A Deconstruction of J.K. Rowling’s Anti-Trans Opinion Piece
Dear Ms. Rowling:
You probably don’t want to hear my opinion. After all, who am I? Just another writer, another struggling in poverty as you did. Nobody the world cares about. But believe it or not, despite my anger and frustration over this latest in a series of betrayals of your readers, I am not here to call you names, to denigrate you or to threaten you. I am here to try to help you.
I tried to reach out to you by sending you a link to an article I wrote about why trans rights are an issue that should concern every feminist, and speaking to you as compassionately as I knew how. I’m sure you didn’t read it. I’m sure you won’t read this either. After all, who the hell am I?
The answer is that I’m you 20 years ago. I live in Canada, not Britain, but we have a lot in common, you and I. Or we did, once. But I think you’ve forgotten what it is to be me. You in your ivory tower of wealth and privilege, who once spoke for those who lacked a voice, have forgotten what not having a voice was like. I’m here to remind you, hopefully with gentleness and compassion and a lot of tough love I bet no one who’s “close” to you has had the guts to give you in at least 10 years.
Something happens when people become rich and famous. People start kissing their asses. People also attack them for no reason. You never know who your real friends are. So understand this: I’m not a friend, but I’m not an enemy either. I’m someone who liked your books, but discovered them as an adult. I know enough other writers, some famous and some not so, that I know we’re all human beings. I don’t put you on some imaginary pedestal, and I don’t think you’re the devil incarnate either. I’m looking at a human being from the perspective of another human being. And what I have to say is: you’re wrong about this. Let me tell you why.
I know that thousands, perhaps millions, of trans kids grew up and found solace in your stories. As a bisexual woman, I found myself wishing I’d had your books to read as a child. How could I not find the parallels? A child is born who does not fit in any way with his weird family, and who is literally living in a closet. He discovers that his difference actually is kinda magic, and there’re a whole hidden world of people just like him, and he can join that community. I mean, only Frozen has a clearer covert message there. You could not have tailor-made the myth you created more effectively for LGBTQ+ people if you’d tried.
I assumed you must know some gay people. But perhaps I’m mistaken, because if you do, surely you’re old enough to recognize all these arguments you’re using against the self-determination of the identities of trans people? You’re only a little older than me, after all…
This stuff — all of it, from “autistic people are being manipulated to think they’re queer when they’re not,” to “it’s a fad to be gay now so all the kids are doing it,” to “it’s just a stage,” to “it’s actually a symptom of mental illness,” to “blame parents for masculinizing/feminizing the child” to “queer perverts are going to come into our bathrooms and assault us!” were all said about all queer people in the 70s and 80s. Each and every one of those is a talking point that is identical to all the anti-gay rhetoric I used to hear back then and into the early 90s. Didn’t you? Don’t you recognize it?
Well, maybe you don’t. You’re not queer, after all. Maybe nobody ever said this sort of shit to you. But they said it to me.
I’m so tired of this. We debunked all of this 20 years ago. It’s no more valid now than it was then, just because it’s now being aimed towards a more specific group of people.
I won’t get into the study you quoted. I’m sure you’ve been told a million times right now how bad the science was, and how many experts have since completely debunked it on its methodology. I’m not a sociologist or a psychologist, and neither are you, so let’s leave that off for people who are experts in the field.
You say that much of your concern stems from having been sexually assaulted. And that’s terrible and believe me, I sympathize. One in four of us, according to the broadest range of studies.
But if you think rape and sexual assault is an epidemic among cisgender women, try talking to these trans friends you say you have sometime. Ask them how many of them have been attacked or sexually assaulted. Believe me, you don’t need to protect yourself from them. They’re more likely to need to protect themselves from you.
Ms. Rowling… I, too, have been a victim of sexual assault. Many of us have. Perhaps it was one man, or a small group of men. But… you can’t fear an entire group of people for the actions of a few.
Yes, that’s what it is. You are afraid. And as Yoda once said, “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.”
Some 20 years ago I headed across the country for the first time on a Greyhound bus. Long story why; not important. What is important is that a very angry man sat next to me on a crowded bus in Wawa and started going off about how he was glad there weren’t any “East Indians” on the bus.
“Hey,” I said, “that’s not okay. You don’t get to just hate a whole group of people.”
“I have my reasons,” he said with a glower.
“Like what?” I asked. And I think he sensed I was genuinely trying to get him to talk about it.
“I’m a demolitions tech,” he said. “They called a bunch of us out all over North America to help out in New York after 9-11.” He shook his head. He wore his trauma like armour, like a bubble protecting him against the world.
“I’m sorry for your awful experience,” I said slowly. “Why don’t you tell me about it? I’m listening.” And I meant it. I’d been working through my own traumas and I genuinely wanted to help.
He talked for several hours. He cried. I put a hand on this total stranger’s shoulder, a man who was at least a foot taller than I was and older by several years.
When he was done, I said in a soft voice, “I’m so sorry you had to go through all of that. But… you can’t hate an entire group of people for the actions of a few. They were horrible people who did this, but they don’t represent all Muslims. They don’t even represent a minority.”
As I’ve said before, I’ll forgive you a lot just for making Hermione (whom I strongly identify with) NOT fall in love with Harry just because he was the “hero.” Thank you for giving her some agency, rather than having her respond like a human vending machine when all the right buttons are pushed. I want to help you.
But you’re so afraid of men that you wear your fear like armour. You’ve allowed this fear to not only fuel bigotry, you’ve directed that bigotry towards, not even the group that includes the person who hurt you, but a group who just kinda looks like the person who hurt you. How many trans women have sexually assaulted you? That’s horribly unfair, don’t you think?
Ms. Rowling, your fear does not justify your prejudice. Your fear does not give you the right to deny basic human dignity to others. You know that. That’s why the Death Eaters were the bad guys, and why Mr. Lovegood’s cowardice was tantamount to betrayal.
Stop letting your fear control you. The anger that spawns from that fear can be a good thing, but only if it’s used to break down the systems that created the evil that you would stand against. It should not be used against a weaker victim who is easier to reach, just because they look like the person that hurt you.
Lynchings and all these police murders of Black people — they’ve all been justified in the same way.
I loved your books. I’ve argued for death of the author as a literary theory, and for not allowing the problematic views or actions of authors to destroy the things that made a book valuable and important. I’ve even admired your ability to stand firm in your beliefs even when under fire. But there’s a point at which determination becomes bullheadedness, and you’ve been given a lot of chances on this and other issues (couldn’t help but notice that when you finally had a chance to portray Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s relationship on film, you didn’t.) I can’t support this.
I know where this path leads, and I can’t be on it. Yesterday I unfollowed you. I won’t be recommending your books, and I won’t be seeing another Harry Potter movie.
I hope you take the lesson here, and I hope you change your mind; but I fear you wont. Please, learn the lesson your characters learned, and find your Patronus. I genuinely wish you the best of luck and success in this quest.
You’re strong, and you don’t need to be afraid of people who have been more victimized than even you or I ever have.
I stand with my trans siblings. All of them.