JK Rowling is being made out to be a hate preacher – it is as absurd as it is troubling

I think we should all get over the fact that a 56-year-old woman has dared to air a legitimate opinion over a deeply divisive issue

Jordan Tyldesley
Tuesday 15 March 2022 13:38 GMT
Gender-critical women and those who would like to discuss their rights are too often shunned by the left
Gender-critical women and those who would like to discuss their rights are too often shunned by the left (Getty Images)

A few years ago I thought about JK Rowling very little; particularly as I muted her for a time on Twitter when she wouldn’t stop bleating on about Brexit (no offence Joanne, I’m sure many have done the same to me). Nevertheless, it didn’t change my opinion of her and the gift she’s given to the world: Harry Potter.

But these days, I feel the need to constantly come to her defence against an unrelenting wave of intolerant attacks by men and women who appear to be hell-bent on depicting her as the devil incarnate. I neither wish to worship or condemn her; rather, I simply think we should all get over the fact that a 56-year-old woman has dared to air a legitimate opinion over a deeply divisive issue.

First of all, it really needn’t be this way – the whole situation is an absurd mess. Gender-critical women and those who would like to discuss their rights are too often shunned by the left, who are unduly distrustful of their position. On the other hand, those who identify as trans or who are gender-dysphoric are understandably fearful of a bigoted backlash, when they simply wish to live an authentic, peaceful and happy life.

This issue is complex and requires careful consideration, as both parties are an oppressed category. Women do not hold some sort of privileged stake in this debate. And yet it often feels as if we are a nuisance for suggesting that is the case.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand that allowing a male-bodied person – no questions asked – into a vulnerable female space could potentially lead to unscrupulous men taking advantage of a loophole. It is my belief that those who blind themselves to this risk are doing it either because they’re naive, or they are simply willing to relegate women’s safety in the name of faux-progressivism.

Rowling didn’t have to get involved in this discussion. She’s one of the most successful authors in the world, loved by many and also (to put it bluntly), rich. She could have quite easily sat on her millions and handed over social media responsibility to a highly-trained communications assistant; instructing them to tweet out PR friendly messages every now and again whilst she sits on the sofa watching back-to-back films (that’s what I’d be tempted to do).

But, alas, she has become the trans debate poster girl – and pays the price for her opinions by receiving death threats. I, too, have experienced some online aggression and violent imagery after making similar statements to Rowling. It’s disturbing and strange.

It all started on Twitter (doesn’t it always?) when Maya Forstater, a tax specialist, lost her job for what were deemed “transphobic” tweets, and during her tribunal, Rowling expressed her support for Forstater’s position. Since then, Rowling has continued to offer sporadic yet insightful contributions to a conversation in which many women fear to tread (presumably out of fear for their livelihoods).

Some of her latest comments question the Scottish government’s long-awaited Gender Recognition Reform Bill, which would mean individuals no longer have to produce medical evidence of gender dysphoria to obtain a gender recognition certificate. After the Labour leader Keir Starmer said “trans women are women” and called for a more respectful debate on the issue, Rowling took to Twitter to claim Sir Keir “publicly misrepresents equalities law”, adding: “Women are organising across party lines, and their resolve and their anger are growing.”

But the thing is, Rowling can’t be cancelled. She is literary royalty and her tales are quite literally magical. That is why it is so important she remains a vocal and respectful addition to this subject. She gives hope to the many women and LGBTQ people who now feel too nervous to state their views but are no longer willing to adhere to a combative form of trans activism.

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I was struck by a tweet sent to Rowling a couple of days ago. It read: “You really want your legacy to die on this hill?” Rowling sent a fitting riposte but surely, the fact a woman can metaphorically die on a hill for an opinion proves why her presence is so valid in the first place. I am in no doubt that her legacy will remain intact, perhaps even furthered by her bravery.

I am also constantly amused by the amount of people of a similar age who feel that they have a right to abuse Rowling because their mum once spent £10 on one of her books back in 2000. Reminder: you own the book, not the author. Your idols will say things you like – sometimes they’ll say things that wind you up, and that’s life.

I don’t know where we go from here. We’ve arrived at a place where some see JK Rowling like some sort of hate preacher – it’s as absurd as it is troubling. There will be some who share my opinion but are genuinely too nervous to offer her their support. But as an optimist, I do think we can move past this episode into friendlier territory, provided we communicate compassionately.

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