Some time in the mid-2010s, a strange idea exploded into public consciousness. It was the idea that some men are women, and some women are men. Caught off-guard, many people, failing to see the harm, went along with it, thinking it was meant in a metaphorical sense.
Helen Joyce, author of Trans: Gender Identity and the New Battle for Women's Rights, was one of those people. In our discussion, she says the moment she was drawn to the issue was when she realized people actually believed some men can be women. “I knew that there was something up and also the sheer illogicality of it, like at the center of it is this claim, trans women are women. That's a circular definition. That's saying that a woman is anyone who says they're a woman, which doesn't tell you anything about what a woman is. So I knew there was something wrong, but I just thought I was missing something.”
But Joyce, who has a PhD in mathematics and is a former editor of The Economist, had never had any ambitions to write a book. That all changed one day in Manchester in 2019 when she met her first detransitioners, who were all lesbian women, “kids who had been misled in their teens into thinking that their discomfort with their sexed bodies meant that they were trans.” No adults had told them how tough the teenage years can be, particularly for those just discovering a homosexual orientation. Instead, “they were misled to the extent for some of them of having their sexual organs removed.”
“That night I thought, right, I've got to write a book about this. I hadn't been worried about getting attacked about it, I'd been worried that I just wasn't the right person. I was the finance editor of The Economist by this point, so it was a bit of a stretch. But I thought, well, I can wait for someone else to do it, or I can do it myself. So that's the way I got into this.”
Throughout our conversation, Joyce applies her mathematical mind to the illogicality of modern gender identity ideology, explaining how it is not possible to protect biological sex and gender identity in law both at the same time, and how introducing a falsehood like “trans women are women” into society results in chaos.