Richard Dawkins Had Helen Joyce on His Show

I like to stay informed about what they’re saying about trans people

Tucker Lieberman
13 min readNov 10, 2023

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quirky video still of Helen Joyce putting her hand up and looking astonished with the closed caption: that is to save a child’s life so it has to be yeah it has to be death it has to
“Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality” My conversation with Helen Joyce,” YouTube

In April 2021, prominent biologist and atheist Richard Dawkins made an offensive tweet for which he faced consequences. A lot of people recognized it as anti-transgender, while many others tried to defend Dawkins and paint his comment in some other light. At the time, I wrote a long article explaining why it was anti-transgender.

I do not like having been right about this, but he’s since leaned farther into amplifying anti-transgender voices.

This summer of 2023, he started a new podcast, The Poetry of Reality. On July 29, he dedicated one of his first episodes to a conversation with Helen Joyce, advocacy director of Sex Matters and the author of Trans. I avoid giving links to bad videos when possible (it gives them a free SEO boost in search engines), but here you have all the info you need to find it on YouTube.

Below is the breakdown of the video for anyone who would like to understand more about what I mean when I say a conversation is transphobic.

What Happened on the Show

Joyce introduces herself

Helen Joyce began as the Economist’s education correspondent in 2005. In 2017, her editor said she’d heard kids saying “trans” and wondered what they meant. Joyce didn’t know either, so she sought a writer for the magazine who could explain it. She found someone who’d taken “queer theory and gender studies at university”; they submitted an article discussing identification as a man or woman but not mentioning reproductive roles. Joyce wrote her own piece instead, and then — becoming an expert over just a few years, apparently—published her own book in 2021.

Dawkins reads the most transphobic books out there

Dawkins says, “I was fascinated to read your book and I learned a tremendous lot from it.” (Joyce’s Trans is an extraordinarily transphobic book.) He recommends a couple of other books: Irreversible Damage by Abigail Shrier, and Material Girls by Kathleen Stock. (These are also canonically transphobic books.)

Joyce isn’t trans, but she…

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Tucker Lieberman

Editor for Prism & Pen. Author of the novel "Most Famous Short Film of All Time." https://tuckerlieberman.com/