It’s amazing what passes for news these days. J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, suggested that only women menstruate and then, when prompted, clarified that she wasn’t fully on board the trans train. “I respect every trans person’s right to live any way that feels authentic and comfortable to them,” she tweeted. “I’d march with you if you were discriminated against on the basis of being trans.” But apostatizing sex? No can do — no apologies.
If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives. It isn’t hate to speak the truth.
As she no doubt fully expected, Twitter talking heads soon descended in faux outrage as progressive outlets competed for the most question-begging headline. Vanity Fair: “J. K. Rowling Faces Backlash After Transphobic Tweets.” The New York Times: “J. K. Rowling Tweets Seen as Anti-Transgender Prompt Backlash.” NBC News: “J. K. Rowling accused of transphobia after mocking ‘people who menstruate’ headline.” But “backlash” from, “seen” by, and “accused” by whom?
Certainly, the answer is not the general public, who tend not to have such a strong reaction to an assertion of material reality. But activists are different. Consider, for instance, Ben O’Keefe, a senior creative producer for the Elizabeth Warren campaign — whom you’ve probably never heard of — who wrote of Rowling:
This woman is complete scum. Shut the f*** up you transphobic f***. You don’t know or love any trans people if you won’t even acknowledge their existence. Thanks for ruining the books of my childhood. Just stop talking. We know you’re a TERF. You don’t need to keep doing this.
CBS News wrote that Rowling’s “followers pointed out that many people who identify as women, such as transgender women and women who have gone through menopause, may not get their periods, while some people who do not identify as women may still menstruate, such as transgender men and some who identify as non-binary.”
Unsurprisingly, CBS News did not bother to quote Rowling’s other followers who are in total agreement with her. Debbie Hayton (a trans woman, teacher, and writer), for instance, wrote, “Trans people appreciate [Rowling’s] courage in speaking out against an authoritarian ideology that oppresses women, gay people and trans people. We need to return to reality. Sex is real and it is immutable.” Debra Soh commented in support of Rowling’s belief that “if sex wasn’t real, there would no such thing as transitioning.” Jonathan Ross, the British television presenter, wrote, “@jk_rowling is both right and magnificent. For those accusing her of transphobia, please read what she wrote. She clearly is not.”
This is not Rowling’s first time in a manufactured media storm. In December, she tweeted support for Maya Forstater, a researcher fired from her job at a think tank for her beliefs regarding the immutability of sex. Before that, Rowling followed Magdalen Burns (who sadly died last year), a no-nonsense lesbian feminist unafraid to state the obvious. These repeated Rowling “controversies” are a microcosm of a game played all too often by the progressive media. Someone influential expresses a view they do not share but that is held by the majority of the public, then, on cue, self-important hacks, activists, and aspiring “thought leaders” kick up a fuss on Twitter, while other self-important hacks, activists, and aspiring “thought leaders” “report” on it as if it’s at all controversial. The public is not fooled.
Rowling won’t play ball. Recently, Rowling said she was mortified after accidentally tweeting out part of a description of an incident in which a 60-year-old feminist was physically assaulted by a (male) transgender activist (Tara Wolf), in response to a child’s illustration of The Ickabog (the monster in her upcoming children’s book). “I love this truly fabulous Ickabog, with its bat ears, mismatched eyes, and terrifying bloodstained teeth!” Rowling wrote, before unknowingly adding, “In court, Wolf claimed the Facebook post in which he’d said he wanted to ‘f*** up some TERFs’ was just ‘bravado.’”
She explained that she had mistakenly cut and pasted the material; she made sure to clarify that while she was sorry for accidentally pasting it in this context, she had no apologies to offer for reading up on the issue. When Nicola Spurling, a transgender activist and Canadian politician, tweeted that “in recent years, Rowling has made it clear that she can no longer be trusted around children,” J. K. Rowling responded, “Unless you want to hear from lawyers, you might want to rethink that tweet.” The tweet was promptly rethought and deleted.
It is sad to think that it often takes Rowling’s level of fame and wealth to stand up for oneself without serious consequences. Others who have dared to be as forthright have been fired, sued, harassed, and even physically attacked. Still, there is something deeply gratifying about Rowling’s refusal to bow to the mob. “Take your censorship and authoritarianism elsewhere,” she wrote to her detractors. “They don’t work on me.”