Tonight on Facebook one of my friends posted some images of a thread about how a Harry Potter game has some implied anti-Jewish bigotry in it. I haven’t seen the game, but the description made it seem pretty bad. So okay, I wouldn’t have bought the game anyway. But along the way, the text in the images repeated the idea that J. K. Rowling is transphobic.
This is simply not true. It’s a vile slander. But you don’t have to believe me; you can read her own words here. What concerns me is that when I responded to the original post by saying, in essence, “Yeah, gee, that game looks pretty bad, but Rowling is not transphobic,” I immediately got piled on by three of my friend’s friends.
So I invited them, one at a time: Show me a single statement by Rowling that is transphobic. I got the entirely predictable, threadbare, and stinky response: Google it yourself. This is not just intellectually irresponsible; it’s evil. If you’re going to attack somebody, you have a moral obligation to check to make sure you have your facts straight. And if you know the facts, you’ll be able to provide links. If you have no links, you’re just following along with the crowd. You’re attacking another human being because somebody told you to attack them. Maybe you think it’s cool.
One guy said Rowling’s Twitter feed is full of transphobia, so I went over to Twitter. Nope. Her Twitter feed, like any other writer’s feed, is full of promotions for her new books. She also explains that a a tweet she uploaded and then deleted was supposedly transphobic, and that somebody supposedly took a screenshot of it and then retweeted it. Trouble is, the screenshot was a lie. Some shitwad was going out of their way to slam Rowling, and they were doing it by flagrantly lying.
One of the people who refused to back up her opinions in my Facebook conversation is a scientist. She knows how important evidence is. But when I pointed that out, she not only refused to provide evidence, she refused to change her opinion of Rowling.
What’s going on here? Is it just mass hysteria? Probably a lot of it is, yeah. Mass hysteria, media overload, and a widespread inability to take intellectual responsibility. But I think there’s a bit more to it than that.
The undergirding philosophy here (if we can dignify it by calling it a philosophy) comes from Critical Theory. Critical Theory is being used not just to analyze racial relations but in other areas as well. It’s a premise of Critical Theory that the “lived experience” of marginalized people is to be accepted as an absolute statement of truth. If you’re gay, trans, black, disabled, or whatever, any statements that you make about your experience of bigotry at the hands of white cisgendered heterosexual men are not to be questioned or analyzed. Your statements are to be accepted at face value as fact. Questioning and analyzing, you see, are supposedly tools the white cisgendered heterosexual men use to keep you marginalized. That’s what Critical Theory teaches.
It’s bullshit. Being marginalized and discriminated against does not entitle you to a presumption that your thinking is free of error. A gay black man in a wheelchair is just as likely to be confused as anybody else. One would think that would be obvious.
The position of many radical trans activists is in line with Critical Theory. If someone has genitalia Y but insists that she is really an X, or vice versa, their lived experience of their gender identity is not to be questioned. If someone with a penis says she’s a woman, you don’t get to question it. She gets to go to the ladies’ restroom.
Most trans women do not want to make trouble in restrooms! They want to take care of the necessities, wash their hands, fluff their hair, and then get on with their day. But if you think no high-school or college boy could ever conceivably claim to be trans, strictly in order to gain unfettered and unchallengeable access to women’s restrooms, I’d love to sell you some shares in a nice bridge in New York City, because that’s how gullible you are. It won’t happen very often, but it can happen.
This is one of Rowling’s concerns. She is concerned about any social movement that makes women (including trans women) less safe.
She also points out, quite rightly, that some young people, especially girls, may see claiming a trans identity as an escape from bullying or as a faulty way of coming to grips with being gay. They may choose to have surgical alterations that they later deeply regret.
Dare we assume such a thing never happens? Only an idiot would think it couldn’t happen. Fifty years ago there were gatekeepers (most of them white cisgendered heterosexual men, unfortunately) who would prescribe a careful course of transition for people who felt convinced their identity was at odds with their biological sex. That system was certainly too narrow and controlling, but today we have the opposite problem. If you say you’re trans and want surgery, nobody can tell you to hold your horses. Critical Theory assures you that you’re automatically right.
One of the ideas for which Rowling has been attacked is her insistence that biological womanhood has a meaning for biological women. It’s not a garment that you can put on. This flies in the face of the Critical Theory notion that anybody who says they’re a woman is a woman.
Rather than have a robust discussion of this topic, the woke mob goes on the attack. What does it actually mean to feel that you’re a woman even though your plumbing doesn’t agree? This is not a simple matter, because one’s sense of oneself may fluctuate from minute to minute, from day to day, or from year to year. Personal identity is not an either/or matter. But Critical Theory has birthed identity politics, and identity politics is very much an either/or concept. Either you’re in the group, or you’re not.
Also, the term “transphobic” needs to be unpacked. A phobia is a fear. Some phobias are more sensible than others; fear of heights (acrophobia), for instance, is not entirely irrational. Nothing Rowling has ever written indicates that she fears trans people. “Transphobic” is simply a label that the woke gender community slaps on anybody who dares to question their view of what’s right and proper. This is very similar to how the anti-racist zealots label any attempt to disagree with their agenda as an expression of “white supremacy.” It’s bullshit. It’s tossing a verbal hand grenade in order to show how woke you are.
There are white supremacists in the world. Pointing out that self-appointed authorities on anti-racism, such as Robin diAngelo, are full of shit does not make you a white supremacist. In the same way, pointing out some of the rough edges in the current cultural movement toward acceptance of gender variance does not make you transphobic. It’s an easy label, but it’s being misapplied by people who have nothing better to do than hate you if you don’t agree with them 100%.
There are real, painful issues in the socialization of trans women and trans men. Viable answers are difficult to come by. But if you think the right thing to do is to attack a thoughtful, compassionate woman because she had the audacity to point out some of the limitations of the current trend — if you think your attacks are going to lead to a happy future for everybody — you’re full of shit.
Telling people to shut up because you don’t like what they’re saying is what fascists do. Having a rational discussion requires that you be willing to listen and think. I’m not sure why so many people find listening and thinking distasteful, but it’s a common human failing.
Oh, and in case you think I’m just an old white guy attacking trans people … I don’t usually talk about this, but I’ve used women’s restrooms while dressed as a woman. More than once. That was years ago, and I don’t propose to talk about my gender identity, because it’s none of your business. I’m not transsexual, but I do identify as part of the trans community. And I want nothing to do with the childish ranting of these hate-filled trans activists. Some of us are more mature than that.