Disappointment and JK Rowling


JK Rowling recently tweeted some fairly transphobic things, which is perfect because it’s not like we were paying attention to anything else right now. There’s obviously never a good time to be transphobic, but it’s particularly bad when the Black Lives Matter movement is everywhere, making consistent news, and pushing for much needed progress.

Anyway if you are unaware and care to know more about the JKR thing any further than “she tweeted some transphobic things and that’s bad,” this Variety article sums it up. I recommend you do not read the comments, though.

So she’s been on the edge of TERFdom for some time now, or, that’s how I’ve been seeing it. A lot of trans people I follow or whose tweets are retweeted into my feed have considered her to be much more than on the edge of TERFdom for at least a year, and some thought so as early as a few years back. Obviously they were right and I should have listened, but I didn’t want to. I’ll admit it. It was uncomfortable to agree with them 100% that JKR was a TERF, because Harry Potter is important to me, and so is (was?) JK Rowling.

I’ve seen a lot of “who cares what she thinks?” This is totally understandable, both from people who don’t care that much about JKR or HP, and from people who have recognized that there are more important things going on than a white author lady and her weird transphobia, and of course the people who are both of those things.

So, yes, “who cares,” except, I do. Not because she was important to me (though, yes), but because HP is ingrained in the culture, JKR is a household name, and she is very influential, especially among young people and new generations of children. Why did she have to drink the transphobia poison? And while she’s not as bad as Graham Linehaaaaaaaaaaaaaaam (idk), yet, she’s more important than he is.

Also the stuff she retweeted and linked to was……….. bad. There was one article about a scared lesbian who is scared to be openly transphobic. Technically all it says is that she just doesn’t want to put her pronouns on all her emails, and the LGBT advocacy place she works for is OK with people NOT doing it, but she’s afraid people will notice her not doing it and there will be consequences.

There’s probably some nuance to find there. The article JKR tweeted didn’t have any. It was hyperbolic, to say the least. Don’t be like me and click on it, it is not worth your time, and JK Rowling, who is a talented writer of stories that depict and discuss bigotry, should have recognized it for what it was.

JKR clearly feels like she’s speaking up for a beleaguered group, made up of cis straight women, cis lesbians, and cis gay men, whose spaces of biological femaleness and/or same-sex attraction are under threat if we admit that gender and sex are more complicated than the male/female binary, x and y chromosomes, menstruation, and secondary sex characteristics. She isn’t, though. Everyone, cis, trans, gay, lesbian, bi, pan, ace, aro, intersex, straight, and so on is going to be fine if we listen to the science. The science, to sum up: biology is complicated. Of course it’s real and has lived consequences. A cis woman’s biology is a crucial part of her lived experience as a woman. A trans woman’s biology is ALSO a crucial part of her lived experience as a woman. These two things can be true, and many other truths about all types of gendered and sexual experiences can also be true, all at the same time, without erasing JKR’s or anyone else’s womanhood.

The self-righteousness of JKR and other cis women and men like her stops them from introspecting and realizing this. After all, if JKR really is speaking truths that her butch lesbian friend feels enthusiastically vindicated by, why should she stop?

I have the answer! It’s because when you read some of the threads started by this “discourse,” you see some vile shit. Maybe JKR states that she loves and supports trans people and will march with them IF they’re discriminated against (babe. come on), but many of the people celebrating her “brave free speech” are not similarly benevolent. They say things like “trans women are not real women” and “trans men menstruate because they’re women, only women menstruate,” and “woke SJW trash 57 gender bullshit,” etc, etc, etc. JKR is not on the right side of this argument, and she’d know that if she were truly paying attention, but she won’t. First, because she’ll continue to feel vindicated by the mass amounts of TERFs and TERFy people out there in the wilds of the internet and real life who will reward her every time she does some TERF stuff in public. Second, because honestly, it’s clear she doesn’t care that much.

How incredibly disappointing.

It’s wrong to expect perfection of your role models but FFS, this is not that. We can expect them to have common decency and to learn and grow. Will JKR be like James Potter and get over her tendency to pick on those already vulnerable and feel remorse, or will she be like Snape, forever stagnant and self-righteously indignant at the suggestion that she should not keep mobilizing her power and influence against a vulnerable group because of the relatively minor abuse* she’s caught in the past?

IIIIIIIII bet it’s the second one.

Here’s further reading by Katie Montgomerie, which is crucial if you’re not understanding the problems with what JKR said.

Specifically, this: “It is an attempt to create a false dichotomy between supporting trans rights and just agreeing with the entire field of biology. The argument is “If we call trans women women, then we can’t discuss sexism against women or sexuality”, but in fact the truth is the exact opposite. Trans women face misogynistic sexism and sexual violence for being women every day. Trans lesbians face structural and street homophobia/lesphobia across the world. Both of those are observable facts. After all, does a sexist abuser ask to see your original birth certificate before sexually harassing you? No. And if we aren’t allowed to describe that reality then how can we address these problems?”

*I personally don’t like some of the rhetoric, but it doesn’t matter much. I don’t want to tone police, because I’d much rather TERFs got over themselves and didn’t say their TERF things that then get the violent rhetoric responses in the first place.

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