4 Times J.K. Rowling Was Wrong About Trans Rights

J.K. Rowling is at it again. The famed Harry Potter author’s anti-trans views are once more front-page news.  

This time, it’s her work that’s under fire. Troubled Blood, Rowling’s newest crime novel, features a murderous crossdressing man accused of killing a doctor. 

The cross-dressing killer trope has been around for decades and appears in well-known films like Psycho (1960) and Silence of the Lambs (1991). Critics call this characterization outdated, dangerous and transphobic

But those who have been following Rowling’s updates aren’t surprised about the new book. In June, the author was criticized for mocking an op-ed that used the term “people who menstruate” rather than “women.” Her comment garnered backlash from LGBTQ organizations, celebrities and the general public

She followed up her statements with a 3,600-word essay defending herself. In it, she cites her past experiences of domestic and sexual abuse as justifications for her anti-trans views. 

Rowling also discusses the need for female-only safe spaces, the “alarming” rate of people detransitioning and the legal gender confirmation process as justifications for her opinions. Almost none of these arguments are supported by evidence. And most claims are untrue. 

Let’s check out some false claims Rowling made and set the record straight. 

1. Claim: Letting Trans Women Into Bathrooms Puts Cis Women In Danger

J.K. Rowling said: “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… then you open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside.” 

Truth: In the United States, not a single instance of voyeurism has been reported in states with legal protections for trans people. 

While the fight for trans equality is a relatively new one, the “dangerous bathroom” argument is not. Historically, bathroom fears have been used repeatedly in all kinds of civil rights cases. In fact, it’s the same argument that was used to justify racial segregation

Blacks and whites were kept separate based on the fear that black men would attack white women in bathrooms. These fears were unfounded in the era of racial segregation and they’re not true for trans people either.

Conservatives defend their position by citing examples of men sneaking into women’s bathrooms to attack them. While such events have happened, PolitiFact reports that these cases happened before nondiscrimination laws were passed. So it’s not the laws that are at fault, it’s cis men’s behavior.

Rowling, in advocating for trans women to be excluded from women’s spaces, is effectively calling for trans women to face the very danger from which she, and other transphobes, claim to be protecting themselves. 

And the statistics prove it. As of August 7, 2020, 28 trans women had been violently killed in the United States. This number surpasses the 2019 total just seven months into the year. 

2. Claim: Most Women Want To Maintain Single-Sex “Safe” Spaces. 

J.K. Rowling said: “I stand alongside the brave women and men…for the rights and safety of some of the most vulnerable in our society: young gay kids, fragile teenagers, and women who’re reliant on and wish to retain their single sex spaces. Polls show those women are in the vast majority.”

Truth: 86% of cisgender women stated they would feel comfortable with a trans woman using the female bathroom.

Here Rowling suggests she’s in the majority when it comes to maintaining single-sex “safe” spaces. Studies show the opposite is true. 

A 2016 study found cisgender females 4 times more likely than cis men to state that transgender women do not cause safety or privacy concerns. In the study, cis women said things like:

  • “As a woman, I have no problems with a man, transgender or not, using a woman’s bathroom.” 
  • “I’m a 63-year old woman, and I don’t see why this is a big deal. We aren’t dainty little flowers needing protection by men.”

Cis men, on the other hand, said things like:

  • “I wouldn’t want my wife or daughter in a locker room or bathroom with anyone with a penis.”
  • “I hope you and your daughters enjoy sharing bathrooms and changing rooms with well-hung males who ‘self-identify’ as females.”

These statements indicate fears from cis men about men “impersonating” a woman in order to gain access to a female-only space. But as the last example demonstrates, not only are cases like this rare, but they happen regardless of whether antidiscrimination laws are in place or not. 

3. Claim: More People Are Detransitioning

J. K. Rowling said: “I’m concerned about…the increasing numbers who seem to be detransitioning (returning to their original sex), because they regret taking steps that have, in some cases, altered their bodies irrevocably, and taken away their fertility.” 

Truth: One analysis showed that less than 1% of 3,398 trans people expressed transition-related regret, or had detransitioned. 

The reasons cited for detransitioning and/or regret have nothing to do with the act of transitioning. Rather, research has found that the most common reason for detransitioning is lost community and family support, as well as experiences of transphobia. 

Other studies have found that regrets also come from unsatisfactory surgical results, rather than the act of transitioning itself. 

4. Claim: It’s Becoming Too Easy To Transition 

J.K. Rowling said: “The current explosion of trans activism is urging a removal of almost all the robust systems through which candidates for sex reassignment were once required to pass. A man who intends to have no surgery and take no hormones may now secure himself a Gender Recognition Certificate [GRC] and be a woman in the sight of the law.” 

Truth: GRC candidates must be over 18, have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, have lived in their acquired gender for at least 2 years and intend to live in their acquired gender for the rest of their lives. 

Rowling’s essay suggests that obtaining a GRC is too easy. Nothing could be farther from the truth. 

In order to prove a gender dysphoria diagnosis, applicants must provide a medical report from a gender specialist or psychologist. In addition, a separate doctor must provide a report detailing any medical interventions. 

While Rowling is correct in saying that a GRC can technically be obtained without hormone therapy or surgery, reality suggests this is rare. In fact, if the patient hasn’t undergone hormone replacement therapy or surgery, they must provide a detailed explanation of why not.

Applicants must also prove they’ve lived in their “acquired gender” (the gender they are transitioning into) for two years. This proof can take the form of bank statements, utility bills, passports or “other documents of an official nature.” 

Stonewall, an LGBTQ rights charity in the UK, calls obtaining a GRC “a stressful, dehumanizing and traumatic process for trans people to go through.”

Given the complexity, stress and trauma of obtaining a GRC, it’s absolutely ridiculous for Rowling to suggest that the system has become too lax or that cis men are taking advantage of it. 

La Fuente Stands With The Trans Community

La Fuente Alumni Luncheon 2019

Unfortunately Rowling’s essay is filled with many more false statements, including claims that young people are being forced to transition and that trans women are responsible for the destruction of hard-won women’s rights. 

It’s horrible that someone with her influence is using her platform to spread misinformation and hate. Here at La Fuente Hollywood Treatment Center, we support the trans community. We see you and we hear you. Trans women are women. Trans men are men. And trans rights are human rights.

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