J.K. Rowling, TERFs and Tweets
J.K. Rowling, You've Made Me Sad
I loved the world of Harry Potter and always will. There's no question that when J.K. Rowling suddenly captured all our hearts and imaginations with this incredible wizarding world, she suddenly found herself squarely in the spotlight and has now become one of the world's richest individuals.
While I don't buy into people needing to have such ridiculous wealth that they could cheerfully buy their own castle and live out the rest of their natural lives there, I don't begrudge Rowling's wealth. She earned it, and I have actually become quite a Twitter fan of hers over the years. I find most of what she posts to be spot on, incisive and thought-provoking. Until recently, I really saw her as someone willing to stand up for those who did not have much of a voice; after all, she wrote an entire book series about a young boy who was born and for many of his formative years had no advocate or anyone to really speak up for him.
Then there was her fateful post on Dec. 19, 2019, and she's maintained radio silence since then.
Rowling's Transphobic Tweet
In her post, she effectively suggested that being transgender was not real and since then has been embroiled in a firestorm of controversy. I hate to say it, but that firestorm is also rightfully deserved. There are consequences to our actions, and when we put our foot squarely in our mouths, we have to live with the outcome. I'd like to think we can also be grown up enough to try and explain what our true intention was, or at the very least apologize for being ill-informed if that is the case, but regardless, when we say something inappropriate, we need to step up and be accountable for it.
Who Is Maya Forstater?
For those who are unaware, Rowling was speaking out about the case of Maya Forstater, who was working for a government thinktank in the United Kingdom and was fired because her beliefs about gender did not align with the organization. Among other communications, Forstater put out the private email that she sent to a colleague that said, "I don't think people should be compelled to play along with literal delusions like 'transwomen are women,'" according to CNN.
The tribunal that ensued determined that Forstater's words were not protected as a philosophical belief under 2010's Equality Act, and she was dismissed. Rowling then tweeted, "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?"
Is Rowling a TERF?
After I saw that tweet, I saw the term TERF trending—it means Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist. J.K. Rowling was being tagged as a TERF for this tweet. In the four days since this tweet hit, I've tried very hard to determine what, exactly, Rowling was driving at. I tried to come up with some explanation that made sense as to why she would effectively alienate a significant portion of her fan base—people who looked up to her simply because she wrote a book series that was about inclusion and being different while still being accepted.
I couldn't come up with a good answer, but as I saw a few people tweeting that they now "hated" or "despised" Rowling, I felt sadder still. I may not agree with what Rowling said, but that doesn't take away from the fact that she's a good writer.
I work with kids who fall throughout the LGBTQ+ spectrum. I work with non-binary kids, trans kids, queer kids... you get the idea. There continues to be a great deal of misunderstanding out there about what it means to be trans or even non-binary, and even though I work with these kids, I don't have all the answers. I'm just there to help support these kids and let them know that someone cares for them.
It breaks my heart that someone I look up to for being the writer she is would put something out there that is so divisive and really unkind. I don't know if she's writing from a place where she lacks understanding about what it means to be trans or non-binary, or if she was somehow trying to say that while Forstater made a mistake in sharing her beliefs via a work email she shouldn't have been fired, or if in spite of all her claims to the contrary, she really does not support the LGBTQ+ community. I truly hope that her tweet was simply due to a lack of understanding about what it means to be trans or non-binary and that she will become better informed about this in time.
Simply stating that some of your characters are gay isn't enough to show support for the LGBTQ+ community. It's time to walk the talk, Ms. Rowling. If you don't understand what it means to be trans, learn about the community. Education is key. Learn why your words were so offensive.
Don't let your fans down further than you've already done with this.