Magdalen Berns

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Magdalen Berns
Personal information
Born(1983-05-06)6 May 1983
Camden, London, England, United Kingdom[1][2]
Died13 September 2019(2019-09-13) (aged 36)
Marie Curie Hospice, Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom[3]
OccupationSoftware developer
YouTube information
Years active2013–2019
Subscribers29.5K subscribers (as of death on 13 September 2019)[4]
Total views3,058,284 views (as of 13 October 2019)

Magdalen Berns (6 May 1983 – 13 September 2019)[5][6] was a British YouTuber, boxer and software developer. Berns, a lesbian radical feminist, came to prominence as a result of a series of YouTube vlogs focusing on lesbian politics, free speech, women's rights on the basis of sex and the gender identity debate.[1] In 2018, she co-founded Scottish feminist campaign group ForWomen.Scot,[1][7] which grew to become the largest organisation of its kind in Scotland.[1] The group, which opposes reform of the Gender Recognition Act,[8] has been accused of being "anti-trans" (ForWomen.Scot has denied the allegations made against it).[9] Berns's views attracted controversy, with some commenters describing them as anti-trans.[10]

Education, career, and sporting endeavours[edit]

Berns originated from Camden, London where she attended Hampstead School.[2][11] As a teenager, she participated in campaigns against Huntingdon Life Sciences and distributed election leaflets for the Socialist Labour Party.[11] After leaving school, she worked as a sound engineer until attending the University of Edinburgh in her thirties.[11][12] She initially studied engineering, receiving a Doris Gray Scholarship—an award for underprivileged women studying engineering in Scotland—from the Women's Engineering Society.[13][14] In her second year she switched to physics, graduating in 2016.[1] She was a self-taught computer programmer,[15] and between 2013 and 2015 participated in the Google Summer of Code project,[11][16] working on implementing the FFTW3 library for Ruby.[17][18][19] As part of the Summer of Code, she interned in the Outreach Program for Women of the GNOME Foundation,[20][21] where she worked on the Java ATK Wrapper, a module to translate Swing events for the Accessibility Toolkit.[22][23]

Berns was active in Scottish amateur boxing. Boxing Scotland, the sport's Scottish governing body, described her as "a pioneer for both women's boxing and university boxing in Scotland".[24] In 2009, she competed in the Scottish University Boxing Championships in the bantamweight division, losing in the final to Sinead Sheehan.[25] In 2010, she became the first Scottish boxer to win at the Haringey Box Cup,[24][26] arguably the biggest and the most prestigious amateur tournament in Europe.[27] In 2011, she became the first Scottish boxer to win at the Golden Girl Championship[24][26] (one of the largest all-female tournaments in the world);[28] won the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) Boxing Championship in the novice women's 54kg class;[24][29] and competed in the Scottish National Championships in the 51kg (flyweight) category, losing in the finals to Stephanie Kernachan.[30][31][32][33] She was a member of Scotland's first female boxing squad.[24] Berns continued to act as a boxing coach for the University of Edinburgh.[24][26]

Radical feminism[edit]

In 2016, Berns was banned from the University of Edinburgh's Feminist Society for opposing the decriminalization of sex work.[12] Later, in April 2016, she began her YouTube vlogs where she published her views on gender identity. In July 2016, Berns spoke at Thinking Differently: Feminists Questioning Gender Politics, a conference in London focusing on "the implications of transgenderism for women's rights".[34] The conference was described by one attendee as "the first full-day public conference that we know of on the topic of how gender identity politics harm women and girls". Berns addressed her experiences with no platforming as a university student.[35][36] In June 2019, British author J.K. Rowling followed Berns on Twitter, bringing her more visibility and prompting criticism towards Rowling from Berns's critics.[37][38][39][40] By the autumn of 2019, Berns had produced 64 vlogs[26][4] and amassed approximately 30,000 followers.[15][41]

Berns expressed views that included criticism of the concept of the "cotton ceiling", as featured in her first vlog[6]—the cotton ceiling being the controversial theory that prejudice, rather than inherent sexual orientation, can sometimes be a major factor preventing sexual relationships between cisgender and transgender lesbians.[42][43] She was also known for arguing against gender self-identification and gender itself.[citation needed] 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.[41] She described trans women as "blackface actors" and "men who get sexual kicks from being treated like women",[44] said that "trans women are men",[37] and that she'd "rather be rude than a fucking liar".[45] Communist newspaper the Morning Star praised Berns's "determined defence of women's sex-based rights and the rights of lesbians to assert their sexuality in the face of relentless demands to redefine sex as gender", and named her "one of the best-known feminist speakers of her generation".[1]

In 2018, she co-founded Scottish feminist campaign group ForWomen.Scot,[1][7] which grew to become the largest organisation of its kind in Scotland.[1] The group, which opposes reform of the Gender Recognition Act,[8] is accused of being anti-trans.[9]

Many of Berns's opinions attracted criticism. She was described as a "one of the most hateful and aggressive anti-trans radical feminists on Twitter" by trans woman Phaylen Fairchild;[10] and a "TERF" (trans-exclusionary radical feminist),[39] a transphobe,[37] and a "self-professed transphobe"[38] by her critics. Writing in student newspaper The Wesleyan Argus, Connor Aberle stated that Berns's "most popular uploads simply mock videos of transgender people", describing her as part of "a group of far-left YouTubers who hate transgender people".[46] Transgender activist and philosophy professor Rachel McKinnon drew criticism and a protest letter by over 500 signatories after describing celebrations by Berns's opponents of her impending death as "ethically justified" in light of Berns's positions on gender.[47][48][49] In May 2018, Berns stated that she had been assaulted on the street by an unidentified assailant, and that a passer-by had intervened to defend her.[50]


In April 2017, Berns informed her YouTube subscribers that she had been diagnosed with a brain tumor that was affecting her left frontal lobe.[51] In July, she announced that she had an astrocytoma that could not be completely removed surgically.[52] She was diagnosed with glioblastoma in October 2018.[53][41] Irish comedy writer Graham Linehan, a critic of the "transgender movement,"[54] voiced vocal support for Berns on Twitter and other platforms,[55] and visited her in palliative care. She was also visited by fellow radical feminist activists Julie Bindel[56] and sex trafficking survivor Rachel Moran.[57]

Berns died from glioblastoma on 13 September 2019, in Edinburgh.[3][5] Her death was noted by two members of the Scottish Parliament. Joan McAlpine MSP described her as a "clever and uncompromising" young woman[58], while Ruth Maguire MSP described her as a "courageous young feminist, who inspired others".[59]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Lavin, Deborah; Chynoweth, Susan (20 September 2019). "A feminist with a vivid love of life, gone too soon". Morning Star. Retrieved 20 September 2019.
  2. ^ a b Robertson, Julia Diana (13 October 2019). "Mourning the loss of lesbian feminist leader Magdalen Berns". The Velvet Chronicle. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  3. ^ a b "Magdalen Berns". Edinburgh Evening News. 19 September 2019. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  4. ^ a b "Magdalen Berns". YouTube. 13 September 2019. Archived from the original on 13 September 2019. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
  5. ^ a b McCarty, Meghan (13 September 2019). "What's Current: Lesbian feminist shero Magdalen Berns passes away at 36". Feminist Current. Retrieved 14 September 2019.
  6. ^ a b "Celebrating Magdalen Berns, a Lesbian Feminist Warrior". AfterEllen. 13 September 2019. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  7. ^ a b Davidson, Gina (1 September 2019). "Mixed sex loos in Scottish schools break regulations, warn campaigners". The Scotsman. Archived from the original on 1 October 2019. Retrieved 13 October 2019.
  8. ^ a b Rhodes, Mandy (26 August 2019). "The Scottish Government's clumsy attempts to reform the Gender Recognition Act have inadvertently opened a hornet's nest". Holyrood. Retrieved 12 October 2019.
  9. ^ a b Mitchell, Hilary (5 October 2018). ""Hateful" anti-trans stickers have been spotted in toilets and in public spaces around Edinburgh". Edinburgh Live. Retrieved 12 October 2019. is a diverse group of women, covering the whole of Scotland and all political affiliations, backgrounds and ages... We are neither anti-trans nor a "TERF” group nor hateful...A factual statement of biology is neither anti-trans nor hateful."
  10. ^ a b MacGuill, Dan (27 June 2019). "Did J.K. Rowling 'Confirm Her Stance Against Transgender Women'?". Snopes. Retrieved 16 September 2019. ...She has followed one of the most hateful and aggressive anti-trans radical feminists on Twitter, Magdalen Berns. [quoting Phaylen Fairchild]
  11. ^ a b c d Chynoweth, Susan (7 October 2019). "Magdalen Berns, vlogger who took a stand for women's rights". Camden New Journal. Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  12. ^ a b Peters, Charlie (2 April 2016). "University Feminists Are Betraying Their Movement's Liberal Past". Quillette. Retrieved 24 September 2019.
  13. ^ "Current recipients of the Doris Gray Scholarships". Women's Engineering Society. Retrieved 15 September 2019.
  14. ^ "Doris Gray Scottish Scholarships". Women's Engineering Society. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
  15. ^ a b Benjamin, Shereen (8 September 2019). "Lesbian strength march". Retrieved 15 September 2019.
  16. ^ Deshmukh, Sameer (13 January 2018). "Google Summer of Code 2018 Application". GitHub. Retrieved 15 September 2019.
  17. ^ Berns, Magdalen (6 June 2014). "Introducing the FFTW SciRuby GSoC Project". Retrieved 15 September 2019.
  18. ^ Woods, John (23 January 2015). "Google Summer of Code Wrap up: SciRuby". Google Open Source. Retrieved 9 October 2019. Magdalen Berns created a Ruby wrapper for FFTW3 (a fast Fourier transform library) with a focus on implementing support for transforms on NMatrix objects. This gem was written almost from scratch in the C and Ruby languages.
  19. ^ Deshmukh, Sameer (4 March 2016). "Ruby Association Grant 2015 Final Report" (PDF). Retrieved 9 October 2019. Before starting this project, I did some research to see if any FFTW interfaces for Ruby had already been built. My search lead to the fftw library by Magdalen Berns. The biggest problem with Magdalen's library was that it did not leverage FFTW's or NMatrix's unique API, and it was also very old and not being maintained.
  20. ^ Siegel, Daniel G., ed. (August 2013). "GNOME Outreach Program Yearbook 2013" (PDF). GNOME Foundation. Retrieved 15 September 2019.
  21. ^ Day, Allan; et al. (2014). "GNOME Annual Report 2013" (PDF). GNOME Foundation. p. 8. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
  22. ^ "Magdalen Berns present {sic} her work with improving the Java-ATK-Wrapper". GNOME Foundation. August 2015. Retrieved 15 September 2019.
  23. ^ Berns, Magdalen (2015). "Develop The Java ATK Wrapper". Google Melange. Google. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
  24. ^ a b c d e f "Boxing Scotland". Facebook. 18 September 2019. Retrieved 24 September 2019.
  25. ^ "Boxing: Uni show turns destructive". The Scotsman). 8 December 2009. Retrieved 9 October 2019. the only women's final, at bantamweight, Edinburgh's Magdalene {sic} Berns was well beaten on points by the more technically accomplished Sinead Sheehan of Aberdeen.
  26. ^ a b c d Parker, Posie (25 September 2019). "In memory of Magdalen Berns". Spiked. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  27. ^ Power, Lee (15 June 2017). "Haringey Box Cup ready to celebrate 10th anniversary". Ham and High. Hampstead and Highgate, London. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
  28. ^ Connors, Chris (1 February 2019). "Cape Breton boxer opens up about fight with mental illness". Cape Breton Post. Nova Scotia, Canada. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
  29. ^ Edinburgh University Sports Union [@UoESportsUnion] (18 February 2011). "BUCS Boxing GOLD: Magdalen Berns in the Boxing Women's Novice 54kg - Excellent News, well done Magdalen" (Tweet). Archived from the original on 9 October 2019. Retrieved 9 October 2019 – via Twitter.
  30. ^ "The cream of Scottish Boxing talent enter the ring for the 2011 ABS Scottish Championships". 26 March 2011. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
  31. ^ "Boxing: Louise will have a fight on her hands". The Scotsman. 22 March 2011. Retrieved 9 October 2019. Edinburgh's other Scottish title contender is Leith Victoria's flyweight Magdalene Berns, who takes on Newarthill boxer Stephanie Kernachan at Coatbridge.
  32. ^ Behan, Paul (24 March 2011). "Battling Buddies in search of glory". Daily Record. Retrieved 9 October 2019. Leith Victoria boxer Magdalena Berns will be in action against Stephanie Kernachan, of Newarthill ABC, in the 51kg division.
  33. ^ "Ham, Brown power to national title for Renfrewshire Club". The Herald (via PressReader). 26 March 2011. Retrieved 9 October 2019. Stephanie Kernachan, of Newarthill, made it a west coast double by beating Magdalen Berns of Leith Victoria
  34. ^ Blunden, Mark (15 July 2016). "'Medical threat' to transgender children on puberty-blocking drugs". Evening Standard. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
  35. ^ Murphy, Meaghan (27 September 2016). "'We need to be braver' — women challenge 'gender identity' and the silencing of feminist discourse". Feminist Current. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
  36. ^ Singleton, Mary Lou (25 July 2016). "Thinking Differently Conference". Women's Liberation Front. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
  37. ^ a b c Zatat, Narjas (25 June 2019). "JK Rowling criticised for following 'transphobe' Magdalen Berns on Twitter". indy100. Retrieved 14 September 2019.
  38. ^ a b Smith-Engelhardt, Joe (28 June 2019). "J.K. Rowling faces backlash for allegedly displaying transphobic behaviour". Retrieved 15 September 2019.
  39. ^ a b Gordon, Lewis (3 July 2019). "'Wizards Unite' turns the world into a branded 'Harry Potter' hellscape". Vice. Retrieved 17 September 2019. ...the most recent development of which is her following of the TERF Magdalen Berns on Twitter...
  40. ^ Maurice, Emma (25 June 2019). "JK Rowling under fire for following a 'proud transphobe' on Twitter". PinkNews. Retrieved 15 September 2019.
  41. ^ a b c Kearns, Madeleine (4 September 2019). "Magdalen Berns, a 'Shero' Among Women". National Review. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  42. ^ Kirkup, James (16 May 2018). "The silencing of the lesbians". The Spectator. Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  43. ^ Yardley, Miranda (5 December 2018). "Girl Dick, the Cotton Ceiling and the Cultural War on Lesbians, Girls and Women". AfterEllen. Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  44. ^ Kane, Vivian (25 June 2019). "J.K. Rowling Leaves Little Doubt About Her TERFdom". The Mary Sue. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  45. ^ Murphy, Meghan (20 September 2019). "The false promises of the Equality Act". Spectator USA. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
  46. ^ Aberle, Connor (15 November 2018). "YouTube Loves to Hate Me". The Wesleyan Argus. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
  47. ^ Schiferl, Jenna (29 August 2019). "The tweet heard 'round the world: Charleston professor sparks global Twitter debate". The Post and Courier. Evening Post Industries. Retrieved 15 September 2019.
  48. ^ "Transgender professor defends celebrating deaths of those deemed 'transphobic'". The College Fix. 1 September 2019. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
  49. ^ Flaherty, Colleen (3 September 2019). "College Supports Trans Scholar Under Fire". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  50. ^ Robertson, Julia Diana (29 May 2018). "Vocal Lesbian Feminist Magdalen Berns Assaulted, Suspect at Large". AfterEllen. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  51. ^ Berns, Magdalen (23 April 2017). "My Lady-Brain..." YouTube. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  52. ^ Magdalen [@MagdalenBerns] (3 July 2017). "My tumour couldn't be completely resected and it's an astrocytoma => not curable; also none of what I said on YouTube is remotely radical. …" (Tweet). Retrieved 5 October 2019 – via Twitter.
  53. ^ Berns, Magdalen (7 October 2018). "My ladybrain update #2 | Glioblastoma". YouTube. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  54. ^ Andersson, Jasmine (12 December 2018). "Father Ted writer Graham Linehan compares the trans movement to Nazism". i. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  55. ^ Linehan, Graham (13 September 2019). "Magdalen Berns 1983–2019". Women Are Important. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  56. ^ Julie Bindel [@bindelj] (10 September 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" (Tweet). Retrieved 10 October 2019 – via Twitter.
  57. ^ Rachel Moran [@RachelRMoran] (30 August 2019). "Magdalen is dying JK. I'm in Edinburgh to visit her in the hospice now. It would mean a lot if you publicly said goodbye. @jk_rowling @MagdalenBerns" (Tweet). Retrieved 10 October 2019 – via Twitter.
  58. ^ Joan McAlpine [@JoanMcAlpine] (13 September 2019). "This is sad news. A clever and uncompromising young women [sic] taken too early by brain cancer.. the best tribute to her is the videos she made. Watch them here … #MagdalenBerns" (Tweet). Retrieved 29 September 2019 – via Twitter.
  59. ^ Ruth Maguire MSP [@RBFMaguire] (13 September 2019). "A courageous young feminist, who inspired others died today. All day I've written & deleted, thought about caveats, nearly RT'ed but not ...that's really not good enough. Let me simply say, I pledge I will #BeBrave and truthful in standing up for the rights of women & girls" (Tweet). Retrieved 29 September 2019 – via Twitter.

External links[edit]