Last week, Harry Potter’s creator J.K. Rowling became embroiled in a controversy resulting from a tweet that was deemed inappropriate by the transgender community; this wasn’t the first time either.
In December 2019, the worldwide transgender community criticized Rowling for tweeting her support for Maya Forstater, a researcher. Her employer did not renew her contract after discovering her involvement in an “anti-trans” campaign online.
In this latest social media drama, on 7 June, Rowling tweeted an article by Devex.com, ‘Opinion: Creating a more equal post-COVID-19 world for people who menstruate’.
The controversy was in her caption.
Rowling’s social media post implies that only “real women” can menstruate. Trans women were not born with female body parts. Therefore they can’t menstruate. So, by this logic, trans women are not considered to be “real women.”
The sarcasm in the post did not help, either.
Among the criticisms, Rowling is being called transphobic, which means a person with a phobia of trans people that often turns to dislike or prejudice towards them. She’s also been called a TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) and a FART (feminism-appropriating reactionary transphobe).
And those were the nicer ones.
The Thai transgender community is growing and is in tune with the global trend of “social acceptance.” They are active, vocal and at the forefront of the fighting for the rights of trans people.
“J.K. Rowling has said trans women are men in dresses and said people who have periods are female,” explained Shane Bhatla.
“That’s pretty transphobic, a lot of transgender men and non-binary people still have their period, and they aren’t women.”
“To say that people who are born with female parts are real women is like saying that trans people aren’t real women,” said Shane. “This affects the mental health of trans people and increases transphobia.”
The question is, how do you define a woman?
As explained by Shane, gender identity is the sense of your gender, which can be outside of the binary man and woman, regardless of your birth gender. Which means if someone was born a man, but identified with the female identity, then the person should be considered a woman.
“If your gender identity differs from that [birth gender], then no one can tell you otherwise,” Shane said.
According to Shane, some trans women are open about their trans identity and will say they are trans. However, there are many trans people (regardless of gender identity) who prefer not to reveal their trans identities.
Furthermore, Shane explained that non-binary people often identify themselves outside the binary (the binary being man or woman). Many prefer “they/them” pronouns as to be gender-neutral, but they can also use “he/him” or “she/her,”
Other than “they/them,” there’s also “ze/zim” for those who are gender-neutral.
Nonetheless, some people would argue that the biology of your birth should decide your gender identity. When asked if they have the right to this opinion, Shane said:
“Trans identities are part of biology too. As trans folks, we cite biology all the time when talking about hormone replacement therapy and surgeries.”
“Transphobic people often limit biology to ‘cis understanding’ and use biology to exclude trans folks.”
(A cis-person is someone who based their gender identity on their birth gender.)
“The word here is biological. That’s what transphobic people usually use.”