As the pandemic continues to take a devastating toll and anti-racism protests reminding the world that Black lives always matter, for some reason author J.K. Rowling thought it was wise to once again share her awful views in a series of anti-trans tweets.
Starting with a share of an article by the media platform Devex on menstrual health issues on Saturday, Rowling mocked the headline’s inclusive language, which was, “Creating a more equal post-COVID-19 world for people who menstruate,” and suggested the word “women” be used instead.
The 54-year-old writer went on to share several more anti-trans comments, such as those that erroneously framed other identities of the LGBTQ+ community as victimized by backlash against transphobia.
Many rightfully shut her down, with notable non-binary celebrities King Princess and Jonathan Van Ness taking the author to task. Others re-directed their frustration by making donations to sources benefitting Black and trans people.
Rowling has a long history of being terrible to marginalized communities. Not too long ago, the Harry Potter creator caught flak for defending a transphobe who faced consequences for her actions ― Maya Forstater lost her job as a researcher for anti-trans tweets. An employment judge later ruled that her commitment to misgendering others created a degrading environment, an approach “not worthy of respect in a democratic society.”
Although J.K. Rowling has never directly stated she is against trans rights, her rhetoric over the years has been described as “transphobic dog whistles” often employed by trans-exclusionary radical feminists, or TERFs; a group that at its core, sees womanhood as authentic only through a biological standpoint and has joined forces with ultra-conservative hate campaigns.
In the U.K., TERFs have gained traction in mainstream feminism; the Outline and the New York Times have ascribed this stronghold to the British Skepticism movement in the early 2000s, which ignores how history and culture affect scientific analysis. To these thinkers, concepts they decide are scientific, like gender essentialism, are more right than social theories, such as gender being a social construct.
Dog whistles are important to debunk, as they can hijack attempts at progress by hiding prejudice. We did that just that and broke down why Rowling’s tweets are misinformed:
Myth: Only women get periods
Gender isn’t the determining factor on whether someone bleeds monthly. Having a uterus that sheds its lining is. Inclusive terms like “people who menstruate” are scientifically correct, as many trans men and non-binary people are capable of having periods.
Watch: Always removes the Venus symbol to be gender-inclusive. Story continues below.
Trans women on gender-affirming hormones have reported period-like symptoms as well, with writers like Sam Riedel pushing the medical community to do further research on the phenomenon.
For TERFs, the ability to have periods is an essential part of being a woman, when in reality it’s just a biological process. Many cis women don’t menstruate, including those on birth control, those who are post-menopausal, and women with certain health conditions.
Menstrual health undeniably affects cisgender women and girls on an international scale, but organizations like UNICEF and Human Rights Watch employ a human rights framework that includes needs of other gender-marginalized people.
You can still be transphobic if your BFF is a lesbian
To critics who implored she talk to queer people and educate herself, Rowling defended herself by citing the approval receIved from a “self-described butch lesbian” friend of hers and also tweeted out an article by a cis lesbian who feels lesbians are under attack for being anti-trans.
Rowling trotted out the classic “some of my best friends are” approach, which people use when they say or do something bigoted to excuse their actions. She’s notably had no representation of lesbians in her novels.
She also incorrectly put forth a common TERF argument, that the lesbian community at-large is being victimized by trans people. In reality, being trans and being a lesbian aren’t mutually exclusive.
Biological sex is a spectrum, like gender
For people who align themselves with TERFs like Rowling does, biological sex — which encompasses a person’s reproductive organs and characteristics that appear during puberty — has a rigid definition. For example, males are defined by having XY chromosones and penises.
The concept that gender identity isn’t the same thing is apparently dangerous in her eyes, as she wrongly conflates the existence of trans people as an attempt to erase sex. Trans people and allies, by and large, don’t deny the existence of sex. They merely don’t see it as relevant when it comes to someone’s gender.
Biological sex is very much real. However, science shows that our understanding of “hard truths,” like the existence of only two sexes, continues to evolve. As physician Dr. Eugene Gu illustrates in his replies to Rowling, sex is technically a spectrum.
What we define as “male” and “female” biologically may look like one way for a majority of the population, but doesn’t hold true for others. Intersex people do not fit these traditional categories, but are undoubtedly real. Many people may unknowingly not fit into the binary, as their internal configuration of chromosomes and internal gonads may be different than they are outwardly.
Our categories of genitals, chromosomes, and other sex traits aren’t based in pure science; Eurocentric standards, which still affect intersex women like Caster Semenya today, have created a binary that continues to limit what people of all genders and sexes are capable of. Much of the Western medical system has roots in Europe, which has historically proposed false ideas that men are inherently more capable than women, Scientific American reports.
Ultimately, the fixation people like Rowling have on biology fails to account for the diversity of womanhood around the world; identifying as one is the only prerequisite needed. Clearly, Hogwarts needed a gender studies course.
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