Is JK Rowling transphobic? Not necessarily. She does not tweet a lot. She has retweeted a bit about Brexit this year, of tweets and articles opposing it. [Update- I wrote this before Rowling’s hate screed. I tried to give the benefit of the doubt.]
I’ve seen a meme claiming she tweeted, Ron Weasley was indeed transgender. Ron was born female but magically transitioned to female [sic] at the age of four. Gender transition is much easier in the magical world than it is in the muggle world- yet so similar. Yet a search doesn’t find those words. It is a forgery. When asked in 2014 if there were LGBT wizards at Hogwarts, she replied, But of course. If Harry Potter taught us anything it’s that no-one should live in a closet.
She followed a number of anti-trans campaigners, and liked some of their tweets, but that does not mean she is an anti-trans campaigner herself. Then yesterday she tweeted,
Dress however you please.
Call yourself whatever you like.
Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you.
Live your best life in peace and security.
But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real?
So. It’s proven, say some. She’s transphobic. And the media world wide has an interest: it’s in NBC and CBS. The Times has a picture of three women with a banner “WOMEN SPEAK UP!”. That’s terrifying. The attempt is to make campaigning against trans a mainstream feminist issue.
Pink News quoted LGBT folk condemning her. Some are vitriolic: “Who knew she would identify with Voldemort”.
And I’m not. My greatest fear is that people identified as transphobes or anti-trans campaigners or TERFs will take up that point of view. So this is my defence of JK Rowling.
She says what Maya Forstater did was state that sex is real. The anti-trans campaigners would have you believe that sex is real and gender does not exist. No-one has a “gender identity”, it’s just a word trans people use to try to justify ourselves.
Of course sex is real. Almost everyone has a reproductive system, and which you have, and which you were born with, matters. And trans people talk of our gender identity. But also, there are gender stereotypes in the world which affect everyone, and one way gender-variant people deal with that is to transition.
She did not merely state sex is real, though. She had a public dispute with a non-binary person and insisted that they were a man. That’s the moment where it stops being merely having an opinion, and starts to encroach on others’ rights.
I don’t know why the employer failed to renew the contract. Forstater says the reason is her position on trans. I could not find a statement from the employer on the reason, but they say she was “an unpaid visiting fellow and occasional paid consultant”, so not entitled to challenge the failure to renew. She’s the author of some articles still on their website.
Knowing of JK Rowling’s initial poverty, I see why she has sympathy with people losing their jobs, and I am glad of it. The technical details of Forstater’s employment rights are not in the papers, and possibly few people would think them relevant. Forstater had that source of income, and now she doesn’t.
That’s the defence. Sympathy with someone sacked. I am wary of calling someone a hater or transphobe. Forstater is a proven extreme hater and transphobe- hating trans people is part of her “sense of self”. Rowling- I don’t know. I would rather refer to transphobic acts or speech than transphobic people, unless clearly proven. As for the tweet-
Forstater says gender identity, and gender transition, is a myth. That’s more than saying sex is real, but her backers deny it.
“Force women out of their jobs”? That’s another TERF myth. The idea that trans women are men is widespread, not simply among TERFs.
So, rather than a “transphobe”, leave alone a TERF, I would call JK Rowling ignorant of trans issues but sympathetic with a woman who has lost her job. But, the tweet has worldwide attention, and is at best ignorant, so the tweet is transphobic.
So tweets accusing her of being a TERF are harmful. Attacked like this, anyone might be wounded, and keep asserting what they thought was reasonable, and get attacked more. It could drive her to the TERFs.
Trans women are women. Transition is an appropriate way of dealing with gender variance. Trans women are not a threat in women’s spaces, and should only be excluded if there are specific reasons relating to the particular trans woman. But not everyone contradicting any of that is immutably hostile to trans women. It could just be ignorant. It could be considering others’ rights as well as our own- I sympathise with people losing their jobs, often.
Slate says she’s no longer an LGBTQ ally. It’s a good article to explain what is the nature of Forstater’s case, and saying Rowling is not an LGBT ally- standing together- may get her to rethink. The Spectator, though, exults: this is a turning of the tide, and people will now speak openly of the need [Irony alert] to protect real women from transsexuals.
The more publicity such disputes get, the more our enemies prosper.