Content advisory: Mentions of sexual assault, graphic descriptions of violence, and transphobia. Rated PG-13ish. Warning: this video includes language inappropriate for children.
What feels like several lifetimes ago, because 2020 is/was the worst kind of time flux, Rowling gradually irked more and more people with some increasingly…concerning output onto social media. Culminating in a letter that…
So, before we get too much farther, let’s lay some ground rules. And provided they’re reasonable, fair, and applied accurately, then the conclusions we come to using them should be pretty decent, right?
Earlier, I made a video called “What is transphobia?” in which I offered what I feel is a pretty reasonable definition of “Transphobia,”among other things.
Transphobic behavior is any action that, deliberately or through negligent ignorance,
Mistreats someone because they are trans.
Adversely affects trans people as a group, specifically and/or directly.
Reinforces harmful misinformation about trans people.
Encourages others to mistreat trans people, or to exhibit transphobia.
Disrespects trans people, or displays insensitivity to their political struggles.
Deliberately deadnames or misgendering someone.
I feel pretty confident about that definition.
And from observing transphobes in their natural habitat, I’ve compiled a library of tropes that are frequently used, and I’ll explain how each of them is fundamentally transphobic. And I’ve gotten some icons that I’ll use as visual shorthand whenever they appear.
There are a LOT of narratives about trans people, and to avoid overloading you during examination of the letter, more than I have to anyway, I’m going to go over some of the big ones first
“Social Contagion” is transphobic for several reasons, first of which being that it reinforces harmful misinformation. Being trans is not contagious any more than being gay is contagious. And further, contagion in this context implies sickness, illness, an undesirable characteristic, of which trans is none of those things. Remember, this same trope was used extensively in homophobic rhetoric, particularly implying that gay people were cultishly trying to “induce children into the lifestyle.”
The single most common trope, which comes in several forms, is to frame trans people as unreliable narrators of their own experiences or untrustworthy to talk about their situations. Some of the more common variants of this, I’ll have their own little icons for:
Ignorant about basic biology
“Trans Ideology” or referring to trans advocacy as a “religion”
Crying wolf with regards to injustices and mistreatment they face
Deadnaming and deliberate misgendering
These are two forms of harassment specific to trans people. Both function by asserting to a trans person that “You’re not who you’re telling me you are. I know who you really are, your new name is a lie, and I’m going to place you in the box that I know you belong in.” This on top of how many trans people are very sensitive to being called by their deadname or misgendered. And it can be difficult to convey why this hurts. The next best thing I can think of is this: Imagine if someone changed their name after a divorce and you called them by their married name, and continued doing so after they told you to stop multiple times.
Stereotyping and Caricaturing
This tactic is a pretty common dehumanization tactic. Almost every form of bigotry utilizes this, and it can be both a cosmetic symptom of bigotry, and a vehicle for it. Even what can seem like harmless jokes can reinforce toxic ideas about groups of people and, if not examined and rejected, make someone empathize less with that kind of person. On top of how they reinforce false and harmful ideas.
The most prevalent stereotypes used against trans people are:
“Men in dresses,” delusional about their appearances or bodies.
Perverted, predatory, opportunistic
Constantly crave attention or validation
You’ll notice that some of these serve a dual-purpose, both as ways of belittling trans people and reinforcing ideas about them as a group. “Constantly craving attention” in particular is used to dismiss when trans people point out things they deal with that are unfair to them or transphobic.
Portraying as a danger or a threat
One of the fastest ways that people spread animosity towards any group is to frame them as a threat to more prominent or more well-liked groups. This is one of the main vectors for virtually every form of bigotry, and it’s also the most likely to result in physical violence in the real world because when you genuinely perceive someone to be a threat, it seems reasonable to treat them as a threat and to act violently in self defense, even when that assessment is completely and utterly unrealistic.
Here’s the important thing: The threat doesn’t have to be a physical threat! If someone perceives that their way of life is threatened, they will respond as if to a threat. So they don’t even have to portray trans people as a tangible threat for it to be fear-mongering. Case in point, “trans the gay away” narratives exploit the very reasonable aversion to conversion therapy by pretending that trans people existing will somehow erase gay people from existing.
The most common examples,
Salient Exemplar: Highly negative examples or disproportionate attention given to highly negative examples, brought out to poison public perception of an entire group. Link in the dooblydoo the essay from whence I got that term.
Replacement Narratives: Insistence that the targeted group will overwhelm and displace the existing groups or absorb all of the resources, jobs, etc, that “rightfully belong” to that group. Think every person you’ve ever heard complain about supposedly illegal immigration.
DARVO stands for “Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim/Offender”, and it’s a common tactic of abusers, both on the individual level, and politically. When it comes to identity politics, this most commonly manifests in the dominant group denying that there are any injustices that benefit them, and claiming that they’re the real victims. One o f the most prominent examples of these with homophobia and the battle for marriage equality was claiming that us gays were “redefining marriage”. No, what really happened was we wanted equal rights to define our own marriages, and homophobes wanted to retain the unjust power to veto legal recognition of our marriages. They were never the victim, we were, but they tried to pretend their rights were under attack. Reversal of Victim/Offender.
This is when someone uses a mantra, slogan, or other empty rhetorical dump to try to disrupt or terminate discussion. Examples include “Can’t change sex” and “Biology is real,” and part of the reason they’re so effective is actually responding to them would be its own huge tangent that takes you away from the actually-contested points. Right up there with a duh-DOS, which is demanding that a basic premise be re-explained at the ground level, but the intent isn’t genuine curiosity but disruption of a more advanced conversation.
And now, those all explained, we can finally get to the letter itself. So put on your Robe and Wizard hat, here we go!
This isn’t an easy piece to write, for reasons that will shortly become clear, but I know it’s time to explain myself on an issue surrounded by toxicity. I write this without any desire to add to that toxicity.
This first paragraph - perfectly fine. Now, I will pause and say that Rowling did get a lot of harassment that was unacceptable. Even when someone’s a jerk, it’s NOT okay to threaten them with violence, especially not sexual violence. However, most of the response Rowling got was *not* that, and every time she frames the abusive comments on Twitter as if they were a majority of the responses she received, I’m gonna ding her with a “Salient Exemplar” penalty.
For people who don’t know: last December I tweeted my support for Maya Forstater, a tax specialist who’d lost her job for what were deemed ‘transphobic’ tweets. She took her case to an employment tribunal, asking the judge to rule on whether a philosophical belief that sex is determined by biology is protected in law. Judge Tayler ruled that it wasn’t.
This is dishonest framing in two parts and DARVO. She’s trying to frame Maya as a poor, defenseless victim of some vigilante mob, when what actually happened was her workplace decided that, in light of her conduct, they didn’t want to renew her contract. She was transphobic, they decided they didn’t want that around, and she’s being framed as the victim here when she was the one who made the unprovoked offense.
Furthermore, it wasn’t the “philosophical belief that sex is determined by biology” because that’s something that we all basically agree with, what Maya was arguing was that she should be able to treat HER interpretation of sex and gender as the correct one that we should all be required to use. And THAT was what the judges determined was unworthy of respect in a democratic society. For the same reason that you don’t get to take your own religious definition of marriage and use that to say that a gay couple isn’t “truly” married, the way Ben Shapiro does. No, they have THEIR marriage, which has no effect on yours, and you don’t get to dictate what marriage should mean to the other party. Get over it.
My interest in trans issues pre-dated Maya’s case by almost two years, during which I followed the debate around the concept of gender identity closely. 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. On one level, my interest in this issue has been professional, because I’m writing a crime series, set in the present day, and my fictional female detective is of an age to be interested in, and affected by, these issues herself, but on another, it’s intensely personal, as I’m about to explain.
This is where Rowling claims she’s done her homework. There’s nothing outright in this paragraph, but if we take her at her word here, then we can argue that from here on out, she can’t claim that she didn’t know better. If she did her homework, she has no excuse for making ignorant statements. Now, if she’s pushing misinformation about trans people, she either didn’t listen, or she selected for trans people that said what she already wanted to believe instead of trans people who gathered any sort of consensus or broader understanding.
All the time I’ve been researching and learning, accusations and threats from trans activists have been bubbling in my Twitter timeline. This was initially triggered by a ‘like’. When I started taking an interest in gender identity and transgender matters, I began screenshotting comments that interested me, as a way of reminding myself what I might want to research later. On one occasion, I absent-mindedly ‘liked’ instead of screenshotting. That single ‘like’ was deemed evidence of wrongthink, and a persistent low level of harassment began.
This is both DARVO and Conspiratorial accusation. She’s claiming here that she’s the victim of a mob and implies that her ‘like’ is being taken as dissent from prevailing orthodoxy on the subject, when the broader culture of the US and UK generally is not so kind to trans issues already. Despite Rowling’s assertions, trans people are merely keeping an eye on the attitudes of high-profile individuals because they need to know who supports them and who is likely to be an antagonist, and trans people have been betrayed so many times before. So of course, when Rowling implicitly endorsed something transphobic, trans people got upset and spoke out about it.
Months later, I compounded my accidental ‘like’ crime by following Magdalen Berns on Twitter. Magdalen was an immensely brave young feminist and lesbian who was dying of an aggressive brain tumour. I followed her because I wanted to contact her directly, which I succeeded in doing. 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.
Here, we have multiple counts of dishonest framing. Magdalen Berns was a militant transphobe, and I could do a whole video on her works, but for now, let’s leave it at pointing out that her most notable contribution to this subject was claiming that the “trans agenda” was being paid for by Soros bucks - an argument that is both transphobic and antisemitic. And here, Rowling tries to frame her as a sweet, innocent victim, targeted for “believing the importance of biological sex”, which is itself subtly implying that trans people are ignorant about biology. The next dishonest framing is implying that trans people are, as a group, trying to manipulate lesbians into sexing penises. “Didn’t believe lesbians should be called bigoted for not dating trans women with penises” is a disgusting misrepresentation about the discussion about transphobia and how that can affect how people treat each other in dating. This discussion is far more complicated than how it is being framed, but the short of it is - you’re not obligated to date anyone you’re not attracted to, but it’s also healthy and important to unpack how prejudices and assumptions about people affect who is perceived as attractive.
But the very last clause of the last sentence is another sneaky attempt at framing trans people as delusional. She’s basically implying that trans people jumped to a completely unfounded conclusion. And then framing criticism of that connection as abuse. Again, DARVO.
I mention all this only to explain that I knew perfectly well what was going to happen when I supported Maya. I must have been on my fourth or fifth cancellation by then. I expected the threats of violence, to be told I was literally killing trans people with my hate, to be called cunt and bitch and, of course, for my books to be burned, although one particularly abusive man told me he’d composted them.
Salient Exemplar - again, she’s framing abuse as the majority of the criticism she got. Abuse is inexcusable, but she’s not framing this as a problem of abusers - she’s framing this as a problem of trans people responding to transphobia, and trying to represent them categorically as abusers. Again, the abusive conduct does not represent the overall conduct of the feedback she got.
What I didn’t expect in the aftermath of my cancellation was the avalanche of emails and letters that came showering down upon me, the overwhelming majority of which were positive, grateful and supportive. They came from a cross-section of kind, empathetic and intelligent people, some of them working in fields dealing with gender dysphoria and trans people, who’re all deeply concerned about the way a socio-political concept is influencing politics, medical practice and safeguarding. They’re worried about the dangers to young people, gay people and about the erosion of women’s and girl’s rights. Above all, they’re worried about a climate of fear that serves nobody – least of all trans youth – well.
“Dangers to young people, gay people, and the erosion of women’s and girl’s rights.” Literally framing trans people’s rights as a dangerous threat to those groups and their civil rights. Trans people having their rights does not impact anyone else having theirs, and attempting to frame trans rights as such is dishonest and also a case of conspiracy narrative. This, followed by asserting that trans people are also hurt by trans people speaking up against transphobia. The argument is that trans people just need to shut up about trans issues - for their own good.
I’d stepped back from Twitter for many months both before and after tweeting support for Maya, because I knew it was doing nothing good for my mental health. I only returned because I wanted to share a free children’s book during the pandemic. Immediately, activists who clearly believe themselves to be good, kind and progressive people swarmed back into my timeline, assuming a right to police my speech, accuse me of hatred, call me misogynistic slurs and, above all – as every woman involved in this debate will know – TERF.
Only TERFs think TERF is a slur. The way most people conceive of a slur is a word that is used to denigrate a group by an unchosen characteristic, such as sexual orientation, sex, gender identity, ethnicity. You can’t be bigoted against TERFs any more than you can be bigoted against homophobes. This is arguably DARVO, but I’ll leave this one as it’s borderline.
If you didn’t already know – and why should you? – ‘TERF’ is an acronym coined by trans activists, which stands for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist. In practice, a huge and diverse cross-section of women are currently being called TERFs and the vast majority have never been radical feminists. Examples of so-called TERFs range from the mother of a gay child who was afraid their child wanted to transition to escape homophobic bullying, to a hitherto totally unfeminist older lady who’s vowed never to visit Marks & Spencer again because they’re allowing any man who says they identify as a woman into the women’s changing rooms. Ironically, radical feminists aren’t even trans-exclusionary – they include trans men in their feminism, because they were born women.
Women as a shield against criticism. So, Rowling here is talking about a case that I don’t know all of the details of, but what she’s implying is that the mother was otherwise supportive and totally not transphobic, she just asked a totally reasonable question, “Oh, are you sure you’re not just a lesbian?” Except, that kind of is an ignorant question. Not a hateful one, but one that’s coming from a place of misunderstanding. Like, you don’t escape homophobic bullying by being trans. So even if we take the mother’s account at face value - that *all* she did was say “Are you sure you’re not just gay,” then… that’s not awful, but it’s not *great*. But I don’t know the details, so I’ll not comment any further.
Unfortunately, even if we’re charitable with the first part, Rowling’s credibility of not being transphobic takes a sharp nosedive with the phrase “Man who identifies as a woman” - a phrase often used by opponents of trans rights to imply delusion or intent to deceive, to create a perception of trans people being dangerous threats to everyone else’s safety.
And then, “Trans men are included in feminism because they are female” is infuriating. It implies that the proper framework of feminism is to see this all as a linear struggle of males vs females, when that’s not the case at all. Feminism is about tearing down patriarchy, including parts of it that affect men such as toxic masculinity, heteronormativity, and cisnormativity. There is zero logical reason for feminism to be ONLY about women, AFAB people, or “Feeeemaaaales” because feminism is going to need the cooperation of EVERYONE to actually succeed, not just those most visibly targeted by Patriarchy. I’ll be doing a video soon about how Patriarchy is so much more complicated a problem than “males vs females,” and reducing it to such is insultingly wrong and counterproductive.
But 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 (which is doubtless literally possible, according to the kind of people who argue that clownfish prove humans aren’t a dimorphic species).
This sure does seem like it’s accusing trans people of crying wolf, of faking their own struggles, doesn’t it? Of being unreliable narrators of when they’re being mistreated, even! And also, DARVO, because they’re saying not only are trans people lying about what is and isn’t transphobic, but also implying trans people, as a group, are maliciously using that to attack people who aren’t transphobic. Also, Rowling, I think the term you’re looking for is “cis” woman, because trans women are also biological women. They are biological, not robots, and they are women. “Cis woman” just means someone who is a woman and was born with a female body, as is the case for most, but not all, women. But womanhood is not a biological feature, otherwise it could be removed or replaced with pharmaceuticals and surgery.
So why am I doing this? Why speak up? Why not quietly do my research and keep my head down?
Well, I’ve got five reasons for being worried about the new trans activism, and deciding I need to speak up.
If you have to be personally worried about a nebulous, generalized activist group’s goals impacting you harmfully, and the group aren’t fascists, maybe you’re doing something wrong. Just saying. Framing this as “the new” trans activism implies that A: There was an old trans activism you liked better, and B: It’s new and different and likely somehow dangerous, because humanity loves pressing its survival-instinct-fear button. . But these are just people speaking up for their rights, along with allies speaking up on their behalf. You can’t say “Trans Activists” and pretend you’re not talking about trans people generally whenever they stand up for themselves, politically and socially.
Firstly, I have a charitable trust that focuses on alleviating social deprivation in Scotland, with a particular emphasis on women and children. Among other things, my trust supports projects for female prisoners and for survivors of domestic and sexual abuse. I also fund medical research into MS, a disease that behaves very differently in men and women. 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.
This one is particularly frustrating because this single paragraph is extremely dense with problems. It’s completely reasonable to want to focus on helping a certain demographic that is more marginalized than people who are not that demographic. However, there are several flaws in what Rowling is saying, the most glaring of which is that, basically, if we let trans people be respected for their gender identities, then we’ll decide biological sex differences don’t matter, evne in medicine. That’s implying that trans people don’t understand biology, nor medical issues.
Just to go somewhat in chronological order, the first thing she does is point out how she has a charitable fund for women and girls, and then suggest that if gender identity was recognized and respected, then her mission would be undermined; the implication being that the “significant impact” to be had upon her supported causes would invariably be negative. And there are several assumptions lurking just beneath the surface. She talks about behavior differences between men and women, which is something that we do need more research on. However, she seems to be attributing these differences to biology and nothing else. That’s called “Biological Determinism.” Further, she implies that were gender identity respected then her efforts would be misdirected to helping trans women, which itself implies that trans women should be treated, for all intents and purposes, as men.
Her statement “If all of its demands are met…erode the legal definition of sex and replace it with gender.” is a conspiratorial strawman using a thought-terminating cliche. The line “erode the definition of sex” implies that we *should* have a legal classification of sex. And that I reject. Your biological sex is not the business of the government. That’s between you, your doctor, and your partners, as appropriate. She slipped in an is-ought fallacy, that the government *should* record your sex on your driver’s license, without a reasonable argument as to why. If you commit a crime, one of the few reasons to look up your entire legal record, then neither your ‘legal’ nor biological sex should have any impact on any legal consequences.
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.
She implies that trans people are a threat to safeguarding children. Why would you have such deep concerns about how ‘the’ trans rights movement is affecting education and child safety if you didn’t believe they were threatening kids? How is that not trying to spread the harmful belief of trans people being predatory? This is a claim of trans people being a threat, a hostile force.
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.
Having defended the “free speech” of Donald Trump didn’t age well, did it? Friendly reminder, if you argue for unfettered free speech, you’re indulging in the paradox of tolerance. If bigots are given the right to say whatever they want, they will spread their bigotry. “Free speech” is not a zero sum game, but if you remain neutral in cases of injustice, you have sided with the oppressor by default. Do not defend hate speech.
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.
So, this is frustrating. Again, it’s extremely dense with things that would need a lot of time to debunk. Detransition and desistance are topics that will need their own whole videos to talk about. But the main thing is, she’s pushing the argument that trans people don’t know who they are, that it’s “Just a phase”, which is something with a pretty obvious parallel to homophobia. Detransition is not the same as “returning to original sex”, it means stopping and/or reversing medical transition, and there are lots of reasons trans people do this besides desistence, such as if being out, puts them in harm’s way, or they have health complications.
But this is really important because it’s not just pushing harmful misinformation, it’s betraying a very important disparity in whose experiences are considered important. Even if you truly believe that most trans kids stop being trans (they don’t), it’s a slim minority who go through transitional care - including blockers - who express regret over it. Estimates vary, but even the most cynical estimates are at less than ten percent. And blockers are only prescribed for severe cases of dysphoria. That means Rowling thinks that one cis person getting incorrect treatment is more noteworthy than whether or not ten or even twenty trans kids are able to have medical intervention should their dysphoria be absolutely agonizing. If she cared about the trans kids, and not just the rare cis kid who would get blockers by mistake, then she would be advocating for better funding to gender identity clinics so that they can be more rigorous in their determinations, and for better funding for understanding trans interventions.
And here she’s not just being transphobic, she’s also pushing the idea that gender nonconformity is a “sign” of being gay. Rowling, what’s your explanation for trans men who like men? What’s your explanation for trans men who are bisexual or asexual? Here, she’s subtly trying to push the “trans away the gay” narrative used by TERFs, and it’s both flimsy and blatantly wrong.
This paragraph gets two dings for “unreliable narrator” for pushing the narrative that trans people don’t know who they are and think they’re trans when they’re 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.
This is where we start seeing lots of dishonest framing of information, some of it might even be technically correct. But technically correct, when devoid of context, can be extremely misleading. So, to start, Rowling is completely uncritical as to why the demographics of people transitioning look the way they do. Are these numbers people who *sought* medical transition? What about social transition? What about trans people who want to medically transition, but don’t have anything resembling the means to even ask a physician, much less get a referral or would be unsafe being outed as trans? We don’t really have this data. What Rowling seems to be relying on here is referrals to GIDS, the Gender Identity Development Service in the UK. And she extrapolates that a 44-fold increase in REFERRALS represents a 44-fold increase in people being trans. REFERRALS are NOT an accurate measurement of how many trans people there are.
And then the “Autistic girls are hugely overrepresented in their numbers.” When you point out a correlation, but offer no explanation, does that not imply a causal relationship? Now, there is data to suggest that there’s a strong overlap between being autistic and trans, and why that correlation exists is unclear. But the “concern” that autistic girls are more likely to get referred to GIDS suggests that she believes the ableist narrative that autistic kids are being manipulated into being trans. It’s ableist because it relies on the narrative that autistic people are easily manipulable, incapable of knowing ourselves, and easy to influence, as if we’re perpetual children.
This paragraph is pushing the harmful narrative that parents are making or encouraging their kids to be trans when they wouldn’t otherwise be, which strikes me as equally as absurd as if a homophobe claimed “Hey, the increased rate of gay kids coming out? That’s because parents are pushing their kids to be gay for woke points and to stand out among liberal parent circles.”
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.’
*Clip of Philosophy Tube: “It’s kind of hard not to form an insular community if you might be killed for being in the main one.”*
Here, again, we see dishonest framing. People with common interests or struggles tend to gravitate towards each other, and this is especially true as people are in their formative years. What can easily be explained as natural homophily, of people seeking out other people who can relate to them, Littman and Rowling are interpreting as…social contagion. She’s implying that figurative trans-spores take hold in someone’s brain, through social media, and that in turn, friend circles are progressively dragged in until the whole damn school is trans.
Her paper caused a furore. She was accused of bias and of spreading misinformation about transgender people, subjected to a tsunami of abuse and a concerted campaign to discredit both her and her work. The journal took the paper offline and re-reviewed it before republishing it. However, her career took a similar hit to that suffered by Maya Forstater. Lisa Littman had dared challenge one of the central tenets of trans activism, which is that a person’s gender identity is innate, like sexual orientation. Nobody, the activists insisted, could ever be persuaded into being trans.
The study Littman published is an example of motivated reasoning and engineering a study to get the results desired so as to push a narrative. The nutshell version is: It was an internet survey that was sent entirely to parents who frequented forums and websites of gender critical and transphobic types, including Transgender Trend, an organization entirely committed to spreading the narrative that being trans is… a trend. The survey asked leading questions in order to elicit “evidence” of Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria, or ROGD. That garbage alone is gonna be its own video. But the “evidence” for ROGD was that the parents, when asked, were surprised that their kid turned out to be trans. By that freaking logic, I had Rapid Onset Gay in high school. Still gay, by the way.
But here’s the thing, Rowling. Being trans, or any gender identity for that matter, IS a largely innate and immutable characteristic of someone, just like their sexual orientation. Rowling is pushing harmful misinformation about trans people. Misinformation that is used to justify cruelty to trans people. And by saying that this basic fact is a “central tenet of trans activism” and framing it as a cult belief instead of the lived reality of every trans person is implicitly accusing trans people of being liars. It’s no different from the way “being gay is a choice” accused us queer people of being liars about our own experiences.
But here’s the thing - there were two main ideas central to gay rights advocacy, one that being gay wasn’t a choice, but two, that being gay is NOT immoral. The same holds true for trans rights. Even if being gay were a choice, somehow, it would not be unethical in any way, neither to have gay attractions nor for consenting adults to bump uglies regardless of which uglies are present or not. Similarly, even if you could choose to be trans or nonbinary, that’s just part of who you are, and changing up your pronouns, your name, your expression, even your anatomy, is all within your liberty and bodily autonomy. None of those things are negatively affecting anyone else.
Jeez, it seems like every paragraph requires THREE to respond to.
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.’
Okay, hold up, the “argument” isn’t that “if you don’t let a gender dysphoric teenager transition, they will kill themselves.” No. The conversation is so much more complex, but that interpretation is insultingly reductive and dishonest.
Trans people are at an elevated risk of self-harm for a lot of reasons, the single largest two factors are family acceptance and community acceptance. Which mirrors almost perfectly the risk factors for lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth. HUH. FUNNY, THAT. As for “transition”, until you are an adult, the only medical interventions for most people are social transition - just updating your name, pronouns, maybe legal documents. If a person has agonizing dysphoria, they might get puberty blockers. And that’s its own conversation. But for now, not only is Rowling reinforcing harmful misinformation about trans people in that paragraph, she’s also reinforcing the narrative that trans youth are using suicide as a manipulation tactic to get the latest new gender. In reality, when a trans person struggles with thoughts of self harm, the story is a lot closer to, “I’m trans, you’ve tried to make me not be trans, I’ve tried to make me not be trans, this dysphoria is agonizing and the longer I’m forced to go without help, the worse it gets, and I can’t keep going any longer.”
Fuck you for making light of trans suicide, Rowling.
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.
You WHAT?! Holy shit, this is WEAPONS GRADE bad take here, Rowling.
First, she juxtaposes dysphoria with body image delusional disorders, implying that they’re at all comparable - they’re not, and that could be its own whole video - and then asserts, in a leap of moon logic that would baffle even Luna Lovegood, that she “might have been persuaded” into being trans by her abusive father… Rowling… do you not realize many trans people are thrown out of their homes by their parents when they come out as trans? This would be as batshit as if she wrote in that the Dursleys were trying to cupboard the wizard out of Harry because they’d really wanted a wizard the whole time. This is entirely the social contagion narrative, and it doesn’t even make sense in its own context because if womanhood is so awful that cis women are turning trans just to flee it…. How do trans WOMEN exist? Masochism?
When I read about the theory of gender identity, I remember how mentally sexless I felt in youth. I remember Colette’s description of herself as a ‘mental hermaphrodite’ and Simone de Beauvoir’s words: ‘It is perfectly natural for the future woman to feel indignant at the limitations posed upon her by her sex. The real question is not why she should reject them: the problem is rather to understand why she accepts them.’
This is conflating gender identity with gender ROLES. Gender identity is your innate sense of who you are, which affects and expressions are natural and genuine to you, how you feel about the sex of your body and of human sexes conceptually.... And gender ROLES are expectations placed on you by society as to how you “should” behave, according to your apparent sex. This is a bad framing that is continually used to reinforce a harmful misunderstanding of what it means to be trans, and is behind the kind of nonsense like “Why couldn’t you just be a feminine man?” Same reason a lesbian might not “just date a feminine man,” that’s why.
As I didn’t have a realistic possibility of becoming a man back in the 1980s, it had to be books and music that got me through both my mental health issues and the sexualised scrutiny and judgement that sets so many girls to war against their bodies in their teens. Fortunately for me, I found my own sense of otherness, and my ambivalence about being a woman, reflected in the work of female writers and musicians who reassured me that, in spite of everything a sexist world tries to throw at the female-bodied, it’s fine not to feel pink, frilly and compliant inside your own head; it’s OK to feel confused, dark, both sexual and non-sexual, unsure of what or who you are.
Here, we see Rowling missing some very interesting points so that she can fail to make any of her own. It’s true that misogyny can reinforce really toxic relationships between people and their bodies. But Rowling, so can cisnormativity. This reads to me as implying that sexism encourages people to be trans, which is completely absurd to me because sexism is one of the main components of transphobia. This is loaded with one of the biggest and most ironic fallacies of the gender critical movement - conflating body positivity with “You must like your body exactly the way it is and be ashamed of any desire to change your body.” No, body positivity is about rejecting external expectations of your body and what it should be, but internal desires for your body can be perfectly healthy. If someone has, for example, cancer, body positivity would encourage that person having full control over their treatment, including the right to decline any. We’d all agree that it would be pretty fucking absurd to tell someone with cancer that “No, it’s okay if you’re confused, but you need to learn to appreciate your tumor and the transient nature of life.”
And even if you strip away the failure to understand body positivity, this all boils down to the single most prevalent transphobic trope - unreliable narrator. Rowling is basically misframing her own experiences in order to say, “Hey, trans people, you’re not *really* trans - you just have body image issues,” which flies in the face of what trans people live and have tried to explain to everyone else for decades, if not centuries.
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. Again and again I’ve been told to ‘just meet some trans people.’ I have: in addition to a few younger people, who were all adorable, 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.
Oh god, it’s Debbie Hayton, isn’t it. Rowling, seeking out trans people who say what you want to hear about trans people isn’t “listening to trans people”, it’s selection bias based on confirmation bias - it’s tokenization.
Again, the assertion that “60-90%” of gender dysphoric teens will grow out of it pushes two misconceptions, that being trans is all about dysphoria, and also reinforced the “just a phase” narrative. (And where did you get that statistic, ma'am?) And also the “transition should only be used as last resort treatment," which *is* telling other people what they “should” be doing with their own bodies. And that mentality really reminds me of homophobes who would unironically argue that “maybe we should allow gay marriage, but only for those who doctors conclude could not be happy in heterosexual relationships no matter how hard they tried.” No, I should be able to get married to whoever I want, as long as they’re a consenting adult.
She then tries to make herself look like she supports trans people because she points to a case of “Here’s someone who did it the right way,” which implies that she, a cis person, thinks she should get to assess on behalf of trans people what the “right way” to transition is. She’s saying that the “safeguards” are the way we should be doing things, and ignoring that those safeguards were designed by cis doctors who cared more about preventing cis people from making their own bad decisions and trying to persuade trans people into desisting
And she finally ends with saying that a cis man could legally reclassify himself as a woman without medical procedures to verify that he really is trans. Which reinforces the narrative that the trans identity is something that is ripe for abuse - as if someone convicted of sexual assault in a bathroom would get a lighter sentence by saying they’re trans. This is more of the deception narrative, the idea that trans people are lying about who they are for nefarious purposes and shouldn’t be trusted.
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, 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.
Okay, hold the phone, “Most misogynistic period I’ve ever experienced.” Excuse you, what? Maybe if you think incel forums and gamergate were ever accurate barometers of how most people on the planet act. According to Wiklepedia, Rowling was born in 1965, and Roe V Wade was in 1973. Yes, I know she would have been 8 at the time, and she’s 55 now, but I’m only 30 and my own experience says that we’ve made a lot of progress even in my own lifetime.
Now, if I had any remaining hope that Rowling was speaking in good faith, I’d say, “Rowling, Feminism is still receiving backlash, but every civil rights movement had and continues to get that. Thing is, most people are generally receptive to egalitarian feminism and support women’s equality, and even a few decades ago, this was significantly less so the case.” But given what she’s shown of her hand, and how she frames TERFs as the poor, innocent victims, I’m confident in saying that this is actually DARVO. One of the most common TERF tactics is to frame trans advocacy as misogyny, and then to try to reframe transphobia as “feminism." No. Transphobia is NOT feminism, and when we call out transphobia that calls itself feminism, we are not being anti-feminist, we are being anti-transphobic.
But mentioning trans advocacy and MRAs in the same sentence is painfully reminiscent of how so many TERFs accuse trans people of being MRAs. For those of you who have managed to avoid having to deal with MRAs, first off, I envy you, second, MRA stands for “Men’s Rights Activists”, but that name is almost always just a cover for anti-feminism. And this association between MRAs and trans activists is profoundly gaslighting. MRAs and incels HATE trans people. And one of the most effective works on youtube for helping people get out of the toxic misogyny bubble that is the manosphere was…. A TRANS WOMAN.
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.
Here she goes with the “sex class” shit. Rowling - there is no single tangible characteristic, no single verifiable experience, that is common to ALL people you WANT to call women, and absent in all people you DO NOT WANT to call women. To say that there is a singular “sexed body” is insultingly reductive and in and of itself, misogynistic. Instead, there are sexual characteristics in many different variations, most commonly close to one of two predominant patterns but - importantly - not exclusively so, and variations can be both naturally occurring or by alteration. Women - even if you only count cis women - are not a “cohesive political class”, or else there would be no female anti-abortion activists, no women trying to reinforce patriarchal gender roles. Seriously, consider the existence of “Girl Defined”, a channel run by two cis women, which is all about pushing religious anti-abortion, anti-gay rhetoric. I am pretty confident in saying that none of the cis women I call my friends would dare consider Girl Defined “comrades”. Women are not a monolith, Rowling, and I hate to break it to you, but most women are NOT actively transphobic, and transphobia will ultimately die out, as will sexism, biological determinism, and misogyny. And I’m here to help bury all of those forms of bigotry - which you and your gender critical friends would frame as “Attacking women”. Seriously, this is as gaslighty as saying that Thatcher was hated by the left for being female - as opposed to constantly pushing austerity that literally resulted in people starving to death, her homophobia, her racism and xenophobia, her union-busting...
But, as many women have said before me, ‘woman’ is not a costume. ‘Woman’ is not an idea in a man’s head. ‘Woman’ is not a pink brain, a liking for Jimmy Choos or any of the other sexist ideas now somehow touted as progressive. Moreover, the ‘inclusive’ language that calls female people ‘menstruators’ and ‘people with vulvas’ strikes many women as dehumanising and demeaning. 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, it’s not neutral, it’s hostile and alienating.
Unreliable narrator again, plus several points of misinformation and dishonest framing. Rowling again asserts that trans people are delusionally believing that stereotypes make gender, plus Rowling conflating gender roles with gender itself and gender identity. A trans woman who likes barbie dolls is not simply foolishly believing that her fondness for barbie dolls makes her a woman. This narrative is exhausting and insulting. Stereotypes actually are huge problems for trans people because they create expectations on how a trans person is supposed to act in order for their gender identity to be seen as valid or legitimate. A trans man who doesn’t exhibit typical masculinity is seen as “faking” his gender identity, and if he’s “too” masculine, he’s read as conforming to stereotypes, even if that simply is his most genuine affect.
Then, she adds that “people with vulvas” is “hostile and alienating” and compares it to “degrading slurs” used against women. Loads of people, including trans people, feel that “menstruators” is bad even when you’re trying to talk exclusively about people who menstruate. Finding language that is both inclusive and graceful is hard, but how is “people with vulvas” degrading when you need to talk, specifically, about vulva care? Those are the specific people who need to care about the subject most, and there are, in fact, a significant number of people in the world who do not have vulvas. Some of whom are women - some of whom are even CIS women. And there are some people who have vulvas who are *not* women. You shouldn’t have to be misgendered or have your gender identity invalidated in order to talk about your medical needs.
Which brings me to the fifth reason I’m deeply concerned about the consequences of the current trans activism.
You can’t say “trans activism” and "consequences" of such are ‘concerning’ without either implying that trans people, categorically, are overreacting or that trans people as a “gender identity class” or whatever are demanding things that they should not have.
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. This isn’t because I’m ashamed those things happened to me, but because they’re traumatic to revisit and remember. I also feel protective of my daughter from my first marriage. I didn’t want to claim sole ownership of a story that belongs to her, too. However, a short while ago, I asked her how she’d feel if I were publicly honest about that part of my life, and she encouraged me to go ahead.
This is the first paragraph in some time that isn’t actually transphobic. Rowling, you do have my sympathy, as a fellow survivor. But being a survivor does not absolve you of transphobia any more than me being a survivor absolves me of criticism.
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.
Blaming trans women for the crimes of cis men is both transphobic and patriarchal. If you’re uncomfortable with someone else being in a public bathroom with you - regardless of why - you don’t get to tell them they can’t use a public bathroom. This applies to cis women who are scared of other women because of trauma, people who are scared of certain religious groups. Plenty of people were terrified of the thought of sharing bathrooms with gay people, some of them maybe even because they were survivors of assault. Your fear, no matter how tragic the origin of that fear, does not dictate what rights other people have.
I managed to escape my first violent marriage with some difficulty, but I’m now married to a truly good and principled man, safe and secure in ways I never in a million years expected to be. However, the scars left by violence and sexual assault don’t disappear, no matter how loved you are, and no matter how much money you’ve made. My perennial jumpiness is a family joke – and even I know it’s funny – but I pray my daughters never have the same reasons I do for hating sudden loud noises, or finding people behind me when I haven’t heard them approaching.
Second paragraph that isn’t 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.
Rowling, if you felt solidarity and kinship then you wouldn’t be pushing narratives about trans people that are used in justifying violence. The notion that trans women are actually just men in dresses trying to sneak into bathrooms to abuse women is literally used as a justification by people who murder trans people. Look at this mumsnet post freaking celebrating a trans woman being dragged out and beaten to death, calling her a man even in a photograph that shows her last seconds on earth…and LAMENTING that they can’t also do that in the United States.
You can’t pretend to care, and also reinforce the fucking problem.
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.
“I’m sure most of them are good, but we can’t know who the dangerous ones are!” Rowling, you’re implying that someone being trans means they present an elevated threat level compared to everyone else. That’s encouraging distrust of trans people. Like, good of you to acknowledge that trans people are at an elevated risk of being targeted for violence, but you seem to be ignoring how both misogyny and in particular transphobia are integral as to why they are at risk.
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.
Again, the deceit and nefarious influence narrative, mixed with portraying trans people as a threat. This by implying that protection of trans women makes cis women less safe. The root cause of violence against women isn’t males existing, nor trans women existing, it’s patriarchy. It’s toxic masculinity. It’s rape culture. It’s the sum total of the attitudes on sex that need to change, not continued rejection of trans people as who they tell you they are.
Trans women getting to use women’s bathrooms doesn’t put women at risk. Not only does it make no sense that the thing stopping someone from committing a felony would be… something that’s not even a misdemeanor or maybe a civil infraction? But also, we have data from regions where self ID is the law…and surprise surprise, there is NOT an increased risk of violence to cis women. The “Bathroom Predator” trope is a myth, and even the most willful transphobes using that narrative to incite transphobia have admitted as much.
On Saturday morning, I read that the Scottish government is proceeding with its controversial gender recognition plans, which will in effect mean that all a man needs to ‘become a woman’ is to say he’s one. To use a very contemporary word, I was ‘triggered’. Ground down by the relentless attacks from trans activists on social media, when I was only there to give children feedback about pictures they’d drawn for my book under lockdown, I spent much of Saturday in a very dark place inside my head, as memories of a serious sexual assault I suffered in my twenties recurred on a loop. That assault happened at a time and in a space where I was vulnerable, and a man capitalised on an opportunity. I couldn’t shut out those memories and I was finding it hard to contain my anger and disappointment about the way I believe my government is playing fast and loose with womens and girls’ safety.
This paragraph in particular is difficult to deal with. Her trauma is real and deserves empathy and sympathy. But her bringing this up here feels so cynical. It feels like she is using something that shouldn’t be judged, shouldn’t be put under scrutiny…to smuggle in ideas that SHOULD be. Nobody should have to suffer sexual assault, or be put in situations where their PTSD will be triggered without their consent to attempt it. But this paragraph frames things as if every criticism she received was just a targeted attack on her vulnerabilities, when…you accidentally typed or pasted in “In court, Wolf claimed the Facebook post in which he’d said he wanted to ‘f**** up some TERFs’ was just ‘bravado’. #TheIckabog.” into a tweet replying to a child’s drawing.
I just…. this feels manipulative, as if she’s trying to imply her trauma absolves her of her blameworthy actions. When clearly, she’s spending a lot of time, energy, and putting a lot of thought into this all, and as someone with so much cultural influence, she’s responsible to not push harmful misinformation. And instead, she’s telling us about her personal traumas.
“Fast and loose with womens’ and girls’ safety” is still relying on the idea that malicious actors will use self ID in order to abuse women… which again, is not backed up by any data.
Late on Saturday evening, scrolling through children’s pictures before I went to bed, I forgot the first rule of Twitter – never, ever expect a nuanced conversation – and reacted to what I felt was degrading language about women. I spoke up about the importance of sex and have been paying the price ever since. I was transphobic, I was a cunt, a bitch, a TERF, I deserved cancelling, punching and death. You are Voldemort said one person, clearly feeling this was the only language I’d understand.
Is she trying to elicit sympathy because someone responded to her bad take with a reference to her freaking books?
As I’ve said earlier, abuse is indefensible, and I will not defend it. But again, Rowling is trying to emphasize the small fraction of feedback that she got that was truly abuse so that she can dismiss all of the civil criticism she received, and distract from the fact that the reason she got any of that feedback in the first place was because what she said was dismissive of trans people, and implied that cis people are the only people who should have language catered to them.
Imagine a company's minor advertisement where they said, “Hey, men, if you’re looking for something to get your partner,” and someone said, “UGH, why won’t you just say WIFE,” then people would be rightfully upset. Especially if that was someone who had a major influence on so many kids who happened to be gay.
Now, imagine this person in this theoretical got a hundred responses, most of which were civil and plainly laid out why they found that post insulting, some were angry and mean but not, strictly speaking, abuse. And add one that would be indefensibly a case of abuse.
Now imagine that this person whined about the one case of abuse as if that was all that had happened. What a sad world we live in where someone will get abuse just for talking about their own marriage! You see how this is dishonest framing?
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. As Simone de Beauvoir also wrote, “… without a doubt it is more comfortable to endure blind bondage than to work for one’s liberation; the dead, too, are better suited to the earth than the living.”
Your use of “woke” as a pejorative. The intent of those words is to reframe someone standing up for their beliefs as someone only pretending to have those beliefs in order to gain peer approval. Which is a profoundly garbage thing to assert! Rowling, you here, on this letter, are signaling what you believe to be virtues. I could easily argue that all you’re doing here is virtue signaling.
By the way, the person you cite here, Simone de Beauvoir, argued against the very arguments you’re making here. There is no single tangible nor experiential characteristic shared by all women and that is exclusive to only women, not even if you don’t count trans women or even if you exclude trans men.
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.
Again, DARVO, plus framing trans people, generally, as a threat to everyone else. Trans people, categorically are not coming for everyone’s jobs and careers. There ARE concerned people who contact employers when someone on their social media page, with their real information and associations present, says that they’re in a position of power and they also hold transphobic beliefs that could influence how they use that power over trans people. And sometimes employers review that information and decide, surprise, transphobia is unworthy of respect in a democratic society!
And also, Rowling - sometimes trans people get outed to their employers, who then fire them motivated by transphobia. Where is your concern for all of the trans people cancelled for just existing while being trans?
But endlessly unpleasant as its constant targeting of me has been, 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.
Framing trans people as a threat, framing them as predators, as a nefarious force, and then, in a staggering display of having no idea what the fuck she’s talking about, says she stands with trans people… against trans rights. She frames everyone else as extremely vulnerable to this trans invasion that is trying to assault them in bathrooms and disempower cis women.
The one thing that gives me hope is that the women who can protest and organise, are doing so, and they have some truly decent men and trans people alongside them. Political parties seeking to appease the loudest voices in this debate are ignoring women’s concerns at their peril. 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. 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.
Rowling…gender critical people absolutely do hate trans people, even if they will not admit it to themselves. One of the gender critical “feminists” you’ve cited called trans people, as a group, “Blackface actors." One of the most prominent gender critical feminists, Pose Parker, openly wished death and forced sterilization on trans people. I’ve seen so many people who call themselves gender critical who repeatedly wish harm upon trans people and express blanket disgust about trans people. They say horrible, cruel, untrue things about trans people, constantly, like what you’re doing now. And here you are, saying that “women” are being silenced. No, for the whateverth time, you can’t just use women, as in the demographic in its entirety, as a shield against criticisms of transphobia.
The last thing I want to say is this. I haven’t written this essay in the hope that anybody will get out a violin for me, not even a teeny-weeny one. I’m extraordinarily fortunate; I’m a survivor, certainly not a victim. I’ve only mentioned my past because, like every other human being on this planet, I have a complex backstory, which shapes my fears, my interests and my opinions. I never forget that inner complexity when I’m creating a fictional character and I certainly never forget it when it comes to trans people.
So this whole thing was just the villain’s backstory - that she hates trans people because she was assaulted by a cis man, and therefore, views biological sexes as political classes, to which she sees trans women as a member of the antagonizing class.
All I’m asking – all I want – is for similar empathy, similar understanding, to be extended to the many millions of women whose sole crime is wanting their concerns to be heard without receiving threats and abuse.
Transphobia deserves to be called out, even if those spouting it call it feminism. Transphobia is not women wanting their concerns to be heard any more than homophobia is Christians wanting their religion to be respected.
And there. It’s finally over. Oh jeeze. That was freaking agonizing. I lost track of exactly how many times she evoked the various tropes of transphobia in the beginning, especially since her main tactic here is plausible deniability, which blurs the lines so much. She sneaks in transphobic narratives and arguments, repeatedly, under the guise of “just trying to protect women”, which, if you argue that cis women need to be “protected” from trans women, you are, without question, saying that you do not see trans women as “real” women and arguing that trans women are a threat to “real women.” You are arguing, without question, that the changes we need to give them the dignity and inclusion they deserve are a threats to “real women.”
And then, when people speak up, explain to you why the things you say about trans people are part of a system that justifies and encourages real material harm and violence against trans people, you focus on the minority whose anger turned into abuse on the individual level to say that you’re the real victim, despite your words acting as cogs in the machine that abuses and murders trans people.
And whenever people like myself try to speak to transphobes, many of whom sport “I <3 JK ROWLING” as their twitter profile pictures, who parrot many of the arguments you made here and take them one step further into overt abuse...this is something you played a hand in, whether you want to admit it to yourself or not. And whenever I point out that your letter here was transphobic, transphobes jump into the replies, demanding that I explain it to them, personally, and accusing me of having never read this letter. Now, none of them can pretend I didn’t. I went through every word of it. Every miserable word. And friendly reminder - people doing that kind of duh-DOS attack don’t actually care about what I have to say. What any trans person has to say. They just want to waste our time or frame us as unreliable narrators - they want to claim that neither trans people nor their allies should have any say in what counts as their own mistreatment.
This was so dense that I never got to make the joke I had planned about how Hedwig was a trans icon. Hedwig is described as ‘she’ in all of the books and the movies, and yet, she was described as being completely white instead of thoroughly spotted, as a female snowy owl would be. Look, here's a snowy owl, male and female, side by side, and here’s Hedwig.
For those of you who are trans, nonbinary, or allies, and made it through this entire shitshow…I hope this helps you articulate your struggles to people. I hope it helps you dismantle bad arguments used against you, and I hope it empowers you to stand up for yourself. And I’ll keep fighting to expose this kind of transphobia wherever I find it.
For those of you who are neutral or even gender critical and who listened to this video all the way through - thank you for sticking through this, I know it’s not easy to hear someone criticise someone you respect, but please, PLEASE listen to trans and nonbinary people when we tell you that words like this are harmful to us and encourage mistreatment of us. And I don’t just mean the ones that say what you want to hear - diversify, force yourself to listen to people who say things that make you uncomfortable, and then ask yourself, “Why do these arguments make me feel uncomfortable? Do I feel called out? Do I feel like an assumption I want to hold onto is being challenged?”
And as for how we feel when someone who was, for so long, so well liked by so many trans and queer people, comes out and says these awful things about trans people… well, the person I chose to be the voice actor for this week was chosen specifically for their story of how Rowling’s taking the side of the terfs and gender criticals has affected them.
“Hi, I’m Aranock….”
And I'm a nonbinary autistic streamer from Canada. The reason I bring up those two identities is that a lot of the pain and abuse I experienced was because I was autistic and because I was queer even if I wasn't out yet. When I was a kid, one of the first books I ever received was Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. It was the first book I ever read. I was an incredibly fast reader. And when I ran out of other books to read I would reread it over and over and over again. When I was only four years old. Every time a new Harry Potter book came out, I would ravenously consume it in the first day. It was my escape. From the hell that was existing in a school system around peers who hated me for who I am. I had to listen constantly as I was called slurs by everyone around me. I had to learn to fight really good because gangs of them would team up on me. I don't know if you would know what it's like to have four people beat the shit out of you because of who you are, J.K., but I do. And it is your rhetoric that is encouraging people to behave like that now.
And so I disappeared into books, to the point where I used to get in trouble for reading too much. And most of the time, I was reading Harry Potter because I just wanted to get away to some mystical place, far off where the weird kid could be the hero. And I know so many other trans and autistic people who've gone through this exact experience, whose special interest was your books. I used to be able to tell you literally any detail from any of those books; they meant the world to me. And I loved the movies and I went to them every time they were released, first day. You wrote a story about kids who are pushed out for being different, who are hated by those around them, but who found solidarity together and if you do not understand how that relates to the experience of growing up queer in an incredibly hateful place, I don't know what to say. So when I first saw that you started liking some transphobic things I couldn't believe it - how could this person who could so clearly write about what it was like to be this outsider hate people like me? And I ignored it. And then you kept getting worse. And you kept liking more things and sharing more harmful things and I couldn't ignore it anymore.
And finally, you decided to write a manifesto of hatred that seemed to be perfectly written to poison the childhoods of so many people like myself, to take the place that was a safe space from the abuse I experienced and poison it by showing that you were just another one of those abusive, terrible people.
And I want you to understand and I want you to feel it every fucking night how horrible you are. I want you to wake up and think, "I have done harm to people, I have hurt people who I supposedly supported and I want you to know, from the deepest part of my soul that I despise you and everything you have decided to represent. I despise your anti-intellectualism, something you used to rail against. I despise your behavior and rhetoric that seems to go against everything you wrote in those books. So yeah, when trans people say you are like Voldemort, I think think it's a pretty fucking apt description. I think you shouldn't be fucking named anymore. I don't think people should even think about you. And I want you to really understand - truly understand - that all you are is another pathetic, sad old bigot who thinks they can use the harm they experienced to attack everyone else who has gone through that exact fucking harm. Do you know how many trans people are abuse survivors because we are trans? Do you have any fucking idea what it's like? Because you clearly can't if you would go around and say these things. And to blame the violence of cis men - which we deal with on a daily fucking basis - on us is so much more disgusting than anything else I could fucking imagine saying. You want to talk about victim blaming? Look at yourself. You want to talk about being silenced? Look at the hate mobs who wear your banner as they tell me to kill myself. Thousands. You inspire violence and hatred and you turn around and attack us for having the audacity of wanting to speak up against abuse.
You're not a feminist. My mom has worked in feminist activities since she was in high school and for you to act like someone as full of bile as you stands on the side of someone who has fought to try to help me against every sling and arrow I have experienced is the highest form of disgust I can experience for any human being.
How dare you?
How dare you take that term?
How dare you start to pretend like you deserve it when all you do is actively fight against the goals of feminism and actively harm women, men, and nonbinary people, cis and trans alike.
What this has felt like is having someone go into my childhood and take my heart and rip it from its cage and douse it in acid and laugh as I watch it burn and immolate, and then have the audacity to tell me that all of the pain that I have experienced is my own fault. From now on, I will not refer to your name. You are nothing - I want you to feel that.