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JK Rowling shares ‘memories of serious sexual assault’ as she defends her anti-trans tweets

In a 3,600-word essay, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling talked about her experience as a sexual assault survivor, and how it shaped her views on transgender people.

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New Delhi: After intense backlash in the past week for her anti-trans tweets, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling penned a 3,600-word personal essay responding to allegations of transphobia and being labelled as a ‘TERF’ — a ‘trans-exclusive radical feminist’.

In the essay, published on her website Wednesday, Rowling divulges how her interest in gender identities is propelled by professional interest as well as the personal experience of being a survivor of domestic abuse and sexual assault.

She cited her experience as a survivor, a teacher and her unequivocal support for the freedom of expression as the reasons behind her position regarding trans individuals.

“I’m mentioning these things now not in an attempt to garner sympathy, but out of solidarity with the huge numbers of women who have histories like mine, who’ve been slurred as bigots for having concerns around single-sex spaces,” she wrote.

Also read: ‘Feel like more of a woman when you punch down?’ — JK Rowling faces ire for anti-trans tweets

Criticism took me to a ‘dark place’: Rowling

Her essay comes after the author was widely criticised on social media for conflating the categories of sex and gender, and for excluding the experiences of trans and gender non-conforming individuals from the collective experience of being a ‘woman’.

“If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives. It isn’t hate to speak the truth,” Rowling had tweeted.

Several prominent personalities, including Harry Potter actors Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Evanna Lynch, spoke out against Rowling. Actor Eddie Redmayne, who plays Newt Scamander in the spinoff series Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, based on a book by Rowling, also called her out.

On the criticism she faces, Rowling said it took her to “a very dark place inside my head, as memories of a serious sexual assault I suffered in my 20s recurred on a loop”. “That assault happened at a time and in a space where I was vulnerable, and a man capitalised on an opportunity. I couldn’t shut out those memories and I was finding it hard to contain my anger and disappointment about the way I believe my government is playing fast and loose with women’s and girls’ safety,” she wrote.

‘Mentally sexless’ youth

Rowling also talked about her own troubles with gender identity and feeling “mentally sexless” in her youth.

“As I didn’t have a realistic possibility of becoming a man back in the 1980s, it had to be books and music that got me through both my mental health issues and the sexualised scrutiny and judgement that sets so many girls to war against their bodies in their teens,” she wrote.

Addressing sexism and misogyny she has faced in life, Rowling wrote that had she been born three decades later, she too would have perhaps tried transitioning.

“The allure of escaping womanhood would have been huge. I struggled with severe OCD as a teenager. If I’d found community and sympathy online that I couldn’t find in my immediate environment, I believe I could have been persuaded to turn myself into the son my father had openly said he’d have preferred,” she said.

Rowling argued that “the current explosion of trans activism” has resulted in several people choosing to undergo gender reassignment surgery without giving it sufficient thought.

“I want to be very clear here: I know transition will be a solution for some gender dysphoric people, although I’m also aware through extensive research that studies have consistently shown that between 60-90 percent of gender dysphoric teens will grow out of their dysphoria,” she said.

The author also talked about how trans activism in general is making women feel unsafe.

“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,” she wrote.

Rowling ended her essay by claiming, “I haven’t written this essay in the hope that anybody will get out a violin for me, not even a teeny-weeny one. I’ve only mentioned my past because, like every other human being on this planet, I have a complex backstory, which shapes my fears, my interests and my opinions.”

Also read: JK Rowling has always been tone-deaf. Just look at the Harry Potter Universe


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    • What’s happening to the world? Women are talking about rape, body-shaming, FGM, menstruation and people are more concerned about how “women” is not an “inclusive” term?
      The sheer misogyny of it- that women can’t even talk about their problems without someone having to mansplain to us what a woman is. We’ve lost the plot, the moment when voices of females asking for dignity and safe spaces are drowned out by rabid mob of “woke” creatures browbeating and berating females into accepting males as one of their own. It’s not enough that we’ve been made participants in our own oppression, now we can’t even talk about ourselves as a sex class.

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