Here are two truths which unfortunately have to co-exist: the Harry Potter series brought delight to millions upon millions of people, providing comfort, hope and acceptance particularly to those who did not find it elsewhere in their lives. And its creator, J.K. Rowling, is a TERF.
If you’re not familiar with the acronym, TERF stands for trans exclusionary radical feminist. It’s a term used to describe (mostly) cisgendered women who are all for equality, but only as it pertains to cisgendered women. They don’t think trans women – one of the most marginalised people in society – are worthy of that same equal status. In fact, they don’t believe trans women should be included under the umbrella of “women”, which isn’t just outdated and bigoted, but goes against medical literature. For some reason, the UK is full of them.
Rowling has shown herself up as being TERF-adjacent for some time. She follows noted TERFS like YouTuber Magdalen Berns on Twitter, and had ‘accidentally’ liked transphobic tweets (for which her publicist blamed a “middle aged moment”).
Now, it couldn’t be more blatant. On Friday morning, Rowling’s tweeted in defence of a woman called Maya Forstater, whose contract wasn’t renewed with think tank Centre for Global Development (CGD) after she shared a number of views critical of trans people in general, and one trans woman in particular. It reportedly made a number of people at CGD uncomfortable, and in March 2019, the think tank did not renew Forstater’s contract.
Forstater brought a legal dispute against her former employer, which was seen as a test case on whether “gender critical” view is a protected philosophical belief under the 2010 equality act.
In a win for trans people and their loved ones and allies, the judge said Forstater’s view that trans women aren’t women were “not worthy of respect in a democratic society”.
In a 26-page judgement, employment judge James Taylor said Forstater was not entitled to ignore the rights of trans people and the “enormous pain that can be caused by misgendering”. The tl;dr version of the judgement is that Forstater is entitled to her bigoted beliefs, but those beliefs are not worth protecting. In other words: suck it.
This is where Rowling comes in. She tweeted the following defence of Forstater:
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
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) December 19, 2019
This line in particular – that society should not “force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real” – particularly rankles. It’s an argument regularly pushed by TERFs: that not supporting trans women is the only way to support cisgendered women. You can go be ‘trans’ over there, just don’t come into our bathrooms or sit in our boardrooms. Calling yourself a woman somehow invalidates the fights ‘real’ women have won for equality.
The view is nothing short of revolting.
It should also be noted – as several people have done – that Forstater wasn’t fired for saying that “sex is real”. She was fired because her absolutist view would see her misgender people “even if it violates their dignity and/or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment”, which is “not worthy of respect in a democratic society”. In short: go be a TERF in your own time if you absolutely must, but don’t expect anyone to want to work with you. Does Rowling care about Forstater’s colleagues, who may be trans or have trans loved ones? It’s not clear, but I suspect not.
Rowling outing herself as being aligned with the TERF movement is prompting both backlash and hurt.
“dumbledore was gay in a way that didn’t matter”
“harry potter is a cop now”
“that fucked up snake voldemort used to milk is actually a korean lady”
“i’m a straihgt up terf”
MEERY XMAS FROM JK ROWLING
— Dr Charlotta Lofqvist, S.J. (@jon_snow_420) December 19, 2019
jk rowling has been a terf this whole time which people would know if they actually listened to trans women
— rose (@spacialesbian) December 19, 2019
I’ve never gotten more hate on here than when I express support for trans people. But I see no reason to exclude or be hateful to one of the most vulnerable populations. Trans women are women, trans men are men, that does not take away from my rights and being who I am.
— Mara Wilson (@MaraWilson) December 19, 2019
Unless Rowling comes forward and says anything further publicly, there’s only one conclusion to draw here: Harry Potter ruled. And Rowling is a TERF.