J.K. Rowling’s Transphobia Is Not ‘Brave’

Transphobia is not bravery. It’s hatred.

Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling was nominated for the BBC’s annual Russell Prize for best writing on Monday for the transphobic essay she self-published earlier this year.

In a round-up of the prize’s winner and nominees, BBC News Media Editor Amol Rajan praised Rowling for her “bravery” for speaking out on the “transgender debate.” While Rajan acknowledged that Rowling’s words have hurt and offended many people, he also argued that “offense is the price of free speech.”

“I take absolutely no view whatsoever on the issues that she raises.
I do take an issue on abuse and trolling, and Rowling has achieved the inglorious honor of topping many a league table for those,” he wrote.

“The deluge of hatred that she faced before writing this blog made it brave, and it was nothing compared to what came after. We should all applaud bravery in writers — even those with whom we disagree.”

What Rajan fails to realize, however, is that transphobia is not a disagreement or an opinion. It is pure, unadulterated hatred, and Rowling’s essay is just one of many instances in which she has let her transphobia run free.

She has spent the better part of 2020 tweeting out manufactured outrage and misinformation aimed at trans and nonbinary people. From railing against inclusive language to denouncing gender-affirming healthcare, Rowling has made it very clear just exactly where she stands.

She even returned a human rights award over a “very serious conflict of views” after the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights (RFKHR) organization criticized her attacks against the trans community.

In her nearly 3,700-word essay entitled TERF Wars, Rowling doubled down on her long list of anti-trans talking points, falsely claiming that most young trans people “grow out” of their gender dysphoria and reiterating the harmful and invalid assumption that allowing trans women to use the same public restrooms as cis women will somehow make cis women unsafe. This is false.

She also compared hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to conversion therapy. HRT is gender-affirming medical care, while conversion therapy is a harmful and discredited practice that aims to change one’s sexual orientation or gender identity through prayer, hypnosis, shaming, electric shock therapy, and other forms of torture.

Two weeks ago, Rowling told Good Housekeeping that she wants to end the “climate of fear” around the trans debate (which is actually not a debate), meanwhile it is she who has been spreading fear and misinformation to try to justify her own transphobia. That’s not bravery. That’s hatred and cowardice.

Actively attacking and “debating” the very existence of trans people is not act of intellectualism or a show of moral virtues, which is what the Russell Prize is supposed to celebrate. Not to mention, Rowling’s TERF manifesto is nowhere near the same quality and caliber of the work of journalists Ronan Farrow and Clive James, who were past recipients of the award. No one should be rewarded for transphobia.

While Rowling did not actually win the prize, the very fact that she was nominated in the first place shows that, despite her insistence that she has been “cancelled,” her voice is louder than ever before. Let’s just hope the outpouring of love and support for trans people is even louder.

Freelance writer covering culture, politics, and LGBTQ+ rights. catherineann.caruso@gmail.com

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store