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Wednesday, September 23, 2020

JK Rowling defends her ‘transphobic’ tweet, shares she is a sexual assault survivor

In her essay, she confessed feeling "mentally sexless" during her youth and it was books which helped her tide through.

By: Lifestyle Desk | New Delhi | Updated: June 11, 2020 3:28:48 pm
jk rowling, harry potter, jk rowling tweets, jk rowling transphobic tweet, jk rowling essay, jk rowling victim of sexual abuse, indian express, indian express news She issued an apology later. (Source: AP)

JK Rowling received a lot of flak after she tweeted something which was widely regarded as transphobic. The The Harry Potter author has now penned a 3691-word essay defending her statement. She went on to reveal that she has been a “domestic abuse and sexual assault survivor” and noted that the revelation was not to garner sympathy but to contextualise her tweet.

Tracing the point when all of this started, Rowling wrote, “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.”

However, what had piqued her interest on trans issues was both personal and professional. She wrote how the growing numbers of young women intending to transition worries her. “I’m concerned about the huge explosion in young women wishing to transition and also about the increasing numbers who seem to be detransitioning (returning to their original sex), because they regret taking steps that have, in some cases, altered their bodies irrevocably, and taken away their fertility. Some say they decided to transition after realising they were same-sex attracted, and that transitioning was partly driven by homophobia, either in society or in their families.”

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“Most people probably aren’t aware – I certainly wasn’t, until I started researching this issue properly – that ten years ago, the majority of people wanting to transition to the opposite sex were male. That ratio has now reversed. The UK has experienced a 4400% increase in girls being referred for transitioning treatment. Autistic girls are hugely overrepresented in their numbers,” she further added.  Rowling shared that her argument echoed a paper by American physician and researcher Lisa Littman, who noticed a similar phenomenon in the US.

“Her paper caused a furore. She was accused of bias and of spreading misinformation about transgender people, subjected to a tsunami of abuse and a concerted campaign to discredit both her and her work. The journal took the paper offline and re-reviewed it before republishing it.”

The author shared that the more she read the writings of young trans men talking about “anxiety, dissociation, eating disorders, self-harm and self-hatred,” she has wondered “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.”

She confessed feeling “mentally sexless” during her youth and it was books which helped her tide through.

“As I didn’t have a realistic possibility of becoming a man back in the 1980s, it had to be books and music that got me through both my mental health issues and the sexualised scrutiny and judgement that sets so many girls to war against their bodies in their teens. Fortunately for me, I found my own sense of otherness, and my ambivalence about being a woman, reflected in the work of female writers and musicians who reassured me that, in spite of everything a sexist world tries to throw at the female-bodied, it’s fine not to feel pink, frilly and compliant inside your own head; it’s OK to feel confused, dark, both sexual and non-sexual, unsure of what or who you are.”

She further reasoned that she wants trans women to be safe but her history as a sexual abuse survivor also impels her to see that young girls to be safe. “I want trans women to be safe. 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. That is the simple truth.”

“I haven’t written this essay in the hope that anybody will get out a violin for me, not even a teeny-weeny one. I’m extraordinarily fortunate; I’m a survivor, certainly not a victim…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,” she concluded.

You can read the full essay on her website.

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