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John Boyne quits Twitter after criticism from trans activists following newspaper article

‘He spoke of his rejection of the term ‘cis’ used to refer to those who are not part of the trans community.

Author John Boyne at a launch in February
Author John Boyne at a launch in February
Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

IRISH AUTHOR JOHN Boyne has removed his Twitter account following criticism from trans-rights activists for comments he made in a newspaper article at the weekend. 

Boyne, a gay man who has previously included LGBT characters in his novels, wrote an opinion piece for the Irish Times on Saturday, ahead of the publication of his new book entitled, My Brother’s Name is Jessica.

The book, told through the eyes of a 12-year-old boy, features a character called Jason who calls a meeting with his family to come out as transgender, and announce his new name is Jessica. 

In Saturday’s article, Boyne wrote of his own experience of hearing from a childhood friend who came out as transgender, as well as the research he carried out for the book, which involved interviewing members of the trans community. 

He also spoke of his rejection of the term ‘cis’, used by members of the trans community to denote an individual whose gender corresponds with their birth sex.

“I wholeheartedly support the rights of trans men and women and consider them courageous pioneers, it will probably make some unhappy to know that I reject the word “cis”, the term given by transgender people to their nontransgender brethren,” he said. 

“I don’t consider myself a cis man; I consider myself a man… I reject the notion that someone can force an unwanted term onto another.”

Social media

Those comments have been criticised by members of the trans community as well as trans-rights activists on social media in the aftermath of the piece, with some calling for a boycott of his novel. 

In an op-ed published in the Irish Times on Monday, Aoife Martin, of the Transgender Equality Network Ireland said the term ‘cis’ is “the opposite of transgender” and is a “perfectly reasonable” term to use. 

“The only time I refer to people as being cis is when discussing trans issues. This is to distinguish them from transgender and non-binary people.

“In the same way if I were involved in a discussion about, say, Black Lives Matter, I would point out that I am a white person and I am speaking from a position of white privilege.

“Boyne, whether he likes it or not, is a cis man speaking from a position of cis privilege. In fact, the whole article reeks of that privilege.”

Martin was not the only person to speak critically of Boyne’s piece, with one person describing his book as “inherently disrespectful” on Twitter, while another wrote “John is not trans therefore this isn’t his story to write”. 

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas author has since removed his Twitter account, with supporters of Boyne, including broadcaster Rick O’Shea, saying he was “hounded” of the social media site following the criticism. 

“I’ve been trying to write a tweet about John Boyne being hounded off here by unacceptable abuse but you know what? I’m afraid to. I’m a lifetime radical leftie liberal, and even I am afraid to express opinions here in some areas, in case I get the next pile on,” he said. 

Boyne released a statement following the removal of his account citing the abuse and criticisms he was receiving. 

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