I have to start like this: the Harry Potter books saved me from a traumatic youth and possible suicide. I survived all of Harry’s deadly trials, learned all his magic spells, and grieved his lost loved ones. Escaping into his fantasy world was necessary to keep me alive. I will always be grateful to JK (Joanne) Rowling, which is why I’m so disappointed in her recent statements about transgender rights. The vitriol projected at her is understandable, yet I believe we’re missing some perspective.
We know her as JK for marketing purposes. Back in the 90’s, Jo brought her hand-typed manuscript to a publisher, who “suggested” she go by initials because “young boys don’t want to read a book written by a woman”. A white guy in a suit behind a desk (probably) intimidated a first-time female author into giving up her gender to placate the inherent sexism of teenage boys. She’s still JK, even though we have been aware of her femaleness for decades. No wonder she’s so concerned about the erosion of womanhood, as wrong as she is about trans women contributing to that. Acknowledging that the anti-feminist basis of her fame influenced her current opinions on gender doesn’t justify the behavior, but may show her actions come from repressed guilt, not hate.
I read her ultra-defensive statement about the hate she’s received, the bias-confirming research she’s conducted, and a single paragraph about her one trans friend. You’ve heard white people say “I’m not racist, I have black friends!” Same thing. Association with marginalized people does not mean you’re excused from your privilege or the consequences of your words. She insinuated the rise of cis-females transitioning to males as the corruption of the female gender, rather than an increase in availability of options and acceptance of bodily autonomy. Are trans women a threat to manhood? No Jo, not in any way.
To her credit, she expressed a lot of sympathy for trans teenagers, then killed it with the tired old line of “You’ll regret it later”. Teenagers who want tattoos, abortions, and lip injections all receive the same empty warning. Body modification has been practiced for centuries, with varying degrees of tolerance from deep reverence to outright hate. Shielding young people from self-actualization and denying their right to control over their bodies is by FAR more harmful than allowing them to be themselves. Despite my weary disenchantment, I feel sad for Joanne, but she’s projecting her own denial of gender on an extremely vulnerable demographic of children. The worst part is, she doesn’t see it that way.
Nowhere in her statement did I read the words “I’m sorry”. Death threats and vile, sexist insults are never warranted, especially when directed at an abuse victim, but I’m not surprised by the public anger Jo has conjured up. A cis-gender fantasy author is no more an authority on biology than an anti-vaxxer soccer mom. She made mistakes, liked the wrong tweet, was myopic on some sensitive issues, and she should have just conceded her blunders. Powerful celebrities are the worst at admitting they’re wrong, but there’s still time to sit back and listen. Stephen King recently tweeted his support for trans rights and JK unfollowed him. She’s hiding from her own issues. Going on the attack isn’t helping. Women are swarmed upon at the slightest slip-up when men get away with horrific abuses for years. Again, not an excuse, just a way to understand.
I hope Jo looks inward for the root of her feelings on this issue. Therapy should be considered as common as dental care, everyone could benefit by going twice a year. Like many of her generation, she may believe therapy is only for crazy people whose lives are falling apart, not millionaire writers. As a writer with mental health issues and an infinitesimal percentage of her resources, I rely on consistent CBT in order to check my behavior so it doesn’t become harmful to me or those around me. I lovingly suggest to my once favorite author, whom I’ve referred to as “Magic Mama”, accio some fucking therapy.