On Thursday, Rowling tweeted in support of Maya Forstater, a researcher at the Centre for Global Development whose contract was not renewed due to her publicly-stated beliefs that a trans woman is not a woman. Forstater’s case has made all of the UK’s TERFs, or trans-exclusionary radical feminists, and transphobes froth at the mouth. And it seems Rowling is one of them:
While it’s tempting to call Rowling a TERF here, it might be the wrong term for Rowling, who is far from what anyone would describe as a radfem. She’s just your typical liberal feminist whose views have in recent years aligned more closely with those of her TERF sisters, who in the UK have been mounting a very vocal campaign against trans people (and trans women in particular) for some years now. While a charitable reading might say that Rowling here is not quite expressing transphobic views, to “stand with Maya” and to express the view that “sex is real” (by which I can only assume she means immutable) is in essence agreeing with Maya and with others who hold her views.
This is not the first time that Rowling has expressed or hinted at her transphobic views. Last year, Rowling liked a tweet (which has since been deleted or made private) from a campaigner working to prevent trans women from being included on the Labour Party’s all-women shortlists that described trans women as “men in dresses.” According to Pink News, the tweet read, “I was shouted at by men at my first Labour Party meeting aged 18 because I asked them to remove a Page 3 calendar. I’ve been told to be louder, stronger, independent. I’ve often not felt supported. Men in dresses get brocialist solidarity I never had. that’s misogyny!”
Rowling’s spokesperson blamed her liking the tweet on... her age? “I’m afraid J.K. Rowling had a clumsy and middle-aged moment and this is not the first time she has favourited by holding her phone incorrectly,” her spokesperson told Pink News. But I guess she often holds her phone incorrectly, accidentally liking transphobic tweets along the way, because it’s not the first time that’s happened!
Others have also noted that a significant number of the people that Rowling follows on Twitter, where she is very active, include well-known TERFs and transphobes like the writers Julie Bindel and Hadley Freeman. Bindel in particular is known in the UK for her anti-trans writing and campaigning, warning darkly of what she calls the “trans cabal” and dismissively describing trans women as “men disposing of their genitals.” I wouldn’t be surprised if Rowling’s daily exposure on Twitter to the ideas of people like Bindel has influenced her views in recent years. When you play in shit, after all, it tends to make you stink.