Neil, did you see the photographs of Ellen/Elliot Page proudly sporting her unnecessary double mastectomy? Are you so certain you’ve called this one right? I don’t see how anyone can listen to a single detransitioner’s story and come to that conclusion.

I say this as a former fan. The more you play along with this stuff, the harder it will be for you to distance yourself from what has been a catastrophe for gender non-conforming men and women. One day, I’ll be able to say with a clear conscience that I never did anything but fight this ideology. I’ve put my career to one side because I think it’s so important.

Not a single woman should be assaulted in prison by another trans-identified sex offender. Not a single woman should go through what Keira Bell went through. Not a single woman should be contacted by the police for standing up for her rights. Do you agree with these statements, Neil? Do you disagree? Why? Can you explain? Or will you merely pretend there are no consequences to your propping up of this abusive ideology?

There is a mental health crisis around the corner. In fact, I would argue that it’s already here. When you break the big news that David Thewlis is a bloke, do you think that helps ameliorate matters? Do you think this cheap fantasy that we can change sex is helping the thousands of girls who now want to remove their breasts because of Ellen Page? Why are you so entranced by an ideology that does nothing but enrich pharmaceutical companies and grotesquely unethical plastic surgeons?

You’re making a terrible situation worse, Neil, and harder to undo. I love your work, but you’re as wrong as wrong can be on this matter. Start sketching out your exit strategy before it’s too late.

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