JK Rowling, pictured above at the White House, has considerably influenced modern day society, making her recent uneducated statements all the more threatening.Wikimedia Commons

Content Note: This article contains detailed discussion of transphobia.

Last week, JK Rowling published a controversial series of tweets, deemed by many to be transphobic. This included her denouncing the term ‘menstruators’, a term inclusive to trans men and non-binary people with female anatomy. Rowling followed this with an extended essay, in which she defends accusations of transphobia and explains her beliefs, published on her website

Her argument touched upon a wide range of related topics from Donald Trump to incels, yet what was most striking was its liberal positing. Rowling doesn’t adopt the typical vitriol of discriminative discourse, and it is this that makes it so dangerous. Her main line of argument is a misguided defence of cis women and the gay community, defence which is normally an obviously admirable cause. In doing so, however, Rowling’s intolerance is disguised as activism; regression as progression. The typical consensus of my liberal echo chamber was disrupted, and people I admired took Rowling’s side. Emily Maitlis, a BBC journalist whom I wholeheartedly worshipped and adored, shocked me to the core when she shared an article from The Spectator in which the writer (actually a friend of Rowling’s) garishly exclaims that “a bloke with balls and a beard makes an unconvincing women”, despite his claims that he has no problem with trans people. 

"Despite the fact that she defends herself against accusations of transphobia, she shows little to no concern for the transgender community [...]"

For someone who condemns the performative culture of social media and “scoop[ing] up the woke cookies”, Rowling littered her blog post with “virtue-signalling” as she defended the LGB community. In her essay, Rowling, who is herself straight, expresses her liberal concern for lesbians who she says are “called bigots for not dating trans women with penises”. As a lesbian, I can safely say this has never happened to me. The majority of educated, liberal people, of which trans activists are at the forefront, are able to differentiate between sexual preference and bigotry. Even if this were to happen, I could simply say (in the humble words of Rowling herself) “I know and love trans people”, assert my preference, and move on with my day. The fact that this extremely rare and momentary occurrence somehow justifies antagonising a group of people who experience discrimination and violence on an everyday basis is quite simply astounding. While she is attempting to defend lesbians, if she spoke to us, she would find that the majority of us would want to protect the T of LGBT because we are conscious of the fact that we have a far more privileged existence than the trans community. It seems to me as if she has followed a small amount of radical lesbian ‘activists’ on Twitter and somehow understood their opinions to be widely adopted throughout the whole of the lesbian community. If JK Rowling was so concerned about our feelings, maybe she should’ve listened to a few more of us. 

Staggeringly, in her essay Rowling not only attempts to speak for the lesbian community, but also cis-woman-splains the reasons why people choose to transition. In her blog post, she suggests that more and more children want to transition because of their sexuality in an attempt to escape a life of homophobia. Not only is this theory completely unfounded (rigorous counselling must be undergone to ensure correct intentions before surgeries and hormonal treatments), but it also completely ignores the fact that homosexuality is far more accepted and understood than transgender identity. In an open letter to JK Rowling, the children’s trans charity Mermaids also makes the point that transgender people are far more likely to be same-sex attracted, with one study showing that just 53% of the trans community identified as straight. While her argument may have some liberals convinced, it is entirely ill-informed. Despite the fact that she defends herself against accusations of transphobia, she shows little to no concern for the transgender community by questioning and undermining the identities of this widely misunderstood group of people. 

"Regardless of her intentions, the public attention that Rowling has garnered looks set to do very real harm."

Rowling later goes on to defend her ideals with the liberal concept of feminism - another term that allows her, and others, to bask in moral righteousness, while simultaneously and paradoxically contributing to the strife of an already oppressed community. Her claim that the inclusive term “menstruators” is misogynistic as well as “dehumanising and demeaning” is not only harmful but ironic, considering she’s written a 3,670 word essay happily discussing the genitals of strangers. She goes on to suggest that allowing people to use gendered toilets according to their own gender identification will somehow allow male predators to attack women in toilets. Not only is there no evidence of this ever happening - despite toilets and changing rooms not being policed - but if anything, transgender people are far more vulnerable in public places and regularly experience transphobia in public toilets. 


Mountain View

JK Rowling’s transphobia is an abuse of her platform

On Sunday, news was leaked that the government is planning to scrap a reform to the Gender Recognition Act that would have allowed trans and non-binary people to self-identify their gender without medical approval. Liz Truss MP, Minister for Women and Equalities, has instead proposed new ‘protections’ for  toilets and changing rooms, ‘safeguarding’ them as single-sex spaces, which would exclude trans people. While Rowling’s ideas are indeed unfounded, this revelation undeniably shows us that the so-called liberal feminist rhetoric of cis, white, middle-class women poses a very real threat to the trans community, especially when backed up by such a powerful woman as Rowling herself. After all, can it really be a coincidence that reform was halted in the midst of a media storm on this very issue? Is it possible that Rowling’s influence is such to directly prejudice the decisions of policy makers? Regardless of her intentions, the public attention that Rowling has garnered looks set to do very real harm. This week Marcus Rashford took a stand and prompted a government u-turn, perhaps Rowling should do one of her own.