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Roisin Murphy, 2020
Roisin Murphy, 2020Photography Burak Cingi/Redferns

Róisín Murphy breaks silence on anti-trans controversy

The electronic artist, often celebrated as a ‘queer icon’, came under fire last week for posting an anti-trans comment on Facebook

Last week, a screenshot circulated on Twitter that appeared to show Irish singer-songwriter Róisín Murphy – someone who is habitually celebrated as a queer icon – posting an anti-trans comment on Facebook. Today (August 29), Murphy released a public statement (calling it an ‘apology’ would be a bit of a stretch) in response to the controversy.

The original post showed Murphy commenting on a news article about Graham Linehan (the former Father Ted writer who has become infamous for his anti-trans views and bullying behaviour). She wrote, “Please don’t call me a terf, please don’t keep using that word against women. I beg you! but puberty blockers ARE FUCKED, absolutely desolate, big Pharma laughing all the way to the bank. Little mixed up kids are vulnerable and need to be protected, that’s just true.”

These are all pretty standard ‘gender-critical’ talking points and, to put it mildly, she is talking shit: rather than being “FUCKED”, the available evidence on puberty blockers suggests that the positive outcomes outweigh the negatives. Studies have shown that young trans people who can access puberty blockers experience a number of benefits, including increased well-being, decreased depression and reduced risk of suicide. As a form of treatment, they are endorsed by a majority of medical organisations (though maybe they forgot to consult Róisín Murphy?).

As for the ‘big Pharma’ claim, this just isn’t true: hormone medication can now be sold as ‘generic’, which means that no pharmaceutical companies hold an exclusive patent and, as a result, it is much less profitable. Likewise, trans people are such a small demographic that it would not make good business sense to promote gender-affirming care. When pharmaceutical companies promote certain medications and conditions (which, particularly in the US, they do) they are extremely unsubtle about it: they’re bribing doctors and launching huge advertising campaigns. In the context of gender-affirming care, this simply isn't happening.

In the statement published today, Murphy confirms herself as the author of the post. She describes herself as being “thrown into a very public discourse” which she is “uncomfortable in and deeply unsuited for”. She apologises for “being the reason for this eruption of damaging and potentially dangerous social media fire and brimstone”. Further down, she writes, “I am so sorry my comments have been directly hurtful to so many of you” and insists that she was speaking from a place of love and concern. Finally, she promises to “bow out of the conversation within the public domain”, and will instead focus on her music.

What she doesn’t do, however, is row back on the opinions she expressed, or even mention the trans community. It’s less a sincere apology and more “damn, sorry you guys saw that”. While she’s perfectly entitled to be sceptical about Big Pharma, it’s disappointing – particularly coming from someone who has embraced her LGBTQ+ fanbase for years, compared herself to a drag queen and cited Paris is Burning (a documentary that is partly about Black trans women in the 1980s New York ballroom scene) as a formative influence.

It’s hard to imagine a more unlikely and disappointing celebrity to hold ‘gender-critical views’... Kylie, maybe? Daniel Radcliffe? RuPaul? Murphy has headlined both Homobloc and Manchester Pride, and she has spoken repeatedly about the adulation she receives from her “hardcore gay fanbase”: the next time she plays at a queer event, the reception might not be quite so rapturous.

According to a report in The Toronto Star, Murphy’s label – Ninja Tune – will cease all marketing and promotion for her upcoming album (Hit Parade), which is due to be released on September 8. A source at the label said that they intend to donate all of the proceeds from album sales to organisations dedicated to fighting transphobia. The Star reached out to Murphy’s team but they declined to comment. 

This article was updated on 31 August 2023

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