Gareth Roberts has a strong connection to the Doctor Who community, having written numerous novels, articles, comic strips and even episodes for the popular television show.
He was responsible for some of the most memorable episode of the relaunched series, including “The Shakespeare Code” in 2007 (in which David Tennant’s Doctor and Freema Agyeman’s Martha Jones travel back in time to save Shakespeare from tree witches) and “The Unicorn and the Wasp” in 2008 (in which the Doctor and Catherine Tate’s Donna Noble figure out what led to Agatha Christie’s mysterious “fugue state” in 1926). He also wrote both episodes that featured Matt Smith’s Doctor working with James Corden’s Craig Owens.
Roberts has had a stellar career, and in 2019 it was revealed he would again be assisting the Doctor Who franchise by contributing a short story to an anthology collection. He had not worked on the franchise since writing a 2014 episode.
But two years ago, Roberts committed the sin of making a joke about the transgender community. On September 3, 2017, Roberts tweeted, “I [heart emoji] how trannies choose names like Munroe, Paris and Chelsea. It’s never Julie or Bev is it?” He followed up that tweet later in the day, writing, “It’s almost like a clueless gayboy’s idea of a glamorous lady. But of course it’s definitely not that.”
These two tweets were apparently enough to hurt Roberts’ career. The mob descended once it learned Roberts was involved in the 2019 Doctor Who collection for BBC Books. The intimidation worked: BBC Books caved to the mob and said it would remove Roberts’ story from the book, claiming, according to Roberts, that a boycott would ensue and would ensure the book was “economically unviable.”
Roberts took to Medium to post his response to the situation. He explained how he, a gay man, grew up in the U.K. in the 1980s and how he and his friends used to use words to describe each other that are considered slurs within the LGBT community. Roberts refused to kowtow to the mob and apologize, remaining defiant:
Some have urged me to make a full, obeisant apology. Even if I was inclined to, I don’t think it would have any effect at all – for example, Helen Lewis of The New Statesman is currently being monstered for the most careful, respectful piece on this issue. I’m not bothered very much by words though I’m bothered when they distress my friends and family. But then, that’s how intimidation works. That’s why intimidators intimidate.
He then explained his position on transgenderism — a position many, if not most, people outside the liberal media still hold:
I don’t believe in gender identity. It is impossible for a person to change their biological sex. I don’t believe anybody is born in the wrong body.
I think it’s wrong to – write a falsehood into law; compel people by law to speak words they do not believe; rewrite the law to remove women’s biological sex-based rights and protections; reinforce gender stereotypes; medicalise children who don’t conform to gender stereotypes. That’s it.
I don’t believe my view should be protected either. People must be protected, ideas must never be. I would ask the writers who objected to my inclusion in the same book as them to reflect on that.
Roberts also wrote that he was still paid for his contribution, even though it wasn’t published.