Addressing The Claims In JK Rowling’s Justification For Transphobia
Recently JK Rowling, author of Harry Potter, tweeted some transphobic statements and dogwhistles on Twitter that I have addressed here. After a few days silence she wrote a lengthy post trying to justify her position on her website. Here I will address the main claims and explain why they are either false or at best half true.
As is the problem with all misinformation, it’s easier and quicker to spread than it is to refute. JKR’s original post was long and it contained so many falsehoods it is very tricky to address concisely, therefore this article is very long. Please do your own research and don’t blindly trust either me or JKR, however all my sources are linked throughout.
- The Maya Forstater Legal Case
- Support for Magdalen Berns
- TERF — Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist
- Education and Safeguarding
- Freedom of Speech
- Lisa Littman and Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria
- Desistance, Detransition and “If I Were a Kid Today I Would Have Been Transed”
- Misogyny and Women as a Political Class
- “Trans People Think Being a Woman is a Costume”
- Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault
- Trans Women in Women’s Bathrooms and GRA Reform
The Maya Forstater Legal Case
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.
Firstly, this plain misrepresentation is a common Gender Critical (read anti-trans) talking point. The claim usually goes that “someone lost their job just for saying sex is real” or “for calling a man a man” or even “for thinking the wrong thing”, with the implication that someone just innocently spoke a thought aloud and then lost their livelihood, which is of course never true. The first sentence of my previous post was “Sex is real”, we talk about our colleagues every day, and we all think and say things that are wrong all the time, yet neither you or I are at risk of losing our jobs over it. This is like when you walk into a room with two children, one is crying and holding their eye, and the other says “all I did was put my arm out!”, you know that isn’t “all they did”.
You can read the entire court case ruling here, or a (rather dry) legal review of the case by Oxford Human Rights Hub here, though the Judge’s conclusion is posted below. This was not a simple case of someone tweeting something innocuous in passing, it involved months of (still ongoing) campaigning to take away the rights that trans women have today for protection against the misogynistic sexism and sexual violence they face for being women, and a refusal to respect trans people for who they are.
Secondly, as I mentioned in my other post, this is again an attempt to create a false dichotomy between supporting trans rights and just agreeing with the entire field of biology. The position that the claimant takes isn’t the “belief that sex is determined by biology”, it is the the belief that everyone is put into box based on their genitals at birth: girl or boy, and that that is what they are for the rest of their lives. This is false and is not supported by science — biology is far more nuanced and complicated than that. Trans people, intersex people, doctors, experts and feminists aren’t arguing that sex isn’t real, they are arguing the opposite: that in reality it isn’t black and white.
Furthermore, in this case the claimant even went as far as saying that a trans man or woman who doesn’t out themselves as trans and refer to themselves exclusively as their birth sex — denying reality — shouldn’t be in a “position of responsibility with children”.
Trans people across the country are teachers, family doctors, sports coaches, scout leaders, mothers, fathers, aunties, uncles. You may even know a trans person and not be aware of it; once you have transitioned it’s often not even interesting to bring it up. The idea that trans people can’t be trusted around children because of who they are is an extremist and disgusting position, so is the idea that they are somehow lying by being themselves. Trans people are normal people, just the same as everyone else.
Support for Magdalen Berns
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
One of the most frustrating things about GC views is they are always wrapped in several layers of dogwhistles and misdirection. What does “A believer in the importance of biological sex” mean? As I said in my previous post, trans people are often more keenly aware of their biology than anyone else, having often spent their whole lives dealing with the dysphoria that their various sex characteristics cause them. But also because they often must be their own experts in order to get adequate healthcare from professionals who aren’t experts, and from a system that is set up for a binary that their bodies don’t fit into. What this is code for is “a great believer that trans women are men and should always be treated as such in all cases”, which clearly does not reflect how trans men and women are treated in society. What chromosomes you have doesn’t determine how people interact with you, what sexism you face or who finds you attractive.
If you are not attracted to someone because of their genitals then you are not attracted to them. You do not choose who you are attracted to, and no one should be called a bigot for it. Of course it is possible to find trans people who disagree with this, as it is usually possible to find someone who disagrees with any given view, but this is the mainstream position by far. Every single trans person I know and interact with agrees with me on this, and often very publicly. So why bring this up at all? It is part of the GC emotional hook. The idea is to present trans women as predatory and as forcing women into sex, that there is some inherent problem with trans people that they are a danger to gay people. Half of trans people are women, half are gay, this doesn’t make any sense.
The reason JKR received such a backlash for supporting Magdalen Berns wasn’t because she “believed in sex” or because she observed how sexuality works, it was because of Berns’s very openly transphobic, antagonistic and often conspiratorial views on trans people
Trans people aren’t actors, they don’t get “sexual kicks” from being trans. And clearly trans people, a chronically poor and unemployed demographic the world over, aren’t receiving secret money from a Jewish billionaire.
TERF — Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist
The term TERF was coined by cis (cis means not trans) Radical Feminist Viv Smythe as a way of distinguishing trans antagonistic Radical Feminists from all the rest. As a term it definitely has gained a life of its own and is often used to describe people who aren’t even feminists, it is often just used as a synonym for transphobe (which is why I personally use “Gender Critical” or “GC” as a descriptor as that is how they describe themselves, and it doesn’t create the illusion that theirs is a feminist position).
There are two relevant quotes to address here:
‘They’ll call us transphobic!’ ‘They’ll say I hate trans people!’ What next, they’ll say you’ve got fleas?
Being called a TERF, or transphobic, isn’t an insult. It’s not a bullying tactic. It’s not the same as saying someone has fleas. It’s a description of someone whose views come from a place of irrational prejudice of trans people. Just how when we are discussing gay rights, women’s rights or the rights of people of colour, pointing out homophobia, misogyny or racism is the first step towards a rational discussion, calling out irrational prejudice of trans people is the first step here. There is no denying that all of these accusations are sometimes overused or mistargetted, but that isn’t an excuse to instantly shrug them off every single time they are pointed out. How can we discuss an issue that is undeniably, demonstrably surrounded by irrational prejudice if we aren’t even allowed to call that out for what it is? We have all seen racists say “they call everything racist these days” and sexists saying “they call everything sexist these days” etc, as an attempt to avoid engaging with the accusations, and this is no different. In my experience, every single accusation of transphobia that I make, no matter how egregious or blatant, will be met with “you call everything transphobia these days”.
You cannot address oppression if you cannot name your oppressor.
Ironically, radical feminists aren’t even trans-exclusionary — they include trans men in their feminism, because they were born women.
I am amazed that anyone tries this weak linguistic trick. The “trans exclusionary” part doesn’t mean you think that all trans people aren’t women, it clearly means that you think trans women aren’t women. That you exclude them and their real life experiences of misogynistic sexism from your radical feminist analysis. That you want to exclude them from having the legal rights they have today. No trans men out there are thinking “well that’s ok then if you include me as a woman”. But not only that, it’s also not true in practice. GC people like to pretend that trans men are “just confused women” (worth noting the sexist dichotomy of this compared to how trans women are all “predatory men”), but when faced with what trans men really are, they want to exclude them too.
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).
As someone who is an avid lover of biology, I find the GC ignorance of biology, and their blind faith that it agrees with everything they already think, very frustrating. Almost daily I encounter people making claims about biology with 100% conviction that can be shown to be wrong with a 30 second Google search. I am aware this quote is an attempt at a joke, but also I feel this is illustrative of the general GC level of understanding of biology (and of trans rights).
Clownfish are one of the many animals that changes sex in the wild, often due to population changes. They are a clear counterexample of the claims “no animals change sex” or “sex is an immutable binary”, but this is nothing to do with sexual dimorphism, which is a measure of differences in appearance between males and females of a species. Of course humans are sexually dimorphic! Men and women look different. Men are generally bigger and hairier amongst other things. Humans are less sexually dimorphic than say anglerfish, where the females are over ten times as long, and more sexually dimorphic than ladybirds where the males and females are almost identical.
There are some animals that change sex that are more sexually dimorphic than humans, like Anthias (show below). They clearly have visible differences between males and females, but also clearly there is not a strict unchangeable binary between the two as there will be a transition process when the female turns into a male. The fact that human sexual dimorphism exists and is so comparatively low is how transition can work at all.
I also fund medical research into MS, a disease that behaves very differently in men and women
But like all of the misinformation in JKR’s post, these claims aren’t just frustrating, they are also dangerous. Some medical conditions vary greatly between men and women and this is a perfect example of where treating sex as a strict binary greatly harms trans and intersex people. Sometimes the difference between how men and women react to diseases can be down to chromosomes, sometimes it’s down to hormones, sometimes it’s down to particular organs, sometimes a combination of those things, sometimes it’s something else. Also it is often social too, and factors such as occupation, habits and diet play a role.
When the coronavirus news hit that men are more likely to die from Covid-19 than women, the almost unanimous immediate Gender Critical reaction was to claim that trans women would die at the same rate as cis men “because biology”. Then days later, scientists, including those at the NHS, announced they were trialing giving cis men estrogen therapy as a treatment, something which the majority of trans women are already on! Other researchers also showed that smoking, something that men are more likely to do, was a factor. The reality is, as I have said several times already, biology is very complicated. It is likely we won’t know all of the mechanisms involved that cause the difference in mortality rates between men and women for years, but to just blindly assert that trans women are the same as cis men reduces their chance of getting good treatment, and even harms study potential.
Education and Safeguarding
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 grew up in the era of Section 28, a horrible and oppressive law that made it illegal for schools to even acknowledge that LGBT people even existed. This meant my only understanding of what an LGBT person was was from American films where trans people were presented as perverts or a joke, and from my classmates who told me that being gay was bad. Every British LGBT person my age that I have met suffered with shame, low self esteem, internalised LGBTphobia and/or bullying directly from this, and it often delayed their coming out by years or even decades. General, non-specific “concerns” about what might happen if we were to teach children about LGBT people have been used to oppose LGBT rights for decades and beyond, and it comes from the fear that the reason anyone is LGBT is because they have been tricked or brainwashed into it — this is unambiguously and demonstrably false. You are born LGBT or you are not. Teaching kids about LGBT people, who may be their parents, teachers, friends etc, or even themselves, is clearly only beneficial to children. Letting kids be kids requires letting LGBT kids be LGBT kids.
Freedom of Speech
Freedom of speech is a hugely important issue and one that is regularly weaponised against trans people. In 2018 Canada added trans people to its laws around hate crimes, adding them to a list that already included “include age, race, sex, religion and disability, among others”. Plenty of people were quick to declare a law against harassing trans people as “the end of free speech”, something they didn’t say when the laws were first introduced for every other demographic of people covered. This was used to imply that trans people uniquely don’t like freedom of speech, which of course isn’t true. Trans people are finally, for the first time in centuries, being allowed to speak freely about what and who they are. Freedom of speech is what has allowed us to gain rights at all.
I personally know several trans journalists who were forced out of their jobs for either being trans or for opposing an editorial decision to run a fabricated story about trans people. The Guardian Newspaper forced three trans people out of their jobs this year due to transphobia in the workplace. Trans people’s rights and even existence is debated on TV by rooms full of cis people almost every week. Trans people don’t have a voice.
It is also worth noting that the Gender Critical side has a huge platform, many newspapers have published (often entirely fabricated) anti-trans articles every single week without respite. The BBC even gave someone a platform to go on TV and say that the NHS doctors helping trans children were Nazis without offering any trans or expert a chance for rebuttal, an action so extreme and unhinged I am still surprised it was allowed.
It is, of course, ironic that JKR talks about freedom of speech in an article she posted with comments turned off, and tweeted with replies turned off, days after silencing someone with a legal threat. She is not the first rich GC person to use legal threats to silence a trans person, having experienced it myself from someone else, and I am sure she won’t be the last.
Lisa Littman and Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria
Nobody, the activists insisted, could ever be persuaded into being trans.
The claims that LGBT people are confused, or that they’ve been tricked into being LGBT, or that they can be converted out of it are as old as homophobia and transphobia themselves. Not only are these claims wrong and completely unevidenced, they are very dangerous.
“Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria” is a buzz phrase for “someone who woke up and decided to be trans”, or who was “persuaded” into it. The World Professional Association for Trans Health (WPATH) notes “The term ‘Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria (ROGD)’ is not a medical entity recognized by any major professional association”. There is only one single paper that attempts to provide any evidence for the existence of this phenomenon by Lisa Littman.
There was a lot wrong with Littman’s paper. Firstly the study involved no trans people, just the parents of trans people. Secondly all of the participating parents were found on just a handful of websites such as “Transgender Trend” and “Youth Trans Critical Professionals”, which run forums specifically for unsupportive parents of trans kids. As JKR notes the controversial paper received a lot of criticism from within the scientific community:
The journal took the paper offline and re-reviewed it before republishing it.
But it is deceptive of JKR to describe what happened in this way. The post-publication review resulted in major corrections to the paper and an apology from the editor of the journal. The editor noted “the corrected article now provides a better context of the work, as a report of parental observations, but not a clinically validated phenomenon or a diagnostic guideline”. For a comprehensive takedown of this paper see here.
So what is all this about? The point of this paper was to provide justification for putting trans children through “Conversion Therapy”. Conversion Therapy, or as it’s sometimes called “Reparative Therapy” or “Gender Critical Therapy”, is the idea that you can change an LGBT person into a straight cis person. It has been rejected by mainstream science for decades and is illegal in many countries, there is no evidence to show that it works, and a lot of evidence that it can cause long lasting mental damage. Trying to change who someone is isn’t just impossible, it’s immoral.
Many trans people I know have faced difficulty with their families. Often, like myself, hiding being trans from the world for years or even decades. I’m sure to a lot of parents it does look “rapid” when their trans child comes out, that’s often what coming out is — they are finally at the point where they cannot hide it any longer. To try and disregard the huge struggles many trans people have gone through with their families — often losing everyone — and to say that “no it’s not my transphobia, it’s actually that you were talked into being trans” is disgusting.
Desistance, Detransition and “If I Were a Kid Today I Would Have Been Transed”
I’ve wondered whether, if I’d been born 30 years later, I too might have tried to transition
No. You wouldn’t have. This is a very common GC claim, the argument usually goes “when I was little I played with barbie/action man, therefore today I would have transitioned, but I am happy as I am today, so that would be bad, therefore we should ban everyone”. This is part of the wider GC view that being trans is just about what you wear or what your hobbies are, and also that specialist doctors hand out diagnoses of hugely complicated conditions like they’re prescribing paracetamol over the counter. No trans person thinks that they are trans because they liked painting their nails or climbing trees. As a kid I liked lego, trains and maths and pretty much nothing else and I was still trans. Doctors don’t diagnose kids as trans unless they show persistent dysphoria, and have gone through therapy for years.
The NHS says that less than 1% of people detransition, some of those go on to retransition, and most cite transphobia and lack of family support for their reason to detransition, not “transition regret”. That is not to say that people who do regret and other detrans people can be ignored at all. They often have all the same healthcare requirements as trans people, and sometimes even less support. It does mean that they should not be used as a tool to unempathetically wield against trans healthcare. That would be like pointing out that because up to 20% of people regret knee surgery (a regret rate over 20x higher than transition), we should ban it for everyone. If you genuinely wanted to decrease detransition rates and help detrans people you would increase funding for trans healthcare, remove the strict pressures on trans people to “transition the whole way or have no rights”, and improve LGBT education.
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
This can be a very complicated topic with lots of concepts to get your head around, especially when they are all intentionally conflated together by GC people, as JKR has done here. Some studies do show that prepubescent children showing signs of Gender Dysphoria will likely “grow out of it” (though these studies have had their methods, data and analysis called into question), they also show that if Gender Dysphoria persists into adolescence that “it is almost certainly permanent”. Conflating the different age groups of children together and ignoring the evidence from all of the leading medical organisations is done to make a narrative that this is all one big wild experiment, which is trivially nonsense.
The UK has experienced a 4400% increase in girls being referred for transitioning treatment
The number of people coming out as trans is increasing, and this is true for children as well as adults. This is because of increased awareness, increased social acceptance, increased legal protections and increased access to healthcare. There is no evidence to show or imply that the rate at which people are born trans is changing, and again, there is no evidence that being trans is something you can be talked into.
If we multiply the number of new births per year in the UK by a rough estimate for the rate at which adults are trans, we would expect about 4000 new referrals per year of trans kids in a transphobia-free society.
As well as watching out for the conflation between detransition and desistance, and the various age groups being discussed, it is also worth noting the conflation between referrals and diagnoses. Many people will be referred to gender services and will receive therapy and that is it — no medication or anything else. The earlier young prepubescent kids who will “grow out of it” often still benefit from a referral and therapy from experts.
Often here there is the implication that trans kids are being forced to transition by overzealous parent, to which WPATH notes “There are no studies to support [the claim that] children are forced to undergo treatments they may regret”. All of this is, of course, brought up with the goal of stopping children having access to trans healthcare, regardless of whether they are trans or not. The reason this is such an emotionally powerful argument is because most cis people can imagine the horror of being incorrectly diagnosed as trans and go on to wrongly transition, but it is important to remember it is as bad to wrongly prescribe a cis person transition as it is to deny a trans person it. The pain experienced is the same.
But finally and most importantly on this section, why do you think you know more than all of the experts and doctors in this field of study? When you read a blog post that links to a handful of studies that seem to go against the entire worldwide medical consensus, why do you think you know enough to say science is wrong? How is wanting the government to step in and stop the experts from following the science any different to what anti-vaxxers want? Why do you think you know more about trans people than trans people and the professionals who study them?
Misogyny and Women as a Political Class
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
I wasn’t born until 1989 so I don’t remember the 80s, however I agree with her, there definitely seems to be a rise in misogyny in recent years as the world seems to be becoming more reactionary. This is most clearly seen in the USA with the rise of Trump and attacks on women’s access to abortion and reproductive freedom. But the insinuation here that “trans activists” are part of this is beyond ridiculous — they are targets of the same force. With rising misogyny comes rising homophobia and, of course, transphobia. It has always worked like this — this is what feminists such as myself mean when we talk about “the patriarchy”. Trump has consistently attacked trans rights almost from his first day in office. Incels, and in fact the entire “manosphere”, generally have the same views of trans people and trans rights as Gender Critical people. They will regularly be seen allying together in arguments online, and sometimes you can’t even tell them apart. This is why so often you see “TERFs are Nazis” being thrown around online, because they have the same views on trans rights.
Two of the core aspects of feminism are bodily autonomy and autonomy of sexuality. That means “to make your own decisions about your own body” and “to be allowed to love whatever consenting adult you want”. These are both at the absolute core of both women’s rights AND trans rights. Neither trans people nor women can be free without these two things. Yet GC people regularly argue against both.
As I have already said, trans women face misogynistic sexism and sexual violence for being women. Any increase in misogyny inevitably affects trans women too, and they know it because they experience it. Every single trans woman I know experiences #EverydaySexism. The insinuation that trans people either want, or don’t care about, an escalation in misogyny doesn’t make any sense, especially when they know GC people are trying to take away their protections from it.
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.
Trans women have been at the front of many struggles for women’s rights. Most recently seen in the fight for abortion rights in Ireland. The idea that a trans woman who experiences sexism every day is actually part of a conspiracy to take away women’s ability to organise by saying “yes this affects me too” is bordering on delusional.
As a feminist I cannot think of much more important than making sure that women are able to organise and fight against their oppression, and this has to include all women or you aren’t fighting against the patriarchy, you are just fighting for yourself, and you end up being part of it and oppressing everyone else.
“Trans People Think Being a Woman is a Costume”
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.
As soon as someone says this in relation to trans people you can be sure that they don’t know what they are talking about. One of the key premises of trans rights is that anyone can present any way and still be themselves. There are trans men and women who present in every single way imaginable. I personally know “masculine” trans women, and butch lesbian trans women, and trans women who play guitar in a death metal band (me!). I know “feminine” trans men, trans men who love makeup and dresses, trans men who are drag queens. Not only are trans people more likely to be “gender non-conforming” than cis people; the claim that they aren’t is in direct contradiction to the other main GC claim: that “men are now just saying they are women and aren’t transitioning”! It can’t be both that trans people think that just wearing a dress makes someone a woman AND that trans women “don’t even bother to wear dresses”. Ask almost any trans person “do you think that wearing a dress makes someone a woman” and they will say no very assertively. This is unequivocally a strawman.
Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault
I truly extend my sympathy and empathy to JKR on her experience of domestic violence and sexual assault. There is no “but” to this. I unconditionally extend my love and support on this. I too survived an abusive relationship and I too stand in solidarity with those who have. I am glad she has felt she can speak up and I am sure that doing so has given strength to some survivors who felt they couldn’t, and for that I thank her. The recent attack by the Sun Newspaper on her for this, and platforming of her abuser, was unambiguously disgusting, and rightly called out by the wider trans community.
Most of the trans women I know, including myself, have experienced sexual assault for being women, and I am grateful that JKR extends empathy and solidarity to the women who experience this:
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.
But with her comment on this there is a “but”…
Trans Women in Women’s Bathrooms and GRA Reform
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.
As I pointed out in my last piece; in the UK — where both JKR and I live — trans women have used women’s spaces longer than either of us have been alive, and have been legally protected to do so since 2010 (before that there was no clear law either way, though there were some protections for trans people, it has never been illegal). A Gender Recognition Certificate is not necessary to use women’s spaces and it never has been, in fact using women’s spaces for some time is required to obtain a GRC! If there was going to be a problem the moment that people were allowed into the facility they know is best for them then it would have already happened. It hasn’t. All of the problems GC people propose with “Self ID” are always hypothetical, if it was going to happen, why hasn’t it been happening for over a decade?
This is one of the most worrying pieces of misinformation put forward by her and by the GC movement as a whole. I, and many British trans people, are living in fear that the UK government is building up to trying to ban us from using public facilities. The reason they are claiming that trans women don’t already use women’s facilities is so they can frame taking away the rights trans people have today as “defending women’s rights”. Where do you think trans women have been weeing for the last 50 years?
Political parties seeking to appease the loudest voices in this debate are ignoring women’s concerns at their peril.
There are constant cries from the GC movement that “women’s concerns aren’t being listened to”, but what they really mean is “you aren’t agreeing with me”. Scotland held a public consultation for the GRA reform. The majority of women and women’s groups supported it (also see here). The Scottish government specifically addressed the concerns in a response. England and Wales recently admitted that over 70% of the responses to their consultation were positive. It is plainly clear that it is Gender Critical people who are not listening to the concerns of women.
I was recently made aware of a woman in the USA who had endured months of extreme domestic violence culminating in her husband throwing her through a glass coffee table. She escaped, but he had control of her finances and car. She was turned away by at least two women’s shelters because she is a trans woman and her only ID said “M” on it. Luckily a kind cis couple two whole time zones away, who I am now in contact with, took her in. One lady I talked to was raped by a gang of men and she said that while it happened she prayed they wouldn’t realise she was trans in case they killed her.
As I have said above, trans women face misogynistic sexism and sexual violence for being women. Not just the unbearably horrible and extreme acts described above, but the same relentless everyday sexism that all women face. I have been sexually assaulted several times and get greasy men shouting at me on the street all the time. One time I was sitting on a bench, literally writing a Twitter reply to a GC person who claimed that no trans women know what misogynistic sexism is and a guy slowed down and shouted some misogynistic garbage at me out of his car about my legs.
This isn’t theoretical, these are real women struggling with these things today. Some of my trans friends have endured unspeakably horrible things for being women, and we are supposed to treat them as men when it comes to helping them or giving them space from it? To treat them as second class citizens because of how they were born? I can already hear the bad faith GC reply to this “You think men are second class citizens?!”. No. I think women who are abused for being women, but then denied support because they are trans, are.
We cannot also forget that fear mongering around trans people makes things less safe for cis women too. There are countless examples of cis women being thrown out of women’s facilities because they “look like a man” from countries and states that have tried implementing bathroom bills (most have repealed them). There have even been incidents where cis women have been sent to the men’s jail because they can’t prove they are a “real woman”. I also invite you to read rape survivor Kelly Lawrence’s article on how she fears GC people more than trans people here.
I do not know how anyone who claims to have done any research on trans people could not know trans women already use womens spaces in the UK, and always have. This idea that it’s new or we need to ban them because of something that might happen in the future is completely fabricated in the minds of people who fear trans people.
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.
In 11 countries it is against the law and punishable by the death penalty to be a trans person. In the USA in 43 states it is still considered a valid legal defence to murder a trans person if you found yourself attracted to them (yes seriously). Right now in the USA they are debating whether it’s legal to fire someone for being trans in the top court in the land. Over half of the trans people I know personally have lost jobs because of being trans, though usually in that subtle “sure you used to be the top employee every month for the last 5 years, and this is nothing to do with you being trans, but we are downsizing one month after you have come out and only you are being asked to leave” kind of way. I’ve talked to trans people who have been beaten to the verge of death, who have been permanently mutilated, who have been raped by their own family, who have had to flee their countries and all kinds of other horrific abuses. I know people who are trans and no one in their life knows because they need to keep it a secret for their safety. I, a very privileged person, have personally been doxxed and received countless threats of violence just for standing up to transphobia.
Countless trans people have messaged me to say they’re terrified of the state of trans acceptance in the UK. New Zealand has already accepted an asylum request from a British trans woman over it. Almost every trans person I speak to fears for their future, on top of the baseline fear of transphobia that all trans people deal with. The general mood in the trans community after JKR’s letter was one of utter exhaustion and fear.
I do have sympathy for people who maybe said something clumsy about trans people on social media without thinking and received an over the top backlash. I go out of my way to be forgiving and ready for dialogue. But I find any comment about how those calling to remove trans rights are feeling scared of backlash tone deaf, unempathetic and even manipulative. As if trans people across the entire country aren’t utterly terrified of losing the freedoms they have today. If you have a heinous view you should expect backlash when you express it.
It takes far more guts to stand up against a multi-millionaire, people who want to take your rights away, and irrational prejudice than it does to “stand up” to one of the most marginalised minorities in the country.
It is very clear that JKR has entirely bought into the “Gender Critical” worldview. This isn’t someone who has innocently aired an ignorant position. It also is clearly not from someone who has spent any time talking to or being around trans people. Gender Critical is a rabbit hole, it could be described as a conspiracy theory and is often described by ex-members as “cult-like”. From talking to ex-Gender Critical people it will be at best 2 or 3 years before she is able to snap out of it, though I personally suspect that she won’t ever change her mind even in the face of evidence. I don’t expect her to read or even see this article. I don’t expect any Gender Critical person to actually engage with this article, most will have read her post and recognised it as The Gender Critical View, and will be primed to instantly disregard anything that disagrees with it. My hope is to put the counter information out there. Trans people are outnumbered and outgunned — JKR had nearly as many Twitter followers as there are trans people on earth, and probably more money than all the trans people in the UK combined — the best we can hope for is to put the facts out there.
So why am I doing this? Why respond to this kind of thing? I’m doing it because I’m terrified for the future of my friends and I, and I feel I have to do something. We are desperate.
Since the first draft of this response, and in the same week that JKR wrote her piece, there have been two huge and harrowing pieces of news.
The USA has made it so that healthcare providers, doctors and insurance companies can choose to just not treat trans people (and LGBT people and women wanting reproductive freedom). In the past this has lead to a situations like the story of Tyra Hunter who was a trans woman who was injured in a car crash and died solely because healthcare providers refused to help her because she was trans. Many of my friends are now without healthcare at all because of how they were born, even for unrelated conditions.
The UK, my home, has announced that they are probably planning to try and ban trans women from using the women’s facilities that they use today, and have done their whole lives without issue. This will ruin tens of thousands of people’s lives including my own, and put trans people and cis women in danger for demonstrably no gain. There is no evidence that trans women using the women’s facilities has caused any issues in any of the countries where they are legally allowed to do so, including the UK, Ireland and various American states.
I cannot express the horror that my friends and I are experiencing. I cannot stop crying.