TERF Wars

JK Rowling is uinder fire for arguing only women menstruate.

Joanne Rowling came under fire over the weekend for a series of tweets that tried to take a middle ground between supporting transgendered people and denying that sex is something other than a social construct.

It began with this:

The onslaught was fierce and emotional, typified by this:

Rowling tried to provide additional context, to no avail.

While it’s always useful to remember that Twitter is not real life, the vitriol and backlash baffles me. Rowling is clearly an ally, who has used her not inconsiderable platform to support LGBTQ rights.

Rowling has been labeled a “TERF,” a trans-exclusionary radical feminist. But her sin here seems venial: she believes that trans people are entitled to live their lives as they see fit, free from discrimination. Yet she also takes the position, common in the gay and lesbian community, that sex is real.

Now, to be fair, Rowling has been embroiled in these controversies before, so she knew her tweet would be hurtful and provoke backlash. Why she feels she needs to have this crusade is beyond me. But she’s entitled to have an opinion here and it’s one she’s clearly examined:

Jo Rowling is going to be fine. If she never sells another book, she’ll continue to be one of the richest people on the planet. And, again, she picked the fight here.

I fully acknowledge that Rowling’s view—which would have seemed completely unremarkable, even obvious, five years ago—is hurtful to many transgender individuals and those close to them. But it’s also an incredibly complex issue, with many gays and lesbians having a core identity around the idea of sex and believing that the trans position essentially erases their lived experience.

Beyond that, it’s not at all obvious how directing vitriol against Rowling, otherwise an ally, is useful. Ronald Reagan’s adage that “My 80 percent friend is not my 20 percent enemy” would seem worth heeding here.

FILED UNDER: Gender Issues
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. wr says:

    It’s like the comments section of Lawyers, Guns and Money come to life — it doesn’t matter what you’ve done for me, it doesn’t matter how much I’ve adored you all my life, if you don’t agree with absolutely everything I believe in every aspect then you are scum.

    The question to me is not whether Rowling is suspect, it’s why we pay attention to such obvious fringe-dwellers? Because they post on Twitter?

    22
  2. rachel says:

    Oh, FFS. This is just so stupid.

    11
  3. Stormy Dragon says:

    Rowling is clearly an ally

    1. Rowling is not clearly an ally. This is just the latest in a long history of transphobic comments including publicly referring to transgender women as “men in dresses” and referring to them as “it”, as well as advocating against legal recognition of their transitions.
    2. Even in the rest of the LGBT community, she’s frequently seen as more of an oppurtunist than an actual ally. Her main claim to allyship is coming out several years after her books were written an claiming some of the characters were secretly gay the whole time. Since none of this explictly exists in the text of the books, it’s largely perceived as wanting credit for doing something she didn’t actually have the courage to do. Made worse by the fact that you accept the claim they were intended to be subtextually gay from the beginning, all of the characters in question actually create NEGATIVE portrayals of LGBT relationships.
    3. It takes a lot of chutzpah for a cis straight man who by his own admission was opposed to their civil rights just a few years ago to lecture LGBT people on who they have to accept as an ally.

    with many gays and lesbians having a core identity around the idea of sex and believing that the trans position essentially erases their lived experience

    4. The modern gay-rights movement was started by trans women:

    Forsaken transgender pioneers recognized 50 years after Stonewall

    If it weren’t for the “trans position”, those gays and lesbians might still be hiding in the closet.

    19
  4. Tyrell says:

    Totally ridiculous. Have people gone completely crazy? Men don’t menstruate. Men can’t have a baby. That is sixth-grade science.

    7
  5. Michael Reynolds says:

    I got a bit involved in this, first by suggesting, very politely that Ms. Rowling reconsider her stand, then by writing a long Tweet thread talking about the foolishness of ‘canceling’ Harry Potter because you’re annoyed at Rowling. Naturally, this being Twitter, I was attacked by Rowling supporters telling me it’s none of my business ’cause penis. I pointed out that I have a lot of trans followers, wrote a major trans character and have a trans daughter so, yes, it is my business.

    What Rowling did that got everyone so riled up – this time – is make a statement that is seemingly anodyne, but not. Sort of like ‘all lives matter.’ Sure. But also, she knew what she was doing.

    I was never a huge fan of Harry. Rowling is great with character, has a terrific imagination when it comes to world-building, and by breaking the 300 page barrier in YA she paved the way for me and a lot of other writers. But I just don’t much like ‘revealed prince’ plots, they’re monarchical in nature and I find the whole ‘I was magic all along’ storylines boring. But YMMV and no question Rowling is a great writer.

    Obviously the reaction is over-the-top. Obviously Rowling is not evil incarnate. But at the same time, she didn’t accidentally stumble into this fight, she knew what she was doing.

    This is why I keep my social media to an absolute minimum. I deleted Facebook, have an Instagram account only so I can question one guy as an expert, and have none of the rest. Once you get the blue check you get trolls who devote their lives to hating you. I long for the days of writing without public contact at all. But publishers insist nowadays that you have a social media presence.

    25
  6. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Tyrell:
    Lots of women can’t menstruate or have a baby. And as I said to Rowling, these are just people trying to be happy, they aren’t hurting her and she is hurting them.

    25
  7. MarkedMan says:

    @Tyrell: Tyrell, actually now that most babies are grown in test tubes, the sex of the parents really doesn’t matter all that much. The real scandal is that so many parents are insisting their children stay in the artificial womb until they are 16, so as to bypass all those difficult episodes during puberty.

    7
  8. Monala says:

    I’m a cis-gendered woman. Rowling’s arguments sound to me like those who claim that same-sex marriage somehow harms straight marriages.

    There was no need for her to make the original tweet at all. I’m a woman who menstruates (or at least used to, until recently), and “people who menstruate” takes nothing away from me and does no harm to me. As to her follow-up tweets, my understanding of trans rights doesn’t suggest that sex isn’t real, just that it’s non-binary.

    11
  9. Nightcrawler says:

    @Tyrell:

    From what I understand (and I admit that I’m not totally versed on this issue), what the trans community is saying is that not everyone born with female sex organs identifies as female. Think FTM trans men or people who identify as gender non-binary.

    I’ve never fully grasped the concept of being gender non-binary because I’ve never felt I was anything but female. I’ve come to look at it as the sort of thing you cannot totally grasp unless you’ve lived that experience. I cannot totally grasp what it’s like to be black either, because I have never lived that experience.

    I cannot comment on the Rowling issue either way because I don’t know enough about her stance on LGBTQ issues. I don’t know a lot about her, period.

    5
  10. Nightcrawler says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I can’t. I had to have a hysterectomy. Even prior to that, I was almost certainly infertile. I had severe endometriosis.

    Gender identity clearly goes deeper than reproductive organs. I’ve never felt I was anything but female. No longer having a uterus or ovaries has not made me feel less female.

    20
  11. Nightcrawler says:

    @Monala:

    Yeah, I’ve never heard a trans person say that sex isn’t real. They’ve said that the concept of gender identity is more complex than conservatives make it out to be, and as I said in my last post, I agree with them.

    8
  12. wr says:

    @Michael Reynolds: “But at the same time, she didn’t accidentally stumble into this fight, she knew what she was doing.”

    I don’t really get why she does this. Yes, she absolutely knows how it’s going to play out because she’s been through all this before.

    It’s not like she’s fighting for or against much of anything — there doesn’t seem anything at stake for her here.

    Maybe she’s just bored, and she feels like a Twitter war. All I know is that if I had her money and following I’d find another way to amuse myself.

    8
  13. R.Dave says:

    @Stormy Dragon: This is just the latest in a long history of [Rowling’s] transphobic comments including…advocating against legal recognition of their transitions.”

    Hm, my “mischaracterization radar” is pinging on that one. I haven’t followed the UK Trans/Terf Wars stuff all that closely, but I don’t recall seeing Rowling state or even imply that she’s opposed to legal recognition of transitions, full stop. I’ve seen her imply opposition to particular applications of legal recognition that have ramifications for others – e.g., housing trans-women in female prisons, trans-girls competing in girl’s sports in school, the UK equivalent of bathroom bills, etc. – but not any and all legal recognition. She clearly believes there’s an experiential difference between growing up and/or being a cis-female and growing up / being a trans-woman, but that’s not a question of legal recognition.

  14. CSK says:

    @wr:
    \
    It’s irritatingly perverse–and childish of her. As you say, she’s not fighting for anything. Provoking for the sake of provoking is infantile.

    2
  15. Jay L Gischer says:

    Well, I’m not sure I can say anything better than Michael did. I have a few things to add:

    I have one thing to add. I’ve seen TERFS, and she ain’t one. That joke was in really poor taste, though. It was hurtful.

    Bodies do matter, even if they don’t matter as much as many think they do.

    The internet gives a platform to those who think that if someone isn’t perfect, they are terrible. There’s no middle ground, no moderated behavior. Temperance is a fault to them, not a virtue. To some, I think this is a matter of strategy, it’s how they hold their activism.

    3
  16. Raoul says:

    Like someone said above; I’m not sure what Rowling is trying to say or do but at a minimum she sounds tone deaf.

    3
  17. Stormy Dragon says:

    @R.Dave:

    I’ve seen her imply opposition to particular applications of legal recognition that have ramifications for others – e.g., housing trans-women in female prisons, trans-girls competing in girl’s sports in school, the UK equivalent of bathroom bills, etc. – but not any and all legal recognition.

    What legal recognitions are left?

    2
  18. Modulo Myself says:

    If you were a kid and living in the middle of early 2000s bleak Christian America Harry Potter might have been something more than popular culture. I’ve never understood the mystique of the whole poor orphan underdog who regularly beats the hell out of adult wizards and is the coolest kid in school, but I was also not the audience. I think for a bookwormy gay kid in Bush-era Omaha the overall acceptance of the worldbuilding in Harry Potter might have been like actual magic.

    Anyway, being a TERF is like having brain worms. She just can’t help herself.

    2
  19. R.Dave says:

    @Stormy Dragon: What legal recognitions are left?

    Uh, basically everything. Off the top of my head: what you have to list as your gender on every governmental form you fill out, what your government-issued ID will list as your gender, qualification for gender-specific government grants, scholarships, and business subsidies, and the applicability of every other law, regulation or rule that refers to sex/gender. Just like civil unions for tax and medical visitation purposes weren’t an adequate alternative to full gay marriage rights because of the thousands of ways the law distinguishes on the basis of marital status, highlighting a few prominent issues and acting like that’s the whole story on trans rights utterly misses the scope of the thing.

    7
  20. Michael Reynolds says:

    @wr: @CSK:

    It’s irritatingly perverse–and childish of her. As you say, she’s not fighting for anything. Provoking for the sake of provoking is infantile.

    Thank God I’ve always been above such things. Sometimes the bear is just sitting there and you have an overwhelming urge to poke it.

    Because of a fluke – a character in ANIMORPHS – Katherine and I have been made honorary trans patrons. We’re both very uncomfortable with this because we’re getting credit for something we did not consciously do. OTOH I get beat up for things I didn’t do, so I suppose there’s some rough balance there. I recently heard that I had taken a strong stand in support of a controversial autism therapy. This of course was news to me, and about as likely as hearing that I had strong opinions on string theory.*

    I have a natural affinity for people who don’t fit. And I’ve just never seen why it’s my business to work to deprive someone else of happiness. As long as no one is frightening the horses, as Oscar Wilde said.

    *My actual position on string theory: Ow, brain hurt!

    10
  21. pylon says:

    @Tyrell:

    My wife can’t menstruate or have a baby. Clearly a man then? I’m so cosmopolitan now!

    7
  22. Nightcrawler says:

    I will say that, with everything else that’s going on, I am baffled that Rowling chose this particular hill to die on.

    4
  23. Gustopher says:

    I have no idea whether trans women are real women or trans men are real men — and in some contexts, the distinction makes a huge difference (medical contexts, basically).

    But in most contexts? Separating trans folks from their real/chosen/whatever gender just targets them for discrimination, and is also just not kind. Or respectful.

    Treat people like people — call them by what they want to be called, whether it is pronouns, names, political-affiliation, etc., and only make a distinction where it matters.

    Hair care options for black folks are different than white folks and the different skin tones are going to make different colors of clothing look better or worse, so pasty white people shouldn’t wear orange. Some people using men’s bathrooms may need menstrual products.

    Rowling knows what she’s doing, she’s done it before, and she will do it again, and she isn’t doing it out of kindness. Even if she’s right, and I’m not saying she is, it’s more of a “you’re right, but you’re an asshole” than a “you’re right” situation.

    Being technically right (which is, admittedly, the best kind of right), is no excuse for being an asshole.

    I’m not sure I would call Rowling a TERF though, as to be a Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist, you first have to be a feminist, and I’ve read those Harry Potter books, and every significant position of authority is held by a man, and every minor position of authority held by a woman is held by a terrible woman.

    9
  24. Stormy Dragon says:

    @R.Dave:

    what you have to list as your gender on every governmental form you fill out, what your government-issued ID will list as your gender

    1. Rowling has specifically come out against allowing transgender to change their government documents to reflect their gender identity instead of their birth gender.
    2. Even if she did, so what? If having a documnet that says a transgender woman is a woman, but they get sent to male prisons, have to use male bathrooms, have to compete in male sports, etc. what good is having that paper? This is basically the problem with Rowlings: she only supports recognition of transgender people as long as the recognition is completely symbolic.

    5
  25. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    Actually, it was Mrs. Patrick Campbell who said that about frightening the horses. 😀

    I know a few people who like to provoke purely for the sake of provocation. What confounds me is when they effect to be puzzled/angry/hurt/insulted by the consequences. If you go to an anti-Trump website full of praise for Trump and then get a bucket of shit dumped on your head, don’t come crying about it to me. What did you expect?

    3
  26. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Gustopher:

    I’m not sure I would call Rowling a TERF though, as to be a Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist, you first have to be a feminist, and I’ve read those Harry Potter books, and every significant position of authority is held by a man, and every minor position of authority held by a woman is held by a terrible woman.

    Hermione is a lovely character.

    I cringe at counting representation in books in simplistic terms. But yeah, she likes male heroes. Some of that is market-driven. In general books I’ve written with male leads do better than ones with female leads. I push back against that by sometimes opening with a strong male lead then slowly shifting the focus to non-white, non-straight, non-male characters. The male lead is a comfortable place for readers, then I transition (heh) the reader into a more diverse world.

    Thankfully I am out of the world of toxic YA publishing, and it is genuinely toxic. I feel like a guy who sold all his Lehman stock before the crash.

    5
  27. Michael Reynolds says:

    @CSK:
    Yeah, but Wilde was a dude, so obviously he should get the credit.

  28. SKI says:

    Michael Reynolds and Stormy Dragon have pretty much covered the facts that James is missing. She deliberately antagonized and hurt people…again.

    The only thing I can add is a *possible* explanation for why JKR keeps being deliberately nasty: she can’t get her head around the facts that (1) while her identity as a woman is tied up in menstruation, not everyone else’s is and (2) that their lived reality doesn’t change the validity of hers.

    6
  29. Gromitt Gunn says:

    Additionally, “people who menstruate are called women” utterly erases the existence of transmen.

    3
  30. Monala says:

    @Gustopher: Professor McGonagall would be an exception.

    3
  31. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    You also have to look at Rowling’s involvement in the Maya Forstater controversy. For those not familiar, Maya Forstater worked for think tank in the UK and was harassing transgender subordinates and persistently refusing to use the pronouns appropriate to their gender identity. This eventually lead to Forstater’s dismissal, after which she sued her former employer.

    Rowlings came out very publiclly on Forstater’s side, arguing that being expected to treat transgender coworkers with basic respect was a misogynist imposition on Forstater.

    So again this “clearly an ally” doesn’t even support basic protections from workplace harassment and bullying for transgender people.

    10
  32. Moosebreath says:

    @Gustopher: @Michael Reynolds:

    “Hermione is a lovely character.”

    Who becomes Minister of Magic in the sequel play.

    Also, on what level is Minerva McGonagall a terrible person?

    3
  33. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Moosebreath:

    Who becomes Minister of Magic in the sequel play.

    Which was written by Jack Thorne, not J. K. Rowling.

    2
  34. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    Yes, he was: an LGBTQ dude who suffered for it.

    2
  35. Slugger says:

    Does Robert Galbraith have an opinion on this issue?

  36. wr says:

    @Gromitt Gunn: “Additionally, “people who menstruate are called women” utterly erases the existence of transmen.”

    You know something? It really doesn’t.

    It denies their existence, sure. But erase? That’s just silly hyperbole. When a state decides to exterminate transmen, they “utterly erase” their existence.

    If we’re so fragile that making a statement is seen to erase the existence of people, then we will never be able to fight for anything worthwhile.

    I understand why people started talking about “erasing.” But we’re long past that. Get a grip, and if you want to argue, argue. But stop saying that your very existence is being destroyed simply because someone else thinks differently.

    4
  37. wr says:

    @Stormy Dragon: “Which was written by Jack Thorne, not J. K. Rowling”

    You are aware that Rowling controls these characters, and that Thorne could do nothing without her approval, I assume.

    Are you really so desperate for villains in your life you need to make her one as well?

    6
  38. R.Dave says:

    @Stormy Dragon: The prison, sports, bathroom examples are particularly prominent issues involving particularly obvious impositions on non-trans people. As I said, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of other situations in which official legal recognition confers tangible benefits, and I haven’t seen Rowling oppose that. I ask again, have you? Can you point to any examples?

    3
  39. Stormy Dragon says:

    @R.Dave:

    I ask again, have you? Can you point to any examples?

    I gave you two already: she opposes allowing transgender people to update their government documents to reflect their gender identity and she opposes protecting transgender employees from workplace harrassment.

    2
  40. Stormy Dragon says:

    @R.Dave:

    And how exactly does putting a transgender woman in a female prison impose on non-trans people? You’re basically arguing that one transgender woman is so inherently dangerous that they can threaten hundreds of women, but that it’s completely safe to isolate them with hundreds of men.

    3
  41. Michael Reynolds says:

    Trans women in prison is essentially just a re-working of the bathroom cry, ‘but they’ll pee next to women and then rape them!’ Because trans folk are notorious rapists, accounting for, rough estimate, 0% of all rapes.

    If you’re a woman in prison your problem isn’t going to be with a trans woman, it’ll be with male guards. And as @Stormy Dragon: hints, a trans woman in a male prison is in unspeakable danger.

    6
  42. grumpy realist says:

    TERF, TERF, TERF. Trans-exclusive Radical Feminist. Which makes me immediately wonder–are there Trans-exclusive Moderate Feminists? Trans-exclusive Radical Masculinists?

    (Also, how many people in fact identify as TERFs? It looks more like it’s an epithet thrown at people you want to label as being Of The Other Side rather than, um, an actual movement. I’ve seen women who have pushed for more medical help for endometriosis and breast cancer getting labeled as TERFs–which is absolutely bonkers.)

    3
  43. Stormy Dragon says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Trans-exclusive Radical Masculinists

    Isn’t this what red-pills, incels, etc. are?

    2
  44. R.Dave says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Trans women in prison is essentially just a re-working of the bathroom cry, ‘but they’ll pee next to women and then rape them!’ Because trans folk are notorious rapists, accounting for, rough estimate, 0% of all rapes. If you’re a woman in prison your problem isn’t going to be with a trans woman, it’ll be with male guards. And as @Stormy Dragon: hints, a trans woman in a male prison is in unspeakable danger.

    It’s not the same thing at all, Michael. The bathroom thing is mainly about the way culturally-mediated feelings about privacy, sexuality and gender interact. Rape and assault are distant concerns (though for female victims of male violence, unexpectedly finding yourself alone in a small room with a male person who has his penis out can certainly trigger some genuine fear). Prison is a wholly different situation, as prisoner-on-prisoner violence is very common, and a male-bodied inmate will, on average, have a huge strength and size advantage over female-bodied inmates. And in the UK context, this issue came up because it actually happened:

    https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/male-rapist-transfer-womens-jail/

    @Stormy Dragon: And how exactly does putting a transgender woman in a female prison impose on non-trans people? You’re basically arguing that one transgender woman is so inherently dangerous that they can threaten hundreds of women, but that it’s completely safe to isolate them with hundreds of men.

    See above. Also, I’m not arguing in favor of housing transwomen with male prisoners. In the rare instance this comes up, I think special custody arrangements should be made that separate trans inmates from non-trans inmates. It’s not ideal, but nothing about prison is, and the risk of violence in either direction makes gen pop untenable.

    1
  45. R.Dave says:

    @Stormy Dragon: @Stormy Dragon: I gave you two already: she opposes allowing transgender people to update their government documents to reflect their gender identity and she opposes protecting transgender employees from workplace harrassment.

    I haven’t seen her take either of those positions, and a couple of quick Google searches haven’t turned anything up either. I suspect, based on the way this whole conversation has gone, that you’re significantly extrapolating from some more benign statement she’s actually made, so to avoid continuing to talk past each other here, can you just point me to some (any) specific statements she’s made that you’re basing your conclusions on?

    2
  46. Stormy Dragon says:

    @R.Dave:

    Do you not see the difference between, “we need to separate this one specific problem prisoner who’s demonstrated they specifically are a risk to the female prisoners” and “we need to preemptively mistreat everyone in an arbitrary subgroup of the prisoners because our steretypical concept of them suggests they might become a future problem”. If a trans woman gets sent to jail for tax evasion, sending them to a male prison because we’re convinced all trans-women will become serial-rapists if we place them near non-trans women isn’t based on a legitimate risk assessment.

    I think special custody arrangements should be made that separate trans inmates from non-trans inmates.

    “special custody” means solitary confinement. i.e. torture.

    4
  47. Michael Reynolds says:

    @R.Dave:
    Special arrangements means solitary.

    3
  48. R.Dave says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Right, because fancy white-collar dudes would never commit rape or sexual assault. It’s just stupid to pretend that locking up a male-bodied (or formerly male-bodied) person with a bunch of female-bodied people in a situation where they have no other sexual outlets, are under tremendous stress, and have already demonstrated a proclivity for law-breaking isn’t an inherently risky proposition. And no, solitary isn’t the only “special custody” option. Stop arguing in bad faith.

    1
  49. R.Dave says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Special arrangements means solitary.

    Sigh. Again, that’s not the only option. Can you honestly not imagine any other alternatives between gen pop and solitary? House arrest or other alternative sentencing when feasible for non-violent offenders and separate prison facility/wing for trans inmates are two that come to mind off the top of my head.

    1
  50. Stormy Dragon says:

    @R.Dave:

    fancy white-collar dudes

    So like Rowlings, the actual issue here is you think trans-women are really just men trying to pretend to be trans so they can game the system.

    @R.Dave:

    Can you honestly not imagine any other alternatives between gen pop and solitary?

    I can imagine them. Also, I must imagine them, because those other alternatives don’t actually exist. If you send a trans-woman to a male prison, their only options are going to be general population or solitary.

    6
  51. Michael Reynolds says:

    @R.Dave:
    In most states there are never going to be enough trans inmates to allow for an extra prison. In states like California you might build one. One. For people with families from Redding to San Diego. So, yes, as a practical matter, they’ll be in solitary.

    The notion that a trans female (MTF) is capable of rape is absurd. The pre-op will be on estrogen. The post-op will lack the wherewithal.

    The reality in prison is that wherever a trans female goes she’s in danger. Mortal danger in a male prison. But even in a female prison you need to recognize that there are some hard women in there, killers, batterers, armed robbers. A trans female is not going to somehow swagger in and become the new boss. Gangs run prisons. There are no trans gangs. And she will of course face the threat of male guards, just like all the other women, and if you don’t think she’ll get ‘special treatment’ from the guards, you need to take a look at who ends up in those jobs.

    So, mortal danger to a trans inmate, weighed against exceedingly unlikely fantasy scenarios.

    9
  52. R.Dave says:

    @Stormy Dragon: So like Rowlings, the actual issue here is you think trans-women are really just men trying to pretend to be trans so they can game the system.

    You know, you’d be a lot more effective at convincing people you’re not mischaracterizing a third party’s position if you didn’t wildly mischaracterize the position of the person you’re talking to in the process.

    @Stormy Dragon: I can imagine them. Also, I must imagine them, because those other alternatives don’t actually exist. If you send a trans-woman to a male prison, their only options are going to be general population or solitary.

    @Michael Reynolds:So, yes, as a practical matter, they’ll be in solitary.

    Protective custody and special needs units are a common feature of US, and presumably UK, prison systems, and from what I’ve read, daily routines are much closer to those of gen pop than solitary. And again, house arrest and alternative sentencing for non-violent offenders are also available options.

    @Michael Reynolds: The notion that a trans female (MTF) is capable of rape is absurd. The pre-op will be on estrogen. The post-op will lack the wherewithal.

    Wow, man. That’s wrong on so many levels, and if you take a step back and think about it for a second, I suspect you’ll recognize that.

    1
  53. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Stormy Dragon: I’m glad you have the energy to rep for the LGBTQ+ portion of the commentariat today, because I really just do not.

    3
  54. Stormy Dragon says:

    @R.Dave:

    By all means, tell us how I should more accurately characterize you referring to trans women as male-bodied dudes?

    3
  55. Stormy Dragon says:

    @R.Dave:

    Protective custody and special needs units are a common feature of US, and presumably UK, prison systems, and from what I’ve read, daily routines are much closer to those of gen pop than solitary.

    You read wrong.

    3
  56. Teve says:

    Yesterday at an Irish pub I was talking to a lesbian friend who is not TERFy at all except for one thing, sports. I told her ‘I thought the same thing until a year ago when someone pointed out that it’s just almost never actually happening. Trans women aren’t dominating women’s sports. The incidents are so rare that I can almost name you every trans person involved’. And she said, ‘yes but testosterone does things. And if you spend 20 years in a male body, you are physically different than most women. Bigger and stronger.’

    And frankly my current opinion is kind of a quantum superposition of what I said and what she said. Fortunately, I have no job that would even remotely depend on what I think about such matters, so it’s just nothing more than a personal curiosity for me.

    I mean, ideally wouldn’t you just create trans sports leagues?

    Interesting thought experiment. What if you could transport 75 years into the future? And what if you found out either that A, nothing has really changed because trans people are just fairly rare and the physical gifts necessary of coordination and muscle and brains and eyesight etc. are also rare and so there’s essentially no difference from today. Or if you find B, 75 years from now everyone who wins every woman’s sport is always a trans woman? How would that change things?

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  57. R.Dave says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Nah, you’re obviously either incapable or unwilling to engage in good faith, so there’s not much value in continuing with you at this point. For what it’s worth, though, all you’ve accomplished in this thread is to make it seem more likely that Rowlings has been unfairly mischaracterized, or at the very least, uncharitably interpreted, by her critics on these issues, so good on ya, I guess. Not the most effective approach to advocacy, but hey, you do you.

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  58. Gustopher says:

    @Moosebreath:

    Also, on what level is Minerva McGonagall a terrible person?

    Well, if you don’t know, I’m not going to disillusion you.

    Or it’s been a decade since I have read it and honestly cannot remember a single thing Professor McGonagall did. I do remember a variety of other female characters who were either awful, or non-entities (the French Love interest from Le Warts du Hog), or just flakey and weird. They didn’t have weighty decisions to make, and many had character traits rather than characters.

    Hermoine was a reasonably good character, though. Supportive after she finished nagging, did most of the work, got little of the credit, but believable.

    Rowling wasn’t pushing any boundaries though.

    Or memories from a decade ago are unreliable.

    1
  59. Gustopher says:

    @Teve: We already see all sorts of ethnic and racial divisions in sports*, so it wouldn’t surprise me if transgender folks dominated something.

    But, would it matter?

    *: As much a matter of opportunity as anything, perhaps, but I don’t think we have a way to prove it. And, if you have distinct genetic subgroups, what are the odds that none of them will have a variation in 3D problem solving or finger strength or something that makes a tiny but noticeable difference for people at the top of their game? If some groups can have higher incidence of sickle-cell or lactose-intolerance, why not something good?

    I’m more of a “celebrate the differences” guy than a “we’re all the same” guy.

  60. DrDaveT says:

    @Gustopher:

    Hermoine was a reasonably good character, though.

    Yeah, and look what her reward was. Ouch.

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  61. wr says:

    @Gustopher: “Rowling wasn’t pushing any boundaries though.”

    Was she required to? Does an author have to proselytize in exactly the right way — that is, exactly the right way to appeal to a reader a decade or more after the writing — to be worthwhile?

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  62. Moosebreath says:

    @Gustopher:

    “Or it’s been a decade since I have read it and honestly cannot remember a single thing Professor McGonagall did.”

    Then perhaps you need to re-read before saying something as silly as:

    “I’ve read those Harry Potter books, and every significant position of authority is held by a man, and every minor position of authority held by a woman is held by a terrible woman.”

    Minerva McGonagall was Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts, as well as in charge of Gryffindor House. Other than Dumbledore and Snape, she was the Hogwarts staff member who had the largest role in the books. She stuck her neck out to protect Harry multiple times (especially in the 5th book during the period Dolores Umbridge was running Hogwarts).

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  63. Stormy Dragon says:

    @R.Dave:

    Look I get it, you messed up and dropped a slur against trans-women into the conversation, which is super embarrassing, but you think if you can pretend hard enough you didn’t just crap on the rug by refusing to acknowledge the turd, no one else will notice either. So instead of apologizing, you’re going to double down by pretending I’M the unreasonable one for pointing it out.

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  64. Blue Galangal says:

    @DrDaveT:

    Yeah, and look what her reward was. Ouch.

    Boy HOWDY. Hermione was the most frustrating thing about the books, among many things. She was often the only competent one, the only reasonable one, and the only talented one. She worked harder than everyone else, but because her parents weren’t wizards and she was a girl, she was shunted aside, disregarded, ridiculed (by enemies and friends alike!) in ways that made my past-bullied-nerd-girl self wince in real pain, and she still showed up every day and fought for what was right. UGH. And then… and THEN…

    This is why I read fanfiction. Specifically, Hermione’s ending in the Lust over Pendle series is SO FREAKING MUCH BETTER and fits her fiercely capable character so much better.

    1
  65. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    @Nightcrawler: It’s a weird thing with older feminists. A lot of them seem to go off the deep end.

    Something about new generations taking their successes for granted and reappropriating them for their own needs (voluntary stay at home mums, headscarves, pornography, trans females etc.) really gets up their noses. Everybody needs to want the things they wanted when they started the fight. Alice Schwarzer in Germany is another good example of the type.

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  66. R.Dave says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Nope. Didn’t happen. And you’re either lacking basic reading comprehension or you’re a liar.

  67. Michael Reynolds says:

    @R.Dave:

    @Michael Reynolds: The notion that a trans female (MTF) is capable of rape is absurd. The pre-op will be on estrogen. The post-op will lack the wherewithal.

    Wow, man. That’s wrong on so many levels, and if you take a step back and think about it for a second, I suspect you’ll recognize that.

    Without getting too graphic for OTB, can you explain how one goes about committing rape without a penis? Are you unaware that estrogen treatments make sexual aggressions – and the physical ability to get an erection – rather more difficult? Can you show me a case where a MTF trans woman committed rape?

    You’re just wrong here. You’re wrong about the risks, you’re wrong about prisons.

    1
  68. grumpy realist says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I think the question also has to do with how much transition surgery has been carried out. There was a flurry some time back about the supposedly large number of transwomen who hadn’t gone for the total changeover and had only changed their top half. I can see why biological women would be nervous about that.

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  69. R.Dave says:

    @Michael Reynolds: A penis (let alone an erect penis) isn’t required to rape or otherwise sexually assault someone. And women (with all their estrogen) commit rape and sexual assault too. You seem to be operating from an antiquated understanding of “rape” being limited to penetration with a penis, which just isn’t the case. My concern with putting MTF trans prisoners into female prison gen pop isn’t that they might still have a penis; it’s that they will have a body that was initially formed by testosterone (whether or not they are currently undergoing hormone therapy) and the strength and size advantages that come with that.

    As for the current state of our prisons, I 100% agree that they fail spectacularly at providing conditions that are both safe and humane for the prisoners, and that protective custody often involves trade-offs between the two by relying too much on the playbook for solitary confinement. However, protective custody exists and is used for many, many prisoners who require special arrangements, and I think it’s a better alternative than putting MTF trans prisoners in gen pop at either a male or female prison, so I think the policy reform energy should be focused on improving those protective custody conditions rather than getting trans MTF trans prisoners into gen pop at female prisons. And putting FTM prisoners into male prison gen pop is most likely so ridiculously unsafe for them that it should basically not even be considered.

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  70. Michael Reynolds says:

    @grumpy realist: @R.Dave:

    1) Pre-op trans people are on mega doses of estrogen, not known for making people rapey.

    2) As explained above, you have a very naive notion of prison. Some pre-op MTF does not walk into a women’s prison and take over. The idea that one person with male muscles represents a threat to women in prison is just silly if you understand anything about how prison works. GANGS RUN PRISONS. There are no trans gangs. There won’t be any trans gangs. A MTF pre-op trans person is much more likely to be a victim – even in a women’s prison – than a perpetrator.

    3) Allowing a trans person to be brutalized in prison because of an ill-informed fantasy of super predators high on estrogen is morally indefensible. As is forcing them to do their time in solitary.

    Again: very real, very severe danger to a trans person vs. unrealistic fantasies. There is no factual, realistic basis for your position.

    4
  71. drj says:

    @R.Dave:

    it’s that they will have a body that was initially formed by testosterone (whether or not they are currently undergoing hormone therapy) and the strength and size advantages that come with that.

    So you are in favor of weight classes for prisoners then? No more weightlifting for the big guys in the courtyard to keep things fair in men’s prisons?

    I could potentially see some issues with transwomen in women prisons, but a theoretical strength advantage ain’t it.

    If this is the hill you want to die on, you need a better justification.

    1
  72. R.Dave says:

    @Michael Reynolds: You seem to be arguing with someone other than me, since your points are aimed at (i) asserting that the relative risk to a trans prisoner in a female prison is greater than the risk from them, which I haven’t disputed, (ii) refuting the idea that putting MTF tans prisoners in male prisons is preferable, which I haven’t advocated, and (iii) arguing that putting trans prisoners in solitary is inhumane, which I agree with. You also seem to put a great deal of weight on the supposed aggression-reducing effects of estrogen in MTF trans prisoners while simultaneously arguing that cis-women, who are obviously chock full of estrogen, pose serious threat of violence, which seems seriously inconsistent. Steelmanning your position on this, I suppose it’s possible that estrogen-supplementation is more aggression-reducing than naturally-produced estrogen, but I suspect your point on this isn’t based on having read studies demonstrating any such difference. Happy to learn otherwise if it is, though.

  73. de stijl says:

    Rowling could have let it be, should have let it be given her history, chose not to let it be.

    It could be provocation for provocation sake; it could be an obsession.