J.K. Rowling defends controversial trans comments in lengthy essay
“Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling has thrown herself into the goblet of fire once again after publishing a personal essay that details — and doubles down on — her controversial views on transgender issues.
The lengthy explainer posted Wednesday on her website comes just after the author was lambasted online for a series of tweets that argue “sex is real,” which offended transgender-identifying people and their supporters as well as “Harry Potter” star Daniel Radcliffe.
Now, Rowling, 54, has outlined her thinking at length — and revealed her experience with domestic abuse and sexual assault for the first time.
“This isn’t an easy piece to write, for reasons that will shortly become clear, but I know it’s time to explain myself on an issue surrounded by toxicity. I write this without any desire to add to that toxicity,” she opens the missive.
Rowling explains how she first drew the ire of trans activists a few years ago while she was mining Twitter about trans issues for a present-day crime series she’s working on.
“I began screenshotting comments that interested me, as a way of reminding myself what I might want to research later. On one occasion, I absent-mindedly ‘liked’ instead of screenshotting. That single ‘like’ was deemed evidence of wrongthink, and a persistent low level of harassment began,” she writes.
She then started following outspoken feminist, lesbian and biological sex believer Magdalen Berns — who died in September — on Twitter which led her to tweet support for Maya Forstater, a tax specialist who lost her job for posting transphobic tweets.
“I mention all this only to explain that I knew perfectly well what was going to happen when I supported Maya. I must have been on my fourth or fifth cancellation by then,” she writes. “I expected the threats of violence, to be told I was literally killing trans people with my hate, to be called c - - t and bitch and, of course, for my books to be burned, although one particularly abusive man told me he’d composted them.”
Rowling faced more criticism after returning to Twitter a few months ago.
“Immediately, activists who clearly believe themselves to be good, kind and progressive people swarmed back into my timeline, assuming a right to police my speech, accuse me of hatred, call me misogynistic slurs and, above all — as every woman involved in this debate will know —TERF.”
The term, which Rowling addresses at length, stands for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist.
She goes on to outline five reasons why she is “deeply concerned about the consequences of the current trans activism” and why she decided “I need to speak up.”
Her concerns include how the movement will affect her charitable work that mostly focuses on women because “it’s pushing to erode the legal definition of sex and replace it with gender,” the issue of free speech and how transitioning to another gender is affecting young women.
“I’m concerned about the huge explosion in young women wishing to transition and also about the increasing numbers who seem to be detransitioning (returning to their original sex), because they regret taking steps that have, in some cases, altered their bodies irrevocably, and taken away their fertility,” she writes.
She even goes so far as to insinuate that being trans is a choice — and that she would have chosen to transition to male if she was born later.
“The writings of young trans men reveal a group of notably sensitive and clever people. The more of their accounts of gender dysphoria I’ve read, with their insightful descriptions of anxiety, dissociation, eating disorders, self-harm and self-hatred, the more I’ve wondered whether, if I’d been born 30 years later, I too might have tried to transition,” she writes. “The allure of escaping womanhood would have been huge. I struggled with severe OCD as a teenager. If I’d found 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.”
She goes on to say that being a “woman is not a costume,” using the same phrasing as activists to put a stop to highly offensive cultural appropriation.
That brings her to the discussion of her own experience with domestic abuse and sexual assault after receiving her daughter’s consent.
“I’ve been in the public eye now for over twenty years and have never talked publicly about being a domestic abuse and sexual assault survivor,” she said. “I spent much of Saturday in a very dark place inside my head, as memories of a serious sexual assault I suffered in my twenties recurred on a loop. That assault happened at a time and in a space where I was vulnerable, and a man capitalized on an opportunity. I couldn’t shut out those memories and I was finding it hard to contain my anger and disappointment about the way I believe my government is playing fast and loose with women’s and girls’ safety.”
The screenwriter was married to Jorge Arantes from 1992 to 1995, and they had a daughter, Jessica Isabel Rowling Arantes, in July 1993. She is currently married to Neil Murray since 2001.
“I managed to escape my first violent marriage with some difficulty, but I’m now married to a truly good and principled man, safe and secure in ways I never in a million years expected to be. However, the scars left by violence and sexual assault don’t disappear, no matter how loved you are, and no matter how much money you’ve made,” she said.
Although she does not detail the assaults, she mentions how her “perennial jumpiness is a family joke” as a result.
Rowling ends her essay by asking readers to understand her point of view.
“I haven’t written this essay in the hope that anybody will get out a violin for me, not even a teeny-weeny one. I’m extraordinarily fortunate; I’m a survivor, certainly not a victim. I’ve only mentioned my past because, like every other human being on this planet, I have a complex backstory, which shapes my fears, my interests and my opinions. I never forget that inner complexity when I’m creating a fictional character and I certainly never forget it when it comes to trans people.”
She writes, “All I’m asking — all I want — is for similar empathy, similar understanding, to be extended to the many millions of women whose sole crime is wanting their concerns to be heard without receiving threats and abuse.”
The piece has already sparked huge backlash from critics online calling her transphobic.
“JK Rowling’s lasting legacy will not, it turns out, be the adventures of a troubled, scared, teenager trying to make sense of their life,” teacher and blogger Pete Wharmby tweeted. “Rather it will be making the lives of a lot of troubled, scared teenagers trying to make sense of their lives an awful lot f - - king worse.”
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