a.k.a. We Don’t Stand with Maya
By Diane Morrison, Our Own Worlds Editor
Maya Forstater was a visiting fellow at the think tank Centre for Global Development, but her contract wasn’t renewed after she tweeted that transgender women could not change their biological sex, and was accused of using “offensive and exclusionary” language to oppose proposed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act to allow people to self-identify as the opposite sex. On Thursday, Rowling tweeted her support for Forstater, writing, “Dress however you please. Call yourself whatever you like. Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you. Live your best life in peace and security. But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real? #IStandWithMaya #ThisIsNotADrill.”— The Hollywood Reporter
I am a fan of Harry Potter. I love the world created by J.K. Rowling, problematic elements aside. Even if she hadn’t used her fame to speak to power many times, I will always give her credit just for breaking the trope that the hero always gets the girl. Women are not vending machines, and we are not awards to be bestowed upon the hero if he jumps through all the right hoops and ticks all the right boxes; we are thinking, feeling human beings who make our own choices. “The hero gets the girl” is something that all of Western literature teaches our boys, and Rowling taught them otherwise. And I thank her for that.
But. BUT. In recent years, Rowling has become a very good argument for the Death of the Author literary theory, constantly adding things that didn’t exist in her books, almost like she has been trying to get credit for being woke without actually waking. This situation is perhaps the icing on the cake.
Our Own Worlds encourages or discourages no political stand — except one. We stand for ALL marginalized genders.
I say “all” because there are way more than two — and that’s true even if you choose to ignore that there has been a distinction drawn between biological sex and gender since at least 1970. There are a variety of genotypes and phenotypes that prove that gender is fluid among humans, and other creatures as well, even if you don’t want to take gender identity and societal constructs into account.
Furthermore, it is our opinion that defending trans, genderqueer, and non-binary rights is feminist. By challenging the gender binary construct, humanity also challenges the pigeonholing of men, women, and those who lie between into predetermined roles. As a woman who has always more strongly identified with, been drawn to, and been good at many things that are traditionally assigned to the “male” role, and who has often sucked horribly at many of the things traditionally assigned to the “female” role, I can’t emphasize enough how important this is for the freedom and equality of all women, and all people, not just all people who do not fit neatly into a gender binary construct.
It is not feminist to pigeonhole all women into a construct, nor is it feminist to predetermine who and who does not fit into the feminine gender construct.
In other words, it is our firm opinion that trans women are women, trans men are men, non-binary folk are non-binary, and there are many variations on a spectrum between a variety of gender expressions, all of which are valid. Creating straw men by the use of false equivalency is an invalid and pointless argument that serves no purpose except to attempt a juvenile over-simplification of something that is, in fact, rather complicated.
And even if this weren’t the case, we believe in individual freedom of expression, and the right of every individual to be treated with dignity and respect. If a woman chooses to change her name to her husband’s when she gets married, we respect that. If she chooses to keep her original name, we respect that too. Addressing people by their preferred pronouns, by the name they prefer to be called, is a simple demand for the human dignity we should all be entitled to, whether you agree with that decision and expression or not.
Let’s put this another way. I am a Neo-Pagan. I believe that many of the constructs of Christianity are not just incorrect, I believe they are morally wrong. I believe that Christianity is one of many religions that has justified the oppression of women through poor interpretation of its dogma for centuries. I believe women would be in a much better position if Christianity didn’t exist, and I wish it would just go away.
But you have the right to believe in whatever religion you want. I’m not going to come up to you on the street to lecture you about this. I’m not going to come to your church and try to disrupt your services. I’m going to respect your right, as a human being, to make your own decision. Furthermore, I’m going to defend your right to do so with my dying breath, because by defending your right to freedom of religion, I also defend my own.
Everyone who would claim to be a feminist should recognize that by defending any person’s right to express gender in any way they choose, and by defending their right not to be pigeonholed into predetermined roles based on the assumptions of gender, they defend their own rights to the same. Bigotry is not feminism. Anti-trans sentiment is especially not feminism, because it accepts pigeonholing into predetermined gender roles by definition. And isn’t that what feminism has been fighting against since its inception?
Especially in the world of publishing and literature, where the face of the author is never seen and all that should matter is the story, I believe this sort of bigotry has no place. It is destructive and counterproductive. You’ll find no sympathy for it here. We stand for gender rights.
J.K. Rowling, we have come to expect that you will speak up for the underdog and champion the cause of social justice for all. But here, you are not part of the solution. You are part of the problem.