A point-by-point analysis of JK Rowling’s bloated article.
Firstly, be under no illusion that this will be a balanced, calm and moderate piece of writing. This is written with anger, in a state of exhaustion and with bias — the bias of being intimately aware of all the nuances of the topic and how manipulative of the actual facts Rowling is being in her “Answers” essay.
This will not answer all of the questions about trans people that “gender criticals” have, nor is it rigorous in citations — there are some, but I have not bothered to link every piece of research you can find with a simple google search. Another limitation is that I have probably failed to be comprehensive in distinguishing between trans people who feel gender dysphoria and those who don’t, and I have probably failed to mention non binary individuals as much as I probably should have. There are also grammatical errors, I’m sure. Like I said, this was not written with the highest journalistic standard in mind; this was written in an hour as a stream of consciousness with very little editing and with very much emotion and impolite language. I feel that adds to the piece rather than detracts from it: these refutations of her claims come very easily from someone at all knowledgeable about LGBTQ+ people. It’s not difficult to pick holes in this shitty essay, even while tired.
Please read more from people more eloquent than me this Pride month. Don’t take this angry essay as representative of the trans community. My opinions are only my own.
Also, though this is written like I’m speaking to her, I am not hopeful that my words will change her mind. It is more aimed at those on the fence, who are unsure why Rowling is wrong. I hope to explain a bit to them.
With that stated, quotes lifted from Rowling will be in bold headings. My own words in the text underneath each heading.
I tweeted my support for Maya Forstater, a tax specialist who’d lost her job for what were deemed ‘transphobic’ tweets. She took her case to an employment tribunal, asking the judge to rule on whether a philosophical belief that sex is determined by biology is protected in law. Judge Tayler ruled that it wasn’t.
They were irrefutably transphobic tweets. It is possible to talk about the protection of women and single sex spaces without repeatedly calling trans women “men”. She was enormously disrespectful and hostile. Freedom of speech is not freedom from consequence: her employer decided that her insulting views and the way she presented them were incompatible with the ethos (and brand image) of their company, and so they did not renew her contract. Moreover, the judge of the tribunal concluded that her belief: that sex is biologically immutable and, under no circumstances, is a trans woman ‘a woman’ or a trans man ‘a man’, even when the person in question has a Gender Recognition Certificate under the Gender Recognition Act 2004, was incompatible with others’ dignity. It was the absolutist nature of her comments and lack of respect for others which caused the tribunal to rule against her, not her gender critical leanings. Basically, don’t be a dick in the workplace. (Some of that summary is lifted from the text of the tribunal, with editorialising by me.)
I’ve met trans people, and read sundry books, blogs and articles by trans people, gender specialists, intersex people, psychologists, safeguarding experts, social workers and doctors, and followed the discourse online and in traditional media.
Petition to replace the wry statement of “I have a black friend” to represent how bigots speak with “I’ve met trans people”. But seriously: just because you know some people and have read some things does not mean you know what you’re talking about. This reads like anti-vaxxers who claim to have “done the research”. You haven’t.
That single ‘like’ was deemed evidence of wrongthink, and a persistent low level of harassment began. Months later, I compounded my accidental ‘like’ crime by following Magdalen Burns (sic) on Twitter. Magdalen was an immensely brave young feminist and lesbian who was dying of an aggressive brain tumour. I followed her because I wanted to contact her directly, which I succeeded in doing. However, as Magdalen was a great believer in the importance of biological sex, and didn’t believe lesbians should be called bigots for not dating trans women with penises, dots were joined in the heads of twitter trans activists, and the level of social media abuse increased.
Many “gender critical” people like to use terms like thoughtcrime and wrongthink, referencing Nineteen Eighty-Four. I think they think they’re being witty. I wonder if they’re aware that the alt-right use this term too, in defence of their rhetoric. They like to frame the left as authoritarian in its zero tolerance of hatred and discrimination — in its protection of vulnerable people — and frame their own points of view as harmless exploration of alternative ways of thinking. I think even JK Rowling would agree that the alt-right is far from harmless. In the same way, the repeated misgendering and ostracisation of trans people is also harmful.
In addition, the characterisation of Magdalen Berns as merely a brave feminist is incredibly dishonest. The viewing of any of her YouTube videos reveals the levels of vitriol and bigotry. She was proudly anti-trans and anti-sex worker. Please, JK, be truthful in your assessments of others.
While we’re at it, stop trying to speak for lesbians in general — you aren’t one.
Ironically, radical feminists aren’t even trans-exclusionary — they include trans men in their feminism, because they were born women.
That is not including trans people. That is specifically misgendering trans men. You have missed the point. These TERFs do not believe trans men to be men, they believe them to be misguided women (and how patronising is that?) and therefore not men at all.
But accusations of TERFery have been sufficient to intimidate many people, institutions and organisations I once admired, who’re cowering before the tactics of the playground. ‘They’ll call us transphobic!’ ‘They’ll say I hate trans people!’ What next, they’ll say you’ve got fleas? Speaking as a biological woman, a lot of people in positions of power really need to grow a pair (which is doubtless literally possible, according to the kind of people who argue that clownfish prove humans aren’t a dimorphic species).
The desire by many institutions to move with the times and listen to trans voices (particularly in Pride month, Jo, take note…) is not cowardly. It is decent. It is, in fact, in compliance with anti-discrimination laws. Your flippant misrepresentation of the arguments people use to talk about the recent discoveries in sex and gender by scientists in those fields of study is frankly enraging. Scientists know that sex is not just about chromosomes, and that gender is sometimes incongruent with sex. You can google this and find many varied and fascinating discussions about how our previous assumptions of sexual dimorphism are overly-simplistic and reductive. The science of sex is more than what you learn in primary school, Rowling.
I also fund medical research into MS, a disease that behaves very differently in men and women. It’s been clear to me for a while that the new trans activism is having (or is likely to have, if all its demands are met) a significant impact on many of the causes I support, because it’s pushing to erode the legal definition of sex and replace it with gender.
Even if all these apparent demands are met, that would not change medical definitions or the practical categorisation of people for healthcare reasons. Trans men still attend cervical screening appointments if they still have a cervix, they just aren’t called a woman by the nurse while they’re there. Trans women still attend medical appointments relevant to their genitals, they just aren’t called men while they’re there. Research into the implications of sex on disease will still happen. Ironically, Jo, the updated understanding of what sex is will benefit our understanding of disease, as sex is more complicated than our chromosomes and can in fact encompass our response to disease. So sit down and stop panicking about things which nobody has said will happen.
The second reason is that I’m an ex-teacher and the founder of a children’s charity, which gives me an interest in both education and safeguarding. Like many others, I have deep concerns about the effect the trans rights movement is having on both.
Part of safeguarding is to protect trans children. But go on…
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.
There’s a weird obsession with fertility in gender critical circles, as though a woman’s reproductive potential is paramount. It’s concerning to anybody truly feminist. But regardless, my real point to highlight here is that there is currently research being done into why there are now more trans men being diagnosed, and the consensus seems to be that it is because being trans is more acceptable now, meaning fewer are scared to come forward, and previously “tomboys” were overlooked by society whereas “boys in dresses” were more… deviant. And therefore more likely to be put in front of child psychologists and “fixed”. It isn’t because young girls are being taught to be trans — it’s because of visibility. Your assertions are the same line of thinking as kids being exposed to gays causing there to be more gay kids, a ludicrous suggestion and the thinking behind the much loathed Section 28. How do you like standing with Thatcher, Rowling?
The UK has experienced a 4400% increase in girls being referred for transitioning treatment. Autistic girls are hugely overrepresented in their numbers.
Even if that number is true — I’m unsure about that — it is misleading because many of these small studies involve patients in the tens (in number of cases of trans children) to the hundreds. So of course the increase would be a large % increase. If the number of cases goes from 5 to 50 that’s a large % increase (900% increase), but it’s still only 45 more people, and you have to think about how many people there are in the general population, how much the general population has grown, the reasons people feel safe to come forward, etc. There isn’t an explosion of cases. That’s stupid.
The implication that autistics don’t know their own mind is also deeply troubling.
‘Parents online were describing a very unusual pattern of transgender-identification where multiple friends and even entire friend groups became transgender-identified at the same time. I would have been remiss had I not considered social contagion and peer influences as potential factors.’
Oh lovely, a quote by Lisa Littman. Trans people typically meet the mention of her name with an eyeroll. But this quote is particularly bullshit. Parents can’t be trusted to talk about their children’s identity in an unbiased way. Particularly not if that identity is the focus of bigotry and abuse. These parents might be transphobic and pushing anecdotal accounts which are lies in order to preserve this myth of a trans cult taking their baby away from them.
Put this narrative in the context of gay kids: “All his friends came out as gay at the same time. It’s suspicious. They’re all being turned by all the f*gs on the TV nowadays.” To that hypothetical parent: Maybe your kid sought out friends who shared traits with them, as communities tend to stick together for solidarity. Maybe you only found out about them coming out later, because you’re a homophobe and nobody wanted to tell you, so have interpreted it as them all doing it at the same time when actually you’re late to the party by several years. Or maybe the representation in media made kids feel safer to be themselves, unfortunately for them with you as a parent. See how we can’t trust parents in some situations? See how many people cannot grasp cause and effect? Or correlation not causation?
Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria…
Debunked. Based on a paper by Littman that was entirely based on reports from parents — and I just explained why this is flawed. Panned not only by trans activists but by others in medical research. Read about it here and here. Citing this study is akin to citing Andrew Wakefield.
If Buzzfeed and the Guardian Opinion pieces don’t sway you, just read the deeply flawed study itself, or consult gender specialists who disagree with Littman and listen to their reasons.
Her paper caused a furore. She was accused of bias and of spreading misinformation about transgender people, subjected to a tsunami of abuse and a concerted campaign to discredit both her and her work. The journal took the paper offline and re-reviewed it before republishing it. However, her career took a similar hit to that suffered by Maya Forstater.
Oh shut up. Rigorous peer review is not abuse, it’s part of science. It was criticised by scientists because it was a flawed study. Christ…
The argument of many current trans activists is that if you don’t let a gender dysphoric teenager transition, they will kill themselves. In an article explaining why he resigned from the Tavistock (an NHS gender clinic in England) psychiatrist Marcus Evans stated that claims that children will kill themselves if not permitted to transition do not ‘align substantially with any robust data or studies in this area. Nor do they align with the cases I have encountered over decades as a psychotherapist.’
This is wrong. There are many studies that detail suicide attempts among trans teenagers. Just google it. Please. One small google search will yield many papers. Do not take Marcus Evans’ word for it. (Article on him incoming — stay tuned.)
It’s obvious Jo is just regurgitating what she’s read on anti-trans blogs, which lie, and name dropping gender critical medical professionals who are notorious for having profound biases (they lie too).
The writings of young trans men reveal a group of notably sensitive and clever people.
This sounds like the start of a backhanded compliment…
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. 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.
Ah yes, “they just don’t know any better! They don’t want to be women because who would????” Well, the trans feminine phenomenon flies in the face of this. But also, researchers have found no link between parental relationships and being trans. The idea that it’s got something to do with moulding yourself into something an unloving parent can love has been debunked. This study shows that one of the best predictors of persistence of trans identity from childhood to adulthood is a belief and an insistence that one “is” the gender they claim they are, not that one “wants to be” that gender. There are plenty who go through a phase of wanting to be something they aren’t. There are not many that insist they are, and continue to insist it for years. Trans teens are not playing wish-fulfillment, they are stating their identities and to write that off as naïve nonsense does the youth that you just praised as intelligent a great disservice.
…it’s fine not to feel pink, frilly and compliant inside your own head…
This hints at a misunderstanding of gender. Trans people aren’t simply individuals that don’t fit society’s mould of what male and female is; in hobbies and haircuts and all that bullshit. It’s about what you feel you are innately, and often what you feel your body should look like. There are loads of trans women that enjoy football, and trans men that like high heels. It’s not about societal expectations. That same study I linked above, as well as countless others, talks about the difference between societal norms and gender dysphoria. Especially in “natal girls” who identified as trans men later in life, playing with boys’ toys or whatever was not an accurate predictor of whether one was trans or not. Saying they’re a boy was though.
Also, it’s fine to not know your identity as a kid, to feel sexless. Some people work it out by age 3, some by age 60. It’s all fine. But to write kids off as not possibly being able to know is wrong; trans activists just want to foster respect for kids’ identities and medical practices that allow them the time to figure it out without judgement.
I want to be very clear here: I know transition will be a solution for some gender dysphoric people, although I’m also aware through extensive research that studies have consistently shown that between 60–90% of gender dysphoric teens will grow out of their dysphoria.
Teens or preteens? The stats are different. Besides, these 2 things are not incompatible. The treatments or therapies that people under 16 receive are reversible, you can grow out of it without consequences. And by 16 we trust kids in the UK to get confidential medical treatment without input from parents in all other fields of medicine, so why not gender transition?
Again and again I’ve been told to ‘just meet some trans people.’ I have: in addition to a few younger people, who were all adorable, I happen to know a self-described transsexual woman who’s older than I am and wonderful. Although she’s open about her past as a gay man, I’ve always found it hard to think of her as anything other than a woman, and I believe (and certainly hope) she’s completely happy to have transitioned.
“Adorable.” Fuck off. But also, cool. You have a trans friend. That doesn’t mean you know all trans people, or even someone who is representative of the trans experience. It’s possible that your older trans friend has internalised a lot of transphobia. Likely, even. Some trans folks who stand with transphobes are bootlickers that desperately want validation from cis feminists like you. They crave your approval. Much like anti-feminist women who want men to like them, or black police officers who do not stand with the BLM protestors, there are always bootlickers. I don’t want to characterise all older, gender critical trans folks as that, but I must acknowledge that they do exist and you, Jo Rowling, might have surrounded yourself with an echo chamber of them.
Being older, though, she went through a long and rigorous process of evaluation, psychotherapy and staged transformation. The current explosion of trans activism is urging a removal of almost all the robust systems through which candidates for sex reassignment were once required to pass.
Young trans people go through this too! It takes years to be seen by a gender clinic, and still longer to get the approval for treatment. Trans activists want this process to be easier, to comply with the internationally supported notion that it’s cruel to artificially impose long waits on people for treatment (imagine having a broken leg and waiting years for treatment, or depression… oh wait), to increase funding to gender clinics, to make sure training includes the notion that there’s not only one pathway to being trans, there are as many presentations as there are people, as it’s an intensely personal process. Very few advocate no checks at all.
A man who intends to have no surgery and take no hormones may now secure himself a Gender Recognition Certificate and be a woman in the sight of the law. Many people aren’t aware of this.
And this claim is ludicrous. The removal of stipulations that require a medical transition are to make sure people that can’t safely take medication or go under the knife because of health conditions aren’t discriminated against. They still have to prove they socially transitioned, with the intent for this to be permanent. Whether or not you think that there should be hoops to jump through to being recognised by the law is irrelevant — the fact of the matter is that you are very very unlikely to be granted a GRC if you have no transition at all. Questions will be asked, and you will have to rigorously defend your answers. For fuck’s sake, many people who have completely transitioned physically are denied GRCs for arbitrary reasons, and they have to go through a humiliating appeals process. They aren’t just handing them out easily to anyone who asks.
Rowling, some simple research beyond what the blogs feed to you can tell you this. I have to conclude you were too lazy to actually ask those questions, as to characterise you as purposefully lying is perhaps premature.
We’re living through the most misogynistic period I’ve experienced.
Everywhere, women are being told to shut up and sit down, or else.
You’re being told to do that by many cis and trans women as well as men. It’s not misogynistic to tell you you’re talking out of your arse.
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. It’s also clear that one of the objectives of denying the importance of sex is to erode what some seem to see as the cruelly segregationist idea of women having their own biological realities or — just as threatening — unifying realities that make them a cohesive political class. The hundreds of emails I’ve received in the last few days prove this erosion concerns many others just as much. It isn’t enough for women to be trans allies. Women must accept and admit that there is no material difference between trans women and themselves.
This is another lie. The backlash you have received online is not because cis and trans women have some different experiences — many trans women on twitter often have to repeat the statement that they know they don’t have periods or give birth to dense motherfuckers that think they’re saying they do. It’s just that there are a lot of shared experiences too: domestic abuse, rape, murder by misogynists, the media and its societal expectations, etc. And many TERFs claim that trans women cannot possibly comprehend these things that they experience daily because they didn’t have this much-touted mythological “girlhood”.
But, as many women have said before me, ‘woman’ is not a costume. ‘Woman’ is not an idea in a man’s head. ‘Woman’ is not a pink brain, a liking for Jimmy Choos or any of the other sexist ideas now somehow touted as progressive.
Nice implication that trans people are playing dress-up. Again, you misunderstand what being trans is. It’s not an interest in liking ‘boys’ things’ or ‘girls’ things’, or any other bullshit societal expectation. It’s feeling that you are the gender that you are. Gender clinics will make sure of that when they ask you why you think you’re trans — and they do that. They will tell you if you’re simply gender nonconforming, and they won’t diagnose you as trans. Stop misrepresenting what trans people and the doctors that treat them believe.
Moreover, the ‘inclusive’ language that calls female people ‘menstruators’ and ‘people with vulvas’ strikes many women as dehumanising and demeaning. I understand why trans activists consider this language to be appropriate and kind, but for those of us who’ve had degrading slurs spat at us by violent men, it’s not neutral, it’s hostile and alienating.
By the content of your recent tweets, you don’t understand. Imagine you are a trans man. You menstruate, though you wish you didn’t. You have to buy “feminine” products every month, tampons, etc. You have to attend cervical screenings, you have to have breast exams. To hear people call these “women’s’ issues” is intensely degrading and dehumanising. By referring to people as “people who menstruate” when we are talking about people who menstruate, we aren’t reducing cis women to a biological function in order to dehumanise her. That is a fear of yours but it is not the intention, nor is it supported by violent actions against women to reduce them in some way. It is merely a way to acknowledge that some women do not menstruate (cis or trans) and they are no less female because of that, and that some people who do not identify as women menstruate (trans men and nonbinary people), and they are not women.
Moreover, some will claim that trans activists want to remove the word “woman” from the lexicon. That is not true. You can talk about women when you’re talking about women. But when you’re talking about issues commonly but not exclusively experienced by women, it’s inaccurate to call them “women’s’ issues”. And it’s degrading to trans people to insist on doing so.
It costs you nothing to be considerate with your language.
If you could come inside my head and understand what I feel when I read about a trans woman dying at the hands of a violent man, you’d find solidarity and kinship.
I empathise with your stories about sexual assault and domestic violence. Many of us have experienced that, including so many trans people. You claim to empathise and yet you like and support people who refer to trans women as men in dresses, as deceitful tricksters and invaders. This narrative contributes to the deaths of these (in particular) trans women. (Mostly) cis men murder these women for “tricking them” into being sexually attracted to a man. Read about the trans panic legal defence. Educate yourself on the consequences of these words.
Trans people need and deserve protection. Like women, they’re most likely to be killed by sexual partners.
“Like cis women”, Jo. Stop separating women into “trans women” and “women”! It’s “trans women” and “cis women” if the subject of conversation requires a distinction. To make a distinction like you did implies that trans women are not real, legitimate women. This is what trans activists mean when they say TERFs treat trans women as other. It’s not because you acknowledge biological differences, it’s that you imply that these differences make you less of a woman.
So I want trans women to be safe. At the same time, I do not want to make natal girls and women less safe. 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.
So after thousands of words we finally get to the crux of the matter. Well, what if I said that what you’ve outlined that trans activists want already occurs and has done since the very start of humanity? We do not have bouncers on the doors of bathrooms demanding to see ID or genitals before entry. The same for changing rooms and other sex segregated spaces. They are all self-ID. And before anyone claims that they can always tell. No, you can’t. Cis women in bathrooms have been accused of being male perverts. How embarrassing for the TERFs, to be caught judging women based on their appearance…
The myth of the man who dresses up as a woman in order to gain access to women’s spaces is just that: a myth. It has never been supported statistically by thousands of years of self-identifying history.
Ground down by the relentless attacks from trans activists on social media, when I was only there to give children feedback about pictures they’d drawn for my book under lockdown…
You act like they were after you for no reason, when you brought the issue up yourself by copy-pasting some transphobic bullshit into the tweet about the drawing. Your mistake caused the messages you received. Take responsibility.
But endlessly unpleasant as its constant targeting of me has been, I refuse to bow down to a movement that I believe is doing demonstrable harm in seeking to erode ‘woman’ as a political and biological class and offering cover to predators like few before it.
No predators are being covered. The man who dresses up as a woman to target women doesn’t exist on a statistically visible level, and hasn’t become more prevalent since we started talking about gender identity. Your fears are just fears caused by trauma and reinforced by the lies TERFs feed to your scared brain, but it is unfair to punish and oppress trans people based on an unsubstantiated fear.
Also, where’s that “demonstrable” evidence of harm?
Polls show those women are in the vast majority, and exclude only those privileged or lucky enough never to have come up against male violence or sexual assault, and who’ve never troubled to educate themselves on how prevalent it is.
Fuck off. There are loads of women who have experienced extreme violence by men and yet still stand with trans activists. I’d wager most women, cis and trans, have experienced gendered violence, and yet they do not decide to oppress trans women because of it. Do not be so arrogant as to assume that you are enlightened by your abuse and that others who disagree are privileged protected lambs who do not know the true danger. Read accounts by other survivors who believe in trans rights, you insufferable fool.
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.
Their concerns are based on a wrong and harmful myth. They are not based in truth. It is unfair to give equal consideration to factually wrong things as factually correct things. We should not listen to antisemitic conspiracy theories, we should not listen to Trumpists that fear Mexicans, we should not listen to climate deniers. We should not listen to you.
So in conclusion:
Wow, Joanne. That was a lot of words to say you’re not very educated on this topic at all.
Edit: It has come to my attention that I didn’t even mention, in my fevered typing at 4am when I originally wrote this response, the fact that the 60–90% desistors myth is utter shite too. Here you go.