Guest post: Transcript of Newsnight interview with Germaine Greer

“Amateur” transcript by commenter eigensprocketUK.

Newsnight 23 October 2015

STUDIO INTRO: Kirsty Wark, presenter of BBC’s “Newsnight”.

KW: Dr Germaine Greer has always been outspoken, but never before has she been “no-platformed”. A petition has been launched asking Cardiff University to cancel a lecture she’s due to give next month entitled “Women and Power – the Lessons of the 20th Century” saying that her views – on something else, transgender people – are problematic.

KW: She believes that men who transition can not then be “women”. And Cardiff Student Union Women’s Officer has said that her views towards transgender women are misogynist. The university’s vice-chancellor has said that the university is committed to freedom of speech and open debate.

KW: Well I spoke to Germaine Greer this afternoon at her home near Cambridge and started by asking her why she thought she’d been no-platformed. During the interview she employed some forthright language.


GG: I was going to talk about women in power, the lessons of the 20th century, because I think there’s a lot of triumphalist talk that masks the real historic situation. And apparently people have decided that because I don’t think that post-operative trans-gender men, i.e. M-to-F transgender people are ‘women’, I’m not to be allowed to talk!

KW: But surely if a man who feels that he actually would like gender reassignment to make him…her be more comfortable in her body, then that’s what should be done – that’s … they should be allowed to do that.

GG I’m not saying that people should not be allowed to go through that procedure. What I’m saying is it doesn’t make them a woman. It happens to be an opinion. It’s not a prohibition. Carry on if …if that’s what you think it is you want to do.

GG I’ve been accused of inciting violence against transsexual people – that’s absolute nonsense.

KW But do you feel that the transgender community has too big a voice now? It seems to me you’re saying that that they’re becoming what you might… what feminists were often called – ‘strident’?

GG (LAUGHS) Yes but they very seldom were strident, alas. I think that a very great many women don’t think that, um, post-operative or even non post-operative transexual M-to-F transexual people look like, sound like, or behave like women. They daren’t say so.

KW But just because they daren’t say so doesn’t mean that person can’t feel like that and feels more comfortable with themselves.

GG Yeah, but so what? That’s not my issue. I don’t even talk about it. Not everybody does feel comfortable, by the way – post-operatively. There’s been a couple of cases I found very interesting where the actual accepter of the procedure has felt that it’s been a disaster.

KW But for those who do not feel it’s been a disaster and feel more comfortable then do you understand that they might feel that you are being hurtful to them?

GG (SHAKES HEAD) People are hurtful to me all the time. Try being an old woman! For goodness sake – people get hurt all the time. I’m not about to walk on eggshells.

KW: So you believe in free speech really – no matter what?

GG Well not quite ‘no matter what’. You don’t have to say everything that’s in your mind. You do use tact in the usual way. I would for example, with someone who wished to be known as female, use female speech forms. As a courtesy.

KW: Now though, people who are intersex are feeling a little more confident about coming forward and … and, a level of acceptance. But for example a woman, who outwardly has female genitalia but who inside has testes and doesn’t wish to have them rather than accepting that she has them – she should be allowed, shouldn’t she, and offered the chance to remove these inner testes?

GG We remove undescended testicles … from men, because they’re dangerous. I’m sure they wouldn’t be allowed to just lurk because that would be – I think – that would be a problem. I mean physically a problem. But then it’s also a problem if what you have to do after sex, er, gender reassignment, is use steroids [SIC, IMPLIED HORMONES?] every day of your life. That’s not a happy outcome either.

KW But it may be a happy outcome for them and they may feel that you are in a way denigrating them for taking that road.

GG I don’t even talk about them. They’re not my issue. I don’t … haven’t published anything about transgender for years!

KW So how do you feel that Newnham College, your own college, is considering not giving you an honorary doctorate –apparently– because of what you said about the transgender community?

GG There’s been two votes at my college about whether I should have an honorary degree and I’m , um, I’m not going to get one. They’ve been turned down. Which is thought by some to be astonishing. But not by me.

KW So someone like Caitlyn Jenner, for example, who’s been …/

GG /…must you? ! …

KW /…yes, who’s been on the front of lots of magazines and apparently is – I think I’m right in saying – is getting an award for being kind of glamour woman of the year. What do you think about that?

GG I think it’s misogynist. I think misogyny plays a really big part in all of this. That a man who goes to all of these lengths to be a woman will be a better woman than someone who is just born a woman.

KW But are people, you would say necessarily, born a woman, or born feeling female. And if he feels more female …? (OPEN HANDS QUESTION GESTURE) …

GG It seems to me that he … that, ah, what was going on there is that he … he/she … ah, wanted the limelight that the other female members of the family were enjoying. And has conquered it – just like that!

KW Will Young apparently has a new video out, I don’t think you’ve seen it, in which a transgender person is going down the road and is abused. Reasonable position?

GG Ah, am I mistaken in thinking that this individual is naked … /


GG / …and running down the street with just a hand over his/her genitals?


GG You try running with your sagging breasts down the middle of the fucking street! And see what people will … throw a… a…a blanket over you! And grab you and call the police! For fuck’s sake! It is simply not true that intersexual people suffer in a way that other people don’t suffer.

KW Would you ever consider saying something more – ameliorating?

GG No! I’m getting fed up with it, you know. I’ve had things thrown at me, I’ve been accused of things I’ve never done or said. People seem to have no concern about evidence or indeed even about libel.

KW If a man who is gender reassigned, and outwardly – and he feels, inwardly, is a woman – in your view can he be a woman or not?

GG No.

KW Do you understand how some people feel that’s insulting?

GG I don’t care! People get insulted all the time. Australians get insulted ever day of the week.

KW Finally – if your safety is guaranteed, will you go to Cardiff?

GG I’m getting a bit old for all of this. I’m 76, I don’t want to go down there and be screamed at and have things thrown at me. Bugger it. It’s not that interesting, or rewarding.

KW Germaine Greer, thank you very much.


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