Magic Exists but Trans People Don't?
Content warning: sexual assault, transphobia.
J.K. Rowling should have saved this one in the drafts, no doubt.
Her recent opinion piece “J.K. Rowling Writes about Her Reasons for Speaking out on Sex and Gender Issues” was published a couple of days ago. Since her editor failed to modify all those terrible statements and run-on sentences, I decided to help by simplifying the title for her: “My Transphobia”.
Rowling’s discussion of Trans rights is done not only in an ill-informed matter but extremely disrespectfully. Transphobia is never inadvertent or an accident, it is always very clear. And she made it crystal. Her use of terminology is both discourteous and outdated which is reflective of the TERF rhetoric she simultaneously distances herself from. Even in personal encounters, Rowling refuses to refer to her “Trans friends” by the gender they identify as. They are belittled into the way she perceives them, not defined by who they are. Every sentence she writes is merely an insult and a lack of regard for the people she encounters. Unfortunately, she is an accurate reflection of the so-called feminism many cisgender women like her preach. Trans experiences are not uniform: like everyone else, these experiences are complex and vary from person to person. These experiences are named differently, too. The experience of one Trans individual shouldn’t be placed on all Trans people.
There are five main reasons that Rowling utilizes in attempts to justify her fear of Trans activism. In her first point, she starts by crediting herself for contributing to a trust for female prisoners as well as survivors of sexual and domestic abuse in Scotland. While this is great work that someone of her status and power should be doing, she uses it to downplay Trans activists, stating it has affected her efforts. Unfortunately, her “activism” is ignorant of the fact that Trans women are imprisoned at extremely high rates. 1 in 6 Trans women, and more specifically 1 in 2 Black Trans women, are disproportionately impacted and have been incarcerated. Not only are Trans women incarcerated at such high rates, but Trans individuals face the highest risk of being subjected to sexual assault. 1 in 2 Trans people experience sexual violence at one point in their lives. To add on, let’s not forget that these statistics are generally underreported. If Rowling truly cared about women, her activism would include the most marginalized as opposed to attacking and singling Trans women out.
In her second point, she states that because she is an ex-teacher and founder of a children’s charity, Trans activism concerns her because safeguarding is so important. What do these things have to do with Trans rights? When I read this, her implications jumped out suddenly. In simpler terms, she believes Trans people are a threat to children. Which is both abhorrent and makes no logical sense. It is degrading to “other” Trans people as some lingering threat when Trans people exist everywhere and pose no significant threat just as any cisgender person. This fallacious assumption is nothing new to the Queer community; gay and Lesbian people were, and still often are, considered threats to children as well. This discrimination continues to manifest through legal means. One example being a proposed rule that would allow foster cares to reject LGBTQ families from adopting.
Her third point has to do with the fact that she’s a banned author and is a staunch defender for freedom of speech. That’s fine. Keep preaching your Transphobia, but writing an opinion response and receiving backlash for it is also freedom of speech.
In the fourth point, she brings up her concerns with detransitioning, which is extremely rare (less than 1% of Trans individuals detransition, and this generally occurs in the early stages of transitioning). However, it’s extremely harmful to invalidate the experiences of Trans people as a result— even individuals who decide to detransition should be supported. Whether they simply no longer identify themselves as Trans, don’t necessarily want to present as Trans physically, or identify with a different gender are all valid reasons to halt transitioning even in the rare cases that it does happen. However, of those individuals that do decide to detransition, it is mainly because the person could not continue due to a lack of familial or community support in the transition process. Transphobia is the root of a lot of these issues. Additionally, Rowling’s point completely ignores non-binary people. Viewing all instances of gender as binary completely erases their existence. Transitioning also differs among gender, and from individual-to-individual. These experiences are not monolithic. They are unique.
The final point reiterates Rowling’s belief that Trans activism is concerning. She discusses her experiences as a sexual assault survivor and her fear for other young girls. However, while I truly sympathize as a survivor myself, utilizing your sexual assault experiences—completely unrelated to Trans identity— to justify your anti-Trans activism is entirely malicious. In one sentence she identifies that Trans women of color are at a high risk of sexual assault: so why try and divert attention away from the topic? Yet, at the same time, she is worried that Trans women pose a risk to others (the same illogical, bathroom fear every transphobic politician has repeated). This is dangerous because it not only ignores the fact that Trans people face disproportionate rates of sexual assault, but because her “white feminism” is being used as a tool to disperse fear and utter ignorance.
Much of her current thinking also parallels to the country’s colonial past. In fact, British colonialism has permeated similar rhetoric, criminalizing Queer and Trans people, all around the world. While this is not an excuse for the statements Rowling has made, tracing these attitudes to their core may be a vital step in identifying and demolishing such damaging ideas. And more specifically, understanding that these issues often cross paths with racial injustices.
Overall her various claims, which presume that many Trans individuals are transitioning to simply avoid womanhood and oppression, is pretty ironic. To be quite frank, no one wants to voluntarily face the oppressiveness of being Trans. Why would someone escape womanhood to be substantially marginalized by their Transness? It makes absolutely no sense and is yet another privilege of hers that she accentuates. And yet again, she removes Trans men and non-binary people from the narrative.
Rowling is not an example of womanhood, rather an example of hatred and hostility. Misogyny is extremely real and is especially charged at BIPOC Queer and Trans women. However, the misogyny Rowling has experienced is no excuse for the excessive transphobia she is veiling herself under. In fact, Rowling utilizes her Trans-exclusionary rhetoric to attack Trans women. She has an obsession with her “biological” self, which for a lack of better terms, is absolute bullshit and by no means strengthens her womanhood. By doing so, she places herself in the center of a conversation she shouldn’t be having in the first place, taking away from the most marginalized demographic: Black Trans women.
Rather than taking your insecurities out on Trans women, support them and uplift them. Realize that your perception of gender is not everyone’s lived reality and work to undo that. Also, donate to Black, Queer organizations.