JK Rowling

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.

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?
#IStandwithMaya

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.

33 thoughts on “JK Rowling

    • Well, it depends. I used to represent claimants in employment tribunals.

      Some people have a regular job, and British law says they are entitled to claim compensation if they lose it “unfairly”. There are five grounds which an employer can prove, to defend against a claim of unfairness. If an employer avoided the employee’s rights by having a series of three month fixed terms, and could just wait for the fixed term to end, the right to compensation for unfair dismissal would become meaningless.

      It seems Maya Forstater just had a connection where she got paid for particular work occasionally. So she would not have these employment rights. That’s what the hearing in January is about. These granular details can affect your opinion of the case.

      A belief in catastrophic climate change has been classed as a philosophical belief entitled to protection under discrimination law.

      This case can be simplified. Forstater has no right to insult people. She claimed the right to be nasty to people. That creates an unsafe environment for colleagues. It’s a good reason for not renewing a contract. The misinformation is that she was sacked for belief rather than actions.

      ADDED: And, I am glad that the Equality Act applies to the sort of business relationship that she had. The parties appear to accept that, or the nature of the relationship would have been decided first. I am glad she lost, but would not want her to lose because her contract ending was an end to the matter. If it had been, trans women’s contracts could end for anti-trans prejudice, and we could not complain.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Do you think there’s any perception difference between getting fired and not having a contract renewed, though? Regardless of the legal issues, being fired implies an intentional act or conspiracy to unilaterally end someone’s employment. It invokes classic notions of discrimination. Not renewing a contract doesn’t imply such things, and is more open to interpretation.

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        • The employment contract stuff is where I am on her side. It does happen that an employer completely in control of the employee’s work and time nevertheless avoids employment law rights by wording the contract to say the employee is actually self-employed. In tax law such words can be ignored, and they should be in employment law too. Law should be able to give time off, rights to breaks, rights to paid sick and maternity leave, without employers subverting it. Though here, the employer argues she really was self-employed, contracted to do particular bits of work. I don’t know the facts. And zero-hours contracts subvert all that anyway, which is why I (and the Labour Party) would ban zero-hours contracts.

          Failure to renew a contract, if the employee is coming in to work regularly every week, seems very like dismissal to me. Why should there be a fixed term, anyway? Did the employer anticipate the end of the employee being needed- they were employed for a specific project? If it’s ongoing, as here, and the CGD is still producing technical articles about tax, I think the contract should be open-ended. But then I did spend years at the employment tribunal appearing for employees.

          Liked by 2 people

          • I suppose my main worry here is the potential misstatement of a fact. Here in the US, if someone was fired, it automatically gains sympathy. That sympathy doesn’t automatically attach if a person wasn’t given a new contract. The distinction can be meaningful if you’re looking at influencing potential jurors (if the case goes that far).

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            • Try thinking of it as something you sympathise with. Her contract ended because of transphobia, which we don’t like, but what if her contract was ended for being trans? Then you, I, Pink and others would be on her side. It’s easier then to see the end of a fixed term contract should not get round unfair dismissal legislation. There are no jurors in an employment tribunal here. Instead, the tribunal has three members, one legally qualified, one with a background in union organising and one with a background in employers’ organisations.

              Liked by 2 people

            • Okay, that’s a big piece of the puzzle. And really, I see your point on whether she was not renewed for sympathetic/unsympathetic reasons. I’m still not 100% sure on how transphobia and even homophobia present in media coverage. That is, I’m not sure what’s potential dog whistling and what’s not.

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  1. I usually give some slack to those cis people who say that gender identity is a myth It’s difficult to conceive, let alone accept, that one may be consumed by a gender identity that is different from their assigned sex at birth – when a cis person never had to even had to give a thought to what, for them, was a natural connection between sex and gender. Those of us who experience the incongruity still feel that our gender identities are as natural, to us, as a cis person’s is to them. Dysphoria may come with different intensities for different trans people, but it exists. I have yet to hear a description of it that comes close enough to answer my own questions, having dealt with it for over sixty years; a cis person has no reference at all. No reference, that is, except those of us who are living with it. A person’s inability to recognize that gender identity exists may be no more than their excuse for wishing that we trans people are the myth. We do exist, though! That’s reason enough for others to just get over it.

    That’s my opinion, and my gender identity should not be subject to opinion by anyone else.

    Liked by 3 people

    • That makes sense. Others deny that they have a gender identity, but should not deny that you have.

      I have other problems with the concept of “gender identity”- if it has to be a belief that one is a woman, that may induce people to seek surgery. If transition is my way of accepting and expressing my feminine self, then physical alteration is not necessary. But then I am strongly against surgery.

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      • To those who deny the existence of gender identity, no trans surgery would change their thought. Speaking for myself, realizing that my gender identity does, indeed, exist, I’m not sure that surgery would necessarily confirm what I already know of myself; as if confirmation is needed, anyway. My own denial is that of my male-self, even more than is my desire for being female. I have always thought of myself as a feminine being, and I have given myself permission to let go of the male facade in order to allow my femininity to emerge. Doing so has been relatively easy, compared to the introduction of hormones and surgery would be, I think. Still, my existing gender identity cannot cause me to deny that my male genitalia exists. My gender identity doesn’t hinge on mutual exclusivity, although I think that a denier of gender identity may believe that it does – but they would then have to admit to gender identity being real.

        If my gender identity goes undefined,
        It, yet, resides within my mind,
        Each day, becoming more refined,
        Not done, but one,
        Just one of a kind.
        😉

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  2. Clare, I’ll confess that I’m surprised and disappointed that you seem to be giving Rowling a pass? And that calling Rowling on her tweets may push her further to the dark side, thereby laying the blame for her defection on the queer community…? To your point that perhaps Rowling is merely out of touch and ignorant of trans issues, Julia Serano has put forward a new term: TUMF, Trans Unaware Mainstream Feminist to capture some of the zeitgeist, but at the same clarifies that Rowling is a Terf and not a Tumf. Happy Holidays to you if you celebrate. https://twitter.com/JuliaSerano/status/1207718578360709120?s=20

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    • I don’t celebrate, I am afraid, but value specific or non-specific “happy holidays” good wishes. I will say “Merry Christmas to you”, and hope you will translate it into whatever meaning of “happy holidays” you value.

      I don’t want to give Rowling a complete free pass. Instead, I want to blame her only for what she has done wrong. I am not sure the tweet, or the Robert Galbraith character which was a bad, chaotic, deceitful and low-functioning trans woman definitively show us Rowling’s view of all trans women.

      Forstater is actively managing the way her termination is reported, and the employer is more circumspect. It’s not just a woman forced “out of their jobs for stating that sex is real”. Rowling tweets rarely so this is a particular decision. I don’t know what Rowling knows or how considered that decision was, or even if she would object to trans women in women’s spaces. There’s a difference between agreeing we should be excluded and saying Forstater should not be sacked for claiming we should be excluded.

      I did not find a reference to Rowling on that twitter thread or even on the Medium articles linked therein, but I did like the article Thoughts about transphobia, terfs and tumfs, and the distinction between trans-antagonistic, trans-suspicious and trans-unaware people. That increases my understanding. Thank you.

      I don’t think it is useful, in most cases, to talk about transphobes or transphobic people. Forstater is a transphobe, saying the idea that trans women are men “was necessary to support her sense of self”. Rather I would talk of transphobic attitudes, actions or speech, imagine someone was trans-unaware unless proven otherwise, and say how I am affected rather than analyse what they are thinking. When Rowling tweets that and it is reported in the US as well as Britain, I feel fear. I fear she will move some trans-unaware people towards trans-suspicious, whether she intended that or not. I fear calling Rowling “a transphobe” without further analysis will also make trans-unaware people trans-suspicious. I wish there were more allies about.

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      • Thanks Clare. For the record, Serano’s tweet is: “…since this tweet is being heavily shared, thought I’d drop this article re: transphobia & TERFs here for clarity. & btw today’s famous person in question is definitely a TERF not a “TUMF” given their long history making similar comments…” By “today’s famous person” she’s referring to Rowling who she doesn’t want to give more air to by mentioning her name.

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        • Mmm. And the first tweet is “Evergreen tweet: that shocking news story about the famous person who just said something transphobic/terfy is neither shocking nor new because trans people have been pointing out their transphobia for years but no-one would listen”. People get turned off by talk of transphobia.

          Do you really think Rowling is a “radical feminist” rather than a “mainstream feminist” or even a writer who says feminist things occasionally?

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          • Sadly I have little doubt as to my feelings on her terf-ness. I know my feelings because I’ve been in denial as a fan of her work, but my heart knows. If I wasn’t a fan, I wouldn’t have this feeling of betrayal to signal my feelings on the matter, but I think if she talks like a terf, quacks like a terf…. Last I checked the only trans-adjacent person Rowling follows is more or less a TIM (Trans identified Male) who despite being extremely femme identifies as a male – thanks but no thanks, TIM. And as or Forstater, the evidence keeps mounting on toxic she is: https://twitter.com/onyxaminedlife/status/1208462483926720514?s=20 If Rowling doesn’t back down eventually, then will you convinced, Clare?

            Liked by 1 person

            • I have no doubt Forstater is a terf. That bit about her “sense of self” is chilling. And, her story is managed to make herself out as a victim.

              I don’t like trans people referring to TIMs. TIM is a grossly offensive term for trans woman used by the TERFs. Do you mean someone like Debbie Hayton, who identifies as male despite living expressing female? She’s not a male, she just claims she is. “Male-identified trans woman” might be better. Or Quisling.

              I have never seen the onyxaminedlife twitter before, and don’t consider her characterisation of what happened is evidence. Anyway, her interpretation is unnecessary: Forstater published her amended statement of claim, which selectively quotes CGD findings about her: she circulated a post she wanted them to publish, which they found “used disrespectful and offensive language including verbiage that suggested that a group of individuals has not existed in history, and language crafted to induce fear against a marginalized community. Such language stands in opposition to CGD’s values of for a non-hostile, fear-free and inclusive workplace.”

              What did the Sunday Times do? Did they investigate? No. They just quoted Forstater, who has propaganda value supporting Murdoch transphobe values. Again according to Forstater, the Sunday Times ran an article about the case with the Claimant’s cooperation and with quotes from the Claimant.

              And yet, Rowling. What does she know? I don’t know. What does she say? Forstater was sacked for “saying sex is real”. She could be ignorant; she could be hostile to trans women.

              Rowling could be asserting that balancing our feelings against Forstater’s job, Forstater’s right to work is more important. Which is saying Forstater is more important than trans people are. She would be asserting Forstater should have privilege over us.

              My instinct is to only react against Rowling for what she has clearly done. She is not a trans ally who has investigated the matter. But I don’t think the accusation of transphobia, so she is just irredeemably Bad, does any good. There are shades of grey here. Forstater is a hater, and an obsessive. Rowling might just object to people being sacked. I’m not defending Rowling, but saying we should recognise everything positive about any person. It’s not black and white. Rowling is now dark grey.

              Liked by 1 person

            • Yikes! Another acronym? If there’s a TIM, then there has to be a TIF. Of course, that could apply to all of the acronym-groups, it seems. 🙂

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            • Well, yes, this does give reason for one to have a FIT. Shouldn’t FITM stand for Feminine-Identified Trans Man, though? I guess it depends on who is doing the identifying, but the only valid identification is the one that is made by oneself of oneself.

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            • Right now, I have visions of acronyms dancing in my head – and it’s only the night before the night before Christmas here. Instead of another Christmas song, I’m about ready to break into a rousing rendition of Sammy Davis’s “I Gotta Be Me.”

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  3. The person in question is/was Fionne Orlander. She used to call herself a TIM on her twitter profile but that’s gone, however, her Medium profile still uses this description. https://medium.com/@FionneOrlander_58903 “Transwoman/TIM with gender abolitionist leanings trying to figure out how to battle dysphoria while remaining under the male umbrella. Pronouns: whatever suits”. Looking at her recent tweets, she even (though I can’t be sure because I’m so disbelieving) seems to say that Magdalen Burns was one of her heroes(?!). Anyway, if Rowling is going to pick one token trans or trans-adjacent individual to follow… how damaging is this, is my rhetorical question.

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    • You know, I have only just read (for the first time, iirc) of “That fionne person”. Weird. And horrible. Definitely phobic.

      I am not under the male umbrella, though I say we are women as asylum seekers rather than colonists.

      It is more important to concentrate on all the acceptance.

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  4. Okay, I’m back… I would like to submit that you’ve glossed over the substance of Rowling’s tweet to get right to the sacking issue. There were 4 gloriously malicious lines in Rowling’s tweet before we get to the sacking. The TIM previously referenced, ie. Fionne, recently posted a tweet from the deceased Magdalen where she mentioned that people should be allowed to be dress however they like but that it doesn’t make you a woman – and then I re-read Rowling’s first line of “dress however you please” and think, “wow, right out of the TERF playbook”. Rowling’s tweet has been meticulously deconstructed by others elsewhere, but how dark grey can Rowling become before we call a spade a spade (or however that expression goes)?

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    • Merry Christmas.

      I don’t think she is an ally.

      Do you want to convince me? Anyone coming here and reading my post may read your comments, to see your case.

      TERFs want notoriety. Forstater was pleased when she got sacked, it made her a martyr. She has a bigger platform than ever she had as a tax expert. Don’t give it to them.

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