J.K. Rowling went on a Twitter rant about how transgender activism can hurt women and lesbians. Her so-called 'TERF' stance is unpopular.
- "Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling trended on Twitter after proclaiming that transgender activism is "erasing the concept of sex," which she argued is harmful for women and lesbians.
- Her tweets ignore the difference between gender and sex, a difference that is backed by science and the existence of intersex individuals, who are born with reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn't fit the typical definitions of the female and male sex.
- Transgender individuals identify as a gender that is not their assigned sex at birth, and while transgender and non-binary people are not a threat to cisgender women (who do identify with their assigned sex at birth), anti-trans sentiment does threaten the safety of transgender people worldwide.
- The tweets also caused "JK Rowling is a TERF" to trend, along with just "TERF," which stands for trans-exclusionary radical feminist. "TERFs" are feminists who do not believe transgender women are female.
- In recent years "TERFs" have congregated online, particularly in the UK, but overall TERF beliefs are not popular in the LGBTQ community or in the mainstream feminist community in the US.
J.K. Rowling acknowledged that she was being labeled with the term "TERF" on Twitter in her latest controversy over transgender activism.
"'Feminazi,' 'TERF,' 'b----,' 'witch,'" she wrote in response to someone calling her a "TERF," which stands for trans-exclusionary radical feminist. "Times change. Women-hate is eternal."
Rowling has been accused of holding so-called "TERF" beliefs for over a year, as the author repeatedly insinuated or flat-out stated she supports feminist women who do not believe that transgender women are female. "JK Rowling is a TERF" and "TERF" trended alongside the author's name on Saturday night, after she posted several tweets. The label "TERF" is itself controversial, as some self-identified gender critical feminists view it as hate speech.
While "TERF"-associated ideology is prominent in the UK, Rowling's tweets were widely condemned, attracting more negative replies than positive ones. Despite being unpopular in mainstream online circles, "TERFs" have created online subcommunities that have been leveraged to impede political action toward transgender rights and equality in both the US and the UK.
Rowling's team declined to comment further.
Rowling's statements about transgender people and 'trans activism' don't align with scientific consensus about sex
Rowling's statements to her 14.5 million Twitter followers appeared to say that trans people are "erasing the concept of sex" — part of "TERF"-associated ideology that denies the difference between gender and sex, and which Rowling has previously spoken about. Rowling attempted to justify her stance by using it to support "same-sex attraction," even though most gay men and lesbian women consider themselves part of the LGBTQ community, and thus support transgender people.
—J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) June 6, 2020
There is a difference between sex and gender, and biologists have said that the concept of two sexes is too simplistic. Intersex individuals, for example, are born with reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn't fit the traditional definition of female or male. Furthermore, transgender individuals identify with a gender that is different from their assigned sex at birth, so the concept of being transgender does not negate the existence of sex.
In response to a since-deleted tweet that seemingly referenced her failure to acknowledge the difference between gender and sex, Rowling wrote, "I've spent much of the last three years reading books, blogs and scientific papers by trans people, medics and gender specialists. I know exactly what the distinction is. Never assume that because someone thinks differently, they have no knowledge."
Rowling also tweeted out an article that used the phrase "people who menstruate" instead of "women." Rowling appeared to mock the phrasing in her tweet: "I'm sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?"
People pointed out in her replies that the inclusive language "people who menstruate" is used because some individuals who menstruate identify as male or as other non-female gender identities. Furthermore, not all women are able to menstruate, and most women stop menstruating as they age.
The last time Rowling defended anti-trans sentiment, transgender rights activist Charlotte Clymer compiled a thread about what major scientific institutions say about transgender individuals.
—Charlotte Clymer ️ (@cmclymer) December 19, 2019
Rowling defended her tweets by saying that some people in the LGBT community have told her they agree with her stance, but it's much more complicated than that
Rowling cited a "self-described butch lesbian" friend of hers who she said called her and shouted "F---ING YES" after seeing Rowling's recent tweets. She also shared an article written by a lesbian women who holds "TERF"-associated beliefs and retweeted a gay man who endorsed gay individuals who are "concerned" about transgender activism.
By using these gay and lesbian individuals as a shield from criticism, Rowling seemed to imply that she is not just an outsider making claims about the LGBT community, but that gay people also agree with her. As transgender journalist Katelyn Burns wrote in her analysis of the rise of online "TERF" circles, UK feminists who promote "TERF" ideology did not source it from the UK LGBT community. Slate has also reported that "TERF" ideology is more popular in the UK than it is in the US.
Furthermore, "TERF" ideology is largely constricted to internet forums and a few fringe groups in the US. Burns reported for Vox that some of these groups have leveraged "TERF" beliefs politically, to harm transgender individuals fighting for rights like the ability to use the bathroom of their choice — sometimes by even collaborating with conservative groups who actively work against reproductive rights.
Rowling claimed in her tweets that she has "been empathetic to trans people for decades," but she also implied using an "if" statement that transgender people are not currently being discriminated against for being transgender — a statement that could not be further removed from the lived experiences of trans individuals worldwide.
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