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Could JK Rowling’s latest venture be the final nail in the coffin for her reputation?

By closing its doors to the trans community, in my view, it instead becomes a huge step backwards for equality and a monument to hate

Ryan Coogan
Wednesday 14 December 2022 12:16 GMT
JK Rowling criticised over ‘transphobic’ tweet about menstruation.mp4
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After a certain point you have to wonder if JK Rowling is under the impression that the word “transgender” means something completely different, like “spider-person”.

Like one day she mixed up a news article with one of her manuscripts and got the whole thing backwards, and now she’s sat there wondering why there are so many columns out there defending the rights of trans people when all they want to do is trap our children in their webs, and lay eggs in our mouths.

All of her complaints about the trans community seem perfectly reasonable once you reframe them as a fight against the oncoming scourge of the arachnoids. Who cares if she trashes her reputation in the process? Hell, if anything, she isn’t being arachnophobic enough.

I’m being cute, but up until about a year ago, I held out hope that Rowling was somehow misunderstood or that I just “read her out of context”, as her defenders keep insisting. But I’ve given her the benefit of the doubt, and I’ve seen the context, and if anything it just makes things worse as time goes on. It’s a shame, because she gave me a lot of great memories as a kid, but for me at least, a point has been reached where her stance on trans people makes her pretty much irredeemable.

I think Rowling’s latest venture more or less solidifies her heel turn: Beira’s Place, a women-only service for victims of sexual abuse that will be located in Edinburgh. The service is described as being “set up by women, for women”. Its website reads: “There are a number of services in Lothian, and indeed across Scotland, that provide support to male survivors of domestic and sexual abuse. However, there are few, if any, that are strictly women only.”

Early reports had indicated that the service may still be open to trans people despite suggestions to the contrary, but that no longer seems to be the case.

Speaking to the Edinburgh Evening News, a spokesperson for Beira’s Place said: “We believe that women deserve to have certainty that, in using our services, they will not encounter anyone who is male. Where appropriate, we will refer men or individuals identifying as trans women to other appropriate services”.

For context, Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre has been run by a trans woman – Mridul Wadhwa – since May 2021. Other rape crisis centres throughout Scotland welcome trans women. While Beira’s Place could very easily have been a way for Rowling to counteract the accusations that she is discriminatory towards the trans community, to me, it seems instead to be a shallow attempt to shield herself from further criticism by doing something which is nominally good, but in reality actually further segregates and disenfranchises vulnerable people.

Isabelle Kerr, who will help run the centre, said that Beira’s Place “recognises that effective sexual violence services must be independent, needs-led, and provide responsive, women-centred services so that they are free from the pressure of current political agendas”. That statement is kind of ironic, since the service seems to be explicitly, overwhelmingly political in its construction and aims.

It was announced just days before Scotland’s gender recognition reform bill is expected to enter the final stage of the legislative process, which if passed will make it easier for trans people to self-identify. Depending on how things shake out, Rowling’s service may find itself at loggerheads with this new legislation, as the Equality Act still allows refusal of services to trans people if they are considered proportional and legitimate.

If Beira’s Place had operated similarly to other Scottish crisis centres, in allowing trans women to take part, then it could have been a great thing. Edinburgh rape crisis centre has an 18-month backlog of cases, and a new service could really help to alleviate pressure.

But by closing its doors to the trans community, in my view, it instead becomes a huge step backwards for equality and a monument to hate, instead of the valuable service it could have been. I’m sure I’ll get some pushback for saying this about a service designed to help women (which in either scenario, I have no doubt it will). But it’s like opening a whites-only orphanage; what, would you rather there not be an orphanage at all? What did orphans ever do to you?

And from what I’ve seen previously, it’s not massively surprising. Did we really think that the woman who is comfortable dropping the “T” from “LGBT” would welcome trans applicants with open arms?

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