We the Mudbloods: J. K. Rowling and the Trans-Exterminationists (Book 3)

Previously: J. K. Rowling and the Trans-Exterminationists, Book 2

Zinnia JonesRowling goes on to cite her own experience with domestic violence and sexual assault as representative of “huge numbers of women” who supposedly share her views:

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. . . . I’m mentioning these things now not in an attempt to garner sympathy, but out of solidarity with the huge numbers of women who have histories like mine, who’ve been slurred as bigots for having concerns around single-sex spaces.

This suggests that there is a natural progression from women experiencing abuse and assault at the hands of men, to these women opposing trans women’s access to single-sex spaces. It is unlikely that such a general effect exists. RAINN provides statistics showing that 1 in 6 American women have experienced rape or attempted rape during their lifetime, while 1 in 33 American men have experienced rape or attempted rape. More women than men are subjected to intimate partner violence as well. However, surveys consistently find that women are substantially more supportive of trans people and trans rights than men.

In a 2019 PRRI poll, more women than men – 68% to 57% – said they would be comfortable having a transgender person as a close friend. And while 51% of men were in favor of requiring trans people to use restrooms according to their assigned sex at birth, only 40% of women agreed with this. A similar gender gap, with a majority of women and only a minority of men supporting restroom use according to self-identified gender, was found in a 2017 Gallup poll, a 2019 Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll survey, a 2016 Pew Research Center survey, and a 2016 Reuters/Ipsos poll. And in a 2018 Northern Ireland survey, a majority of women were comfortable with trans people changing their legal sex and trans women using domestic violence refuges. None of this supports the notion that viewing trans women as too dangerous to use single-sex spaces is an expected and commonplace result of being abused by men.

Despite this, Rowling feels that allowing trans women to use women’s restrooms or changing rooms is tantamount to unleashing Salazar Slytherin’s basilisk:

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.

Numerous jurisdictions explicitly protect trans people from anti-trans discrimination in the use of public accommodations such as restrooms and changing rooms, and these laws and policies have not been followed by an influx of predatory men invading women’s spaces. It is already not a common practice (if this is even practiced anywhere) to require presenting an ID, a birth certificate, or in the case of the UK, a gender recognition certificate, before one can walk into a public restroom, changing room, or dressing room appropriate to one’s gender. Women’s domestic and sexual violence services across the UK have likewise explicitly stated that there are no issues with providing refuge to trans women, there are no requirements for a legal gender recognition certificate as a precondition to accessing services, and there are already risk assessment processes in place to screen out individuals who could pose a danger. Yet Rowling feels it’s important to warn us that terrible things are sure to follow if we do something that’s already been taking place without causing any actual problems.

And on the subject of terrible things:

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 indifference to the lives and well-being of trans youth displays a stunning degree of callousness that completely undermines any of her claims to care about these children. The post by Evans links to a publication that says nothing about suicide at any point, but suppose we do grant for the sake of argument that transitioning is not associated with any change in rates of completed suicide among trans people (even as suicidal ideation and suicidal behaviors are known to be elevated among trans people, and these are predictive for future risk of completed suicide). The presence of suicidality and suicidal ideation is itself a problem – these constitute harms even if they do not lead to completed suicide. Being distressed to the point of wanting to end your life is a serious harm experienced by anyone, cis or trans, who is suicidal: “As a part of or independent from mental illness, most individuals contemplating suicide will have considerable emotional distress” (Welton, 2007). Those who survive suicide attempts can suffer permanent injury and disability as a result of the attempt.

I should not have to explain to another adult that wanting to die and trying to kill yourself are not good for you. Rowling, on the other hand, echoes the protestations of a defense attorney in Robocop: “Attempted murder? It’s not like he killed someone!” It’s all the more baffling that she elsewhere describes “young trans men” as “a group of notably sensitive and clever people” and praises “their accounts of gender dysphoria I’ve read, with their insightful descriptions of anxiety, dissociation, eating disorders, self-harm and self-hatred”. There is no consistent principle in being attentive to these clearly harmful experiences while dismissing suicidality and suicide attempts as unimportant and irrelevant. Does she care about trans youth when they’re suffering, or only when they’re dead?

Perhaps she cares about them only when they’re cis:

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.

We know that parents typically prefer to have a cis child rather than a trans child – and we know that this is just one of the many, many things about trans youth and transitioning that Rowling does not know. How is she in any way qualified to “believe” with any meaningful certainty that she “could have been persuaded” that she was actually an entirely different gender? What would have persuaded her – an Imperius curse from my highly infectious blog? How does she know that the clinicians evaluating her would have concluded that she had gender dysphoria and that medical transition was advisable for her? How does she know that she would have been so convinced of this that she would wait at least two years just for a first appointment at Tavistock and Portman? If, at the end of all that, she was approved for treatment, how does she know she wouldn’t be in the 3.5% of youth who discontinued puberty blockers without pursuing any gender transition?

And if, ultimately, she did go on to transition and live as a trans man, how does she know this would have been bad? Studies of trans youth who transition consistently show remission of gender dysphoria, improvement of mental health symptoms (including suicidality), greater well-being and quality of life – and no reports of regret. There is nothing that supports a scenario where gender clinics are actually packed full of little cis J. K. Rowlings headed down the wrong path of unnecessary transition. Rowling certainly isn’t the first one to assert that she might have transitioned in some alternate universe – such vague guesses are a mainstay of anti-trans rhetoric, and they’re invariably rooted in arguments that are about as solid as “because I had OCD”. If she had taken a moment to consider that perhaps trans people’s transitions are not about her, the cis protagonist of reality, she might have noticed the story this really tells: there were trans people 30 years ago who did not have to “wonder” anything; they would have benefited from receiving these treatments in adolescence but were unable to access them. How can imaginary overtreatment be more concerning than this real undertreatment? I would have benefited immensely from the prompt recognition and treatment of my gender dysphoria in the early 2000s at the onset of puberty, but the community around me had none of the necessary knowledge to identify this and none of today’s treatments were yet available. There are trans youth who lack access to these crucial resources even now.

What does Rowling have to offer trans kids? “Deep concerns” about what their rights will do to the safety of children, apparently:

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.

On the subject of safeguarding children, and the interaction of transness with these safeguarding protocols and processes, we might look at what the Cumbria Safeguarding Children Partnership has to say about supporting transgender young people. Their guidelines recommend:

  • “Provide transgender-friendly role models and mentors.”
  • “Allow transgender young people to express their gender identity.”
  • “Use young people’s preferred names and pronouns.”
  • “Ensure transgender young people have access to trained medical and mental health care.”

Or we could look at the guidance of the Havering Local Safeguarding Children Board: “No child should be made to feel that they are the ones who are causing problems”; “Avoid seeing the child as a problem and instead see an opportunity to enrich the school community and to challenge gender stereotypes and norms on a wider scale”; “Trust the young person, what they are presenting is their reality at this time”; “school should be their safe space”; “Equalities should be embedded in the curriculum, and gender should be covered along with other protected characteristics”; and “Protect the privacy and dignity of trans pupils in the same way that you would any pupil, and never gossip about them to third parties”.

Now compare the approach to child safeguarding taken by Transgender Trend, one of the websites from which respondents were recruited for Littman’s “rapid onset gender dysphoria” study. Stephanie Davies-Arai, the founder of Transgender Trend, has stated that a trans child’s parents should be informed of the child’s gender identity immediately if the child comes out at school. Child protection consultants subsequently clarified that outing a trans child to their parents could itself be a “child protection issue” and potentially a criminal offense, and risks putting that child in danger; Stephanie Davies-Arai is a sculptor with no qualifications relevant to child protection. Transgender Trend also released its own document of Davies-Arai’s notions of “guidance” for schools, which the LGBT charity Stonewall said was “packed with factually inaccurate content” and “actively encourages schools to take steps that risk them falling foul of their legal duties and duty of care to pupils”.

Yet again, Rowling has ended up heading in the exact opposite direction from reality. Actual safeguarding concerns regarding trans youth involve protecting their safety, equality, and privacy, and at no point is it stated that trans children pose any danger to their peers. Meanwhile, Rowling has aligned herself with unqualified organizations that call for actively endangering the safety of trans children, in contravention of all safeguarding guidance, while Rowling herself threatens legal action against a Twitter user who said that she “can no longer be trusted around children”. There are indeed “deep concerns” about child safeguarding here – deep concerns about Rowling and what she implicitly advocates.

But let’s hear out her other concerns:

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.

I’m mentioning these things now not in an attempt to garner sympathy, but I’ve just spent the past week in the hospital with my wife Heather after she had multiple strokes and procedures to treat this. The particular kind of stroke she had is an uncommon one, and is noted to occur with a markedly greater frequency among AFABs than AMABs, with a potential connection to hormonal states such as oral contraceptive use, hormone replacement therapy use, and pregnancy. As a trans woman, the fact of health conditions with variable predispositions and presentations according to aspects of biological sex is neither unfamiliar nor objectionable to me. As Heather’s partner of nine years, I spent 11 hours a day with her in the ICU, only having to leave at nights because of restrictions due to coronavirus in the state of Florida. I stayed mere feet away from her for as much of those days as possible, taking timestamped notes of every test, result, and medication. I wrote down everything we were told by the dozens of medical professionals caring for her. I asked them countless questions, double- and triple-checking that she was receiving the appropriate care, and making sure that every person was up to speed on her case history. I did this because I did not want there to be even a chance that anything would be missed, or that we would fail to catch something that might make a difference. My wife is home and alive now because of their lifesaving care.

If there had been any aspect of her case and her treatment that touched on a disjunction involving “the legal definition of sex” and its alleged replacement with gender, I would not have allowed anyone caring for her to remain unaware of those relevant details. But such a conflict, with definitions of legal sex and/or gender somehow compromising the quality of medical research or care, is an illusory one. Multiple sclerosis is indeed a condition that varies in its prevalence and course of disease by assigned sex. Researchers have examined the medical aspects of this disparity in detail, which potentially involves hormonal differences as well as “genetic and epigenetic differences, nervous system and immune response differences, and possibly sex-based human microbiota differences”. These researchers appear to be fully aware of these many complexities, and unlikely to be stopped cold by features of case histories such as assigned sex, hormonal treatment, or surgical history. I’ve personally heard back from one MS organization which clarified that “trans activism” has not at all posed an impediment to their work, and that they assist many trans people who have MS. Are we to believe that Rowling has chosen to give $19 million to a multiple sclerosis organization only for it to be staffed with researchers whose work is hopelessly stymied because they’re baffled by basic medical histories? To accuse trans people of interfering with necessary medical care for those with serious conditions, or claim that our rights and equality will cause harm to those suffering from MS, is baseless and disgusting.

But wait, there’s more that’s baseless and disgusting:

For people who don’t know: last December 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.

This glosses over a great deal of important detail on Forstater’s beliefs and the extent of the protection she sought for them. This was not the abstract and vague idea of “sex is determined by biology” that Rowling portrays it as; in practical terms, Forstater wanted her insistence on misgendering trans people to be considered a protected philosophical belief even if this created an “intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment” for those working with her. The right she sought was the “right” to create a hostile work environment for trans people – if this had been affirmed, it would have opened the door to all manner of openly bigoted behavior in the workplace being protected as a “philosophical belief”. As Oxford’s Human Rights Hub states, Forstater’s belief was found to be “incompatible with others’ dignity and fundamental rights”. Forstater’s tweets regarding pronouns and misgendering provide a more detailed look at her beliefs than simply “sex is determined by biology”. One of her tweets, referenced in the employment tribunal’s judgment, approvingly linked to an article which made the following claims:

Pronouns are Rohypnol. They change our perception, lower our defences, make us react differently, alter the reality in front of us . . . . They’re meant to. They numb us. They confuse us. They remove our instinctive safety responses. They work.

For some reason, Rowling did not feel the need to describe Forstater’s position as a philosophical belief that not misgendering a trans person is tantamount to acquiescing to being drugged in the course of someone attempting to rape you. Rowling elsewhere states that she “supports projects for female prisoners and for survivors of domestic and sexual abuse” – would even one of those projects agree with the claim that failing to misgender a trans person is equivalent, or even comparable, to being drugged and raped? Nor did Rowling go into any meaningful detail about this individual:

Months later, I compounded my accidental ‘like’ crime by following Magdalen Berns 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.

Magdalen Berns chose to spend her precious time on this earth calling trans women “fucking blackface actors” and “men who get sexual kicks from being treated like women” while blaming a Jewish billionaire for the recognition of trans rights. Nothing about this requires any bravery, let alone an immense degree of it. Are we meant to be grateful that J. K. Rowling was able to learn so much from this bright spark before her untimely passing? Anyone can be “a great believer in the importance of biological sex” when some aspect of biological sex is actually important to one issue or another. The MS researchers Rowling funds are surely great believers in the importance of biological sex. The neurosurgeons, neurologists, hematologists, and other ICU staff who saved Heather’s life are great believers in the importance of biological sex. I’m a great believer in the importance of biological sex. But in none of these cases does this therefore entail calling trans women “fucking blackface actors” with “dirty fucking perversions”. Magdalen Berns was a great believer in the latter kind of behavior, but Rowling can’t bring herself to care about the “level of social media abuse” that she herself is enacting by endorsing such a person – it’s all about her.

And that’s the thread that runs through every one of Rowling’s supposed “concerns”. It’s hard to see how the lives of trans people could be any more unimportant to her. Rowling says “Trans people need and deserve protection”, yet as soon as we so much as use a changing room, we become the faceless and threatening “any man who says they identify as a woman”. She says she has “nothing but empathy and solidarity with trans women who’ve been abused by men”, but if a trans woman should ever seek refuge from an abusive partner, her need to access the services offered by women’s shelters is now having “a significant impact on many of the causes I support”. She says “of course trans rights are human rights and of course trans lives matter”, until we need to use the bathroom, at which point we apparently “throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman”. She says “None of the gender critical women I’ve talked to hates trans people”; to Rowling, calling trans women “fucking blackface actors” does not fall under hatred toward us. She describes young trans men as “a group of notably sensitive and clever people”, who are apparently not clever enough to know their own genders better than cis woman J. K. Rowling knows their genders. She says “the majority of trans-identified people not only pose zero threat to others, but are vulnerable for all the reasons I’ve outlined”, then approvingly cites the work of a researcher who describes the very act of trans people befriending and talking with each other as dangerous and pathological.

To Rowling, not only should we be forced to live lives so tightly circumscribed that we cannot even use public restrooms or try on clothes for fear that someone may get raped, or access domestic violence services when fleeing an abusive partner, or even talk to one another about our lives and our experiences. No, there should be fewer of us living our lives altogether – much, much fewer. The converse of finding a 4,400% increase in our numbers to be dismaying and anomalous is finding a 98% reduction in the trans population to be comforting and appropriate. Rowling endorses “a long and rigorous process of evaluation, psychotherapy and staged transformation”, while opposing those who allegedly support “a removal of almost all the robust systems through which candidates for sex reassignment were once required to pass”. Trans youth now have to wait for two years just for a first appointment for evaluation at the Tavistock and Portman gender clinic, with any possible treatment only being given months or years later – how rigorous and robust of a system is Rowling looking for? One rigorous enough that it would turn away 98% of the trans people who’ve now transitioned and are happily going about their lives? I have thousands of trans friends online and all I can think about when I read her essay is how many of us she believes shouldn’t be there at all. Which of the amazing people I’ve met should be missing? Whose presence in our lives is considered disposable to some cis person who doesn’t know any one of us?

Which George must be left without his Fred?

And yet it is Rowling whose isolation is already guaranteed: every group she attempts to hide behind to justify her anti-trans prejudice wants nothing to do with her. Women are even more likely than men to support the rights of trans people to be recognized as their gender and access the corresponding single-sex spaces. Women’s refuges and domestic violence services have repeatedly made clear that their job is to help trans women in need, not treat them as a threat. Child safeguarding groups are steadfast in their mission to protect trans children, not endanger them. No major medical organizations are pushing for the adoption of any kind of radically stringent protocol intended to reduce dramatically the number of trans people who are able to access affirming treatment. No published literature on trans people’s identity development supports the existence of “rapid onset gender dysphoria”, and much contradicts it. Multiple sclerosis researchers have not found that transgender rights are jeopardizing their work in any way. Autistic trans people have been vocal in objecting to her insulting and ableist suggestion that they are too incompetent to know their own gender. And gays, lesbians, and bisexuals are unlikely to sympathize with the transphobes whose attitudes go hand-in-hand with homophobia.

J. K. Rowling wanted to produce the illusion of an army of support for her hate. The truth is that, at the end of it all, she is utterly, completely alone.

Harry glanced over his shoulder to where the small, maimed creature trembled under the chair.

“What is that, Professor?”

“Something that is beyond either of our help,” said Dumbledore.

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About Zinnia Jones

My work focuses on insights to be found across transgender sociology, public health, psychiatry, history of medicine, cognitive science, the social processes of science, transgender feminism, and human rights, taking an analytic approach that intersects these many perspectives and is guided by the lived experiences of transgender people. I live in Orlando with my family, and work mainly in technical writing.
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