Last month, the internet erupted in response to JK Rowling’s experiences and opinions on trans-activists campaigning to remove gender terms from society:
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… I respect every trans person’s right to live any way that feels authentic and comfortable to them. I’d march with you if you were discriminated against on the basis of being trans. At the same time, my life has been shaped by being female. I do not believe it’s hateful to say so.
– JK Rowling
And I agree with her.
Much like her, and almost every other woman on earth, my life has also been shaped by being female. Often, this hasn’t always been a positive experience, but it has been my experience.
Being catcalled be men while I walk down the street. Being groped by a strange man in a club. Continually battling for equality and women’s rights across the world. Hearing about the abuse, sexual assault and rape of women I know.
Getting my period for the first time at the age of 12, bleeding once a month every time after that; and much later learning how my own cycle mirrors that of the moon. Experiencing what sex felt like for the first time as a woman. Having my first pregnancy scare and taking the morning after pill.
And being witness to the roaring objection of feminism, and continued dehumanisation of women.
I will not stand back and allow my story for the past 30 years, along with every other woman’s story, to be erased.
There is no hate in my heart for trans people. I can empathise with their struggle, trying to love and accept themselves, and fit in in a world that continually tries to make them feel outcast. And I have no qualms with you identifying as a man or woman or neither or both.
What I do struggle with is certain trans (and non-trans) people’s desires to impose their beliefs on the rest of the world, and re-write my beliefs and my story, along with the collective female story; with absolutely no regard for women at all.
As many women have said before me, ‘woman’ is not a costume. ‘Woman’ is not an idea in a man’s head. ‘Woman’ is not a pink brain, a liking for Jimmy Choos or any of the other sexist ideas now somehow touted as progressive. Moreover, the ‘inclusive’ language that calls female people ‘menstruators’ and ‘people with vulvas’ strikes many women as dehumanising and demeaning. I understand why trans activists consider this language to be appropriate and kind, but for those of us who’ve had degrading slurs spat at us by violent men, it’s not neutral, it’s hostile and alienating.
– JK Rowling
To think it’s acceptable to replace the word “woman” with dehumanising terms like “menstruator,” or “person with a vulva,” is horrifying to me. I will not allow myself, or any other woman, to be reduced to a body part or function, simply because it makes some trans-activists feel more comfortable with their own identity.
Women have spent the past 60 years (and lifetimes more) trying to free themselves from patriarchal chains that cast them as no more than sex objects and reproductive machines. Every day is a battle for women to be viewed and treated as human beings. And erasing the word “woman” erases all of that with it.
It erases the suffragettes who died to make sure women could vote. It erases all of the physical and emotional trauma abuse and rape survivors carry with them every day. And it erases every act of war any man has ever committed against a woman.
If you haven’t yet read JK Rowling’s expansion on her social media comments, I urge you to. Because she both passionately and lovingly outlines all her thoughts on sex and gender issues. And as a woman, I find myself agreeing with all of them. I’m curious to know what you think, too.
I wasn’t aware of this, but she mentions that trans-activists are trying to pass laws (and already have in Scotland) where gender confirmation certificates can be granted to anyone, without them undergoing surgery or hormone treatment. That means any boy or man who says he wants to be a woman can be granted a certificate, and then be treated as a woman in the eyes of the law. That means he is able to freely use the ladies’ toilets and changing rooms, in schools and public places.
I want trans women to be safe. At the same time, I do not want to make natal girls and women less safe. When you throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman – and, as I’ve said, gender confirmation certificates may now be granted without any need for surgery or hormones – then you open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside. That is the simple truth.
– JK Rowling
As girls and women, we experience harassment from a very early age, virtually everywhere we go. At school, at work, when we’re at the gym, in a club, and sometimes even at home, too. As if that’s not enough, they now want to invade some of the few spaces where we actually feel safe and protected?
Social media can be a tricky sphere to navigate, especially when you’re a public figure with a certain platform. So many important issues have been highlighted and propelled to the forefront of our minds. But at the same time, it can be difficult to speak your truth without coming under attack. If you’re genuinely saying something hateful, then I would understand a backlash. But she wasn’t being hateful in the slightest. She was speaking from her own experiences as a woman—experiences that millions of other women identify with.
I find it incredible how quickly, and brutally, JK Rowling—as a woman—was hung online for a couple of thoughtfully written, and considered comments. Yet do we see the same level of poison towards men who continue to do actual harm to women?
I think she was deemed an easy target for people’s internal hatred and frustration. Another cheap swipe at all feminists. And a way of deterring any other woman—or man—from speaking up in a similar way. But I won’t be deterred, and I won’t be silenced.
Spiritually, I understand that the terms “men” and “women” are merely duality. They are descriptions to categorise us in our human experience on earth. In a spiritual sense, we are all just souls. But while we’re here on earth, these dualities do exist, and they colour our past, present, and our future as human beings on this planet. This is why they are needed.
My life—my experiences, my struggles, and my challenges—has been shaped by being female. And I will not let you erase that.