What the open letter to JK Rowling written by the Mermaids Group says and why it is very important to dispel some transphobic myths about trans people, some reported by the author of Harry Potter same.
Of the transphobia charges against JK Rowling, writer of Harry Potter, we already have spoken profusely. This is one of the themes most felt by the nerd community in the last month, which however has not been without other cultural contrasts, with many realities siding in favor of the Black Lives Matter movement. Just see the dust broke out on D&D, or the list "Traitors of America“, Which lists the realities that support the struggles for the rights of African Americans.
In this article, I am not going to delve deeper into Rowling's TERF instances, which took on a new depth after her essay of 10 June. There would be a great deal to say and many of the writer's claims would be refuted, since they are based on fallacious and not factual conceptions. However, I prefer to do what an ally of trans people and all T realities (from LGBTQIA +) should do in these cases: step aside and leave the floor to the expert people of the trans community. It is indeed essential to listen to the people who are directly affected by JK Rowling's attacks, as these people have the experience, knowledge and sensitivity to deal with this discourse in the best possible way.
The open letter to JK Rowling written by the Mermaids Group: what is it about?
So, today I will propose you the open letter to JK Rowling written by the Mermaids Group, which you can read in the original language Thu. The Mermaids group (or Mermaids Team) supports young trans people, from infancy to their twenties, by supporting them and their families through charitable actions. It is therefore a reality fully equipped to address the issues raised by Rowling, as we shall see.
The open letter to JK Rowling of the Mermaids Group has been translated from Saura Fontanella e Alex Grisafi and you can read it too on the blog by Alex. Saura Fontanella is a publisher that also deals with transfeminist translation, and is part of Asterisco Edizioni, the publishing house of Dura-Lande e Outside the Dungeon, as well as being the author of the short story School From The Loop. Alex Grisafi is a transfeminist and LGBTQIA + activist and columnist for Player.it. The translation of the open letter was supervised by Marta Palvarini, game designer, author of Dura-Lande, transfeminist activist belonging to the T. community
We sincerely thank Saura and Alex for allowing us to publish their well-kept translation of the open letter on our website, and as always we thank Marta for precise and timely supervision.
Finally, I note that, in the translation of the open letter to JK Rowling, Alex and Saura decided to use a particular linguistic strategy to re-propose the linguistic inclusiveness used by the Mermaids Group. This strategy consists in replacing the final vowel of the gendered words with one schwa, which is the average vowel of the IPA classification. It is a non-standard strategy, exactly like the asterisk, and we have talked about it more in depth Thu. Nonetheless, I decided to leave it unchanged since the schwa does not undermine the understanding of the translation of the open letter. Any aesthetic or personal dislike for this non-standard use should not prevent anyone from reading this letter.
But now I leave you with the open letter to JK Rowling of the Mermaids Group. The bold is mine.
Open letter to JK Rowling of the Mermaids Group: the text
Dear JK Rowling, we would like to start this letter offering you our solidarity as a survivor of sexual and domestic abuse. Reading your moving and honest account, we felt a connection to your pain. That connection between us exists, regardless of any difference we may have regarding gender identity. Writing those passages must have been very difficult: the way a tabloid¹ dealt with the story, banging on the title on the front page, was simply regrettable. As a trans foundation, the people of our staff and that volunteer have to deal with cases of domestic abuse regularly: therefore solidarity with every survivor of domestic violence is unconditional. No victim or vulnerable group should be exploited to sell multiple copies of the newspaper.
The June 12, 2020 issue of The Sun advertised on the cover the interview with JK Rowling's ex-husband with "I slapped JK and I'm not sorry", "I beat JK and I don't regret it".
How JK Rowling's tweets impacted the trans people of the Mermaids Group
You will undoubtedly be aware of the fact that reading your post was difficult for many trans people and their families. Until recently, we hoped to be able to count you among the many authorships and among those respected public figures able to help, able to support and inspire trans people. This week, we saw young trans people expressing their shock and dismay at finding themselves in contrast with the author of Harry Potter, with the author of the stories they love. Many of these children and adolescents, who grew up feeling trapped and frightened within their daily lives, have found in your novels the promise that even the most frightening antagonists can be defeated thanks to understanding, kindness, thanks to intimate friendships and with the help of benevolent adults. Like Jake Edwards, a non-binary member of our staff, wrote yesterday:
Harry Potter, for me, meant not to care. It didn't matter who you were or how you were born or how different and difficult your life was: if you had fought oppression with love, you would have won. At 24 I am realizing that all of this may not be true. And wow, it hurts.
This open letter is not meant to be a personal attack nor an invitation to send you harassing messages or move against unfounded accusations. We condemn any such behavior, instead renewing that for a calm and reasonable conversation, far from social media, where all people can listen to each other and in which trans people are treated with legitimacy.
To put it using familiar words:
"If you haven't listened to trans babies, don't talk about them."
The fact that the rights of trans people erode the rights of other queer realities
We would now like to address some of the points raised by the post on your blog. First, we gratefully acknowledge your accepting the transition as a solution for cases of dysphoria and the fact that trans people need and deserve protection. However, you also say that you share the concern that many people have about:
“… Young people, gay people, the erosion of women's and girls' rights. More than anything else, for the climate of fear that does not help anyone - least of all young trans. " ²
"... worried about the dangers to young people, gay people and about the erosion of women's and girl's rights. Above all, they're worried about a climate of fear that serves nobody - least of all trans youth - well. "
It is certainly clear, looking at the LGBT + organizations and also taking a quick look at the replies to your post, that the vast majority of young and LGB people uphold trans rights and feel great discomfort at the way in which trans people themselves are distorted by relevant authorships like you. The modern gay rights movement, on the other hand, didn't it really start from a protest led by trans black women?
The fact that the rights of trans people erode women's rights
To deal with the core of your speech, trans rights are not at the expense of women's rights.
We see no evidence that trans girls represent in any way a threat to other girls. To be honest, transgender children are the ones who often suffer terrible forms of bullying both at school and at home. And, as you may have noticed, transgender adults are those who, in modern British society, are made to feel in danger by those who would like to characterize them, without proof or justification, as a threat; and this despite considerable evidence to the contrary.
JK Rowling's objections to the Gender Recognition Act (2004)
Your objection to trans rights appears to be based on the reform of the Gender Recognition Act 2004, which actually has the potential to allow trans people to identify themselves of their kind without having to go through a long process. Write:
"... When you open the doors of the bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he is a woman - and, as I said, such confirmation certificates can now be granted without any surgery or hormone therapy - you are then opening the door also to any other man who wants to enter. Here's the simple truth. "
"... 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. "
To say that under the current Gender Recognition Act 2004 - which continues to be a long, complicated and medicalized process -, "every man who believes or feels he is a woman" can be legally recognized in that genre, not only is it a simplistic version of things but most of all, does not correspond to the truth. Furthermore, access to toilets and changing rooms is normally not controlled or restricted on the basis of the legal gender; therefore, to say that the certificates of recognition of the genre "open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms" consists in an unfounded claim ... and also tendentious.
Regarding the inclusion of trans women in women's toilets
There is no evidence to support your suggestion - that many women would object to the inclusion of trans women in women's toilets - we can offer evidence to the contrary. One study conducted precisely on the comments made by men and women in social media regarding this issue, found that:
'The observations collected in this article they do not support the belief that most women appear to be against the use of female toilets by transgender women: we found that, in the sample examined, about 70% of female cis users posted non-negative comments; about half of the negative comments from cisgender females are irrelevant or disconnected to the proposed question [incidental: in the study a comment was classified as such if it was negative but expressed that the concerns were not due to the trans females. "Incidental - The user's comment is negative and expresses that it's not transgender females causing those concerns." NDT]. '
Trans people, baths, and North Carolina transphobic law (2016)
The argument that simpler gender recognition would lead to risky locker rooms and bathrooms is further undermined by a chapter, as strange as it is shameful, of North Carolina history in which, in 2016, these exact concerns led tointroduction of a law which required people to use only bathrooms corresponding to the gender indicated on their birth certificate.
Not only did the new law cause an increase in transphobia, but it opened up the possibility of greater harassment, in public toilets, towards non-transgender women who did not dress or present themselves in a 'feminine' way. The law also required trans men to use women's toilets.
In the end, only in 2019, a federal judge managed to get rid of this dangerous and impractical law.
Allowing trans people to go to the right bathrooms or changing rooms is not a danger for women
A subsequent one review Finally, the United States about the 'Evidence on Security and Privacy in Public Toilets, Changing Rooms and Changing Rooms' stated that people who oppose trans rights
"... often cite fear, or, should these laws pass, security and privacy violations in public restrooms [...] No empirical evidence to test the effects of these laws has been collected [...] This study finds that the passage of such laws is not related to the number or frequency of criminal incidents in these spaces. Additionally, the study finds that reports of privacy and security breaches in public restrooms, locker rooms and dressing rooms are extremely rare. This study shows that fears of an increase in security and privacy violations as a result of anti-discrimination laws have no empirical basis. "
"... often cite fear of safety and privacy violations in public restrooms if such laws are passed ... No empirical evidence has been gathered to test such laws' effects ... This study finds that the passage of such laws is not related to the number or frequency of criminal incidents in these spaces. Additionally, the study finds that reports of privacy and safety violations in public restrooms, locker rooms, and changing rooms are exceedingly rare. This study provides evidence that fears of increased safety and privacy violations as a result of nondiscrimination laws are not empirically grounded. "
There is no evidence of an increase in harassment of women in the locker rooms by trans people
You have used your considerable talent as a writer to build in your audience's mind a scenario in which women's toilets are 'wide open' to the outside world, so as to allow every predator to enter unchallenged and to commit nefarious acts.
Trans women, however, already have the right to use structures aligned with their gender identity, and these protections have been in force since the Equality Act 2010. The Gender Recognition Act has to do only with the change of the birth certificate: and no one must favor it to use a bathroom or a dressing room.
If, since 2010, sexual predators have exploited the provisions of the Equality Act 2010 to gain access to women's spaces, we are not aware of itnor can we have evidence of the existence of the aforementioned trend by those who would love to be able to strengthen one of their most common attacks on trans rights. Not even self-identification, adopted in many countries around the world, led to systematic abuse.
Men who harass vulnerable women are a global problem, but this has nothing to do with trans people. In reverse, Trans people are generally much more concerned about access to toilets and changing rooms than cisgender women, precisely because they fear being subjected to verbal abuse or attacks by people who believe that they should not be there.
Feminism and trans people
Go on to say: "this is the most misogynistic period I have ever experienced" and add: "Everywhere, women are told to keep quiet and sit down, otherwise ..."
Here at Mermaids, we join you and our friends, members of some of the UK's longest-running feminist organizations in demanding the protection of all women from violence and misogyny; we demand that patriarchy, which causes damage at all levels of society, including men and boys, be dismantled. However, we should also take note of the fact that most of the rumors that spread misinformation by openly attacking trans people online, through the press and politics, are women. Although this phenomenon is framed in the context of women's rights, our many proud supporters are proof that being a feminist in no way justifies demonizing or dehumanizing trans people.
In your post, you explain that your interest in this issue comes in part from your charitable foundation which, among other things, supports projects for inmates and for women who have survived sexual and domestic abuse.
Are trans women a threat to cisgender women in prisons?
Much has been said about the risk that cis women would run if transgender women entered women's prisons. Statistically, the number of transgender people known in British prisons, England and Wales, corresponds to 125 individuals out of a total prison population of 84.000. This equates to 0.15%, which is below the estimated incidence of the trans population in the general population. Again, there is no evidence of men basing their scenes by pretending to be women to have access to prisoners and their spaces.
Yes, of course, there was the case of Karen White, a transgender woman who sexually raped two women while in pre-trial detention at New Hall prison in Wakefield, but it cannot be ignored that this episode represents an unforgivable flaw in prison security and dynamics, and not a reason to classify all trans women as a threat. Violent women are generally placed in male prisons because of the greater security measures they offer. We agree that more should be done to ensure that prisoners are better protected from attacks by other prisoners, be they CIS or Trans.
In any case, using such narrow and particular episodes to attribute crime to all trans people by depicting them as a sexual threat to cis women is a commonplace that is widespread, inaccurate and, ultimately, destructive. This research shows that trans women are not, in fact, a greater threat to women than other cisgender women are.
Are trans women a threat to cisgender women in anti-violence centers?
As for the shelters of the anti-violence centers, we are grateful that you recognize, in your post, that trans women and, in general, trans people incur greater risks of abuse. Our 25 years of experience supporting young trans people show us how safe houses are a vital service for vulnerable women.
We are not aware of cases where transgender women have proven to be a threat to other women in shelter homes - and these have been trans-inclusive for many years, as far as we know without incident. The Stonewall report 'Supporting trans women in domestic and sexual violence services' points the finger at the robust safeguard systems in place to protect those who use the service, and the need to make sure that trans women are supported, due to the greater barriers they face to have access to help. In addition, as a result of the barriers to support for trans women, 24% of trans women do not tell anyone about the abuses they have suffered.
Do the rights of trans people erode the rights of boys / girls?
Continuing, we read with interest your passage in which you say you are an ex-teacher and founder of a charity for children, which gives you an interest in both education and safeguarding:
"Like many others, I have deep doubts about the effect the trans-rights movement is having on both."
"Like many others, I have deep concerns about the effect the trans rights movement is having on both."
It would be useful to know what evidence you have when you say that trans rights are eroding the right to education and / or the safety of children. The acquisition of rights by trans people does not affect either branch, just as the right to equal marriage does not affect the right to marry of heterosexual cisgender people. The assumptions that trans rights remove or negatively impact the rights of women and girls are unproven, provocative, and false, in much the same way that Section 28 has allowed inequality to flourish. , hitting a generation of LGBTQ + people. The Equality Act 2010 applies to all categories, protected equally.
Article 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 under the government of Margaret Thatcher which obliged local authorities to "not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality" or "promote teaching in any state-funded school 'acceptability of homosexuality as an alleged family relationship ". The existence of the law caused the closure of many LGBT support groups and the limitation of educational activities through censorship or self-censorship. It was repealed in 2000 in Scotland and in 2003 in the rest of the United Kingdom.
Could Cisgender women convince themselves to become trans men to escape misogyny?
Express your concerns "about the huge explosion in the number of young women who wish to transition," stating:
“If I had been born 30 years later, maybe I too would have tried to transition. The appeal of escaping the female condition would have been enormous. I struggled with severe OCD as a teenager. If I had found online that solidarity and that sense of belonging - missing, however, in the environment around me - I think I would have been persuaded to become the son that my father had always openly said he wanted. "
"If I'd been born 30 years later, I too might have tried to transition. The allure of escaping womanhood would have been huge. I struggled with severe OCD as a teenager. If I'd found the community and sympathy online that I couldn't find in my immediate environment, I believe I could have been persuaded to turn myself into the son my father had openly said he'd have preferred. "
The need that many women feel they want to escape from their gender is a sad reflection of society and we agree, girls and young women must empower themselves in order to obtain their rights and not be forced to live within obsolete and misogynistic values and expectations.
There is no evidence that any young trans man, even among those we support, is transitioning because he wants to escape from being a woman, because he wants a simpler male existence. On the contrary, transition can be a frightening and exhausting process.
Experience the transition in a healthy way
Although there may be young people who experience the transition and their gender identity in an absolutely healthy way, the same may not be valid for those who pass permanently or for those who follow a medicalizing path.
Still, speaking to young trans boys and men, it is clear that something has changed in the way children and adolescents feel free to express what they are. While some see this freedom of expression as a reason to be alarmed, we understand it, instead, as a breath of fresh air - slowly, we are emerging from that social ice age that has been harnessed, hypocritical and inextricably Victorian.
Just as there has been an increase in young people who feel safe enough to declare themselves gay and bisexual at school, there is also more freedom to speak openly about gender identity. It is unclear why transgender boys are now more represented than transgender girls in the population, but is it not a good thing to allow youth to explore their identity anyway? Your argument against this, perhaps, has to do with the repentance girls might have after taking a medical course.
“Easy” access to gender reassignment surgery and loss of fertility?
The allusion to a trend that non-trans people would receive such surgical reassignment is inaccurate. Access to medical interventions is neither quick nor simple, on the contrary: waiting times can exceed 2 years, followed by equally long periods of various tests performed by experts from the National Health System (NHS). Those who are minors do not have access to surgery and any medical intervention, including hormonal blockers, is based on the rules of consent determined by the "Gillick expertise”, Just like any other procedure.
Go on to say that young people have
"... in some cases they have altered their bodies irrevocably, and lost fertility."
There are many reports it's a increasing amount of searches which show that hormone therapy does not necessarily make a person infertile - although it is often reported that taking estrogen or testosterone for a long time could lead to complete loss of fertility. However, what you say has not been proven by any clinical trial.
On the contrary, an increasing number of trans people have experienced the recovery of their fertility when they stopped hormone therapy, managing to have biological children with or without fertility treatment.
Some surgical operations make people infertile, but these are not available in the UK until adulthood, at which time the decision is made by an adult and with full understanding of the consequences; there are many discussions about freezing eggs and sperm for the future.
It is therefore worth remembering that regret from surgery is, proportionally, very low among patients wishing to affirm their gender and that research suggesting otherwise has all been largely denials (version accessible for free at this address).
Do people become trans for homophobia?
Express concerns that homophobia may be driving the growth in the number of young people identifying as trans.
"Some say they decided to transition after realizing they were attracted to people of the same sex, and that the transition was partially driven by homophobia, from society or their families."
Parents of young trans people are often accused of being homophobic - it's unfortunate to see such an implication in your post. We can assure you that our users, staff and volunteers are certainly not homophobic, and that, in our experience and in today's society, it is much easier for a parent to accept a gay child than to understand the needs of a trans child. However, when a parent welcomes his / her child, regardless of their sexual orientation and / or gender identity, the love and support that parents show to * trans children is testimony to their openness to identities that do not exist. conform to traditional, binary and heterosexual expectations. To be honest, many trans young people and many of our staff are gay and deserve to be accepted without mixing the two separate issues: that of gender and that of sexuality.
The evidence gathered from many studies shows how far more likely it is for transgender people to be in a relationship with a person of the same gender than their cisgender peers, completely thwarting the homophobia thesis. The 2015 National Transgender Discrimination Survey reported the sexual orientation of the sample examined, demonstrating a varied spectrum of orientations between transgender people and non-compliant gender.
Of the people who responded to the survey, 23% reported gay or lesbian sexual orientation; 24% identify themselves as bisexual. The study continues:
'Those who assume that all transgender people are straight after the transition are as much in error as those who assume that they are all gay, lesbian or bisexual.'
This is also confirmed by our anecdotal experience on the sexuality of Mermaids users.
Depression and suicide among trans people
WARNING: THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH DISCUSSES SUICIDE-RELATED ISSUES AND MAY CAUSE DISCOMFORT.
We were troubled by the tone of your post when you approached the topic of trans lives and suicide. We will not quote your post regarding this point. Anyway, to many it seemed that, in your post, you were insinuating that there was no connection between suicidal thoughts or actions and the transition impediment that many people experience.
You seem to doubt these statistics: you imply that people use the issue of trans suicides in opportunistic - or in bad faith - when they intend to win a discussion. It is impossible to put into words how horrifying such an insinuation is and we sincerely hope that this was not your intention. Our staff has long cried over the lost lives of young people, of great friendships who have simply felt that they cannot continue to live in a world that treats them with fanaticism, intolerance and contempt.
Our staff and volunteer will bring each of these lives with us: we ask that the damage done to already vulnerable lives by those who refuse to recognize the instances of self-harm and suicide among young transs is not diminished.
IF THE QUESTIONS ABOVE RELATE TO YOU, PLEASE SEARCH FOR SUPPORT THROUGH THE NATIONAL HELPLINE "TRANS - POINT OF LISTENING" (800 713 713 ON TIME 16-20). [We modified this part with the Italian helpline instead of the British one, ndt]
Being biological women is not that simple
The last sentence of your post that we would like to touch is the following:
"I have read all about the argument that being female does not reside in the sexed body together with claims that claim that biological women have no common experiences, and I find them, in turn, deeply misogynistic and regressive."
"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."
Far from being regressive or misogynistic, those claims are based on the latest scientific research, accepted globally by biology experts who study the topic. We won't go into scientific details about it here¹³ but maybe this post, written just by a biologist, can be useful. In short, biology is neither binary nor simple as we often assume; the mere fact that you feel no disparity between the gender identity assigned to you and what you are, does not qualify you to act as a 'gender talking hat' for other people.
We do it.
From the World Health Organization: “Developmental biology suggests that a strict belief in absolute sexual dimorphism is incorrect. Instead, Blackless et al. suggest two overlapping bell-shaped curves to conceptualize sexual variations across populations. Qualitative variation in chromosome complement, genital morphology and hormonal activity falls under the area of overlap. " Also from Nature, Sex Redefined; from The Guardian, Nature and Sex Redefined. we have never been binary. Also Science and Theory of Gender Development from the Coursera course What does it mean to identify as Transgender or Gender Non-Conforming (TGNC)?
TERF is a collective feminism
JK Rowling, close your post looking to the future and imagining a "supreme irony" in which "attempts to silence women with the word 'TERF' ¹⁴ will have pushed more young women towards radical feminism ..."
Trans-Excluding Radical Feminists, a term to designate women who identify with feminist currents, sometimes with radical influences but not only, and who exclude trans women from feminist spaces and political demands. They are widespread in the UK - three articles discussing them: 1, 2, 3.
We, however, look to the "now" and we can already observe more and more young women, men and non-binary people expressing themselves freely, rejecting the patriarchy of previous generations and announcing their true gender identities, using their own language, own terms. Far from leading most young women to radical feminism, the scenario is turning towards a collective movement, towards a greater acceptance and understanding that we are all different and that gender is something personal for each of us. As you say in your post:
"I never forget that inner complexity when I create a fictional character and I certainly never forget it when it comes to trans people."
This gender "movement" is not designed or managed by middle-aged politicians, parents, influencers, benefactors or authorship; it was born from trans, lively and dynamic voices, who have control over what they are and ask: simply to be respected.
The final request: that threats and abuses cease on all sides
We have listened carefully to what you say and we take into account your closing words:
"All I am asking for - all I want - is as much empathy, understanding and that this is extended to the many millions of women whose only crime is to want their fears to be listened to, without receiving threats and abuse."
When women express fears, it is certainly not a crime for us. However, we consider it abusive and harmful when trans women are associated with sexual predatory men, when sexual crime is attributed to trans identities, when it is suggested that the support of trans children is homophobia and parental misogyny, and, finally, when sharing inaccurate and unsubstantiated information that seriously damages the lives of trans and non-binary people.
Again, we call for threats and abuses to cease on all sides of this debate.
For our part, all we ask is that you meet young trans people and that you listen to them with an open mind and an open heart.
The Mermaids Team