JK Rowling defends transgender comments and reveals she survived sexual assault

JK Rowling has defended her comments on transgender issues in an essay posted to her website in which she says she may have sought to become a man had she been born 30 years later.

Author JK Rowling.

Author JK Rowling. Source: Invision

Harry Potter author JK Rowling revealed on Wednesday she is a survivor of domestic abuse and sexual assault.

The celebrated British writer said in a blog post that she was disclosing the information to give context to her controversial past comments about transgender women.

"This isn't an easy piece to write," Rowling said in a 3,695-word essay on gender identity and her own troubled past.

"I've been in the public eye now for over twenty years and have never talked publicly about being a domestic abuse and sexual assault survivor," Rowling wrote.

"This isn't because I'm ashamed those things happened to me, but because they're traumatic to revisit and remember."

Rowling caused a scandal by tweeting last weekend about "people who menstruate".

"I'm sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?"

The tweet forced "Harry Potter" star Daniel Radcliffe to apologise to trans women who may have been offended by Rowling's remark.

"Transgender women are women," Radcliffe wrote in a post for The Trevor Project website.

The feud dated back to comments from December in which Rowling expressed support for a woman who had lost her job over what her employer deemed to be "transphobic" tweets.

Rowling said on Wednesday that "accusations and threats from trans activists have been bubbling in my Twitter timeline" ever since.

"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 post by affirming that she was "a survivor (and) certainly not a victim".

"I haven't written this essay in the hope that anybody will get out a violin for me, not even a teeny-weeny one," she said.

"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."

Backlash to essay

While not directly referring to Rowling, actor Emma Watson, who plays Hermione Granger in the Potter films tweeted a message of support for the trans community following the publication of Rowling's essay. 

"Trans people are who they say they are and deserve to live their lives without being constantly questioned or told they aren't who they say they are." 

"Many other people around the world see you [trans people], respect you and love you for who you are," she added.

Her co-star Bonnie Wright took a similar approach, tweeting: "Transwomen are Women. I see and love you."

Trans activists say the high profile author's references to her own lived experience to justify her transphobic views is particularly damaging.

"Through her own legitimate experiences of violence, she's evoked the threat of gender-based violence against women in order to connect it to fear of trans people," Nim Ralph, a 34-year-old trans activist, told CNN.

Ralph added "it's devastating" to see "somebody as powerful - and have as wide a reach as JK Rowling - spend her time in the middle of a pandemic, in the middle of a global uprising for black lives, and in the middle of Pride month, write an essay with a lot of misinformation and transphobia."

Rowling said she had spent many years thinking about trans issues because of her own troubles with gender identity when she was young.

"When I read about the theory of gender identity, I remember how mentally sexless I felt in youth," she wrote.

"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 judgment that sets so many girls to war against their bodies in their teens."

She also stood up for her right to speak freely about an issue that she said has been with her throughout life.

"As a much-banned author, I'm interested in freedom of speech and have publicly defended it, even unto Donald Trump," she wrote.

Rowling's books have been banned in parts of the world because of their association in some cultures with witchcraft and the occult.

LGBTIQ+ Australians seeking support with mental health can contact QLife on 1800 184 527 or visit qlife.org.au. ReachOut.com also has a list of support services.

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.

Published 11 June 2020 at 5:58am, updated 11 June 2020 at 6:35am
Source: AFP - SBS