JK Rowling reveals sexual abuse and domestic violence in open letter defending transgender comments

Author has been widely criticised for her comments about gender, sex and trans community

Roisin O'Connor
Wednesday 10 June 2020 18:33 BST
JK Rowling criticised over ‘transphobic’ tweet about menstruation.mp4

JK Rowling has revealed her experiences of surviving domestic abuse and sexual assault in a lengthy personal essay defending her comments about transgender people.

The Harry Potter author received widespread public criticism earlier this week after mocking a headline about “people who menstruate” in tweets that attracted accusations of transphobia.

In her open letter, Rowling addressed the backlash and accusations that she is a “TERF” (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) before breaking down her stance on transgender issues.

She said she had chosen to share her experiences “out of solidarity with the huge numbers of women who have histories like mine, who’ve been slurred as bigots for having concerns around single-sex spaces”.

After more than 20 years in the public eye, she said she has chosen to write about her allegedly "violent marriage" now not for sympathy but to explain her trans rights position, suggesting that trans women can pose a physical threat to those born biologically as women. She also wrote that she was the victim of a sexual assault, by an unnamed perpetrator.

She cited a number of psychiatrists and physicians to support some of her arguments, stating that we are living “through the most misogynistic period I’ve experienced”.

“Back in the Eighties, I imagined that my future daughters, should I have any, would have it far better than I ever did, but between the backlash against feminism and a porn-saturated online culture, I believe things have got significantly worse for girls,” she said.

“Never have I seen women denigrated and dehumanised to the extent they are now," she wrote.

"From the leader of the free world’s long history of sexual assault accusations and his proud boast of ‘grabbing them by the pussy’, to the incel (‘involuntarily celibate’) movement that rages against women who won’t give them sex, to the trans activists who declare that TERFs need punching and re-educating, men across the political spectrum seem to agree: women are asking for trouble. Everywhere, women are being told to shut up and sit down, or else.”

Rowling has previously faced criticism after voicing her support for a researcher who had been sacked after tweeting that transgender people could not change their biological sex.

“I haven’t written this essay in the hope that anybody will get out a violin for me, not even a teeny-weeny one,” Rowling said, adding that she was bringing up her personal experiences of abuse as they have shaped her beliefs.

”I’m extraordinarily fortunate; I’m a survivor, certainly not a victim. I’ve only mentioned my past because, like every other human being on this planet, I have a complex backstory, which shapes my fears, my interests and my opinions. I never forget that inner complexity when I’m creating a fictional character and I certainly never forget it when it comes to trans people.

“All I’m asking – all I want – is for similar empathy, similar understanding, to be extended to the many millions of women whose sole crime is wanting their concerns to be heard without receiving threats and abuse.”

Among those to speak out against the author earlier this week were former Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts stars Daniel Radcliffe and Eddie Redmayne.

Evanna Lynch, who played Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter films, said she was “saddened” by Rowling’s views on transgender people.

“I disagree with her opinion that cis-women are the most vulnerable minority in this situation and I think she’s on the wrong side of this debate. But that doesn’t mean she has completely lost her humanity,” Lynch said in a post on Twitter.

She added: ‘I’m so sorry to any trans people who feel that’s been taken away or that this community is no longer that safe place. But the Harry Potter world/fandom/community is literally made up of millions of people now and I for one will work to make it feel inclusive because trans women are women.”

Redmayne, who starred in two "Fantastic Beast" films of the Harry Potter prequel series, tweeted that he and his transgender friends and colleagues were tired of the "constant questioning of their identities."

"Trans women are women, trans men are men and non-binary identities are valid," said Redmayne, who played a transgender woman in the 2015 film "The Danish Girl," which earned him an Oscar nomination.

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