Why did the Eye look away?

Surely a title known for investigative journalism would be concerned by a series of trans scandals


This article is taken from the June 2024 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issues for just £10.

Here’s a funny story. A few years back, I wrote to Ian Hislop, the editor of Private Eye, and told him about a trans rights activist who was using the courts to harass and intimidate women. The man, who had been known under various identities — none of them associated with good deeds — before settling on a female one, targeted his victims by using the police and the courts, opening a legal case and reporting a hate crime on the same day, so as to apply maximum stress and pressure to his targets. He released my home address online, terrifying my wife, and sued me twice.

The second case he dropped when someone sent me a message in which he had said, “Graham has a simple way to end it all. He [can] STFU [shut the fuck up] and reciprocate … Think you know me well enough by now to understand how I work.” He dropped the action soon after we entered that message into our evidence bundle. Recently the website Reduxx revealed that the same man was previously convicted of indecent assault on a 14-year-old boy, and was a registered sex offender.

All this, I felt, would intrigue Hislop, and perhaps find easy placement in the “In The Back” section of Private Eye, which had a reputation for investigative journalism — uncovering scandals, unethical practices and various wrongdoings by companies, organisations or individuals.

I wrote the following to Ian. Please do note my tone and see if you can spot anything that could have been phrased more politely. Also, I should say the reference to “Yaniv” is to “Jessica” Yaniv, whom too many of you will remember as the Canadian man who sued a group of beauticians because they refused to wax his “female” testicles.

Dear Ian,

Sorry to contact you out of the blue, but I heard you recently met a few “gender critical” feminists who were telling you just how insane the whole situation has become. I just wanted to confirm and amplify what you’ve been told by them. There are several, let’s call them “characters”, who are using trans rights to harass and troll women, and Jessica Yaniv is just the first one to break out.

I’ve been targeted by the UK’s version of Yaniv, Stephanie Hayden, who sued me just as he sues everyone who is unfortunate enough to come across his path. I have a ton of information about him and you’re one of the (maybe two?) editors who would consider publishing it. He’s … a vicious misogynist who hounds both women and transwomen and it’s so frustrating because this is someone who would wither and die at the slightest touch of sunlight.

He is also the reason a young woman approached me after “Noises Off” and calmly called me a bigot. I told her I probably had more trans friends than she did, as the ironic aspect to being the biggest transphobe in the UK is that this fight has brought me into contact with gender critical transwomen, all of whom see through Hayden better than anyone and all of whom will be left carrying the can when there’s a public backlash against trans people, and Hayden wipes off his lipstick and legs it to South Africa.

I realise there might not be space to deal with such a story when Brexit is providing so much material, but I genuinely believe, Ian, that this is a hinge moment in the history of women’s rights. This is an assault on women’s privacy, their boundaries, their resources and even their sports. I thought the sports thing might be gender ideology’s fatal overreach, but no, it’s left to Samoa to protest at the unfairness and as someone who has been ranting about this for a year now, I can tell you, they might still be ignored.

This thing is a juggernaut and LGBT leaders like Linda Riley are refusing to listen to what lesbians are telling her — that gender ideology is causing them real problems on the ground. To do otherwise would have her condemned alongside the women she’s been smearing for years, and cut off an admittedly tiny part of her cash flow (the only “lesbians” still reading Diva are the fully-intact males who identify as such).

Please have a look at Hayden. I’m not the only person suffering because of him and you could cut short a nightmare situation for another of his victims.

No pressure though!


Perhaps my tone was too easy-going, because Ian responded as if I’d asked for Twitter networking advice.

Dear Graham,

Hello. Thanks for the messages and for alerting me to the activities of Hayden … Despite my well known belief that Twitter drives everyone bonkers and my suspicion that the Trans/TERF debate is not quite as important as those involved in it believe, I do have people looking at the issues, the areas of impact in the real world, and I will pass on your information to them. “The oxygen of publicity” is always a possible side-effect of the “letting in of sunlight” but as I say I am grateful to you for the guidance. Hope that you are ok somewhere in the social media swamp.


Ian Hislop

I replied, already feeling slightly deranged at the lack of interest:

It’s Internet madness leaking into the real world. I wouldn’t be so concerned if it was just online nonsense.

And it’s important to the kids being rendered impotent by puberty blockers (see Newsnight last night? The blockers also INCREASE suicidal ideation), and the many women losing work because of coordinated harassment campaigns.

I’m in touch with a woman who runs a Facebook group containing 50 women who have suffered sexual assault by “transwomen” (I don’t believe these men are trans, i.e. have gender dysphoria — I think they’re opportunists).

One young detransitioner told me that the “transmen” (actually girls in their late teens and early twenties) in her support group would be encouraged to enter into what she felt were deeply questionable relationships with “transwomen” (men in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties).

Another hilarious upside-down fact: these “transmen” would often be told to speak less because, as “men”, they had male privilege, and should pipe down to let the transwomen speak!

It’s mental, and a generation is being lost to it. Private Eye coming out on the side of reason and fairness would be a huge help.

Anyway, thanks for listening.

Anything I should have phrased differently, more politely? Because whilst there’s plenty in here that should have attracted Hislop’s attention, Private Eye would proceed to barely touch the issue until it became impossible for them to continue ignoring it. A few weeks ago, the magazine finally devoted some column inches to the results of the Cass Review, the review which resulted in puberty blockers being banned for under 16s in the NHS.

On one level alone, Hislop’s reluctance to look into the matter makes sense. After all, it would have meant he’d be in the very lonely position of giving me a platform when everyone else was kicking it away from under me.

Despite a few appearances on Have I Got News For You, I couldn’t consider him a friend, but I thought at least his instincts as a journalist might kick in.

This was an issue for which the stakes could not have been higher — for women, for children, for gay people, for freedom of speech, and for me — yet those instincts didn’t so much as twitch when presented with the idea that giving cross-sex hormones to troubled people might not be in their best interests.

Additionally, there are few aspects of the trans movement that don’t lend themselves to satire. Women’s sports teams who field at least one player who looks like The Hound in Game of Thrones are currently doing very well indeed. In fact, the Flying Bats, an Australian women’s football team, recently enjoyed a phenomenal winning streak which perhaps had something to do with the fact that five members of the team are male.

One of the members of the team is named Riley Dennis. I first came across him when the late feminist YouTuber Magdalen Berns shared one of his videos (“Are Genital Preferences Transphobic?”) in which he argued that lesbians might be showing bigotry by refusing to sleep with trans-identified, fully intact men.

Half a dozen scandals in just a few lines, and Private Eye reported on none of them

This kind of rape culture by stealth was abroad also in Stonewall — ex-CEO Nancy Kelly accused lesbians of being possibly guilty of “sexual racism” for refusing to consider male partners, and a man named Morgan Page remains on the Stonewall website. Page ran the infamous “Overcoming the Cotton Ceiling” workshop in Canada, which promised its male students the opportunity to “identify (sexual) barriers and strategise ways to overcome them”. In other words, a workshop on working around the word “no” in the sentence “no means no”.

Here then are half a dozen scandals in just a few lines, and Private Eye journalists reported on none of them. Given Hislop’s 2019 reply to me, one can only assume that the fish has been rotting from the head. His behaviour puts me in mind of the famous shot from Police Squad! movies, with Leslie Nielsen flashing his badge, saying, “Nothing to see here, folks. Move along” in front of a scene of ongoing, spiralling mayhem.

I say I received no reply, but there was one of a sort in the form of an Eye piece years later which mentioned me and my “unhinged Twitter presence, where he frequently accuses transgender activists of being nonces and groomers”. I think I used the word “nonce” once, in which I said most of the central trans figures were members of that category. As a statement it has that unfortunate quality of being true, which is something that keeps biting me in the arse.

John Money was the inventor of “gender identity”, and he and sexually abused twin boys by transitioning one and then forcing them to perform sex acts. The creator of the trans flag, a man named “Monica” Helms, wrote a short story in which a man finds himself being stalked by a young girl who looks “no more than 16 years old” and whom he initially mistakes for a Girl Scout. Now, the flag he designed flies outside schools and government buildings.

The entire field of Queer Theory would not exist if it weren’t for the writings of Michel Foucault, Gayle Rubin and Pat Califia, all of whom have written defences of paedophilia. Even our own professional “trans ally” Peter Tatchell has a copy-and-paste statement ready to go for when people bring up his infamous 1997 letter to the Guardian, in which he talked of “the positive nature of some child-adult sexual relationships”.

“Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.” Ignore the unhinged comedy writer who lost his family and his musical trying to draw attention to not just one scandal, but a never-ending cascade of them. Yes, on Twitter I tend to be angry, but it’s not just at the incels, predators, bullies and sadists who stalk my account, mocking me for what I’ve lost; it’s at Hislop, and other “satirists” and “journalists” like him, who knew what was happening and took the decision to look the other way.

Recently, Charlie Hebdo — the French magazine that suffered a terrorist attack which left many cartoonists dead — published a front cover in which crossdressers, Islamists and other misogynists were all standing on a woman’s back. I remain astonished at the bravery of a title that, unlike Private Eye, is unafraid to tell the truth despite knowing first-hand the cost.

One last missive. A few years ago, I wrote a letter in defence of J.K. Rowling and managed to get some big names to sign it: John Cleese, Tom Stoppard, Lionel Shriver and, most thrillingly for me, Barry Humphries. This was what Humphries wrote to me:

Dear Graham,

You have my signature.

Thanks for your letter. I’ve been banned by the Melbourne Comedy Festival which Peter Cook and I launched! I’ve been attacked and branded fascist and “transphobic” (sic) by the “they” brigade, and accused of racism by people who have never met an aborigine.

That actors who have become rich and famous by performing in JKR’s plays and films then vindictively excoriated her, seems to me a cowardly betrayal.

Thanks for writing to me and good luck against a powerful and malign foe.


Barry Humphries

Peter Cook was, of course, the founding editor of Private Eye, but I’m left wondering if the whole sordid affair was even mentioned in the magazine he created.

Why did Ian Hislop run away from doing the right thing? Was he appeasing young staff? Is the magazine being held hostage by a staffer with that most fashionable of middle-class accessories, a “trans child”? Was he protecting his team leader gig on Have I Got News For You, which has also been busy looking the other way for the last half-decade?

Whatever the reason, it’s some sort of tribute to the Eye that when it looks the other way, a scandal can fester for years. Ian Hislop’s only achievement during this time was ignoring the elephant in the room, even as it trampled every value the Eye was meant to uphold.

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