An Open-Letter to J.K. Rowling
JK Rowling’s recent essay on sex and gender has sparked concern amongst readers as it shares her radical opinions regarding the transgender community. Isabel Murray, in a bid to critique the essay, addresses the author in an open letter.
Dear J.K. Rowling,
I’m sorry to say I was never a huge fan of your books as a child. I didn’t dislike them, but for some reason, I just gave up reading the ‘Harry Potter’ series half-way through the third book. Yesterday, while reading your essay defending your views on sex and transgender identity I found myself wanting to do the same thing – just give up and put it down. But I didn’t. I forced myself to read the whole thing, to hear you out despite how angry some of your comments made me because I would hope you’d do the same to some of the replies to your statements, like this one. I also hope you acknowledge that if your comments made me (someone who’s cis-gendered and not-really-a-fan though I admire your writing career) angry, then they are bound to have affected others (particularly transgender and non-binary fans) in, no doubt, much worse ways.
As I understand it, your main issue is with the erosion of the legal definition of sex, and you stand with those who believe sex is a biological reality. I’ve thought of a way of maybe explaining an alternative view on this:
As a writer, I’m sure you understand the power of language. At the same time as holding this power, language is an entirely constructed concept. Words themselves as well as their meanings, are formed, deliberately, by humans. Recognising this fact, however, does not detract from language’s ‘reality’ in terms of how heavily it impacts our world, it certainly doesn’t take anything away from your talent as a writer to say language is a man-made design. Sex can be thought of in a similar way – what denotes sex, and what it itself is thought to denote has been dictated by human thought. The binary between ‘biological realities’ like chromosomes and the categorisation of sex has been implemented as a way to structure our world.
Excluding transgender people from safe spaces sets a dangerous precedent – one that not only allows the most vulnerable in our society to go unprotected
The concept of sex has clearly been important in shaping your identity, and that is fine. No one is trying to erase your personal, lived experienced. In the exact same way, you aren’t able to rule on others experience (no matter how many book awards you have, unfortunately). Your identity is yours, your opinions are yours, but people who don’t conform to the binary categorisation of sex exist, and their existence is a reality. As such, who are you to police the boundaries of womanhood? Excluding transgender people from safe spaces sets a dangerous precedent – one that not only allows the most vulnerable in our society to go unprotected but also one that suggests there is a correct way to be a woman. The fact is, as much as you try to dispel this in your essay, not all women do share experiences. While you may label this as a misogynistic sentiment, I would argue that being blind to the fact women of different races, of different social standings, of different sexualities etc must all have a shared experience as if womanhood can be boiled down to this, is the truly misogynistic belief.
I find it funny you choose to quote Simone de Beauvoir because a prominent quote of hers appears to me too when considering these arguments – “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.”