Deniability is no longer plausible. Stand with trans people.

20 Dec

I should apologise for not having written recently; there are lots of things I want to talk about (and frankly should have talked about), but my depression’s been really getting to me and I’ve barely had the energy to be functional a lot of the time.

That said, I’m a bit late to the party on this one, but I think I/we need to weigh in because we’ve discussed the subject here before (there’s been a spike in hits to a certain chapter of the Silkworm review, as there often is when something like this happens). As I don’t use Twitter, I’ll be commenting on the brouhaha here instead.

Joanne Rowling is a transphobic asshole, click through to see it in her own words. She’s not even trying to hide it any more. No more “oops how does the internet work, what is a like button teehee” shenanigans. No more “but Cormoran Strike is transphobic, that doesn’t mean she necessarily agrees with him” excuses.

Let’s unpack this just a little bit. She’s literally going out of her way to perform wokeness on as many other axes of bigotry as possible, before getting to the punchline of “trans women? nope, not them”. Unlike everyone else, she seems to say, trans people deserve special condemnation and transphobes are the real victims.

(A helpful bit of context in case it isn’t clear what she’s commenting on there.)

I can’t say I’m surprised. This isn’t news; everyone who’s more than vaguely aware of the things Rowling says on Twitter should already know this (as friend of the blog Ana Mardoll has already pointed out), but she said the quiet part out loud this time so more people are noticing. Good.

(This made me laugh, admittedly. Image of a fanzine titled “Harry Potter and the Problematic Author”)

I’m not going to tell anyone they shouldn’t read her writing or can’t continue to be fans of Harry Potter, if they get something out of it. Goodness knows my life wouldn’t be the same if not for those books; Harry Potter fandom is the reason I met the person I love most in the world, and I can’t imagine who I’d be if I hadn’t. Go ahead and employ death of the author to your heart’s content and make something better out of them (but maybe give someone else your money).

But that fondness is not an excuse to ignore transphobia, or any other form of bigotry. I realise it can be hard to be a fan of problematic things while still acknowledging those problems, but the alternative is denial and apologetics. You can like things without them being perfect, and you can like things without that necessarily being a referendum on your character. Nearly everything is problematic in some way, after all. But we cannot deny the existence of bigotry just to make ourselves feel better.

And the natural consequence of that sort of denial is extrapolating it. If we train ourselves to think that a certain work of fiction we like can’t possibly contain bigotry because we’d feel uncomfortable liking it if it did, what then happens if we come across a similar example of bigotry in real life? The easiest way to resolve that cognitive dissonance is to refuse to see the real life example also, and that tends to be what people do.

So it is likewise important to acknowledge when a person has shitty beliefs, and that those beliefs might come out in their work.

I’ll say this as nicely as I possibly can: fuck off, J.K. Rowling.

There is a serious problem with transphobia (and specifically the TERF variety which parasitises and exploits feminist rhetoric) in the world right now, and it’s especially virulent in Britain for some reason. This is not to say it’s not a problem elsewhere, of course, but we can’t ignore the trend. Pay attention.

And if you know a trans person, for fuck’s sake let them know you support them.

[I don’t have anything else to add except to repeat: fuck off, J K Rowling.]


Posted by on December 20, 2019 in mitchell


3 responses to “Deniability is no longer plausible. Stand with trans people.

  1. helgeke

    December 20, 2019 at 10:24 pm

    “virulent” and “global” – so topic you have paid attention to?

    You have read about rapists growing long hair and demanding the right to get to women’s prison. About privileged white dude deciding to be a woman and beating Samoan girl in sports? About another privileged white harassing Sikh women to polish dick because it is suddenly a “girl-dick”? Nodded with approval on the news about vandalism and defunding of rape relief shelter that put rape victims first?

    Are happy that there are progressive environments like Twitter where victim describing PIV rape has the refer rapist as “her” if that particular rapist has decided to be “Jessica”.

    You must have seen harassment of women artists whos have chosen to depict biology of womanhood: having breasts, a vagina, and menstruation? You have read about “cotton ceiling” and come across at least some of the dozens-and-dozens of cases where lesbians have been threatened with rape because their “no” is problematic?

    And probably imagine you are feminist of sorts.

    Good the be warned.

    • Loten

      December 21, 2019 at 4:23 pm

      Yes, a small fraction of trans people (or those claiming to be trans) may possibly be criminals, though it’s worth noting most of these stories are unverified TERF scaremongering. This does not mean denying the entire group basic rights or even mere courtesy. I don’t know what made you think this blog was a good place to spout discriminatory hate speech, but you were wrong. Don’t comment like this here again.

    • mcbender

      December 21, 2019 at 4:53 pm

      Thank you for all your help – it’s been a life goal of mine to win Transphobia Bingo.

      I will attempt to be as polite as I can.

      I find it really quite ironic you accuse me of not having done my research, only to spout off a bunch of unsupported toxic myths at me, and then have the sheer chutzpah to call me a rape apologist.

      I saw somebody point out recently that, even if we take seriously this threat, the proposed solution of restricting e.g. bathrooms to birth-assigned gender (or, presumably, genitalia) actually makes it worse. If trans men are required to use the spaces for women, for instance, it normalises the presence of people with masculine appearances in them. Many trans men look more like cis men than they do like cis women, and it would be just as easy for a maliciously-inclined cis man to go into such a space and claim to be trans as an excuse, as the proposed example of putting on women’s clothing (in fact, it’d be even easier, he wouldn’t have to change anything about his presentation). What are the people tasked with enforcing this going to do, pull down his pants and check if there’s a penis?

      The fact of the matter is that, by making trans people uncomfortable to use bathrooms and the like, bathroom policies are actively harming them (for instance, forcing people to hold urine increases the risk of UTIs). Everyone should have the right to use public restrooms when they need them.

      As I am not a lesbian (and on the asexual spectrum) I don’t really feel comfortable addressing the “cotton ceiling” issue, except to say that I mostly see that term used by TERFs, and that I have seen more nuanced discussion of the underlying issue (I found this post by Crip Dyke at FTB to be helpful and informative ). Nobody is saying that anyone should have to be forced to have sex with someone they don’t want to. What I have seen people say is that, very often, people will claim not to be sexually attracted to trans people as an excuse for things like forcing them to disclose their transness in situations that might be dangerous for them. The fact is that people are often attracted to outward presentation and secondary sexual characteristics (which HRT and such can modify) without knowing what a person’s genitals are, and if they are transphobic (internalised or explicit) that makes them uncomfortable; the problem isn’t some supposed “deception” by the trans person, but the other’s internalised transphobia.

      And yes, I do and will continue to call myself a feminist – it would be a damn shame to allow that word to be taken over by bio-essentialists and gender-essentialists who wish to reduce everyone to their genitalia and reproductive tracts. Such a feminist view, that is.


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