Everything Wrong with JK Rowling’s Open Letter

Brynn Tannehill
23 min readJun 19, 2020


This document is meant to address inaccuracies, omissions, and logical errors in JK Rowling’s statement dated 10 June, 2020 and titled “J.K. Rowling Writes about Her Reasons for Speaking out on Sex and Gender Issues.”

1. Maya Forstater

Forstater routinely tweeted her views about transgender people. After 150 of these tweets in a single week, her employer informed her that the tweets could reflect badly on the charity and were making other charity employees uncomfortable. She was asked to stop but ignored the warning, continuing to produce many more antagonistic tweets about transgender people. After her contract was not renewed at the end of 2018, Forstater sued the charity for discrimination on the basis of her philosophical beliefs and sex (gender), which are protected under U.K. law.

Forstater believes that people should be legally treated as whatever sex they are born, regardless of any medical procedures or legal actions they have taken. She believes that even those who have undergone gender confirmation surgery and obtained a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) must be banned from women’s bathrooms. Her views were almost universally directed at transgender women, and she almost universally ignored transgender men.

She considered using a transgender person’s pronouns a bare minimum of courtesy, but she compared being required to use them by her employer as akin to being given the date rape drug rohypnol. She has repeatedly pushed the debunked myth that transgender people pose a threat to women and children.

In order for beliefs in the UK to be protected by law they must “be worthy of respect in a democratic society, not be incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others.” Under the 2010 Equality Act, transgender people constitute a protected class, and the judge ruled that Forstater’s comments failed this legal test, just as they would if the she had been making comments widely viewed as racist or anti-Semitic. Thus, had she prevailed, it would have created a nightmare for companies trying to enforce equal opportunity policy.

Put in another context, suppose Forstater had been calling any other minority group an epithet online, but agreed grudgingly not to do so at work, then sued to be able to use that epithet because she sincerely believed that epithet applied to members of that minority. Were that epithet directed at anyone besides transgender people, we would not be having this conversation, thus illustrating the double standard at play.

2. Magdelen Berns

Magdelen Berns was intensely hostile to transgender people. She endorsed the viewpoint that most, if not all, transgender women are perverts, fetishists who obtain sexual gratification from being treated as women. She opposed any legal recognition of transgender people’s identities, going well beyond simply opposing Gender Recognition Act reform. When it came to using a transgender person’s pronouns she wrote, “I’d rather be rude than a fucking liar.” Her videos on YouTube relied heavily on mocking videos of transgender people.

3. The term TERF was not coined by transgender people as a pejorative.

The term Transgender Exclusionary Radical Feminist (or TERF) was coined by Viv Smythe in 2008. Smythe is a cisgender, heterosexual woman who created it as shorthand to distinguish between radical feminists who embraced transgender people and their identities, and those who reject them. At the time, it was not intended as a pejorative, merely as a descriptive term.

4. Anti-transgender feminists are not hostile to transgender people

While Ms. Rowling claims, “None of the gender critical women I’ve talked to hates trans people,” the tweet by Magdalen Berns (whom she cited earlier) can only be interpreted as expressing intense disgust and antipathy towards transgender people. The views expressed above can commonly be found in gender critical discourse about transgender people online, and particularly transgender women.

5. People do not generally transition because they believe life would be easier if they were transgender instead of gay

Being a transgender person is not easy, especially not for transgender women. One has only to look at the constant drum beat of the British press about transgender people to recognize the environment is far more hostile for transgender women than it is for lesbians and gays. Even the Tories have at least pretended to move on from gay marriage, whilst making transgender people their top target for moral opprobrium. Most white people wouldn’t want to be treated the way black people are. Similarly, most lesbians and gays are glad they’re not treated the way transgender people currently are.

6. Trans men don’t all start as lesbians

Trans men can be attracted to men, women, both, neither, and anything in between. Data from the largest survey of transgender men to date showed that only 23% of trans men identified as strictly heterosexual (i.e. attracted only to women).

7. Transgender people are not a threat to lesbians and gays

First, many transgender people consider themselves part of the lesbian and gay community. Their relationships do not destroy the meaning of “same-sex” relationships. Chromosomes are not the key factor in attraction. If a lesbian sees a person as female, reads them as female, and is attracted to them, it does not invalidate their sexual orientation if the person they are attracted to is transgender. I can say, knowing the cisgender lesbian and gay partners of transgender people, that it is hurtful to them when people question their orientation based on the person they love, or say particularly hurtful things about their loved ones.

Nor is it the position of transgender people that anyone should be forced to have sex with anyone else. This is rape, and it’s antithetical to them. It’s also notable that transgender people are not a monolithic entity: there have been prominent community members who have advanced the argument that genital preference is not intrinsically transphobic.

8. Youth are not rushed into transitioning

Both youth and adults in the UK have exceptionally long waiting times to be seen. If a youth is being seen at Tavistock, they have likely waited close to a year to be seen, meaning that if they are being seen, they have been experiencing gender issues for at least a year (and probably more). Additionally, for pre-pubertal youth, the NHS recommends the “watchful waiting” model, which discourages social transition and is far more conservative than the “gender affirming” model. In short, the NHS currently takes one of the most conservative approaches to transgender youth in Western Europe already.

9. Transgender men are effectively unwelcome in trans-exclusionary feminist spaces

Trans-exclusionary feminists (also known as Gender Critical Feminists) do not recognize transgender men as men, nor respect their identities, nor support their legal rights to be treated as men. For a transgender man to fit in within a space established by trans-exclusionary feminists, they would have to renounce their identity as men, and any claim to be treated as one legally or socially. These conditions are unacceptable to the vast majority of transgender men. Thus, whilst it can be claimed that trans men are welcome in theory, in practice these spaces are unwelcoming in the extreme.

10. Transgender people understand that people are not clownfish

Transgender people are well aware of their reproductive organs. Indeed, for most, they are source of discomfort and embarrassment. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t decide to go through all the pain and difficulty of obtaining treatments that help align their bodies to their mental self-image. However, clear lines of definition of sex in humans can be difficult, particularly where intersex conditions occur.

Also, words can have different meanings in different contexts. The English language isn’t great at differentiating between sex and gender.

In the oversimplified, binary 8th grade human biology sense, sex is what’s between your legs, and gender is what’s between your ears. In a medical sense, sometimes sex is relevant, and sometimes it isn’t. A transgender woman is at increased risk of osteoporosis and breast cancer due to hormone replacement therapy, not due chromosomes or genitalia. Ms. Rowling cites MS as a disease which strikes women more commonly. Case studies suggest that hormones in transgender people also seem to affect the incidence of MS.

In a legalistic sense, gender and sex are often treated interchangeably. The history of your genitalia isn’t relevant when the officer is writing you a ticket for speeding. It is relevant, however, to proving who you are, and if ID does not match appearance (external or internal) it can endanger the person bearing the ID.

The simplest solution is to treat people the way you would like to be treated.

11. The increase in the number of born female transgender people could have many potential causes

Ms. Rowling ascribes the rise in the number of trans masculine individuals to social contagion, which has only weak evidence to support it. It’s also possible that increased social visibility of transgender people (and transgender men) have allowed more people to openly question their own gender identity. Improving legal conditions for transgender people also encourage people to explore and come out of the closet. For example, there are far more people who identify as lesbian or gay in the UK than do in Saudi Arabia, because it is far safer to do so here than in a country where it is punishable by death.

Similarly, the number of left-handed people shot up after we stopped trying to force them to be right handed.

There’s also the under-explored possibility of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (e.g. bisphenol-A) in the environment causing developmental issues. If any of these alternate hypotheses are true, then efforts to suppress the gender identity of individuals will harm people who are at their most vulnerable.

Regardless, creating a moral panic where there should not be one has caused problems in the past. Section 28 is still remembered as a national shame.

12. There is little quantitative evidence to suggest large numbers of people are detransitioning

The NHS conducted a review of the records of 3398 transgender patients in 2016–2017. It found that only two of the records revealed patients who detransitioned because they decided that they were not, in fact, transgender. This works out to .09%. As the poster from the 2018 WPATH conference notes: studies have consistently found regret rates to be low.

Charlie Evans, a lesbian woman in the UK who claims to be a detransitioner, has claimed that there are large numbers of detransitioners and regretters in the UK. However, Charlie never fully socially or legally transitioned, and took no medical steps to transition.

The preponderance of the evidence suggests that the vast majority of people who transition do not regret it, nor do they detransition. Obtaining transgender health care through NHS is already an exceedingly lengthy and difficult process, and the evidence at hand suggests that making it even harder would harm far more people than it helps.

13. Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria (ROGD) is not an actual diagnosis

In 2018 Dr. Lisa Littman claimed to have discovered that gender dysphoria among teens was a form of social contagion. However, it turned out that she had biased her sample by going to websites for parents of trans youth who did not support or accept them or their transitions, and suffered other severe methodological flaws. Her conclusions did not attempt to account for these biases. Her collaborator in the study, Lisa Marchiano, advocates a form of conversion therapy where transgender youth should simply learn to suffer through untreated gender dysphoria in order to make them more “human”.

The World Professional Association of Transgender Health (WPATH) released a press statement that ROGD is not an actual diagnosis. As a result of the methodological issues, and over-reach with her conclusions, PLOS One had to issue edits and corrections that softened Littman’s findings significantly. Littman herself has no connection with treating transgender youth in her capacity at Brown University.

To date, no other paper has found this effect, nor is there any building consensus within WPATH or the European Professional Association of Transgender Health (EPATH) that this is an actual phenomenon.

Given the low quality of Littman’s work and lack of confirming studies, the fact that transgender youth in the UK have to wait at least a year before being seen at Tavistock and even longer after that for assessment and treatment, and the lack of evidence of large numbers of de-transitioners, it is almost certain that “ROGD” does not contribute a significant number of people transitioning in the UK.

14. The connection between autism and gender dysphoria is weak at best

Some studies have purported to show a link between autism and gender dysphoria. However, other studies that have looked at the same data and found that it does not rise to the level of statistical significance. If there is a link between gender dysphoria and autism, it is a weak one, and has very limited diagnostic utility (e.g. the vast majority of transgender people aren’t autistic, and vice versa).

However, even if there is a link between autism and gender dysphoria, that does not invalidate the identities of autistic people. It is entirely possible to be both transgender and autistic.

15. Many autistic transgender people find it offensive to conclude they are mentally incapable of knowing their gender or making decisions for themselves

Many autistic people, advocates for the community, and organizations find it offensive to suggest that neurodivergent people are incapable of knowing their gender, or too mentally incompetent to make medical decisions for themselves that neurotypical persons would be allowed to make. Suggestions that they are not transgender, merely confused or misled because they are autistic, degrades them as human being and takes away their agency. They strenuously object to being used as a prop for efforts to limit access to care.

Being autistic does not render one incapable of gnosis, bodily autonomy, or having a valid gender identity. Transgender people who are also autism advocates find it highly insulting and when people hint that they are too mentally deficient to know their gender because they are autistic.

16. Female to Male (FTM) HRT does not destroy fertility

The use of exogenous testosterone in transgender men generally has the effect of suppressing menses. However, recent studies show that even transgender men that have been taking it for years retain their fertility if they stop taking testosterone. Indeed, their fertility rebounded to levels statistically indistinguishable from that of cisgender women of a similar age cohort.

Permanent infertility is not one of common the side-effects of FTM cross-sex HRT.

17. Ms. Rowling would almost certainly not transition if she were a youth today.

The ICD-10, the medical and mental health classification list of the World Health Organization, has this to say about childhood gender dysphoria:

ICD-10 Criteria for Childhood GID

This is the current diagnostic criteria used by the NHS. “Mere tomboyishness in girls” is not sufficient for a diagnosis of childhood gender identity disorder. Nor is mere ambivalence towards one’s gender sufficient: it requires a “profound disturbance.” Ms. Rowling’s fears that she would have been railroaded into transitioning if she were a teen now are not supported by the diagnostic criteria used by the NHS today.

It is worth noting that these diagnostic criteria are another hurdle faced by trans youth, in addition to the wait times and requirements for multiple sessions and evaluations. Indeed, WPATH has explicitly stated stated that, “There are no studies to support [the claim that] children are forced to undergo treatments they may regret”

18. Most dysphoric teens do not grow out of their dysphoria

Ms. Rowling mistakenly states that 60–90% of transgender teens will grow out of their dysphoria. This is incorrect for two reasons.

First, the desistance studies that arrived at this 60–90% figure only measured pre-pubertal youth. Dr. Kenneth Zucker was one of the primary researchers in the 1990’s who arrived at a figure of 80% “desistance” for pre-pubertal transgender youth. He advocated a form of conversion therapy to prevent transgender children from retaining this identity into puberty, because he believed that once puberty occurs, gender identity becomes locked in.

Thus, he supported the Dutch Protocol of blockers followed by HRT at 16.

“By age 11 or 12, trans kids are typically “locked in” to their gender identity” and for them, “I very much support that pathway (blockers and transition), because I think that is going to help them have a better quality of life.”

In short, the desistance figure cited never applied to teens.

The 60–90% desistance figure is probably an overestimate even for pre-pubertal youth. These figures were arrived at in North America under the DSM-IVTR, which did not require cross gender identity for a diagnosis, only cross gender behaviour. Dr. Zucker admitted that approximately 70% of the cases he saw in the 1990’s would be considered “sub-threshold” today. Nor did these early studies attempt to account for the modern criteria of “insistent, consistent, and persistent”.

19. The system is broken for transgender adults.

Ms. Rowling alludes to a transgender friend who transitioned long ago and went through an arduous process, with the belief that transgender people today should go through a similar vetting process. Years ago in the UK in order to obtain medical care and legal recognition, transgender people had to forsake their families, metaphorically “die in a fiery crash and disappear”, and spend a year (or two) living in their target gender without access to medical care such as hormone replacement therapy. Today, the wait time for adults to see a gender identity clinic in parts of the UK can be over 3 years.

This is just the wait time to first be seen. Then there’s the therapy, the HRT, the minimum year of real life experience, and the minimum two years (and up to six) of real life experience for a Gender Recognition Certificate. This easily adds up to a minimum of five years to jump through all the hoops.

Making people suffer the way people in the past did as some sort of trial lacks moral clarity. Placing people in a Catch-22 of only recognizing them legally if they get specific medical care, and then making that medical care nearly impossible to obtain, is also an injustice to those put between a rock and a hard place. If transgender people must wait over five years for access to the vetting Ms. Rowling believes they should go through, they should at least have some access to legal recognition in the mean-time.

20. Current law does not require transgender people to obtain a GRC to be protected under the 2010 Equality Act

Ms. Rowling seems to be under the impression that one must acquire a GRC for a transgender person to be legally treated as the gender with which they identify. You can already change your name and appellations via deed poll. Members of the UK military do not require a GRC before they switch uniforms and are treated as female. Nor does UK law require a GRC to use a particular bathroom.

There are efforts underway to dramatically expand the exemptions to exclude anyone who does not already have a GRC. However, given how incredibly difficult it is to obtain one, this would effectively destroy the ability of most transgender people to function in public. The actions taken by the Scottish Parliament are intended to head off creating a situation in which transgender people are excluded for facilities unless they get a GRC, but getting a GRC is nigh impossible.

21. The current GRC requirements are already strenuous

Whilst Ms. Rowling notes that specific surgeries and hormones are not required to obtain a GRC, getting one is a long and difficult process regardless. First, there’s the wait time for a GIC appointment of 2–3 years. Then at least two years living in one’s target gender, and receiving medical care as deemed necessary. Applying for a GRC requires:

· Application form (standard or alternate)

· Two medical reports completed using the T452 forms.

· Statutory declaration (T466, T467, or T468)

· A court fee, which is currently £140

· Your full birth or adoption certificate

· Your marriage or civil partnership certificate (if you have one)

· Proof of all name changes between birth and your current name. If you don’t have proof, you should write a short letter explaining how you changed your name and why you have no supporting proof for this.

· If you were previously married or in a civil partnership then you must send proof that it has ended. This is either:

o a copy of the decree bringing your marriage to an end;

o evidence that your civil partnership has been dissolved;

o if your partner died, a copy of their death certificate.

· You must send evidence that you have been living as either a man or a woman at least two years for the Standard Track, or since before 10th December 2008. This evidence might come in a variety of forms, but it must be dated and include your name. Common examples of items you can include are:

o Passport;

o Driving licence (both counterpart and photo ID parts);

o Payslips or HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) documents such as a P60 or P45;

o Utility Bills;

o Bank statements;

o Letters from employers, colleges, universities, doctors or other professional organisations

o Student loan documents

o Academic certificates or documentation;

Then, if all of this paperwork is in order and accepted, in (hopefully) 12 weeks you have to go before a panel of at least two experts (one medical and one legal) to prove to them that your transition is genuine. They will interview you and your spouse, and make a judgment whether they see your transition as genuine based on medical records, testimony, evidence of living in gender, and you and your spouse’s testimony.

Given all of this, between 2004 when the GRA was passed and 2018, only 4910 transgender people obtained GRCs in the UK. The process is regarded by transgender people as intrusive, onerous, excessive, and unnecessary. As mentioned before, most transgender people, because of existing protections, are able to go about their lives without one. Indeed, obtaining a corrected passport requires only a letter from your doctor stating that the gender change is likely to be permanent.

Specific medical requirements may also adversely impact people who are unable to receive treatments due to underlying medical conditions, or people whose mental condition means they cannot wait 3 years to begin the intake process.

Thus, whilst Ms. Rowling feels that the process for receiving a GRC is currently too easy, the policy and results suggest otherwise. Most transgender people in the UK choose not to get one because the process is difficult, expensive, and unpleasant, and because current law makes a GRC unnecessary to live, and be treated legally, as one’s target gender. Should this change, and should it become suddenly necessary, it would further overwhelm a system running far in the arrears, resulting in needless chaos and misery for trans persons in the UK.

22. A discussion of what constitutes the “female experience” is not inherently misogynistic

Ms. Rowling says that she finds discussions of what constitutes femaleness and the female experience to be “deeply misogynistic and regressive,” when not centred on a woman’s physiology. This is a complex philosophical, psychological, physiological, and sociological question, and will be left here. Cutting off all discussion of a complex topic in this way does little to advance constructive dialogue. Indeed, entire semesters of a women’s and gender studies curriculum are spent examining these questions.

In the end, however, it brings us back to the underlying question: should transgender people be treated as the gender with which they identify? Should their identities be respected and protected?

23. Transgender people don’t believe there is no difference between themselves and cisgender people. Nor is it a required belief

“Trans women are women” and “trans men are men” is an oversimplified slogan. It is a statement describing how transgender people believe they should be treated in a legal and social context. It’s like saying “disabled people are people”; yes, clearly there is something different about them, and the slogan is not trying to erase abled people. It’s simply a statement of how they want be treated: namely, as people. It’s a statement of inherent human dignity and worth. In the case of transgender people, deeply held identities in other areas of life enjoy legal protections. Trans is no different: and there is growing evidence that there are biological reasons why people have gender identities (and a physical self-image) that don’t match their physiology at birth.

24. Bad behaviour online by a few does not justify going after an entire minority that’s already a target of the British press, the Tory government, and the global religious Authoritarian movement

Accounts by some transgender people have said awful things; but then, so have accounts by people purporting to be gender critical. Magdelen Berns’ quote above is certainly escalatory. Whilst transgender people are rightly scared of a movement founded on the premise that, “the problem of transsexualism would best be served by morally mandating it out of existence,” it does not excuse abusing people. There is no excuse for going on transgender people’s timelines and calling them paedophiles, child mutilators, fetishists, perverts, and misogynists.

Globally, democracy and civil rights are in retreat. It is no coincidence that Victor Orban in Hungary began by targeting transgender people and women’s studies programs. Insults across twitter and other social media outlets are (hopefully) not representative, and only helps hasten the bigger picture for everyone’s civil rights.

25. If “the good ones” only means trans people who don’t speak out, there are not many good transgender people

Ms. Rowling blames all of this on “trans activists,” and cites transgender people she likes as the metaphorical “good ones”. These good ones are presumably the respectable ones who agree that transgender women are male and should generally be treated as such, and generally play by the rules as she would like to see them implemented.

However, there are huge problems for transgender people in the UK. Lack of access to medical and mental health care, archaic administrative systems, bias, stigma, the UK media piling on to anyone who’s the enemy du jour, fears of what the Tory government will do, violence against transgender people, and shifting views on gender across generations make activists out of almost every transgender person trying to get a start in life.

In a modern digital age, people have the ability to speak up against what they see as injustices and outrages in ways they never did before. If the only good transgender people are the ones who never speak up, who never see injustice, who have no desire to make things better for those who follow behind, and who see everything today as acceptable, that’s a very small list.

Looking at history, civil rights leaders who are remembered fondly today by history were extremely unpopular in their day for agitating against injustice. In the US, Martin Luther King was one of the most unpopular political figures in the country in 1967.

26. Transgender people don’t regard gender or sex as a costume

The detransition statistics from NHS don’t suggest transgender people are hopping genders or taking theirs on and off. Nor are transgender people wed to stenotypes about gender. There are trans men who express themselves in very stereotypically masculine ways, and ones who are more stereotypically effeminate in their presentation. The same is true for transgender women. It misrepresents the general consensus of the transgender community to say they believe that men or women have to express themselves in any particular way in order to be valid, and this sentiment applies to everyone regardless of whether or not they are transgender.

Transgender people are who they say they are.

27. Domestic violence is abhorrent, but it is not a sufficient justification for targeting a minority who had nothing to do with what happened to you.

Ms. Rowling brought the violence she suffered in her first marriage as why she is uncomfortable with transgender people in bathrooms. What happened to her is abhorrent, and I stand with anyone working to end domestic partner violence. I denounce it, and any threats against Ms. Rowling. However, her fear of transgender people, or people pretending to be transgender, is not sufficient grounds morally or legally to exclude transgender people from public life.

Contrary to Ms. Rowling’s assertion that “those women are in the vast majority,” most of the public (including women) has very little issue sharing bathrooms with transgender people according the 34th British Social Attitudes Survey. At the same time, transgender people have functionally had the legal right to use bathrooms in accordance with their gender identity since the passage of the 2010 Equality Act. This has not led to spikes in people pretending to be transgender to do nefarious things. Nor is it a logical fear, when pretending to be a janitor to gain illicit access would be far less conspicuous.

Nor does research show that non-discrimination laws ensuring transgender people have access to public spaces increases crime. A 2018 peer reviewed study by the Williams Institute at the University of California Los Angeles found, “fears of increased safety and privacy violations as a result of nondiscrimination laws are not empirically grounded.”

Religious right organizations in the US have deliberately stoked these fears for years. Mainstream journalistic outlets found no real validity to these fears either. Later, after losing the fight to repeal Massachusetts’ non-discrimination laws for trans people in public spaces, the anti-LGBT group MassResistance admitted that the “person pretending to be transgender in bathrooms predator” narrative was entirely fictional, and used as an effective scare tactic.

However, the US religious right has made deliberate efforts to both co-opt feminism to attack transgender people, and to export those lines of attack to the UK via conferences hosting notable anti-transgender activists from the UK including Venice Allan, Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull (who goes by the name Posie Parker), Julia Long, and Linda Bellos.

28. Separate but equal is not a humane, or even logical, solution

Kaeley Triller is an American religious-right anti-transgender activist who is also a foe of legal abortion. She was the spokeswoman for the campaign in Washington state initiative to repeal legal protections for transgender people. After that initiative failed, she went on to be one of the founders of “Hands Across the Aisle Coalition,” (HATAC) whose purpose was to link American fundamentalist groups and anti-transgender feminist organizations and co-opt them. HATAC listed several UK organizations as partners. Triller-Haver herself was a guest speaker at several of the conferences hosted by religious right organizations in the US where UK anti-transgender activists were brought in.

Kaeley Triller explained her anti-transgender activism in almost exactly the same terms as Ms. Rowling: she was a victim of sexual assault who was afraid people would pretend to be transgender to commit crimes in bathrooms. The article was published in The Federalist, an American online publication whose funding sources are mysterious, but is certainly no friend to women. The Federalist has also argued that birth control should be harder to obtain, women should be forced to try to carry ectopic pregnancies to term (this is both impossible, and highly likely to be lethal), and supported the Trump administration’s efforts to make it easier to get away with rape on college campuses.

The point of this is that The Federalist, and Kaeley Triller, are more interested in targeting transgender people than protecting women. Triller made the statement online that she just wanted “everyone to be safe”, echoing Ms. Rowling’s statement that, “I want trans women to be safe. At the same time, I do not want to make natal girls and women less safe.” However, when asked where transgender people should go if they cannot use either bathroom safely or legally, Triller replied (paraphrased) “I don’t know. I don’t care. Just not here.”

In recent weeks, trans exclusionary feminists in the UK have increasingly been answering the question of where transgender people should with the notion of third gender facilities, what amounts to a “separate but equal” solution. Transgender people see this as an existential threat. They recognize that the Boris Johnson government would never allocate the funding to upgrade and modify all public buildings to provide something that was truly “separate but equal.” Nor would corporations front the money to do the same, especially in the middle of a COVID-19 recession. They’re well aware of how badly that sort of thing has gone historically, and parents of transgender youth in the UK are terrified of it getting as bad as it is for trans youth in many parts of the US.

Ms. Rowling also apparently views even current GRCs (difficult as they are to obtain) as insufficient to use facilities consistent with one’s gender identity.

This is why transgender Britons, and supportive parents of transgender youth there, are absolutely terrified. Social media networks are awash in people asking where they can go if they can no longer use 99% of the bathrooms in Britain? How do they hold down a job if they can’t use any of the bathrooms where they work? Does it make them one of Ms. Rowling’s dreaded “activists” if they just want to keep living their lives as they have for years, keep their jobs, by objecting to such a plan?

Transgender Britons are caught between waves of despair, fear, and anger over what is happening. They recognize that what is happening is an extension of foreign Christian fundamentalists extending their reach into the UK. They recognize that should the people Ms. Rowling has partnered herself with prevail, it will be nearly impossible to continue living in Britain. The goal of the Christian right, and of radical anti-transgender feminists, was always to minimize the number of transgender people in society by the way of morally mandating them out of public life.

This is why transgender people in Britain are scared. This is why they’re angry. This is why the Scottish parliament took steps to protect transgender citizens of Scotland. And because of Ms. Rowling’s unique position as a celebrity author, philanthropist, and billionaire, and the vast platform and audience this provides her, this is why they despair.



Brynn Tannehill

Naval aviator, senior defense analyst, nerd, trans, parent, and author of two books that have nothing in common with each other besides the author