JK Rowling speaks out on sex and gender

It’s four in the morning, as I write now. I really should not have gone on the internet. I have read JK Rowling’s essay, and I feel complete terror, the bottom falling out of my world. So I will start with a memory of safety, of being cradled in support and love. I was bent over, and I remember clearly my tears not just rolling down my face but dripping onto the floor, as I was held and consoled.

In February 2002, I was accepted into membership as a Quaker. I had decided to work towards my transsexual transition in November 2000, and was preparing, talking to friends, trying out going out in public places like supermarkets rather than just the Gay Village around Canal St., Manchester, having hours of electrolysis. That acceptance into membership catalysed something. I had planned to transition- to throw out all my male clothes, change my name, and go into work as Abigail- in September, but I could not bear to wait, and brought it forward to April.

I met a lot of acceptance, from colleagues and clients. I remember telling one client his appeal was successful, on my third day back at work, and this big, life-long labouring man kissed my cheek. But each shouted remark on the street cut me deeper than all the acceptance could salve, because it raised echoes of my own- internalised transphobia, we call it, but my own utter self hatred, my deep belief that my feminine self was weak, sick, perverted, disgusting, ridiculous and deluded. There was a blizzard of them- men laughing, shouting, swearing- “It’s a fucking bloke!” Derision, anger, threat, all of it working on my deep inculcated sense of worthlessness.

In the summer I drove down for a weekend at Woodbrooke with Quakers, and when I stopped for petrol three men, walking ahead of me, turned to stare at me one by one and started laughing. Then on the Sunday morning in worship the misery despair and desperation burst out of me, and I sobbed and dripped, and the arms round me, the caring touch of other humans and their love, gave the strength to go on.

I bring that Love to Rowling’s essay. She’s been threatened with assault and murder, called a cunt and a bitch, or even Voldemort. She really does not feel she deserves this, and I agree. I have enough love in my heart to hear her pain and seek to reach out to her, and find common ground.

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JK Rowling writes as if she lives in a world I do not recognise. In that mirror world, vulnerable teenage girls, having difficulty navigating life in a female body, are seduced into imagining transition will solve all their problems, and find they have been wrong and detransition after their bodies and their fertility are irreparably damaged. Brave women standing up for women’s rights (to exclude trans women) are howled down by vicious misogynist men. The Scottish Government (I had forgotten she’s Scots, like me) will introduce a free for all, when any pervert man who wants can enter women’s space. Women are frightened, and the majority of them want these men out.

I could go through the whole, providing a commentary, showing how I see the world. I don’t believe the threatening perverts will bother with gender recognition. But there’s this bit.

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.

Take out the clause about “trans activists”, and I would be cheering this paragraph, and so would many trans people and trans allies. She’s calling those trans activists (yes, she means trans women) “men”. Later she spreads the myth of the good trans woman, the brave trans people standing up for the “most vulnerable in our society” who she claims are victims of the trans activists.

She’s wrong. Trans people are not a major threat to the safety of women, and nor is the Scottish government’s action to improve trans inclusion and trans rights. But she’s right about the threat from Mr Trump and certain incel groups- mass killers have spouted incel-themed self-pity- from rape culture and threatening, entitled men.

She deserves my love and my listening, because she is a domestic abuse and sexual assault survivor. This is traumatic for her to speak about now.

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.

This does not give her a free pass to abuse harmless trans people. But she was over a year with that man, chronically unsafe, unable to predict or avoid the rages he blamed her for. She’s not the only trans excluder who has suffered such chronic sexual threat. Not all women survivors of sexual abuse become trans excluders, but many (most or all?) trans excluders are survivors of sexual abuse, and she makes an explicit identification here, writing in “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.”

My love is a tool. I hope with sympathy and understanding to bring such women to the truth, that trans women are not the threat. Hate does no good: she has been won over by “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.” Trans-excluders, in other words, but trans excluders putting their case in the most winsome way, rather than calling her a cunt.

But my Love is also deserved and needed: no woman should experience that violence, and women who do should be supported, and receive all the care and support I myself have received. If I can’t pass it on to this traumatised woman, do I deserve it myself? She does not want sympathy- she is “a survivor, certainly not a victim”- but deserves allyship around the abuse.

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Here, she is wrong.

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.

She’s wrong because we don’t begin with surgery. In November 2000 I decided to transition, but before then I was exploring what it was like to go out dressed female, including in women’s loos in Canal St. In Velvet, where the barmaid was trans, a woman queuing for the loo ahead of me wondered if the woman in the cubicle was “a transvestite”. No, she was transsexual. I was “male bodied” entirely. Some would call me male-bodied now, with my Y chromosome, but I had not started on hormones then. If I had had NHS treatment all the way I would not have had hormones until after I went full time at work, possibly not for months. If I had not been in women’s spaces before a male psychiatrist had given me permission, I would not be transitioned now. Some would call me a man, then or even now. I believed I was a woman, but did not have the diagnoses I have received since. I was still trans.

Now, the trans woman is protected by Equality law from the moment she decides to transition. She, male-bodied but probably wanting not to be, is in women’s spaces, and has been for years. The effect of what Rowling demands would be to exclude the most vulnerable trans women, those of us on the cusp of transition, not mythical perverted men who find other ways to abuse women.

Rowling is also wrong about language. The current flare-up, initially on social media, now all over the newspapers, was about a tweet about language.

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.

Well, trans men and nonbinary AFAB people menstruate and get pregnant, and deserve inclusive language. I would say, find better language rather than complain, but I hope others can. Robin Dembroff is working on it.

I don’t know who is calling her a cunt. It could be bots, or Russian troll farms, but there may be some trans women doing it. She knows twitter is toxic, and might even see that tweet about “Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?” was ill advised, mocking without argument.

“I spoke up about the importance of sex.” She sees herself as defending women. Then there’s a bit where social media, or Serious Media- even The Guardian- is ill-equipped to address, but needs hard, patient, sustained work:

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.

I hear you. Sex is real. Sex is important. Possibly it would be better if we could simply agree that trans people are an anomaly rather than a new reality meaning sex does not matter, and talk more clearly about sex. The beliefs that “sex is real” and “trans people are real” need not be in conflict: I hold both with no cognitive dissonance whatsoever. The article she initially objected to intended to aid women (and nonbinary people) afflicted by period poverty. She would support that aim, just not the language.

“Trans ideology” is not a way of redefining the world, including all people with ovaries, but a way we talk amongst ourselves while we try to pluck up the courage to transition. 0.1% of the population transition. We are not the great threat from whom all women need protected, and saying that we are, is dangerous to us.

JK Rowling is hurting, including because of that sexual assault. I wish she had not made the journey to full-blown trans-exclusion, demonstrated in that essay. The only step she has to make now is to demand the exclusion of even trans women who have had genital operations from women’s spaces. She sees trans excluders as bullied. I wish there was no excuse for that, but there is.

I am terrified. The bottom is falling out of my world. I had hoped for trans recognition, when Theresa May stood up at the Pink News Awards, and now it seems further away than ever. I have just finished, at 6am, listening to the dawn chorus.

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22 July: Some people would claim Rowling is an ally to trans people! They point to a few apparently friendly phrases in her rant. Here are those apparently friendly phrases, and why they are transphobic.

28 August: after the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Organisation condemned Rowling’s transphobia, she returned the award they had previously given her for her work with a children’s charity. Disingenuously, she claimed “I absolutely refute the accusation that I hate trans people or wish them ill, or that standing up for the rights of women is wrong, discriminatory, or incites harm or violence to the trans community”.

So let us consider some of the more hateful phrases in her essay.

“Accusations and threats from trans activists have been bubbling in my twitter timeline.” She portrays herself as a victim, and draws a direct link between her violent husband and “trans activists”.

Anti-trans campaigners are “worried about the dangers to young people, gay people and about the erosion of women’s and girl’s rights.” She portrays vulnerable trans people as a danger, or a threat. Her screed uses the root “threat” five times”, and always the alleged threat is trans people or trans rights. Transphobes and anti-trans campaigners, however, only want “concerns to be heard”.

Marks and Spencers are “allowing any man who says they identify as a woman into the women’s changing rooms.” She calls trans women “men”. She belittles our anguish before we come out.

Trans advocates allegedly “intimidate many people, institutions and organisations I once admired, who’re cowering before the tactics of the playground.”

Why speak up? she asks. Because she claims the “new trans activism” will imperil the charitable causes she supports, endanger education and safeguarding of children, damage free speech, encourage unjustified transition and damage to girls’ bodies and fertility before detransition, and because she is a domestic abuse and sexual assault survivor, and (she says because of that) wants single sex spaces to exclude trans women.

She spreads disinformation, such as the claim that “60-90% of gender dysphoric teens will grow out of their dysphoria”, (they would not get treatment at a gender clinic) or “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.” That is, she calls trans women “men”.

She finds trans women’s arguments about us being women “deeply misogynistic and regressive”. She claims there is a wish to erode the idea of “women having their own biological realities or … unifying realities that make them a cohesive political class.” When I say I am a woman, I say I am in a grey area around the edges of the definition. It does not affect what 999 women in a thousand are.

Her claim not to be transphobic seems to be based on the proposition that she does not want us killed:

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.

So I want trans women to be safe.

But she follows that immediately with the baseless claim that we are a threat:

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, it’s “any man who believes or feels he’s a woman”, which is the DSM and ICD 10 definition of a trans woman. She belittles our anguish. And the anti-trans campaigners, however hateful their rhetoric, only “want their concerns to be heard”.

Rowling’s screed is transphobic. It attempts to incite anger and fear against harmless trans women.

Lots of people have written reasoned refutations. Jennifer Finney Boylan gave broad brush strokes in the NYT. Evan Urquhart answered Rowling from the point of view of trans men. Mermaids published a point by point refutation.

58 thoughts on “JK Rowling speaks out on sex and gender

  1. Pingback: JK Rowling speaks out on sex and gender – Coalition of the Brave

  2. Thank you for such a generous, beautifully-written, knowledgeable piece. As an ally, all I can do is support and do what I can to amplify what you and others say. It’s incredibly important that trans voices are heard through these “debates”, yet unfair that the burden therefore falls once again on trans people to justify their existence. Thank you for shouldering that burden with such grace.

    One thing you don’t quite address is the assertion that, as a matter of scientific fact, there are only two biological sexes. This assertion is false: see, for example https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/sex-redefined-the-idea-of-2-sexes-is-overly-simplistic1/

    Please don’t be terrified. History, and humanity, are on your side. There will be struggle. But history shows that, in the end, love wins over hate. Every single time.

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    • Welcome, Simon. Thank you for commenting.

      I don’t, personally, make much of the existence of differences of sexual development. Rowling mocks “people who argue that clownfish prove humans aren’t a dimorphic species,” and I sympathise. I don’t think I am a woman because of some particular exception to the normal physical state of sexual dimorphism. Instead, I say I am a woman because of the culture, both the ways that gender is enforced on people from birth, and the get-out that transition permits. There is fiercely disputed research tending to show differences in trans people’s brains, but if I don’t share them I am still a woman.

      And I agree with Rowling in that I want women to be a cohesive political class, working for women’s rights, and uteruses are important in forming that class and defining some of the issues it must address, even if some women don’t have them. I disagree with her claiming there is some conflict between recognising trans women are women and organising on gynaecological issues- I say trans women are an anomaly, rather than a logical redefinition of what it means to be a woman- but I agree women’s rights campaigns must foreground reproductive health and freedom.

      I am less frightened than I was at four in the morning, which is not a good time to be thinking about things. I have been held in love, care and respect today.

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    • Hello, I am relatively new to this debate, but I’m an interested feminist, American. I’m more curious about it, but don’t know any good places to actually talk about it. I’ve seen the side of it that JKR talks about, people calling JKR a TERF, Hillary Clinton a TERF, Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie a TERF even for views that didn’t exactly align with their own, there is a lot of extremism out there. I think cis women feel silenced too, even ones who feel empathy for trans women but are confused why brocialists feel they have the right to mansplain about how biological sex is a construct. I always was under the impression that sex and gender were different, and I understand the need for inclusion, but I think these social media mobs are doing your cause a lot of harm.

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      • Welcome, Daenerys. Thank you for commenting. I am afraid I have only watched two episodes of Game of Thrones, and never read the books, but I see from Wikipedia that Daenerys, born in exile, claims the Iron Throne, hatches dragon eggs and acquires an army. That’s a powerful moniker.

        This is what I think of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. JKR’s essay is pretty much standard TERF stuff. 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 makes a false accusation, which is literally transphobic, designed to foment fear of trans women. Predators in Ireland, Malta and other places with trans self declaration aren’t pretending to be trans in order to attack women, there are too many other easier ways.

        I can’t find the reference because I gave away my copy, but in Testosterone Rex by Cordelia Fine, which I recommend, she states that sex is a social construct. There is a real thing underneath that social construct, but a lot of social construct on top. I think gender a more pernicious social construct: that is where male privilege comes from. I don’t think there is sufficient evidence for you to call Simon Juden a “brocialist”. I note that the Heritage Foundation and the Koch brothers fund “gender critical feminists” who imagine they are left wing. But yes, calling JKR a cunt, or Voldemort, did us no good.

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        • Goodness – I’m not even sure what a “brocialist” is…I am a friend to two trans people (by chance, knew both pre-transition) and the father of a trans child. So I have an interest. I’m sorry if I came across as “mansplaining” – obviously that was not my intention; I simply linked an article (which was written by a woman) and learned from Clare’s response to that. I certainly agree that personal abuse of JKR is appalling and should not have happened.

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          • A “brocialist” is a socialist “bro”. That article drifts off into other signs of progressivism, such as vegetarianism, but begins with the idea that these men are sexist. Progressive socialist men should be allies to feminists, is the point. Oh gawd. I want you to be able to be a trans ally without being abused as a “brocialist”. I think at best there is insufficient evidence to call you that.

            I hadn’t read that Scientific American article. I find these things fascinating, just not relevant to trans. I’ve just looked at it, and this bit caught my eye: “By the turn of the millennium, however, the idea of femaleness being a passive default option had been toppled by the discovery of genes that actively promote ovarian development and suppress the testicular programme—such as one called WNT4.” I think in part the “idea of femaleness being a passive default option” (which was my understanding until reading that) comes from unconscious sexist attitudes in researchers. I consider progressive men really should be allies to cis women, just that does not stop them being allies to trans women too.

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          • i don’t know who simon juden is, or who you are, so i was not referring to you, sorry if you thought that. this is something i have seen cis men say before, and it always seemed quite dismissive to me. in america, it does not seem we have terfs so much, most liberal people believe that trans women are women and need to be protected from discrimination, but also i’m not sure everyone is on the “trans women are actually female and there’s no difference” train. also, i think jk rowling might have been referring to actual cis men when she called trans activists men. there are a lot of people who use progressive politics as an excuse to bully women online, just look at all the people who got doxxed and death threats for supporting elizabeth warren and stuff. it’s not really something localized to this issue, which does not seem to really be so much of a thing in america afaik.

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          • hmm simon juden, i think you’re right about the hypocrisy on gender norms, but that’s something that i think that further enhances the need for dismantling those standards. even if you are a feminist who abhors gender roles and norms, you are still conditioned by them very deeply, you almost have to consciously peel them off. i have found that to be true for also internalized expectations of myself. that’s why for me personally (and i am not saying it’s like this for everyone AT ALL), gender is something that i think has been stifling for expression, almost conditioning me to shut the f*** up constantly since i was born, esp since i hit puberty. i know that’s not all gender is, but i think that’s a lot of the experience i’ve had it with it. i almost have to go against it constantly, if that makes any sense at all. also, i think if you have the biological capacity to find yourself with an unwanted or wanted pregnancy, you have every right to speak firsthand about that politically. that’s kind of what i meant by female oppression is that even though men and non-binary people can get pregnant, the external restrictions placed upon us about our own bodies are there as a way to control the female imo.

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        • I also think that, while it’s good to point out that cyberbullying is awful, there’s something very scapegoat-y about suggesting you would totally be in favor of something if it wasn’t for all those awful cyberbullies (especially when your standard for bullying is calling a bigoted statement a bigoted statement, but I’ll focus just on the genuine cyberbullying, like calling someone a cunt).

          The internet has trolls, and freedom of speech. No movement can wave a magic wand and make the trolling stop. We can be mindful of whether or not we’re encouraging it. I’ve realized I need to unfollow people whose criticism is mainly insults without content that genuinely educates, or who seem to be enjoying the “epic burn!!!!” over honest engagement. And I’ve posted from time to time, or reblogged posts, pointing out how minds don’t change easily when you’re attacked. But I’m just one person. I don’t decide what everybody else does – I just try to nudge the discourse.

          Also, I’ve been on attacked a few times. There was this one time when I wrote something about male body positivity and I got slammed and called ugly by a self-identified feminist. The way she said it still stings a bit, over a year later, but I still support women’s rights. There are other cases of verbal abuse that I’ve brushed off more easily, but plenty of people from causes I support have said things intending to hurt, either directly to me or to others. Obviously, what with my profile being smaller than JKR, it has been easier to manage by blocking or unfollowing the offending parties, but I also have pretty severe social anxiety. I have a small social media profile in part because I can’t bring myself to broaden it. This sucks and it’s not okay.

          But why would I withdraw my support from an entire marginalized group, just because some people made bad decisions? That’s essentially saying you expect marginalized people to be angelic models of self-discipline, and if they turn out to be full of flawed humans making individual decisions, then you’re fine with them being oppressed.

          Liked by 1 person

          • The British Prime Minister is playing that game. Bristol people pulled down the statue of Edward Colston, a slaver. Someone daubed the words “A racist”- clearly true- on the Winston Churchill statue. Johnson started to tweet about the Churchill statue, aiming to cause division, with the result that far right protestors have been seen today in Nuneaton “protecting” the statue of George Eliot, a person who actually deserves a statue. The news is mad. Tomorrow the question is, will the Minister for Women and Equalities “protect” women from trans women with penises in women’s loos, and if so, how? I will be watching her on TV at 11.30am BST.

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          • i do not think anyone was doing that, but that’s actually quite separate from whether or not cisgender males, who ultimately will never have to deal with the consequences of a wanted or unwanted pregnancy or an fgm surgery or any other thing in the world that so expresses its contempt for anything female, should be dismissing that experience. i think transgender people are welcome in the conversation of womanhood to share their own experiences, but it is kind of something cis men don’t know anything about. it doesn’t really have anything to do with withdrawing support of rights bc you get bullied, though that honestly might happen with some people, who knows. i kind of just assume these are extremists, but i have no idea. you can still support trans rights, acknowledge that trans women are women and not men, and be annoyed by the complaint that things like pussy hats are transphobic, when yes, vaginas are very much under attack too right now. also, brocialist is a term in america for typically misogynistic socialist bros who like to scream at women online for their opinions on a variety of subjects unrelated to this one. i am guessing that terfs in yalls country want to not have trans women in women spaces at all? well, that is not something i have ever agreed with or support, so in that sense, i don’t know how i am withdrawing support.

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            • i do find the issue very interesting though, i am newer to feminism than i would care to admit. for instance, the idea that as a cis woman, my sex assigned at birth fits with my gender identity, i’m not entirely sure that is accurate for me personally. that does not at all neutralize or delegitimize that experience or the opposite experience for other people, i don’t know what that’s like, but i also do not personally experience this innate sense of gender some people describe. but i’m also willing to consider that maybe i experience more than i notice, but not to the extent people describe for themselves. i think i have a lot of instincts and characteristics that might not be so “female” though as far as personality goes though, so i just think the question of what is gender is very interesting in general. i think most feminists agree that gender expectations are awful for both males and females but they do shape our socialization, which is why it seems quite obvious to me that people born male who feel very uncomfortable being classified as such would be more comfortable being around girls. but that raises a lot of questions about what girlhood is that are not easy to answer quickly.

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            • Thank you for these explanations.

              A woman who has had a lifechanging effect on millions of people, whose books have sold 500m copies, has attacked an extremely vulnerable group. Attacked. She says a woman was a victim. That woman claimed she had a human right to bully trans people if she wished. Rowling has spread falsehoods about that bully, claiming that she merely stated that sex is determined by biology. That’s one paragraph of a 3670 word screed. When Jennifer Finney Boylan writes in the NYT about this, she is attacked. Attacked. The comments are often extremely hostile, but couched in an oh-so-reasonable tone, perhaps men who imagine one day they’ll claim to be women, just for a lark, shouldn’t be in women’s loos.

              Yes, online is poisonous, and women are subject to appalling bullying online. One example. And. Trans women are also vulnerable, as you might have seen from my post. We mean no harm. We want to live our lives quietly. Most of us want surgery and hormones, but we are attacked as “male-bodied”, which has an elastic meaning- still having a penis? Still having a Y chromosome? Many of us have been harmlessly in women’s spaces for decades. If one of us does wrong, deal with the wrong, but don’t subject us all to collective punishment.

              By all means, tell us what of the trans-excluding arguments sound reasonable to you. I am not sure I want to engage with that. Lane and Simon may if they wish. Or, you could have a look at a few other posts, and say what you think of them. Or you could share some personal experience. After our Conservative government, led by ABdP Johnson, whom Mr Trump called “Britain-Trump”, has given dark hints that it wants to stoke fear of trans people as one of a barrage of distractions from all the Covid death it has caused by its blunderings, I don’t want to engage with trans-excluder arguments, however reasonably put.

              Oh, all right, just the one. You don’t have an innate sense of gender. Well, I do have a sense of my gender.

              And- of course there is a difference between a trans woman and a cis woman, just not for the purposes of my going about my lawful daily business.

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            • Thank you for clarifying. I reread your original comment and I think I was projecting some bad experiences. I’m sorry for that.

              For a bit of background, I’m a transmasculine American. Personally, I am honestly more gender non-conforming as a man (I’m gay, I work in childcare, I love purple and Jane Austen, etc) but I do have that strong sense of inner dysphoria, particularly physically. I like being able to look in a mirror and say, “yup, that looks like me.”

              Because you said you’re early in your journey and you brought up intersectional feminists who discuss toxic masculinity, I hope you’re okay with me sharing little bit of my experiences. You’re absolutely right that there is fantastic dialog happening in the academic side of the feminist world. But I’ve often found it doesn’t apply so much to practical action. For example, I have some real life feminist friends who reblog fantastic stuff about accepting male gender non-conformity online, but in person still have the double standard where men who cry or experience pain are “babies.” Or they say body shaming things about male bodies. Or they blatantly erase the voices of queer men in their activism because “being cis male gives you so much privilege,” and I’m astounded by the level of hubris, and the ignorance of what it’s like to live as a gender non-conforming man. As for my own voice in feminist issues, I tend to be doubly silenced. I don’t get a voice on reproductive issues because I lost that right when I transitioned, even though I still have those body parts. At the same time, my experiences as a man don’t belong in feminism, because there’s so many women talking about toxic masculinity! Obviously cis women can talk for cis and trans men about what toxic masculinity is like. Talking about my experiences is just another man telling women what to think.

              Yeah, it’s frustrating.

              I do have a lot of hope that it will get better. People are talking and views do evolve. I really appreciate your points and how you’ve read this long, ranty comment. I hope you have a good journey in all your explorations on this complicated topic.

              Liked by 1 person

  3. J.K. Rowling isn’t “wrong” at all. She’s simply part of the larger picture/story. It’s her truth and her story and so what if it’s not the same as yours? And In truth Quakers don’t accept trans people. In the purest sense of being Quaker, there is no vanity and no body manipulation. No make up. No tattoos. No transition.
    J.K. Rowling doesn’t need your understanding. And you don’t need hers.

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      • Thanks Claire. Just now a Trans person posted that J.K. Rawlings is a TERF… in the wordpress feed…and I called them a Harry Potter hater and told them to get a grip. And I mean that.
        Thanks for accepting my comments. And MUCH LOVE to you.
        Maybe we can talk. Maybe we don’t see eye to eye. Maybe we can love regardless.
        You tell me.

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        • I know trans women who attempt to engage with gender critical people. My difficulty with that is the experience I start with in this post: the complete sense of fellow feeling I have with trans women starting out towards transition, who can be frightened, who have internalised transphobia, who are bullied.

          I have no wish to frighten anyone. But it does matter if people are wrong, because our Conservative government proposes to make statements and rule changes on trans people, and may significantly restrict us. Conservatives in the House of Lords, and Ministers, have made statements more or less openly calling trans women a threat. So it is important to recognise that the Equality Act 2010 was the legislation which could have unleashed a horde of “men” into women’s spaces, and it didn’t. The proposed Gender Recognition Bill in Scotland, and the legislation in England we had expected, would make a far smaller change. But I am happy to talk. I do Zoom, skype and messenger video.

          Liked by 1 person

          • You live in a different part of the world than me, but I agree that that trans women are not a threat and that trans women are women and feminists and anything they say they are because you are human beings. You say so. Not me or any one else. You are not scary. Homophobia is scary. White supremacy is scary. Trans-phobia is scary. Sexism is scary… You are a loving human being.
            I’m sorry if my comments failed to reflect that first and foremost.
            J.K. Rawlings is not a gender critical person. She is being framed that way. She is sooooo fucking honest, that she’s being framed for that. And I assure you, I don’t like the Harry Potter series. I don’t even like her.
            But she doesn’t deserve the TERF label. And feminists fought for their fucking rights. For all women’s rights, so we can’t be sidelined. Forgive my cuss words… feel free to edit or kick me to the curb of course. Thank you for your replies and forum. I appreciate your comments. House of Lords sounds like a heaping pile of… Horse shit.
            BE YOU. I apologize if I have been at all rude or condescending.

            Liked by 1 person

          • I want you to know I think you are a courageous and beautiful woman. I want you to know you are not scary. YOU are NOT the problem in the world.
            I got hung up on the J.K Rawlings problem and the TERF stuff, after reading and following the threads, but I want you to know YOU are beautiful and thanks for writing so honestly without being brutal.
            I am not a first generation or second generation feminist. I was born with a pussy. I am not defined by my pussy. It’s my brain that matters. LOVE yourself darling Claire. Promise me only that.

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          • and I apologize for just spelling your name wrong. I pushed send too soon and in my peripheral vision wanted to auto correct!
            Love and peace to you grrrlfriend. And if J.K. Rawlings needs a bitch slap so be it.

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            • Thank you.

              I don’t think she does, because her instincts are to stick up for the underdog, and that is what she thinks she is doing here. I like what Daniel Radcliffe says, and he writes of the effects Rowlings’ books had on people. Talking to people aged around 30, I see those effects. And he supports the dignity of trans people. If issues did not have to be framed as conflicts all the time, so might she.

              Liked by 1 person

            • Thanks for the recommendation to Radcliff. You are probably right. Maybe it’s why I was always turned off to her in the first place. But, I honestly don’t know what Rawlings is doing. I think she is over rated but at the same time she got sooooooooo many kids into reading she’s stellar. I don’t think she is for the under dog. She wrote the stories, she said for her son… but more so as a woman on welfare after a divorce… I have never heard her son say thanks mom for my own winnie the poo! Now I feel just like Alice in wonderland… as if any of them kids felt loved or even coveted. They did not.
              I think maybe I do frame things in terms of conflict and I am sorry. I didn’t mean to project that on to you. I want you to know you are the love and loved. I defended the feminism and the author out of the same spring. I hope that makes sense.

              Liked by 1 person

            • Well, it’s not me either, truth be told, but I can’t help appreciate the “pussy power” in all of her incarnations.
              Much love to you darling Clare. Thanks again for the dialogue and your forum.

              Liked by 1 person

  4. I read this in the morning, and as I’ve been thinking about it and writing my own response, I feel more and more “meh” about it. Not angry towards her; she’s clearly in a lot of pain and it sucks that she was bullied. I hope she continues getting support as she works through that past history of abuse, and I really wish certain SJWs would stop giving all us liberals a bad name with their trolling behavior.

    But also, I don’t feel particularly forgiving towards her; I have little patience for people who claim victimhood as a shield against being called out on how their words and actions harm others. I also absolutely no patience for people who will say, “but I have vaguely compassionate feelings and a tragic past! Please don’t judge me on the choices that I make.” It’s different if people are admitting they have things to learn, and recognizing mistakes while asking for patience. But when people are insisting that they’ve already learned everything they need to know… no. If anything I’m less inclined to forgive her opposition to trans rights, and less inclined to frame it more diplomatically. She sent a clear message that she thinks she knows everything she needs to know, and she’s only willing to offer us “allyship” on her own terms.

    Her last statement is to ask to be seen as a complex person, and if that’s an authentic ask, she’s gotten what she wanted, at least from me. I see her as a complex person with many facets, one of which is “wrote some great kids books” and another is “experienced some abuse, is still working that shit out” and another is “kinda bigoted against trans people. Not super bigoted. You know that level where you’ve got enough of a conscience to feel bad when people call you racist or sexist or ableist, but you’re too invested in your preconceptions to actually stop doing the things that people are calling you out on? She’s on that level, with trans people.”

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    • She is not an ally at all. Her view of the good trans is confused- not only standing up for her “freedom of speech and thought”, but also for “fragile teenagers” who might be damaged by trans treatment. To be good trans, it seems, you must tell a teenager who says they are trans that no, they cannot have puberty blockers, even if an NHS psychiatrist recommends them. “Simply wanting to live their lives” means, presumably, in the case of trans women staying out of women’s spaces, perhaps in third spaces, though the only third spaces commonly available are disabled loos. Rather, she is an ally of “gender critical women”, who didn’t call her Voldemort, whom she calls concerned and hugely sympathetic. So she spreads a falsehood, of the end of women’s spaces, of “men who want to come inside” women’s spaces, who are not trans. As a former teacher she says trans rights threaten safeguarding, so she means trans girls should not be in girls’ changing rooms. She compares trans advocates to Trump the pussygrabber.

      I am not saying this is an opinion which needs engaged with. I don’t know- I think, “Well, it didn’t happen after the Equality Act said all men had to do was claim they were transitioning, and it didn’t happen in Ireland, and it won’t happen here,” is enough. “Men have many ways of accessing vulnerable women, without pretending to be trans. That person who says she is a trans woman, is. She is harmless unless proven otherwise by her own acts.”

      I don’t feel forgiving about this, and someone with her book sales does not need my forgiveness. Instead I feel that the sexual trauma matters, and allies should be campaigning about that, for real solutions rather than the exclusion of trans women which will do no traumatised woman any good at all, and should not be calling her a cunt. Daniel Radcliffe’s words are better: the first thing he says is don’t frame this as a conflict between him and her.

      Even though her books had a huge effect on so many people born around 1990, and her fans feel betrayed, it might have been better had the “wimpen, womud” tweet just been forgotten.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. It’s honestly so tiring and I’m grateful to you for giving up half a night of rest and engaging with the thing. Mermaids have created an open letter, which is also a relief. I’ve posted the link here. Thank you Clare. I hope you’re OK.

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    • Welcome, and thank you for commenting. That is very good, and clear. It is right to start with the domestic violence. Then they refute her. She does not say anything trans excluders have not said before, and its wrongness is well-established.

      I could not have slept without writing it.

      Reporting these matters is mixed. The New York Times did very well on Harry Potter superfans adjusting to Rowling’s trans exclusion. They end with a clear short account of why she is wrong. But the https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/jun/12/jk-rowling-mps-condemn-sun-front-page-as-enabling-domestic-abusers reported on the Sun’s vile headline- how could they? Interview her unrepentant former husband!- and ended with a paragraph from Rowling’s essay, linking concern around domestic abuse to the desire for trans exclusion. They just quoted it as if it were reasonable.

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  6. KR Jean, Christoper Robin Milne wasn’t grateful for Winnie, but his father was in post-war PTSD when he wrote the stories which were a kind of therapy for him, a return to a gentler world where a boxing of ears was the most violent thing one could imagine.. [obv. not true of all childhoods]. Clare, l found this a brave and a caring piece and have recommended it to other transfriends struggling with why JKR has taken up cudgels against them.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It seems that your government fucked up quite royally by allowing this Karen White person (known rapist of children and pregnant woman) into a female prison. If I were a UK feminist, this would make me absolutely furious that the govt was so eager to cater to the extreme demands of your side that they allowed women to raped by a known predator. This alone has given them cause for concern, it’s not fear mongering to be seriously upset about that and the fact I didn’t even know this happened??? how can you say jkr is stoking fears, when this literally happened, and How has this not gotten more news coverage? it’s an outrage. Anyway, no, having read that I am not going to throw biological females under the bus in the name of equality so they can get raped, there need to definitely be checks and balances in place to make sure this never happens again. And biological males (esp those with no hormones or surgery) should not be competing in sports against females?!?! how do yall have prominent trans activists out here saying that “genital preferences” are transphobic?!?!?! That is straight up incel talk!! Idk what is wrong with these extremists, this shit is just common sense, and you can find some kind of compromise that isn’t so stupid. If you agree with their points, no wonder the feminists in your country are angry, yikes.

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    • Extremists! Incels! KAREN WHITE! Biological females betrayed! Trans women are biological males!

      Yawn.

      What was it you wrote initially, Daenerys? You were an interested, curious, feminist, new to this debate, and suddenly within four days you are an expert, and outraged. Yeah. Tell it to someone else.

      I am not Karen White. If you would not want all Americans to suffer collective punishment for the wrongdoing of, say, John Bolton, don’t call for collective punishment of innocent trans women. A simple Google search will show the lengthy, extensive coverage of Karen White. I am “upset” about her crimes in prison myself.

      Liked by 1 person

          • I agree, and because young people are likely listening in and looking for someone to persuade them of something, I hope you’ll forgive me for sharing links on a topic that I care about. The links are America-centric because I am American and that’s what Google brought me to. Trigger warnings apply.

            https://theintercept.com/2017/11/21/prison-rape-sexual-assault-violence/
            https://www.hrw.org/reports/2001/prison/report4.html
            https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/sexual-victimization-by-women-is-more-common-than-previously-known/

            (more generally on types of sexual violence that don’t get attention because they don’t fit a standard narrative, but contains several links to recent research showing that cis female inmates are often abused by other cis female inmates and that cis female guards often commit rapes in juvenile detention centers. The researcher is a cis woman and feminist who makes powerful points about universal compassion for victims of sexual assault)

            This is an upsetting topic, and people find it easier to just pretend that the human rights of prisoners don’t matter. That’s one reason why so little is done about it, in both male and female prisons. If you want to learn more about how to support the human rights of incarcerated people I’d recommend themarshallproject.org, which provides quality journalism on criminal justice reform, and the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform project at https://www.aclu.org/issues/criminal-law-reform. Again, apologies for these being America-centric, but we really do have a messed up system.

            And if you want to focus on other, less triggering issues that’s okay too. We all have to pick our battles and balance activism against personal mental health. But there’s an ugly implication (intentional or not) in the comment made about Karen White that if she had been in a male prison, either nobody would have been raped or the victims would have somehow not mattered.

            Understand this; if your social justice mentors have been silent on the sexual assault of incarcerated human beings, right up until the moment a rapist happened to be trans, and their only solution is “she shouldn’t have been in a women’s prison”, then I have bad news for you. Your mentors neither understand nor about care about the human rights abuses of prisoners. They just want to demonize trans women.

            … okay, soapboxing done now. Thanks for reading.

            Liked by 2 people

            • It depends what you report on. I have just started an American report, in “Journal of Gender, Social Policy and the Law”, of trans women in male prisons. The article goes on to argue about Equal Protection claims. I won’t link because of the sexual assault description.

              In Britain, since 2010, there have been 124 sexual assaults in British women’s prisons, seven carried out by trans women. The Daily Mail’s headline was, Transgender inmates have carried out seven sex attacks on women in jail: Despite the risks, male-born trans convicts are still allowed to move into women’s prisons. However, in 2019 eleven trans women were sexually assaulted in men’s prisons. The BBC’s report on that has a picture of Karen White, who is infamous, continually brought up in any discussion of trans women in British prisons. I could not find a report of that in the Daily Mail at all.

              Last year, a unit for trans women prisoners was opened, in a women’s prison, initially for three trans women with gender recognition certificates. The fifth sentence of the BBC report mentions Karen White, and publishes, again, the usual photo of Karen White glammed up in a wig and makeup.

              Liked by 1 person

            • Yes, Karen White makes regular appearances – clearly needed moving to a forensic Mental Health unit before any of that happened and better awareness of Mental Health issues in prisons generally.. though having worked in Forensic MH unfortunately often transwomen and transmen don’t get treated well by other patients in such mental health units either, but abuse by staff is much more rare.

              Liked by 2 people

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