Cartoon: The Transphobe Bait and Switch (aka The Transphobe Motte and Bailey)

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There’s this trick that transphobes – especially ultra “respectable” transphobes like J.K. Rowling – love to pull. They’ll say something enraging, over-the-top, and unquestionably vicious and bigoted. Or, if they’re more respectable (again, like J.K. Rowling), they’ll wait for some other transphobe to say something gross.

Inevitably, some trans people get angry. They’d have to be saints not to. And as soon as the bait is taken, the switch is pulled – “You see? You see? These awful trans people are mad just because someone said biology is real!”

Although I’ve edited for space and for making the words flow as dialog, the horrible things the fictional transphobe in my cartoon says are closely based on real things that well-known transphobes have said in real life. (I’ll post receipts at the bottom of this post).

Panel one’s dialog is based on things that Garnham Linehan, a former very successful Brit-com creator who is now a full-time anti-trans activist, has said.

Panel two’s dialog is taken near verbatim from Matt Walsh’s anti-trans documentary – a documentary which J.K. Rowling has praised.

Panel three’s dialog is a near verbatim quote from the late anti-trans activist Magdalen Berns. J.K. Rowling publicly supported Berns, which made trans activists and activists angry. Later, Rowling dishonestly claimed the anger was over Berns being “a great believer in the importance of biological sex who didn’t believe lesbians should be called bigots for not dating trans women with penises,” whitewashing how disgusting what Berns actually said was.

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I hesitated over publishing this cartoon, because the dialog is so nasty. I went ahead because I decided that this is part of what transphobes like Linehan, Walsh and Rowling depend on – that the worst things they say (or, in Rowling’s case, defend) will rarely be repeated, published, or attributed to them, because they are so horrible that no decent person wants to repeat it.

This lets them shamelessly play-act at being moderate, reasonable, and not at all hateful, even as they paint trans activists as being angry for no good reason.

A big nod to Natalie Wynn’s excellent video essay The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling for inspiring this cartoon.

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This cartoon has four panels, plus a little “content warning” panel above the top of the cartoon.

The little content warning panel shows a cartoon of Barry the cartoonist speaking directly to the reader.

CAPTION: Content Warning!

BARRY: This cartoon’s dialog is based on some hateful things respected real-life transphobes have said. Seriously, what’s wrong with these people?


Panels one through four show three people talking and walking through a park. From left to right, there’s a redheaded woman in a black skirt; a man with messy black hair wearing a plaid shirt; and a woman with long black hair, wearing a t-shirt with a drawing of the planet Saturn on it.

In panel one, REDHEAD looks smug; PLAID is yelling at SATURN, raising his hands in the air; and SATURN is walking away from the other two, looking irritated.

(Chicken fat watch: They’re walking near a stream, and a scuba diver and a fish are each sticking their heads out of the stream to watch. In the background, Walt from the comic strip “Gasoline Alley” is looking at a piece of paper.)

PLAID: The trans movement is one of the most evil movements in history! Puberty blockers are like Nazis experimenting on children in concentration camps!


A close-up of PLAID shows him yelling and waving his fists in the air.

PLAID: You’re child abusers! You prey upon impressionable children and indoctrinate them into your insane ideological cult. You are poison!


The “camera” pulls back out. REDHEAD continues looking smugly satisfied. PLAID is so angry that he’s pulling his own hair. SATURN has come to a stop, angered by what PLAID is saying.

(Chicken fat watch: Behind a bush in the foreground, Bert and Ernie are chatting with each other).

PLAID: Trans people are fucking blackface. You’re men who get sexual kicks from being treated like women. Fuck you, you pathetic, sick, fuck!


REDHEAD and PLAID have turned and are now walking away from SATURN, who is well in the background, furious, swearing and giving them the finger. REDHEAD is talking cheerfully as she texts on her phone; PLAID is no longer yelling, but still looks angry.

(Chicken fat watch: A couple of huge worms are sticking their heads out of holes in the ground. One is looking wide-eyed at the characters, the other is grinning at the readers.)

REDHEAD: I’m telling people that trans activists are mad because you believe in biological sex.

PLAID: I was being so reasonable! “She” only got mad because she hates women.

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Panel 1:

“One of the most evil movements in history.” –Graham Linehan, responding to images of random trans activists with violent slogans like “Kill Terfs.” I don’t approve of slogans calling for violence – but you can find unrepresentative, marginal people in ANY movement saying disgusting things. I wouldn’t have bothered making this cartoon except that the people I’m criticizing aren’t random or marginal people; people like Graham Linehan and Matt Walsh are famous and have tons of followers.

“Graham Linehan compares doctors treating trans kids to Nazi experiments in concentration camps” –Pink News, February 11 2020.

Panel 2:

During his speech, which he later featured in his film What is a Woman?, [Matt] Walsh said: ‘You are all child abusers. You prey upon impressionable children and indoctrinate them into your insane ideological cult, a cult which holds many fanatical views but none so deranged as the idea that boys are girls and girls are boys.'”

On Twitter, J.K. Rowling praised that same film, telling Walsh “your film did a good job exposing the incoherence of gender identity theory and some of the harms it’s done.”

Panel 3

On June 9, 2018, Magdalen Berns tweeted regarding trans women: “You are fucking blackface actors. You aren’t women. You’re men who get sexual kicks from being treated like women. Fuck you and your dirty fucking perversions. Our oppression isn’t a fetish you pathetic, sick, fuck.” The tweet was later taken down, but not until after it had been widely screencapped and quoted.


J.K. Rowling later downplayed why trans people and allies had been angry at Bern, writing “However, as Magdalen was a great believer in the importance of biological sex, and didn’t believe lesbians should be called bigots for not dating trans women with penises, dots were joined in the heads of twitter trans activists, and the level of social media abuse increased.”

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This cartoon on Patreon

This entry posted in Bigotry & Prejudice, Cartooning & comics, Transsexual and Transgender related issues. Bookmark the permalink. 

7 Responses to Cartoon: The Transphobe Bait and Switch (aka The Transphobe Motte and Bailey)

  1. 1
    Jacqueline Squid Onassis says:

    The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling was so good that I managed to watch the whole thing. If you know me and my inability to watch even people I like do videos, you know how surprising that is. Drawing the line from Anita Bryant to today’s anti-trans bigotry was important.

  2. 2
    RandomTroll says:

    Why Bert and Earnie? (panel 3)

  3. 3
    RonF says:

    I knew what a motte and bailey is and was wondering what the heck that had to do with this. So I looked up the definition of motte and bailey to ensure I had it correct and found out there’s a logical fallacy named after it.

    You learn something every day ….

  4. 4
    bcb says:

    There’s a whole lot of Motte and Bailys in transphobic arguments. One of them came up in the comments of a recent Pharyngula blog post. I’ll quote what I said there:

    “There’s also a pretty common motte-and-bailey in the sports “debate” that [annoying transphobic commenter] provided a nice example of. In @9, [reasonable commenter] asked for a citation that cis female athletes couldn’t have a chance at beating trans female athletes who transitioned after puberty. [annoying transphobic commenter] instead responded

    Please look up the men’s vs. women’s world records in, oh, any athletic event under the sun. 5k or high jump or track cycling or swimming or whatever. That’s the citation.

    Putting aside the fact that [annoying transphobic commenter] didn’t actually provide a citation, [annoying transphobic commenter] ’s initial claim was about banning trans women from competitive sports. But when asked to defend their position, [annoying transphobic commenter] immediately shifted to argue for separating cis women from cis men.

    We could instead compare world records in sports by trans women with those of cis women. Trans women were allowed in the women’s Olympics every two years from 2004 to 2021. Exactly one qualified, and she didn’t win. Some people argued that that one trans woman “could” have won if only she’d competed at a younger age, but there are a lot of younger openly trans women and none of them were good enough to even qualify for the women’s olympics. No elite women’s sporting records are held by trans women.

    [annoying transphobic commenter] seemingly realizes they don’t have any data to argue for trans women at the elite level of sports having an advantage over cis women, so instead when asked to defend their stance they shift to another position they think is easier to defend.

    Of course, it turned out they couldn’t defend that position either, as when [another reasonable commenter] gave gymnastics as an example of a sport where elite cis women perform comparably to elite cis men in spite of getting much less funding and support, [annoying transphobic commenter] moved the goalposts to say gymnastics doesn’t count (but does that mean they’d be okay with trans women playing in the same gymnastics league as cis women?)

    And they do the same thing with trans people getting health care, or using non-amateur nouns, or going to school. They know their own stances are indefensible so they don’t even try.

  5. 5
    Corso says:

    I find motte-and-bailey to be a fallacy on the rise, I think it has to do with people not fully understanding the issues they’re talking about, and the propensity for everyone to have an opinion on everything, even if it’s only tangentially related to something they care about.

    To give an example that I think the majority will agree with me on: American Incarceration. I loathe the American system. For-Profit prisons are a blight. Prison rates of pay are predatory, particularly when complimented by room and board charges. Conditions are often cruel. You jail people for ridiculous things. Your sentences seem incredibly disproportionate. And all that is before you even look at a race or sex angle. All of those issues are bailey discussions, but I’ve had like… Three different conversations in the last month get absolutely obliterated by the motte of “But we need laws!”

    “Well yes… We need laws. Do we need those laws? Do they make sense? Do they serve a purpose? Are they effective?”

    “You just want to release murderers!”

    *audible sigh at my keyboard*

  6. 6
    Ampersand says:

    To give an example that I think the majority will agree with me on: American Incarceration.

    If you mean the majority of people reading this blog, I think you’re right. If you mean the majority of Americans, unfortunately, I suspect that’s not true.

    I’m not sure if the error in your examples is really motte-and-baily as opposed to strawman, though.

  7. 7
    bcb says:

    Someone used the word strawman, so I am obligated to link to Shortpacked by David Willis:
    shortpacked (dot) com/comic/mamas-dont-let-your-babies-grow-up-to-be-strawmen