The Transphobic Dr Who Fan

I posted on my Facebook page this afternoon:

"Furious to see someone on FB - posting a picture of Hayley from Coronation Street - with the slogan running something like, 'Soon i'll be the only bloke left on the Street.' For those who don't know, Hayley's the first transsexual character in a British soap and has been in the show for over a decade now. The point is - people feeling ok about calling post-op transsexuals 'blokes' and generally sneering. Like all bullies they make crap, sniggering jokes about things they think they can get away with. They wouldn't get away with racism or sexism, would they? So who can they turn on next..? It makes me livid."

And the person who posted the original joke doesn't care. Amid the flurry of responses from FB friends he suddenly appeared in the thread and basically said that he doesn't care if transphobic humour offends people. He claims to make racist, sexist and homophobic jokes too, without thinking anything of it. Because they're just jokes, right? 

I tried to explain that a joke isn't 'just' a joke if it comes at the expense of someone else's feelings and suffering. If it's a joke about spreading and reinforcing any kind of prejudice.

I'm only FB friends with this man to start with because he's a Doctor Who fan. As a mere writer of tie-in fiction I'm way down the list of z-list Doctor Who related bods floating around in cyberspace, but I still get a lot of requests from people who like the show and maybe even like what I write. 

So - Doctor Who is my ostensible connection to this person.

I found myself writing:

"The Doctor, sir, would kick your arse for being a bullying, phobic idiot. 'Never cruel, never cowardly', remember? Yet you gleefully admit to posting racist, sexist, homophobic and transphobic jokes to 
brighten your day. Somehow you've missed the whole point of the show that you profess to enjoy."

He replied by saying that Doctor who is not real. It's fiction and so we shouldn't take it as seriously as I obviously do. I should learn to laugh at jokes.


He seemed amazed that I could believe in the truth at the heart of this show.

The valuable truth in a fiction about a multidimensional traveller who believes in respecting all kinds of people, aliens, creatures, plants, crystalline beings, transdimensional folk made of  anti-matter, seaweed creatures, living rocks, cyborgs, robots, yeti and planets with souls. 

And a man who believes in culture and tolerance and science and nature and 'people being terribly nice to each other.' 

I really believe that our attitudes to fiction and its characters reveal actual truths about ourselves. That's what fiction is for. That's what it does. Even outlandish fiction like Doctor Who. Even humdrum soaps like Corrie. 

We've all got something to learn from it. Maybe about empathy, understanding and listening. 

Maybe about how people can be hurt by casual cruelty and unthinkingness.

About morality, too. The Doctor is the most moral of characters. 

He truly would, if he existed, go round this sniggering transphobe's house and kick his arse for him. He really would be ashamed of having a fan who revels in prejudices. A fan who then defends himself by saying it's a harmless joke shared by many.

The Doctor might not be literally real. 

But his outrage at everyday awfulness as well as cosmic injustice is something we should all be trying to make as real as we can. 


  1. 'The Doctor is the most moral of characters.' The whole point about Doctor Who - perhaps the only consistent ideal in its 50 year run - is the love of the Other. A brilliant, flawed, enigmatic alien represents and fights for the best in us: imagination, intelligence, kindness. Anyone who doesn't get that, anyone who doesn't bring that to the show, really doesn't get it.

  2. Thank you so much for writing this. The values that Doctor Who embodies are real and are worth emulating, even if the character is not real. (Though he is real in the sense of living in the hearts of millions of people as an archetype of ethical behaviour.)

  3. I was also unfortunate enough to view this exchange on facebook as I also share an interest in Doctor Who with the person involved. I don't think that person, even now after a lot of patient explaining understands what transphobia is.

    Growing up as a fan I always saw the Doctor as someone who defended the outsider, who was indeed an outsider himself as he was outcast from his people. I consider that to be the reason why the programme had so many LGBT fans. I'm sad to see such ignorance from a minority.

  4. Thank you Paul, I didn't see this exchange but I'm damn sure that if I had I'd have been agreeing with you.

    I paraphrased the Doctor yesterday to a friend who is also a fan and was feeling a bit down and insignificant - He is the friend to the outcast, the strange, the weird and the wonderful that goes to make up the wonderful diversity of humanity.

    Transphobia, homophobia, racism, sexism and intolerance of others beliefs should never be accepted and always stood against, the Doctor would understand that and anyone who claims to be a fan but doesn't understand that fundamental fact is missing the whole point!

  5. I was smack dab in the middle of that thread, too. The offensive person didn't know it, and neither I think did Paul at the time, but my partner is trans and I've seen the sneers and the deliberate address of "Sir" used with the intent to bully and hurt. The fact that he claims to be a Doctor Who fan is outrageous.

    Sadly, many people are the same way - I had another experience on a Doctor Who site from which I was summarily banned for saying "I love how Doctor Who include LBGT characters not as a novelty, but as a matter of course."

    I was taken to task for using the acronym as it was "a family site and small children might be watching with their parents - and shouldn't be exposed to comments of an adult nature".

    NEWS FLASH. If you are homophobic, transphobic, or feel that all things not cis and hetero are somehow not fit for mixed company, you really aren't a Doctor Who fan and you certainly shouldn't let your precious children be watching that sort of filth.

    I asked the instigator of the this whole mess if it would be OK to make fun of Mickey Smith and refer to him as a n*gg*r - since Mickey is only a FICTIONAL character in a FICTIONAL show, after all, what's the harm?

    He never did respond. As a general rule of thumb, however, if something is obviously offensive when you substitute a racial indicator for a gender identifier or sexual orientation word, that's a good indicator that your original comment was offensive.

    Kudos to Paul for standing up not only for people like my dear partner, but for the Doctor Who fans who really do "get it". <3

  6. Its a common walk of life Sarah and it makes me both sad and angry at the same time. I remember being taken to task by a teacher (who taught ethics of all things) for daring to use the word 'bugger' in a play. Not because its rude and considered a swearword (though a soft one)- but because it was associated with buggery and therefore gay people and AIDS which, in their words

    "people don't want to be reminded of on a night out at a play"

    I was left literally speechless with rage.

    So thanks for standing up for the 'other' Paul, just like the Dr would.

  7. I respect even non-living rocks. They have feelings too!!!


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