Amol Rajan

A transphobe was arrested at a protest while causing a disturbance. He goes out in a sandwich board reading “I ❤️ JK Rowling” on one side, “gender ideology does not belong in schools” on the other, and he gets into confrontations. “My pulse is often elevated way beyond what it should be” because of the stress of these encounters, he says. I read this and thought, “I hope he gets a heart attack”.

I am not proud of this. The man crowdfunds billboards against trans rights, which get far more attention on twitter. He is an insurance broker from British Columbia. In a sane world, he would not hate or campaign against me, and I would not hate him because I would never have heard of him.

Six months since JK Rowling’s hateful screed against trans rights, it continues to reverberate. I would rather not be reminded, but there’s this long article in The Cut, on how Rowling’s life and personality have led her to transphobia. Rowling is controlling over her wizarding world, and a transphobe Kathleen Stock is a proponent of “extreme intentionalism”. In contrast to Deconstruction, Stock argues a text is “a set of instructions to imagine certain things”. I disagree, but it might appeal to a controlling author.

I would have ignored Amol Rajan’s blog post mentioning Rowling had it not been for the DW article. I poked around the DW site. Is it some crackpot hard right site funded by US billionaires, like Spiked or The Critic? No, it is Deutsche Welle [wave], “Germany’s international media organisation”, “an unbiased media organisation… conveying Germany as a liberal democracy”. It takes interest in Free Speech, and for once means real free speech issues like journalists getting arrested, rather than some claimed right to spew transphobic hate free from criticism. So why did it have an error in its headline, and another in its lede? It wasn’t a BBC award, but a jeu d’esprit of BBC media editor Amol Rajan.

What was the “award”? Rajan writes a blog post once a year naming a few essays he really liked. He admits the heading [Bertrand] Russell award is just something he made up, as if I were to award a George Eliot prize to Laverne Cox (except I wouldn’t, as I am terribly jealous of the recognition for trans writers). He claims not to take a view on the issues raised, but says Rowling was brave because of the disapproval she faced. But he likes plain language, even plain language spreading hate, like Enoch Powell’s most infamous speech.

DW writes throughout that it is “The BBC” giving this “award”. Pink News covered the story, but few others did, and I would not have but for Deutsche Welle and some wailing and gnashing of teeth in trans facebook, first over Rajan’s blogpost then over DW’s report.

Had he other form on trans? Some trans people, disabled people, BAME people objected to “Little Britain”, and when Netflix removed it Rajan went on BBC news to discuss the issue. I could not find what he said, something about “nuance”, but viewers liked it, said the Metro. Rajan condemned “offence archaeology”, which is trawling through ten year old tweets to find something that might offend, then using it to discredit the now-famous twitterer. The hard Right objects loudly to this as “cancel culture”, but Breitbart uses it against journalists- sneakily quoting anything that might be read as offending Left wingers: see this Atlantic article under the subheading War on the Press.

Also on Trans facebook: the Law Commission consultation. “We provisionally propose that the offences of stirring up hatred be extended to cover hatred on the grounds of transgender identity and disability. Do consultees agree?” Oh God, no. There would instantly be all the haters, self-publicists and provocateurs crawling out of the woodwork, saying hateful things and blogging them, daring the CPS to prosecute them.

Where trans teens are refused access to the right toilets for their gender, they are more likely to be sexually assaulted. That puts Rowling’s “fears” in context.

And- it is not personal. Up until 1900 anything you actually heard was personal. In 1896, the New York Times circulation was less than 9000, when the population of New York city was 3.4m. There was no media for most people beyond talking face to face. There were telephones, but most people wouldn’t have one. Now I can comment on any news I see, then note how many Likes and replies I get. People identify personally with their political party so that an insult to it is an insult to them, their personhood. This is not healthy.

Amol Rajan liking JK Rowling might affect the general view of trans rights in the UK by an infinitesimal amount, but a lot of people’s heart rates might be elevated. It’s not personal. It grabs my attention in a way that is not good for me.

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