In Depth

Reaction: J.K. Rowling reveals past sexual assault in essay defending her trans views

Harry Potter author says experiences as a domestic abuse survivor influenced decision to speak out

J.K. Rowling has responded to widespread criticism of her views on transgender issues by opening up about her life as a survivor of sexual assault and domestic abuse.

In a 3,700-word essay published on her official website, the Harry Potter author reiterates her allegedly “anti-trans comments and explains that her own experiences influenced her decision to speak out.

Rowling - who until now “has guarded her privacy closely”, notes The Times - has faced a growing row over her tweets about biological sex, with thousands of fellow Twitter users accusing her of transphobia.

Among the bestselling writer’s critics are former stars of the film versions of her books including Emma Watson, who played Hermione Granger, and Eddie Redmayne, who featured in the spin-off movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

In a statement to entertainment magazine Variety, Redmayne said: “As someone who has worked with J.K. Rowling and members of the trans community, I wanted to make it absolutely clear where I stand. I disagree with Jo’s comments.”

Meanwhile, Watson tweeted that “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”.

But Rowling insists that she has a number of “reasons for being worried about the new trans activism” .

Chief among these, she says in her essay, is that as a survivor of a “serious sexual assault”, she felt compelled to make a case for why maintaining safe “single-sex spaces” for women is important.

Not everyone is convinced by her argument, however. According to the Los Angeles Times, “despite Rowling’s insistence that she wanted a nuanced discussion on the topic… ultimately her concerns seemed to boil down to one about bathrooms”.

Among Rowling’s claims “was that affirming anybody other than cisgender people (those whose gender identity matches their sex assigned at birth) as ‘women’ would somehow lead to them being unsafe in places like public restrooms and changing rooms”, the newspaper says.

Yet “there is no evidence that transgender people using the restrooms that align with their gender identity puts anybody else in danger”.

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For Amrou Al-Kadhi, a British-Iraqi writer and drag performer, the key problem is Rowling’s seeming belief that transgender people “are an ideological cult on a mission to vanquish the very idea of sex”.

Writing in The Independent, Al-Kadhi says: “Transgender people... in contradiction to Rowling’s apparent claims, have never called for the eradication of sex-based protections and reproductive rights.”

In fact, “trans people are only trying to expand the understanding of sex so that society may better accommodate their needs”, he continues, adding: “Is that really so terrible?”

Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe, who played the eponymous boy wizard, has also outlined his views in a written response to Rowling’s tweeted comments.

“Transgender women are women,” Radcliffe says in a statement published by the The Trevor Project charity, which provides crisis intervention for LGBT young people. “Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional health care associations who have far more expertise on this subject matter than either Jo or I.”

The actor finishes with an apology to Harry Potter fans, writing: “To all the people who now feel that their experience of the books has been tarnished or diminished, I am deeply sorry for the pain these comments have caused you.”

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