Because JK Rowling, author of the saga of Harry Potter, are you accused of transphobia? Let's take stock of the situation and clarify some important concepts.
For some months now, the author of Harry Potter, JK Rowling is accused of being transphobic, that is, to despise trans people. In recent days, these accusations have been renewed due to some tweets by the British author.
Now exactly what did JK Rowling say about transphobic? I see that on the comments on the matter on Facebook there are many people who say that Rowling has not said anything wrong or offensive. But it's true?
In this article, I would like to retrace
briefly the expressions of this author in recent years and explain why some of her releases are transphobic.
Book I: JK Rowling and the transphobic like a tweet (2018)
The first allegations of transphobia were leveled at JK Rowling in 2018, on at least two separate occasions when she “liked” third-party transphobic tweets. Let's see what these tweets are, what they said and how the author responded to the accusations.
Il first transphobic tweet supported by Rowling dates back to March 2018 and was written by a certain Rachel (@racybearhold). This tweet complained that, in socialist political spaces, trans women received more support from socialist men than their female cisgender colleagues. In this tweet, trans women are defined "Men in suits" (men in dresses).
Rowling's like to Rachel's tweet was immediately noticed by her users and generated on the one hand a raising of doubts and accusations of transphobia, and on the other an outcry in defense of the creator of Harry Potter. Next, JK Rowling's PR person explained what happened as a mistake due to the age and clumsiness of the writer with the cell phone: in short, that "like" was just a mistake. Here are the words of the Rowling representative:
I'm afraid JK Rowling had a clumsy and middle-aged moment and this is not the first time she has favored by holding her phone incorrectly.
Il according to transphobic tweet supported by Rowling is in September 2018 and by the journalist Janice Turner, who commented on an article on the danger of trans women in prison in The Times. In his comment, Turner stated that it is dangerous to put a fox in a chicken coop, even if the fox identifies itself in a hen.
No official apologies or justifications from Rowling would appear to follow this tweet.
Book II: JK Rowling and the Maya Forstater case (2019)
The storm of transphobia allegations heavily hit JK Rowling in December 2019, when the author 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.
This tweet, as we understand from the hashtag #IStandWithMaya, refers to the judicial sentence of Maya Forstater, to whom the employment contract has not been renewed due to his constant transphobic comments towards colleagues and trans colleagues.
Book III: JK Rowling and "sex is real" (2020)
Recently, Rowling has returned to the center of controversy for another series of transphobic tweets. The first was how an article on making hygienic menstruation products accessible to all people who need them, and Rowling disliked the fact that the word "women" was not used, in this sense, saying:
'People who menstruate.' I'm sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?
The next day, JK Rowling wanted to better specify his position, claiming to know and love trans people, but of to believe that (biological) sex is real and therefore it is important to take it into consideration. Additionally, the author claims she supports trans people and would march with them if they were discriminated against as trans. Here is the series of tweets:
If sex isn't real, there's no same-sex attraction. If sex isn't real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives. It isn't hate to speak the truth.
The idea that women like me, who've been empathetic to trans people for decades, feeling kinship because they're vulnerable in the same way as women - ie, to male violence - 'hate' trans people because they think sex is real and has lived consequences - is a nonsense.
I respect every trans person's right to live any way that feels authentic and comfortable to them. I'd march with you if you were discriminated against on the basis of being trans. At the same time, my life has been shaped by being female. I do not believe it's hateful to say so.11.2596.47971.316
A theoretical introduction on biological sex, gender identity and trans people
Let's start from the beginning: what is transphobia and how does it generally occur? Well, transphobia is hatred and contempt for trans people.
Trans people are individuals whose gender does not coincide with their biological sex. Therefore, trans people can be trans women (also called MtF, Male to Female), trans men (also called FtM, Female to Male), non-binary trans people, whose gender does not coincide with biological sex without, however, coinciding neither with the male pole nor with the female one, e trans people which are identified in still other genres. Another terminology that is used by trans people to describe themselves are the acronyms AMAB (assigned male at birth, "Male gender assigned at birth") and AFAB (assigned female at birth, "Female gender assigned at birth". Trans people can undergo hormone treatments or surgery to conform their bodies to the gender they identify with, but there are also trans people who don't feel the need to undergo these changes. All of these types of trans people are equally "trans", as they all experience the difference between their gender and their biological sex. Any medical treatments or any gender dysphoria are all ancillary factors, with respect to the gender / sex difference, and may or may not occur, depending on the individual.
There is talk of generally e sex as of two distinct entities, since the first is a social identity, while the second is a biological characteristic.
Biological sex: a more complex spectrum than expected
Gender is determined by the interaction between ours chromosomes and a fan of hormones, which therefore also determines the structure of our genitals. The most common results derived from this interaction are male and female, but there are also numerous results that, in a hypothetical spectrum that goes from male to female, place themselves in an intermediate position, with very different physical effects. The people who find themselves in this biologically intermediate position are people intersex.
Gender identity: a social and personal issue
The gender, however, is determined by the personal perception of oneself, and may coincide or differ from biological sex. Citing an article by Wired, the Italian Society of Psychotherapy for the Study of Sexual Identities (Sipsis) indicates as gender identity:
the overall identity of the person, the set of planes, dimensions and aspects - from the body, to the mind, to the way of presenting oneself to others - with which the person identifies himself, is identified and is identified by others. It is therefore a multi-dimensional reality, which never ceases to specify and define itself, from birth to adulthood and beyond.
Gender, therefore, is a fundamental part of what makes us men, women, non-binary people and the like. It is gender identity that ultimately determines whether we are women, men or non-binary people, not biological sex.
This however does not mean that biological sex is not important for many other reasons, such as the innumerable medical issues related to it. The genre does not invalidate biological sex, but is simply an additional level of complexity that is added to that of biological sex.
Trans people: difference between biological sex and gender identity
Those people whose gender identity coincides with biological sex are called people cisgender. People whose gender identity does not coincide with biological sex are called people transgender, or trans people. This definition can therefore also include all people of a gender not only male or female only, i.e. non-binary people, genderqueer, genderfluid, agender, and the like. Trans people can include intersex people, but being an intersex person doesn't automatically mean being trans.
It should also be stressed that gender identity is not linked to sexual orientation, i.e. your preferences in terms of partners. A trans woman might be straight if she only likes men, or she might be lesbian, if she only likes women, or she might be bisexual, if she likes two or more genders, and so on. Biological sex does not determine the sexual orientation of a trans person, in that sense. In fact, a trans woman whose biological sex is male and who is attracted only to men will not be a gay man, but a straight woman.
Now that we have an overview of the situation, let's see how Rowling's tweets, and the tweets previously supported by her, are transphobic.
What's transphobic about JK Rowling supported tweets?
First, Rachel's tweet is transphobic since denies the gender identity of trans women, calling them "men in suits". Trans women are women, not men disguised as women, as we also reiterated in this article. The idea that trans women are men who play the role of women is a very degrading idea towards trans women, as it denies their experience and basically defines them as liars. In this sense, Rachel denies the importance of gender identity and only recognizes that of the biological sex of trans women.
Second, Janice Turner's tweet is transphobic because, with its comparison between foxes and trans women, in turn denies the weight of gender identity, taking into account only the biological sex of trans women. In addition, Turner says that trans women, because of their biologically male nature, would be inherently more dangerous than cisgender women, which seems to be untrue, as Keele University Law Professor Alex Sharpe explains in this article.
What's transphobic about the Maya Forstater tweet?
Speaking of Rowling's tweets, there are many things to say. Starting from the 2019 one on Maya Forstater, I think it's the case of summarize the story, in the first place. You can read the whole case on the final judgment drawn up by the court Thu.
Who is Maya Forstater and what did she say?
Maya Forstater is a researcher who worked in an organization fighting poverty, the Center for Global Development. Maya Forstater is a feminist who believes that a person's biological sex is the key element that defines their gender and that, therefore, trans women are men and should be treated as such. These opinions have been expressed by her more than once on her Twitter profile. An example is this tweet:
Please stand up for the truth that it is not possible for someone who is male to become female. Transwomen are men, and should be respected and protected as men.
Subsequently, trans / non-binary people who worked with Forstater or who had dealt with her started complaining about her colleague's transphobic tweets, saying that Forstater was referring to them without respecting their gender identity. For example, when Gregor Murray complained that Forstater continued to refer to his person with the masculine, where Murray is a non-binary person who uses the pronoun they / them, Forstater replied:
In reality Murray is a man. It is Murray's right to believe that Murray is not a man, but Murray cannot compel others to believe this. Women and children in particular should not be forced to lie or obfuscate about someone's sex.
I reserve the right to use the pronouns "he" and "him" to refer to male people.
Biological sex as unchanging and central: Maya Forstater's vision
The court's verdict explains that Forstater's ideas are rooted in the fact that there are only two sexesmale and female, and therefore gender identity does not exist or is not important. It is clear that Forstater has no intention of changing his mind or considering the possibility of being wrong. Furthermore, Forstater believes that his ideas are scientifically grounded, and nevertheless rejects the idea that contemporary science is progressively detaching itself from this view (emphasis mine):
The core of the Claimant's belief is that sex is biologically immutable. There are only two sexes, male and female. She considers this is a material reality. [...]
It is sex that is fundamentally important, rather than "gender", "gender identity" or "gender expression". She will not accept in any circumstances that a trans woman is in reality a woman or that a trans man is a man. [...]
The Claimant largely ignores intersex conditions and the fact that biological opinion is increasingly moving away from an absolutist approach to there being genes the presence or absence of which determine specific attributes, to understanding that it is necessary to analyze which genes are present, which are switched on, the extent to which they are switched on and the way in which they interact with other genes. [...]
The court sentence condemning Maya Forstater
Although the court understands the importance these ideas have for Forstater, the judgment of her is negative, as it turns out incompatible with human dignity and the fundamental rights of others. If a trans person has acquired legal documents defining a gender identity other than the sex attributed at birth, then this trans person has the right to be called by their gender of arrival.
However, I consider that the Claimant's view, in its absolutist nature, is incompatible with human dignity and fundamental rights of others. She goes so far as to deny the right of a person with a Gender Recognition Certificate to be the sex to which they have transitioned. I do not accept the Claimant's contention that the Gender Recognition Act produces a mere legal fiction. It provides a right, based on the assessment of the various interrelated convention rights, for a person to transition, in certain circumstances, and thereafter to be treated for all purposes as the being of the sex to which they have transitioned.
In Goodwin a fundamental aspect of the reasoning of the ECHR was that a person who has transitioned should not be forced to identify their gender assigned at birth. Such a person should be entitled to live as a person of the sex to which they have transitioned. That was recognized in the Gender Recognition Act which states that the change of sex applies for "all purposes". Therefore, if a person has transitioned from male to female and has a Gender Recognition Certificate that person is legally a woman. That is not something that the Claimant is entitled to ignore.
[...] The Claimant does not accept that she should avoid the enormous pain that can be caused by misgendering a persons, even if that person has a Gender Recognition Certificate. […] The Claimant's position is that even if a trans woman has a Gender Recognition Certificate, she cannot honestly describe herself as a woman. That belief is not worthy of respect in a democratic society. It is incompatible with the human rights of others that have been identified and defined by the ECHR and put into effect through the Gender Recognition Act.
I concludes from this, and the totality of the evidence, that the Claimant is absolutist in her view of sex and it is a core component of her belief that she will refer to a person by the sex she considered appropriate even if it violates their dignity and / or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. The approach is not worthy of respect in a democratic society.
JK Rowling's tweet in light of the facts about Maya Forstater
From this verdict it is clear that Rowling's tweet does not report the facts as they are, but turns them to their advantage. In fact, Forstater not only said that biological sex is real, but he used his statement as a starting point to deny the gender identity of trans / non-binary people, placing them in a humiliating and degrading situation.
Secondly, Rowling's tweet begins with two sentences that seem innocuous at first glance, namely “Dress however you please. Call yourself whatever you like. ”, To refer to trans people. However, these are his words simplify and trivialize the path of trans people, which is much more complex than dressing or calling yourself differently than before. On the contrary, this attitude takes up the idea of many transphobic people who consider trans people as "transvestites", such that their change is not an intimate awareness of their gender identity, but a simple wearing of a costume.
What's transphobic in the tweets of June 2020?
But let's get to the latest events, that is to the tweets of this June, written in the month of Pride. These tweets are transphobic for a number of reasons which we will now analyze.
The tweet against “people who menstruate”: defining women only on the basis of the vagina
The first tweet, which complains about the use of "People with menstruation" instead of "women", it is problematic because it accuses of erasing the identity of women in an article that does not only talk about women. To be precise, the article in question refers to all those people who use products for menstruation, as it is focused on the accessibility of these products for those who need them. And those who need it are not only cisgender women, but also trans men and some non-binary people.
Trans men and female non-binary people, in fact, often need products for menstruation, similarly to cisgender women; however, this does not make these people women. Moreover, not all cisgender women need menstruation products, because they may not have menstruation for many reasons: hormonal problems, pregnancy and menopause are the first examples that come to mind. And despite not having menstruation, these cisgender women remain women, since women are characterized by their gender identity, not by their genitals or other biological characteristics.
Similarly, Rowling cancels the existence of gender identity also in the second tweet, where it states “If sex isn't real, there's no same-sex attraction. If sex isn't real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. " The problem with these tweets, therefore, is not to say that biological sex exists: this is already known, and even trans people know it very well, and no one denies it.
However, these tweets reduce people to their biological sex, or to characteristics that are generally considered typical of a certain biological sex, such as menstruation.
“I would march with you if you were discriminated against for being trans”: the cancellation of transphobia
His tweet in which he claims to respect all trans people also contains the phrase "I'd march with you if you were discriminated against on the basis of being trans.", Which is a claim based on a false assumption. Putting into a hypothetical the fact that trans people are discriminated against for being trans, Rowling puts de facto doubt the existence of transphobia.
Indeed, if we read his previous tweet, we find the phrase “they're [trans people] vulnerable in the same way as women - ie, to male violence”. Therefore, it appears that, according to Rowling, trans people are not discriminated against because they are trans, but because they are women discriminated against by men. It is also unclear whether this statement relates to trans women (who would therefore be discriminated against by men because they identify with the female gender) or to trans men (discriminated against by cisgender men because they were assigned the female gender at birth).
In any case, Rowling's claim is based on a false assumption, as I said, since trans people are discriminated against as trans. It was seen precisely with Maya Forstater, who injured and humiliated trans / non-binary people precisely because they were trans / non-binary.
The failure to distinguish between biological sex and gender: ignorance or deliberate omission?
Rowling's claims appear to be based on hers ignorance about the existence of gender identity as a separate phenomenon from biological sex. However, a later tweet from the author claims that Rowling has been extensively informed about it:
I've spent much of the last three years reading books, blogs and scientific papers by trans people, medics and gender specialists. I know exactly what the distinction is. [...]
Well, it seems that her readings have not convinced her that trans people must be respected by being addressed in terms of their gender identity, and that biological sex cannot be the only axis that characterizes a person.
Then, JK Rowling is likely to be perfectly aware of the existence of gender identity, but she prefers to ignore it or not consider it important.
JK Rowling and TERF positions
Rowling's ideas, in this sense, are very close to those of a very noisy feminist fringe, but generally with a limited following, i.e. Trans Exclusionist Radical Feminist, Also called TERF. Note that Rowling, in another tweet, associated TERF the sexist offenses typically received by women, an opinion that generally also includes trans-excluding feminists.
TERFs are feminists who are convinced that trans women are not women and that feminism should primarily focus on people who belong to the female biological sex, as women would be characterized only by their biological sex. Therefore, they not only view trans women as men, but they also view trans men as women, invalidating the gender identity of essentially every trans person. Furthermore, some TERFs are convinced that trans women are transvestite men who want to invade and conquer the uniquely feminine spaces created by cisgender women, namely women's baths and anti-violence centers.
Therefore, TERFs tend to call trans people only with the gender assigned to them at birth, to define them with degrading and humiliating names, such as "men in skirts", totally ignoring their well-being and dignity. Furthermore, TERFs generally ignore the fact that trans people tend to be more discriminated against than cisgender people, and that Trans black women are more likely to be killed compared to cisgender people. The Human Rights Campaign Foundation, for example, back the main causes of violence and discrimination against trans people.
This causes TERFs to base their feminism not only on reducing people to their genital organs, but also on the humiliation and bullying of a category of people who already face more discrimination. Therefore, TERFs can hardly be called radical feminists. Indeed, within feminism, radical feminists are those who seek to radically dismantle the patriarchal structure. By patriarchal structure I mean the whole system of gender roles that require men to be in a certain way to be True Men and women to be in another way to be True Women, both with their associated limitations and privileges. Radical feminists deconstruct gender roles and the concept of sexthus going to the root of the problem. In reverse, TERFs are based on a concept of biological sex to draw boundaries net between cisgender women (and all other people with vagina, whether they want it or not) and trans women, therefore reinforce the very concept that radical feminists want to destroy. Also for this reason, in addition to their transphobia, generally the rest of the feminist currents do not recognize and condemn the TERF, defining them non-feminists.
Said this, JK Rowling can be called a TERF not only for her positions that explicitly deny the dignity of trans people (denying the existence or importance of gender identity), but also for the likes given in 2018. In fact, both Rachel and Turner are TERF notes.
It is therefore for her intolerant and degrading positions that Rowling must be condemned. The fact that he doesn't call trans women "skirt men" doesn't mean his tweets are any less dehumanizing, as if he denies the existence of gender identity and transphobia, then he's discriminating against trans people equally.
Some final words from a bitter Harry Potter fan
And so, this is my summary article on Rowling's transphobia. I hope it has been clear and that I have dealt with the main points that make your tweets transphobic, giving those who want also the bases to understand the difference between biological sex and gender identity.
I want to emphasize that I am a longtime reader and fan of the saga of Harry Potter, and that seeing this descent into the transphobia of a person who, with his problems, however, I admired leaves me a lot embittered. I had not already appreciated Rowling's approach to non-white characters and queer characters, but in recent years my esteem for this writer has fallen under her shoes.
This article, therefore, was not written by a hater, but by a deeply disappointed person. I want to emphasize that, in these criticisms, it has nothing to do with Rowling being a woman. In fact, Rowling is not attacked as a woman. The attacks on him are not male chauvinists, but transfeminists and by intersectional feminism, and generally carried out by other women (both trans and cisgender) who want to defend trans people.
Personally, I will continue to love the saga of Harry Potter, because I grew up there and trained me a lot. However, I will no longer support other works written by JK Rowling, Fantastic animals included. I am happy that the Potterhead fanbase has often grown much more than the Rowling, analyzing his works with great lucidity and finding the courage to rewrite and re-invent Harry Potter with each new fanfiction.