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LGBTQ+ Media

“Rowling’s essay is an ugly thing: bitter, accusatory, cruel.”

There’s a very good (and very detailed) piece by Nathan J Robinson in Current Affairs about everybody’s favourite litigious author.

How did we get from the one place to the other? How did we go from the “beautiful fantasy world” to this exhibition of fear and dehumanization? Was she always like this? Why is she doing this? People who always detested the books can give fans a satisfied “I told you she sucked,” but this is far too simple. Rowling’s fiction is complex, thoughtful, deeply beloved. That has to be reconciled with any explanation of her ignorance on gender.

…Before all the online transphobia, Rowling herself was adored, in part because she seemed an example of a “meritocracy” actually functioning: a talented woman producing something actually good and then getting rightly acclaimed for it. Fans wanted to love J.K. Rowling. They did love J.K. Rowling.

This is a critical part of why so many of her readers feel so betrayed to see Rowling devolve into a Twitter personality who regularly says offensive things about transgender people. To have invented all of this… and then to become that? How disappointing. How sad. How typical. How distinctly non-magical.

One of the key points made in this piece is that Rowling is acting from a position of ignorance: she doesn’t engage with the arguments, but simply dismisses them.

Rowling’s essay is maddening, in part because, a lot like “intellectual dark web” criticism of feminist and anti-racist politics (see, e.g, Steven Pinker), it pretends to be Reasonable and Empathetic but is nothing of the kind, distorting the opposing arguments and failing to actually engage with the other side’s writing or thinking. It is, as Dominique Sisley writes for Huck, “dogmatism dressed up as rationalism,” misrepresenting facts, making unsubstantiated claims, presenting unrepresentative anecdotes as data, and spreading pernicious myths

…Rowling does something here that people often do when telling a story about the Social Justice Mob shutting down dissenting opinion, which is that she assumes that the critics must have been wrong without actually investigating what their criticisms were.

…Rowling, then, is ignorant. She couldn’t be bothered to read an introductory blog post, let alone actually research the subject. Here she is explaining that while she has been begged repeatedly to actually talk to (and listen to) the people she’s talking about, she has made no serious effort to do so.

…Trans writers have carefully explained why what Rowling said is objectionable. In addition to Montgomerie’s piece, Zinnia Jones published a three-part series citing tons of peer-reviewed scientific literature. Do I think Rowling will read Jones’ careful explanation of how Rowling is misrepresenting statistics in order to present a picture of some giant national trend of children becoming transgender? Do I think she will bother to investigate the abuse that trans writers receive (here’s journalist Siobhan O’Leary on what she gets in just 24 hours) so that Rowling can fix her misperception that the online trans community is uniquely hostile? No, I think she is going to conclude that the existence of disagreement with her essay means that she must be telling Unspeakable Truths that No One Dares To Say.

The thing about transphobia is that in the same way many people who think or do racist things do not believe they are racist, many people who think or do transphobic things do not believe they are transphobic. Transphobic people are hateful, like the Westboro Baptist Church. They’re not people like you or like me.

Except, of course, they are.

People often do not notice their transphobia. They do not notice that they are applying different standards to trans people than they do to cis people.

…A big part of racism, like transphobia, is the refusal to see certain people as human to the same degree you see yourself as human. They are talked about, but not listened to. I’ve written over and over and over for the last few years about the staggering fact that when critics of “social justice” and “identity politics” write about these things, they don’t seem to take the time to read a single book by the people about whom they have such strong opinions.

It’s a really good article. You should probably read it before Rowling’s lawyers move in.