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‘Gender critical’ trolls told author Neil Gaiman his books were transphobic. It backfired, badly

Emma Powys Maurice August 6, 2021
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Neil Gaiman

"Sandman" creator Neil Gaiman, pictured in 2014 (Ulf Andersen/Getty)

Fantasy author Neil Gaiman has spent the past week dragging anti-trans campaigners trying to co-opt Terry Pratchett’s legacy, like the hero he is.

The American Gods creator, 60, regularly affirms his trans-inclusive views, and last year joined more than 1,800 literary figures in pledging his support for trans and non-binary people.

He refused to stay silent when Rhianna Pratchett, the daughter of his longtime friend Terry Pratchett, was forced to shut down the so-called “gender critical” people trying to claim that her father would be anti-trans if he was alive today.

“Terry was wise and Terry was kind. Terry understood that people were complicated, contradictory and, always people, and that people can and do change,” Gaiman tweeted.

“As Rhiannon Pratchett says, he would have had no time for this nonsense. (See also: Equal Rites, Monstrous Regiment, Feet of Clay),” he added, citing three of Pratchett’s works with strong trans themes.

A flood of Discworld fans echoed Gaiman, citing multiple examples of trans-inclusivity in Pratchett’s life and works.

Yet a number of anti-trans commenters stubbornly refused to accept Pratchett’s own words or those of his loved ones, insisting it was impossible to know the author’s opinion on the modern trans rights movement as he died six years ago.

Tweeting in reply to Gaiman and Rhianna Pratchett, one anti-trans person insisted they knew better what “Terry would want [for] his daughter”. The sheer lunacy of this tweet was not lost on Gaiman, who quickly replied so that Rhianna didn’t have to.

“There’s a special magic to sending a ‘would he want his daughter’ tweet like this to two people, one of whom is *actually* his daughter…” he noted incredulously.

Several trans Discworld fans came forward to share touching anecdotes of meeting Terry Pratchett, a man who extended kindness to everyone, regardless of gender identity.

One commenter described meeting Pratchett at a book signing before her transition. Ever perceptive, the author picked up on her subtle hesitation over her name and responded with grace and tact.

“That’s the Terry I knew and learned from,” Gaiman replied, amplifying her tweet.

Neil Gaiman accused of transphobia in The Sandman

At this point some anti-trans commenters turned their attack on Neil Gaiman himself, trying to discredit him by highlighting supposed transphobia in his seminal graphic novel The Sandman.

They pointed to A Game of You, the fifth volume of his series, which shows the trans character Wanda Mann being rejected by the moon goddess because of her chromosomes.

“This you Neil? Bit terfy, isn’t it?” they asked.

Gaiman acknowledged that there were indeed transphobic characters in his work – but that doesn’t mean you’re supposed to sympathise with them. “With respect, I’m not sure you understand how literature works,” he said.

He also highlighted another rebuttal to the claims of The Sandman being anti-trans: a scene that shows Wanda being recognised and accepted as a woman by Death of the Endless, the highest power of all. In this final moment, Wanda is described as “perfect,” “authentic” and “happy” – and undeniably female.

The arc’s main human protagonist, Barbie, is also sympathetic towards Wanda, crossing out Wanda’s deadname on her tombstone and writing her friend’s chosen name with lipstick.

“Spoilers, sweetie,” Gaiman commented cheekily.

Despite this people still tried to contradict the author on his own work, insisting that transphobia was the true message of The Sandman – and again, Gaiman was having none of it.

Predictably this didn’t stop the anti-trans commenters from desperately trying to rewrite Gaiman’s work or Pratchett’s, in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

When one fan asked Gaiman why he bothered, the author understandably replied: “I think it’s time to deploy the mute button. Or give them a day to get bored and go shout at someone else. Or both.”

Meanwhile, Neil Gaiman is focusing his energies where it matters. The author has committed to casting non-binary and Black actors in the Netflix adaptation of The Sandman, saying he gives “zero f**ks about people who don’t understand/haven’t read Sandman whining” about it.

Enough said.

Related topics: American Gods, Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett

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