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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

J.K. Rowling is still talking

Illustration for article titled J.K. Rowling is still talking
Photo: Dia Dipasupil (Getty)

Following a torrent of fan criticism and a public rebuttal from none other than Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe, Harry Potter fans have been hoping for J.K. Rowling come to her senses. And the title of a new essay on her website, “J.K. Rowling Writes about Her Reasons for Speaking out on Sex and Gender Issues,” sounds like it might be reasonable—for a moment. Instead, it sees Rowling doubling down, and expanding on transphobic tweets she posted Saturday. “This isn’t an easy piece to write, for reasons that will shortly become clear, but I know it’s time to explain myself on an issue surrounded by toxicity. I write this without any desire to add to that toxicity,” the essay begins. If it’s not already clear, she failed.

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Rowling explains that her “interest in trans issues” began long before her first public weigh-in on the issue last December, after a British woman named Maya Forstater lost her job for posting transphobic tweets. (Rowling puts quotation marks around the word, as if the tweets weren’t transphobic. They were.) But she writes that her “toxic” relationship with trans activists and allies began with an “accidental” like of a tweet that she was screen-grabbing “for research” and exploded after she started following Magdalen Burns, “a great believer in the importance of biological sex.” Rowling details her “cancellation” (her “fourth or fifth,” she notes) but then admits her transphobic thoughts were buoyed by an “avalanche of emails and letters that came showering down upon me, the overwhelming majority of which were positive, grateful and supportive.”

Empowered by that support, Rowling has apparently spent the past year further cementing her transphobic stance. She claims that she intentionally stepped away from Twitter for her “mental health” following the Burns backlash, but her critics returned with fervor when Rowling re-emerged on Twitter earlier this year. “Immediately, activists who clearly believe themselves to be good, kind and progressive people swarmed back into my timeline, assuming a right to police my speech, accuse me of hatred, call me misogynistic slurs and, above all – as every woman involved in this debate will know – TERF,” she writes. “‘TERF’ is an acronym coined by trans activists, which stands for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist.”

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Rather than listening to organizations like GLAAD—who has stated she is preaching “an ideology which willfully distorts facts about gender identity and people who are trans” and that “there is no excuse for targeting trans people in 2020”—Rowling has a different approach: making fun of them:

“Accusations of TERFery have been sufficient to intimidate many people, institutions and organisations I once admired, who’re cowering before the tactics of the playground. ‘They’ll call us transphobic!’ ‘They’ll say I hate trans people!’ What next, they’ll say you’ve got fleas? Speaking as a biological woman, a lot of people in positions of power really need to grow a pair (which is doubtless literally possible, according to the kind of people who argue that clownfish prove humans aren’t a dimorphic species).”

Then Rowling gets to it, pulling out the GOP’s beloved bathroom argument:

I want trans women to be safe. At the same time, 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 – and, as I’ve said, gender confirmation certificates may now be granted without any need for surgery or hormones – then you open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside. That is the simple truth.

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Then she takes the fear out of the bathroom stall:

Huge numbers of women are justifiably terrified by the trans activists; I know this because so many have got in touch with me to tell their stories. They’re afraid of doxxing, of losing their jobs or their livelihoods, and of violence.

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Those latter comments are particularly ironic, since her transphobia is the exact thinking that leave trans people in fear of losing their jobs or their livelihoods, and of violence.

Oh, and for added value, she says she might have transitioned, you know, just for kicks:

The more of their accounts of gender dysphoria I’ve read, with their insightful descriptions of anxiety, dissociation, eating disorders, self-harm and self-hatred, the more I’ve wondered whether, if I’d been born 30 years later, I too might have tried to transition. The allure of escaping womanhood would have been huge.

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Harry Potter fans have longed for Rowling to write more. This is not what they had in mind.

If you want to support LGBTQ youth, consider donating to GLSEN, which promotes anti-bullying initiatives and gay-straight alliances in schools nationwide, and The Trevor Project, which operates a confidential hotline staffed by trained counselors who provide crisis-intervention and suicide-prevention services.

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A.V. Club Editor in Chief...but really just a She-Ra, Schitt’s Creek, Grey’s Anatomy, Survivor, Big Brother, Top Chef, The Good Place superfan.

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