Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling defended her right to speak about trans issues without fear of abuse in an intensely personal essay in which she revealed painful details from her past. Picture: Carlo Allegri/Reuters
Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling defended her right to speak about trans issues without fear of abuse in an intensely personal essay in which she revealed painful details from her past. Picture: Carlo Allegri/Reuters

J.K. Rowling pens essay defending her right to speak on trans issues

By Estelle Shirbon Time of article published Jun 10, 2020

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London - Author J.K. Rowling defended her

right to speak about trans issues without fear of abuse in an

intensely personal essay in which she explained the complex

reasons for her interest in the subject, revealing painful

details from her past.

The Harry Potter creator has long been a target of criticism

by trans activists who have taken issue with some of her social

media posts. At times, the criticism has taken the form of

abusive language and threats of violence.

"I know it's time to explain myself on an issue surrounded

by toxicity," she wrote at the start of her essay, published on

her website on Wednesday. She said she had no desire to add to

that toxicity.

In the latest of several controversies, a post by Rowling in

which she criticised the use of the phrase "people who

menstruate" drew negative responses, including from Daniel

Radcliffe, who played Potter in a series of films.

Rowling, 54, explained in detail her research and beliefs on

trans issues, and the concerns she has about how women's rights

and some young people's lives were being impacted by some forms

of trans activism.

Some of the reasons for her interest were professional, but

some were rooted in personal experience.

"I've wondered whether, if I'd been born 30 years later, I

too might have tried to transition," she wrote. "The allure of

escaping womanhood would have been huge."

She said that as a teenager she had struggled with severe

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and that she now believes

that had she found community and sympathy online, she could have

been persuaded to turn herself into the boy her father said he

would have preferred.

Rowling also revealed that she was a survivor of domestic

abuse and sexual assault, and that the trauma of those

experiences informed some of her beliefs and feelings about

women's rights, and her fears that they were being eroded.

"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, offering solidarity and kinship to

trans women who had died at the hands of violent men.

"I have a visceral sense of the terror in which those trans

women will have spent their last seconds on earth, because I too

have known moments of blind fear when I realised that the only

thing keeping me alive was the shaky self-restraint of my

attacker."

Rowling said that she believed most trans people not only

posed zero threat to others but were vulnerable, and that they

deserved protection.

At the same time, she said, she did not want girls and women

to be less safe, and she gave some examples of where she thought

demands by trans people were dangerous to women.

"When you throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing

rooms to any man who believes or feels he's a woman ... then you

open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside."

Describing some of the abuse she had received -- including

being told she was "literally killing people with your hate" and

being compared with Voldemort, the villain of the Potter series,

Rowling said many women were terrified by trans activists.

"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," she said.

Addressing the specific issue of the use of phrases like

"people who menstruate" as a way of including trans women,

Rowling said such language was demeaning to many women.

"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."

Rowling said she had not written the essay in the hope that

anyone would get out a violin for her, and that she considered

herself extraordinarily fortunate.

"I’ve only mentioned my past because, like every other human

being on this planet, I have a complex back-story, 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.

"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."

Reuters

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