Magdalen Berns

From FeministWiki
Magdalen Berns

Magdalen Berns (6 May 1983 – 13 September 2019)[1] was a British software developer and YouTuber. Berns, a lesbian and radical feminist, came to prominence as a result of a series of YouTube vlogs focusing on lesbian politics, free speech, women's sex-based rights and the gender identity debate.[2]



Berns attended the University of Edinburgh, where she was a recipient of a Doris Gray Scholarship Award.[3]

Work and career

In 2013–2014, she participated in the Google Summer of Code programme,[4] working on implementing the FFTW3 software library for the Ruby programming language.[5] She went on to join the GNOME Foundation as a software developer.[6] She developed the Java ATK Wrapper, a module to translate Swing (Java) events for the Accessibility Toolkit.[7]

Radical feminism

Berns' statement that "there's no such thing as a lesbian with a penis" made her well-known, as well as her opposition to the "cotton ceiling”, a term coined by Canadian transwoman and activist Drew DeVeaux, which refers to the perceived injustice of lesbians not wanting to have sex with transwomen.[8][9]

Berns was slurred by trans activists as a trans-exclusionary radical feminist, and has stated that it was this accusation that first led her to research radical feminism. She was also known for her arguments against the concepts of gender self-identification and gender itself. Speaking on the subject of gender and sexuality, Berns stated: "You don’t get ‘assigned’ reproductive organs.....males are defined by their biological sex organs. Likewise, homosexuals are people who are attracted to the same biological sex.”[10] In June 2019, British author J.K. Rowling (of Harry Potter fame) followed Magdalen Berns on Twitter, bringing her more visibility and prompting criticism towards Rowling from trans activists.[11][12] Berns was labelled a transphobe and a self-professed transphobe.[13][14] In August 2019, Dr. Rachel McKinnon of the College of Charleston attracted criticism after describing the celebration of Berns' impending death as "ethically justified" in light of Berns' positions on gender.[15]

Health and death

Berns was diagnosed with a glioblastoma (aggressive brain cancer) in 2018.[16] Notably, Irish comedy writer Graham Linehan voiced vocal support for Berns on Twitter and other platforms,[17] and visited her in palliative care. She was also visited by fellow radical feminist activists Julie Bindel[18] and Rachel Moran.[19] She died on 13 September 2019, aged 36 in Edinburgh.[20]


  1. What's Current: Lesbian feminist shero Magdalen Berns passes away at 36. September 13, 2019.
  2. Magdalen Berns. YouTube. Retrieved 2019-09-14.
  3. Current recipients of the Doris Gray Scholarships. Women's Engineering Society. Retrieved 2019-09-15.
  4. Google Summer of Code 2018 Application. Github. January 2018. Retrieved 2019-09-15.
  5. Introducing the FFTW SciRuby GSoC Project. June 4, 2014. Retrieved 2019-09-15.
  6. GNOME Outreach Program Yearbook 2013. GNOME Foundation. August 2013. Retrieved 2019-09-15.
  7. Magdalen Berns present her work with improving the Java-ATK-Wrapper. GNOME Foundation. August 2015. Retrieved 2019-09-15.
  8. Celebrating Magdalen Berns, a Lesbian Feminist Warrior. May 29, 2018. Retrieved 2019-09-14.
  9. The Cotton Ceiling and the Cultural War on Lesbians and Women. Retrieved 2019-09-15.
  10. Scotland’s Magdalen Berns & Feminism — A ‘Shero’ Among Women. September 7, 2019. Retrieved 2019-09-15.
  11. JK Rowling criticised for following 'transphobe' Magdalen Berns on Twitter. indy100. June 25, 2019. Retrieved 2019-09-14.
  12. J.K. Rowling Faces Backlash For Allegedly Displaying Transphobic Behaviour. June 28, 2019. Retrieved 2019-09-15.
  13. Narjas Zatat (June 25, 2019). JK Rowling criticised for following a 'famous transphobe' on Twitter. Indy100 (from The Independent). Retrieved 15 September 2019.
  14. Emma Maurice (June 25, 2019). JK Rowling under fire for following a ‘proud transphobe’ on Twitter. Pink News. Retrieved 15 September 2019.
  15. Jenna Schiferl (August 29, 2019). The tweet heard 'round the world: Charleston professor sparks global Twitter debate. The Post and Courier. Evening Post Industries. Retrieved 2019-09-15.
  16. My ladybrain update #2.
  17. Linehan, Graham (September 13, 2019). Magdalen Berns 1983–2019. Glinner.
  18. @bindelj (Julie Bindel) (September 10, 2019). I am visiting our Queen, Magdalen Berns tomorrow. I would be delighted to pass on any messages of love and appreciation to her if you would like to send me in a (short) DM? Thank you x. Twitter.
  19. @RachelRMoran (Rachel Moran) (September 13, 2019). I just feel so lucky to have been able to spend time with Magdalen the two weekends before she died. If people could see the carry-on in that hospice room there would be peals of laughter. She was absolutely her feisty determined self to the very end. Rest well little Sister, xxx. Twitter.
  20. What's Current: Lesbian feminist shero Magdalen Berns passes away at 36. September 13, 2019.

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