“Can we rustle up some fu*king experts and talk to them” – Graham Norton on trans people being excluded from the “trans debate”, cancel culture and John Cleese

Graham Norton

Graham Norton says John Cleese is a ‘man of a certain age’ who has said ‘whatever he likes for years’

The TV and radio host also offers his thoughts on ‘cancel culture‘ and how the experts – aka trans people and their families – are often missing from the ‘trans debate‘.


Eurovision host and beloved broadcaster Graham Norton faced a bit of backlash recently when he was, perhaps unwittingly, dragged into Twitter’s so-called ‘TERF Wars’, by having JK Rowing as a guest on his Virgin Radio UK show. 


The presenter, who is (you won’t believe this) gay, raised some eyebrows from the wider-community after hosting the controversial, once-loved author – due to her *complete refusal* to stop inserting herself into negative online discussions around trans rights.


So-called ‘gender-critical’ voices marked it a victory for TERFs and proposed that the booking made Norton a Rowling ally.


While altogether more, shall we say, grounded folk online pointed out that he probably isn’t *actually* responsible for booking his own guests. 


Speaking about the matter, Graham said rather reasonably that while he wouldn’t want to ‘air’ JK Rowling’s opinions, it is not his decision who can be on TV and radio and who cannot.


John Cleese


Elsewhere, Fawlty Towers star John Cleese – who has been outspoken in his support for Rowling, his thoughts on cancel culture and on “woke” politics – revealed this week that he would be joining “free speech” channel GB News, as a host.


In 2020, Cleese faced some backlash for tweeting that he “identifies” as a “Cambodian police woman” – seemingly mocking trans and non-binary people – then backpedalling on the statement by saying he is “not interested” in the matter. 



GB News is, of course, widely understood to be one of the more trans-hostile UK channels when it comes to covering LGBTQ+ issues. And for the UK right now, that is fucking saying something. 


The Monty Python actor said of his new role: “The BBC have not come to me and said, ‘Would you like to have some one-hour shows?’ and if they did, I would say, ‘Not on your nelly!’ I wouldn’t get five minutes into the first show before I’d been cancelled or censored.”


Speaking to Times Radio at the Cheltenham Literature Festival (October 12, below), Graham Norton spoke further about the above matters, suggesting of cancel culture:


“The word is the wrong word,” he said. “I think the word should be ‘accountability’.

“John Cleese has been very public recently about complaining about what you can’t say”, he then adds. 

“It must be very hard to be a man of a certain age who’s been able to say whatever he likes for years, and now suddenly there’s some accountability.”

He added: “It’s free speech, but not consequence-free. I’m aware of the things I say.”


Can someone PLEASE put “It’s free speech, but not consequence-free” on a T-shirt ASAP. Thank you. 


Here’s the clip: 



Norton addresses how his voice has previously been “artificially amplified”, so outlets could “put [his name] in a headline”, saying that the “subject should be enough in itself”.


He adds that media should, “talk to trans people. Talk to the parents of trans kids.” 

“Talk to someone who can illuminate this in some way.”


“PLEASE can we have some experts”, he also says. “Can we rustle up some fu*king experts and talk to them”.


As many LGBTQ+ voices have regularly pointed out online, while the so-called “trans debate” has become a global talking piece, the one element persistently missing from said “debate” is… actual trans people. 


Panel shows discussing trans rights and legislation will regularly consist of a bunch of cis, often straight, folk. With trans people and their families – the only people who can actually lend any lived experience to the discussion – completely excluded. 


So, on that matter, we completely agree: Talk to trans people. Talk to the parents of trans kids.