*Trigger warning: JK Rowling’s article includes multiple instances of the misgendering of trans women, mention of physical and sexual assault*
Is JK Rowling transphobic? This has been hotly debated on social media for a long time, with trans people on both sides of the issue. JK Rowling got into some hot water in the past for liking transphobic tweets, although whether or not you believe that she liked them by accident while doing research is up to you. JK Rowling’s recent tweet equating menstruation with being a woman has ejected her from the proverbial fireplace and landed her right in the fire.
There has been a push in recent times to move away from gendered language when it is not necessary. Whether or not you agree that transgender people are real and valid, you most certainly agree that not all women menstruate. Medication, weight, age, pregnancy, hysterectomies, and a whole host of other reasons can interfere with someone’s ability to menstruate, so the title of the article JK quote-tweeted is perfectly specific in what it is referring too.
In the wake of this tweet, lots of people once again pounced on JK Rowling and called her transphobic, which led her to release a very long statement defending herself and arguing her point. Today, I will analyse that statement, and explain why JK Rowling’s misplaced understanding of what it means to be trans has wound up with her being labelled a transphobe.
The first part of the article I would like to include, without comment, is the quote I have included below.
“I’ve met trans people, and read sundry books, blogs and articles by trans people, gender specialists, intersex people, psychologists, safeguarding experts, social workers and doctors, and followed the discourse online and in traditional media.”
Remember this quote, it will come into play later.
“…accusations of TERFery have been sufficient to intimidate many people, institutions and organisations I once admired, who’re cowering before the tactics of the playground. ‘They’ll call us transphobic!’ ‘They’ll say I hate trans people!’ What next, they’ll say you’ve got fleas? Speaking as a biological woman, a lot of people in positions of power really need to grow a pair”
Here we begin our disagreement. The statement above is a gross oversimplification of the issue, and I think JK Rowling facetiously knows this. JK is conflating the concerns of people scared to speak their mind for fear of people called transphobic, with the fear of lies and silly rumours. I do not see it as a negative if someone holds back from comment because they believe they will say something that’s seen as offensive. If a racist holds back from saying a racist thing for fear of being called racist, this is somewhat progress. I’m reminded of the t-shirts I’ve seen all over the internet that read “Why be racist/sexist/[etc.] when you can just be quiet?”
I am glad to live in a world where there are people who refrain from their bigoted views because they know they will be held accountable for them, this is by no means comparable with someone spreading a false rumour.
“I also fund medical research into MS, a disease that behaves very differently in men and women.”
How does MS react in people with androgen insensitivity syndrome? How does MS react in people with XXY chromosomes, intersex people, people with other hormone imbalances? How does MS present in a trans woman who transitioned before puberty versus a trans woman who transitioned at the age of 65? Biology is so much more complex than JK seems to realise, we’ve learned so much more since we first discovered X and Y chromosomes, it’s no longer a case of black and white, but a whole matrix of shades of grey…or pink, white and blue, if you will
“It’s been clear to me for a while that the new trans activism is having (or is likely to have, if all its demands are met) a significant impact on many of the causes I support, because it’s pushing to erode the legal definition of sex and replace it with gender.”
No, no-one is saying this. No-one is denying the fact that typically female and typically male bodies exist, we are simply pushing to incorporate people who fall outside of these two categories into the conversation, and to not use language that invalidates the experience of atypical bodies, trans people, non-binary people, and anyone else who does not feel represented by ‘man’ and ‘woman’ in the socially accepted way.
“The second reason is that I’m an ex-teacher and the founder of a children’s charity, which gives me an interest in both education and safeguarding. Like many others, I have deep concerns about the effect the trans rights movement is having on both.”
I don’t really understand what point JK is alluding to here. She is concerned about the negative effect a group of people asking for equality will have on children? I wish she had elaborated on this point so we could unpack this, but unfortunately this is as far as this point went.
“The third is that, as a much-banned author, I’m interested in freedom of speech and have publicly defended it, even unto Donald Trump.”
You have freedom to say what you want to say, and we have the freedom to criticise it. You can’t have it all your way, “I’ll say what I want to say and no-one can tell me they think I am wrong”.
“The fourth is where things start to get truly personal. I’m concerned about the huge explosion in young women wishing to transition and also about the increasing numbers who seem to be detransitioning (returning to their original sex), because they regret taking steps that have, in some cases, altered their bodies irrevocably, and taken away their fertility. Some say they decided to transition after realising they were same-sex attracted, and that transitioning was partly driven by homophobia, either in society or in their families.”
Do you not see how this is also a trans issue? Do you not think that more education on the trans experience and what it means to be trans would result in less people de-transitioning? There is an excellent YouTube video by Ryan Barnes, who began her de-transition earlier in 2020 after a year on testosterone, about why she chose to transition, and why this was a mistake. The trans community needs to support de-transitioners in the same way that it supports trans people, both of these groups are people who felt uncomfortable in their bodies, they maybe felt rejected, or wrong, or lost, or that their outside and the way society saw and treated them didn’t reflect their true selves. If everyone had access to the correct information, resources, counselling and medical professionals in the build up to their transition, we would not have as many people transitioning mistakenly because they misinterpreted their own feelings and experience for something that it was not.
“Most people probably aren’t aware — I certainly wasn’t, until I started researching this issue properly — that ten years ago, the majority of people wanting to transition to the opposite sex were male. That ratio has now reversed. The UK has experienced a 4400% increase in girls being referred for transitioning treatment. Autistic girls are hugely overrepresented in their numbers.”
Again, this doesn’t really make an actual point anywhere besides throwing numbers around and blatantly misgendering people. Just as a point of learning, generally it’s best to stick to ‘male’ and ‘female’, or AFAB/AMAB (assigned female/male at birth) to describe what you are trying to say; again, as someone so insistent that you’ve done your trans ally work you really should be more aware of the language you should be using.
“The same phenomenon has been seen in the US. In 2018, American physician and researcher Lisa Littman set out to explore it. In an interview, she said:
‘Parents online were describing a very unusual pattern of transgender-identification where multiple friends and even entire friend groups became transgender-identified at the same time. I would have been remiss had I not considered social contagion and peer influences as potential factors.’
Littman mentioned Tumblr, Reddit, Instagram and YouTube as contributing factors to Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria, where she believes that in the realm of transgender identification ‘youth have created particularly insular echo chambers.’”
Again, this goes back to our conversation about de-transitioners and the lack of proper education and information on these issues in the wider world. Self-diagnosis can be useful in the early stages for anything that eventually results in medical intervention, but if there is no proper medical consultation before drugs, surgeries etc. are brought into the equation of course there will be people who slip through the net and do not receive the treatment they need for what they are experiencing. Imagine someone diagnosing themselves as schizophrenic, and being prescribed antipsychotic medication without proper assessment and consultation — expert advice is required. I am in no way equating being trans with being mentally ill — the WHO confirmed that this is not the case in 2019 — but if a person is intending on undertaking drug or surgical treatment for anything, it is irresponsible of therapists, psychiatrists and other medical professionals to prescribe and treat without proper care being taken.
“The argument of many current trans activists is that if you don’t let a gender dysphoric teenager transition, they will kill themselves. In an article explaining why he resigned from the Tavistock (an NHS gender clinic in England) psychiatrist Marcus Evans stated that claims that children will kill themselves if not permitted to transition do not ‘align substantially with any robust data or studies in this area. Nor do they align with the cases I have encountered over decades as a psychotherapist.’”
This is a peculiar paragraph that misses several points, such as how we don’t have statistics on the number of trans people who committed suicide without ever coming out, Evans’ research only includes people who have felt comfortable enough to seek therapy, and not to mention the fact if transition stops any number of suicides, it is worth considering.
“The writings of young trans men reveal a group of notably sensitive and clever people. The more of their accounts of gender dysphoria I’ve read, with their insightful descriptions of anxiety, dissociation, eating disorders, self-harm and self-hatred, the more I’ve wondered whether, if I’d been born 30 years later, I too might have tried to transition. The allure of escaping womanhood would have been huge. I struggled with severe OCD as a teenager. If I’d found community and sympathy online that I couldn’t find in my immediate environment, I believe I could have been persuaded to turn myself into the son my father had openly said he’d have preferred.”
Once again missing the point, if you can be coerced into transitioning because you misunderstand what being trans means you are not trans. You are not talking about trans people here, you are talking about people who are misinterpreting their own feelings again. This is an issue in the modern world and needs to be addressed, but by withholding transition from people you are adding to the problem. I don’t want to keep repeating myself, but if JK insists on doing so then seemingly I have to as well.
“I want to be very clear here: I know transition will be a solution for some gender dysphoric people, although I’m also aware through extensive research that studies have consistently shown that between 60–90% of gender dysphoric teens will grow out of their dysphoria.”
I’m glad she at least acknowledges that transition can treat gender dysphoria, and once again the studies she’s discussing only include people who have reported gender dysphoria, and does not specify what percentage of these people actually ended up transitioning. It is possible that some of these people were non-binary, and their dysphoria was alleviated over time by introspection and learning that their body did not need to look masculine, feminine or entirely androgynous to ‘prove’ their gender identity in any way. Some of this dysphoria may have come from the pressure to conform to stereotypical gender roles and norms. Ryan Barnes discusses in her video how the pressures to be what society dictated was female never felt quite comfortable with her, a feeling she identified as dysphoria but now sees in a very different light. Studies are important and can give great insight into how things are, but reducing such a complex issue down into a single statistic (with a very wide range, might I add) is once again grossly oversimplifying the issue.
“I happen to know a self-described transsexual woman who’s older than I am and wonderful. Although she’s open about her past as a gay man, I’ve always found it hard to think of her as anything other than a woman, and I believe (and certainly hope) she’s completely happy to have transitioned. Being older, though, she went through a long and rigorous process of evaluation, psychotherapy and staged transformation. The current explosion of trans activism is urging a removal of almost all the robust systems through which candidates for sex reassignment were once required to pass. A man who intends to have no surgery and take no hormones may now secure himself a Gender Recognition Certificate and be a woman in the sight of the law. Many people aren’t aware of this.”
Look! JK look! We agree! Other than the gross part at the end where you call non-intervention trans women ‘men’, it’s clear that JK Rowling agrees with me at least in some way. She believes that properly cared for trans people should be allowed to do whatever they want to alleviate their dysphoria… except her acceptance includes the caveat that you need to have medical intervention in order to be trans. There are plenty of people who have no interest in hormones or surgery due to a number of reasons, not least the potential danger of invasive procedures, or because they wish to remain fertile in case they want to have their own biological children one day. Some trans people simply feel complete in their body exactly as it has developed, it is just the gender marker and the way they are viewed by society that makes them feel dysphoric. Here JK flips the switch on her earlier argument (a Maud Flanders-style “Won’t somebody please think of the children” who are medically altering their bodies in a potentially permanent way), somewhat gatekeeping the trans experience with her vehement rejection of medically transitioning early in life in case you change your mind, but also disavowing trans people who have not medically transitioned. In the case of the friend she speaks of, was she not a woman until she began hormones? I wonder what gender JK would have considered her friend to be while she was undergoing therapy and assessment prior to her medical transition?
JK’s concerns that trans people want to remove some of the barriers to their transition is understandable, her evident preoccupation with people who have wrongly transitioned and regret the undertaking is blinding her to the legitimate concerns of transgender people who have had their transition withheld from them because of doctors that also shared her concerns. Prescribing hormone blockers to delay puberty* is totally different to prescribing a 5-year old testosterone and scheduling a phalloplasty. Many trans people are denied access to hormone blockers for an extended period because of the many hoops they must jump through in order to prove their trans-ness to their GP. This can result in them not receiving the medication they need until they have begun puberty and it is ‘too late’, which is directly comparable to someone transitioning too soon and wanting to de-transition— something which JK was so vocal about earlier in her statement.
“We’re living through the most misogynistic period I’ve experienced. Back in the 80s, I imagined that my future daughters, should I have any, would have it far better than I ever did, but between the backlash against feminism and a porn-saturated online culture, I believe things have got significantly worse for girls. Never have I seen women denigrated and dehumanised to the extent they are now. From the leader of the free world’s long history of sexual assault accusations and his proud boast of ‘grabbing them by the pussy’, to the incel (‘involuntarily celibate’) movement that rages against women who won’t give them sex…”
Once again I start off in agreement with her, that increasingly concerning and extreme pornography, the normalisation of sexual assault by the US President, and the growing incel movement are contributing greatly towards misogynistic behaviour, but watch how she chooses to end this sentence…
“…to the trans activists who declare that TERFs need punching and re-educating, men across the political spectrum seem to agree: women are asking for trouble. Everywhere, women are being told to shut up and sit down, or else.”
Ouch. That was going so well, Jo.
Equating misogynistic porn and sexual assault with online jokes about punching bigots is comparing two things that are completely dissimilar. There’s a lot to unpack here so I’m just going to bullet point
- You have already stated in this article that you are in support of (people you decide are legitimate) trans people, and you have voiced support for feminism. Therefore you have, in a way, rejected trans exclusionary feminism, so you should have no issue with TERFs being re-educated
- Disliking jokes about people getting punched is fine, but when trans people (particularly trans women) are disproportionately victims of violence, being more concerned about a few joke tweets is incredibly short-sighted
- Once again we’re deliberately misgendering trans women to create this ‘otherness’. JK knew the full weight of her words by doing this, all of my female friends have past experience of misogynistic maltreatment at the hands of men, none of them to my knowledge have been maltreated by trans women in the same way
- Saying TERFs need to be educated is not the same thing as ‘women are asking for trouble’ or ‘shut up and sit down, or else’ — again JK Rowling surely knows this. Up until this point I have been trying really hard to give her the benefit of the doubt in so much as “she just doesn’t understand”, but this paragraph has the exact same feeling as Amy Cooper weaponising her whiteness against Christian Cooper last month.
“I’ve read all the arguments about femaleness not residing in the sexed body, and the assertions that biological women don’t have common experiences, and I find them, too, deeply misogynistic and regressive. It’s also clear that one of the objectives of denying the importance of sex is to erode what some seem to see as the cruelly segregationist idea of women having their own biological realities or — just as threatening — unifying realities that make them a cohesive political class. The hundreds of emails I’ve received in the last few days prove this erosion concerns many others just as much. It isn’t enough for women to be trans allies. Women must accept and admit that there is no material difference between trans women and themselves.”
If the first half of that took you three or four reads to semi-understand which side of the argument she was on, you’re not alone. She seems to be in agreement at the start that your gender shouldn’t define your options in life, then flip-flop to being outraged that people have identified that women (trans or not) can have the same experiences and struggles despite the sex they were assigned at birth. Why is she so insistent to separate trans women and AFAB women into two separate political classes, when both are just seeking equality? JK Rowling is outraged that trans people and their supporters are more interested in what is means to be a women psychologically, socially and politically rather than biologically, how does this make her argument any more valid than mine?
I’m sure most trans women would agree that there are differences between themselves and AFAB women. Predominantly, being born with XX chromosomes, a biologically typical female body and being naturally able to undergo typically female puberty are privileges that trans women largely do not have. I myself would argue that we cisgender women have it easier than trans women, and I am not alone in that by any means. I have never had to read a nearly-4000 word essay by one of my former favourite authors invalidating my gender, that is a privilege your trans fans have now had stolen from them.
“But, as many women have said before me, ‘woman’ is not a costume….”
Trans women would agree
“…‘woman’ is not an idea in a man’s head…”
Correct, what it means to be a woman is incredibly complex, and cannot be summed up in one line of text
“…‘Woman’ is not a pink brain, a liking for Jimmy Choos or any of the other sexist ideas now somehow touted as progressive…”
Correct, science does not support the concept of brains being structurally gendered in any way. Check out this podcast by The Sci Guys for more information.
“…Moreover, the ‘inclusive’ language that calls female people ‘menstruators’ and ‘people with vulvas’ strikes many women as dehumanising and demeaning.”
When we are talking about anatomy and biological processes, we should absolutely use the technical terms. Otherwise, I refer you to my earlier use of AFAB, AMAB or ‘biologically male/female’ if you must, although we have already gone over how that’s a bit of a grey area
“…I understand why trans activists consider this language to be appropriate and kind, but for those of us who’ve had degrading slurs spat at us by violent men…”
What, like trans women?
“…it’s not neutral, it’s hostile and alienating.”
I understand JK Rowling’s frustration. Feeling like your own identity is being denied and erased is a terrible thing (it’s almost like being a trans woman!), but just as we all screamed at Jack for not trying to get on the door with Rose in Titanic (yes I know it would have sank but don’t ruin the analogy), there is room for both trans and cis ladies in the space of womanhood. Experiencing misogyny and gender-based violence is not exclusive to either group. Being underestimated because of your gender is not exclusive to either group.
Being born into an AFAB body can be difficult. Those of us that do menstruate (or ‘menstruators’ as Little Miss Flippancy put it) have the shared experience of how inconvenient menstruation is. Going through female puberty is gross and weird, all the expectations put on us as children about being a good wife and asking how many babies we want — these are all things I’ve found uncomfortable about being in a female body. But do you know who shares a lot of these experiences? A large number of trans men! JK Rowling will never understand the argument for inclusivity and the trans rights movement until she focuses her energy less on what makes us physically different, in most cases, but instead focuses on what we share.
Paula Stone Williams did an incredible TED Talk about how people treated her differently after her transition, and you may be surprised about how much of it resonates with the AFAB women in your life.
“[This] brings me to the fifth reason I’m deeply concerned about the consequences of the current trans activism.
I’ve been in the public eye now for over twenty years and have never talked publicly about being a domestic abuse and sexual assault survivor…
…I’m mentioning these things now not in an attempt to garner sympathy, but out of solidarity with the huge numbers of women who have histories like mine, who’ve been slurred as bigots for having concerns around single-sex spaces.”
Once again, JK Rowling loses me here. While I of course am deeply saddened by the knowledge she has had such cruelty done to her, this is once again completely conflating two issues that are completely unrelated. JK Rowling having suffered at the hands of, I assume, as cisgender man, is nothing to do with trans people being allowed to use their preferred bathroom. In the same way that is it difficult to argue with someone when they start to cry, JK Rowling bringing up her own trauma here puts up a sort of sympathy smokescreen that shields her from too harsh of a criticism. It’s a deliberately manipulative technique, misgendering trans women to equate them with abusive men. The implication here is that trans women are predators, when in fact the science absolutely refutes this. In reality, trans people are sexually assault victims at an appalling rate; trans people historically have had to, against their wishes, rely on sex work for their income, which puts them at increased risk of sexual assault and rape, and this is not a thing of the past by any means.
If you, a cisgender woman, believe that trans women are women, then you will not see a trans women existing inside of a same-sex space as an infringement. If, as has becoming increasingly evident, you do not respect trans women as who they say then are, then you may feel threatened by them occupying a single-sex space with you. This absolutely makes you a bigot, I don’t care that this is down to simply not understanding someone else’s gender identity. If you are uncomfortable being with a trans woman in a single sex space, you are welcome to leave said single-sex space. Make your own single-sex-cis-space, invite all your cis-ters, then you will have a nice space to meet up to get flustered that people are calling you TERF or transphobes for being TERFy and transphobic.
“If you could come inside my head and understand what I feel when I read about a trans woman dying at the hands of a violent man, you’d find solidarity and kinship. I have a visceral sense of the terror in which those trans women will have spent their last seconds on earth, because I too have known moments of blind fear when I realised that the only thing keeping me alive was the shaky self-restraint of my attacker.
I believe the majority of trans-identified people not only pose zero threat to others, but are vulnerable for all the reasons I’ve outlined. Trans people need and deserve protection. Like women, they’re most likely to be killed by sexual partners. Trans women who work in the sex industry, particularly trans women of colour, are at particular risk. Like every other domestic abuse and sexual assault survivor I know, I feel nothing but empathy and solidarity with trans women who’ve been abused by men.”
JK Rowling nearly redeems herself here, but once again ruins it by continuing to spew hateful, misgendering nonsense in the form of an overly self-contradicting stream of consciousness:
“So I want trans women to be safe. At the same time, I do not want to make natal girls and women less safe. When you throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman — and, as I’ve said, gender confirmation certificates may now be granted without any need for surgery or hormones — then you open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside. That is the simple truth.”
This paragraph is a hotbed of contradictions. In the first two sentences she frames trans women as vulnerable to violence, but also as the violent perpetrator. What happened to ‘trans people pose zero threat to others’ just a few sentences earlier?
If you can show me any evidence that allowing trans women into single-sex spaces has caused an increase in violence, I will listen to you. JK Rowling has no evidence to prove that trans women pose a threat to cisgender women, so she instead resorts to empty platitudes like ‘that is the simple truth’, when there is absolutely not truth to it at all. Truthfully, if a cisgender man wants to rape a woman in a women’s changing room, the sign on the door isn’t going to change anything. More likely than not the trans women you’re so insistent on alienating are just as afraid of being sexually assaulted as you are, perhaps even more so if they are more easily identifiable as being transgender, as they embody twice as much otherness as cisgender women do, which may mean they are twice as likely as cisgender women to be the victims of a violent crime.
Research has also disproven JK’s belief that cisgender women are afraid to share their bathroom space with trans women. The very few cases we know of where a trans woman has been a perpetrator are vastly outnumbered by the cases of violence perpetrated against trans women, or by cisgender men against cisgender women. A case where a transgender woman was the perpetrator may be more memorable to a transphobic person, but this is an instance of confirmation bias and is by no means a firm foundation for a belief system.
The next part of the argument is largely her nonsensically making out like her own experience with sexual violence was in any way comparable with the Twitter backlash she’d incited with ‘The Tweet’, as if the language she used wasn’t at all inflammatory, and that the fact she rustled some feathers was completely unpredictable. Equating verbal abuse on Twitter with her ex-husband’s deplorable actions is a blatant manipulation tactic to discredit any trans activist who dares to critique her, an obvious reach for a free pass to say anything she wants without consequence.
“You are Voldemort said one person, clearly feeling this was the only language I’d understand.”
I don’t have a clever comment, but this is funny.
“It would be so much easier to tweet the approved hashtags — because of course trans rights are human rights and of course trans lives matter — scoop up the woke cookies and bask in a virtue-signalling afterglow. There’s joy, relief and safety in conformity.”
What a load of patronising, holier-than-thou nonsense from someone I used to really respect. The absolute hypocrisy of lording it over people who you think are lording it over others for respecting other people’s pronouns is frankly laughable, I can’t believe she doesn’t see that.
“Huge numbers of women are justifiably terrified by the trans activists; I know this because so many have got in touch with me to tell their stories. They’re afraid of doxxing, of losing their jobs or their livelihoods, and of violence.”
Let me rephrase that:
“Large numbers of transphobes are keeping their transphobia to themselves because they know that it could lose them their jobs”.
Like our friend Amy Cooper, these people know that their way of thinking could get them into trouble, because the world has moved on since their opinions were commonplace and it is no longer okay to publicly disparage trans people and their experiences. Like Amy Cooper, refusing to move with the times could have real-world consequences. I don’t agree with the violence that Twitter can incite (not so much physical violence, but death threats and threats of violence), but again, compared to the violence that many trans people experience in their daily lives just for being themselves, this is a non-starter.
“I refuse to bow down to a movement that I believe is doing demonstrable harm in seeking to erode ‘woman’ as a political and biological class and offering cover to predators like few before it. I stand alongside the brave women and men, gay, straight and trans, who’re standing up for freedom of speech and thought, and for the rights and safety of some of the most vulnerable in our society: young gay kids, fragile teenagers, and women who’re reliant on and wish to retain their single sex spaces. Polls show those women are in the vast majority, and exclude only those privileged or lucky enough never to have come up against male violence or sexual assault, and who’ve never troubled to educate themselves on how prevalent it is.”
I don’t think I really need to highlight the contradiction in that paragraph at this point. Trans women are women, no-ones trying to take your XX chromosomes away from you, trans women are victims of violence from men too, your argument is null and void.
Oh, and with absolutely no sources you cannot reference your pseudo-science polls that the only women who are okay with trans women in ‘their’ bathroom are those who’ve never been sexually assaulted. To counter I can tell you that from my sample size of two, 100% of sexual assault survivors were completely fine with trans women being in the same bathroom, because trans women are not men.
“In the UK, women are reaching out to each other across party lines, concerned about the erosion of their hard-won rights and widespread intimidation.”
Someone else having rights doesn’t negate the rights you have. Again, null and void.
“None of the gender critical women I’ve talked to hates trans people; on the contrary. Many of them became interested in this issue in the first place out of concern for trans youth, and they’re hugely sympathetic towards trans adults who simply want to live their lives, but who’re facing a backlash for a brand of activism they don’t endorse. The supreme irony is that the attempt to silence women with the word ‘TERF’ may have pushed more young women towards radical feminism than the movement’s seen in decades.”
More contradictions, no-one is surprised. If these women are fighting for the rights of trans people, by definition they are not trans-exclusionary. If someone telling you your words and actions are hurting them, you’re only proving them right by becoming more TERFy as a response. If a black person told me I’d said something racist, my response wouldn’t be to get more racist. This argument makes no sense at all, I cannot comprehend how someone who has so much potential to b a great ally for the trans community can make such a hash of the issue, all while seemingly having trans friends.
JK Rowling ends the article by asking for a degree of empathy and understanding, and to not be threatened or harassed as a result of her expressing her views. The irony that she is asking for things she is not offering trans people is palpable, and has not gone unnoticed by the trans community and its allies.
If you made it to the end of this article you are probably just as exhausted as I am after writing it. It’s incredibly tiring constantly reading about people invalidating the trans experience, and how they’re ‘not a bigot but…’, and if I’m tired of it as a cis-het privileged white woman, I feel such a deep sympathy with the members of the trans community who live it every day. There can be no progress until we treat each other with ‘empathy and understanding’. JK Rowling does not have the divine right to insert herself into the conversation about whether or not trans people are valid, as a privileged white cisgender woman with a very healthy bank balance and a platform most people will never achieve, and absolutely no understanding of the trans experience, the struggles they face, and how much her words and actions are harming them, both directly and indirectly by encouraging transphobic and TERFy behaviour in others.
I really wanted to give JK Rowling the benefit of the doubt when I went to re-read her statement for this article. As someone who, as I’ve mentioned, grew up reading her books and watching the films, who grew up in parallel with the characters she created, I really wanted her to be redeemable, or for it to turn out that she’d just misspoken or been misquoted. The deeper I dove into her exhaustingly long statement (I am a hypocrite) the worse it got. I was hoping we had all jumped the gun on called her transphobic, and when she started her statement saying she’d liked those transphobic tweets by accident I saw a glimmer of hope, but as we all know even a stopped clock is right twice, so unfortunately in my attempts to redeem JK Rowling I have proven to myself that I have no other option but to condemn her.
Read Mermaids’ response to JK Rowling here.
*Edit: Corrected ‘transition’ to ‘puberty’