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Is J.K. Rowling transphobic? Who is Maya Forstater? Your questions about the U.K. scandal answered

Is J.K. Rowling transphobic? Who is Maya Forstater? Your questions about the U.K. scandal answered
[Photo: Samir Hussein/WireImage via Getty Images]

Across the pond, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling is being crucified online, blasted as “transphobic” and a “TERF,” after she tweeted the hashtag #IStandWithMaya. Who is Maya? What’s a TERF? We have answers.

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So why is this happening?

Key detail: The U.K. is considering a “self-ID” policy that would allow people to choose their own legal gender status, rather than the current process, which requires that someone must live in a new gender for two years and receive a diagnosis of gender dysphoria from multiple doctors before they can change their status. Opinions about this proposed reform are fierce.

Who is Maya?

Maya Forstater is a tax expert who lost her think tank job when she tweeted: “People who I admire . . . are tying themselves in knots to avoid saying the truth that men cannot change into women (because that might hurt mens feelings).” She crowdfunded and took her case to court, arguing that under the U.K.’s Equality Act, free speech is protected, and she should not have been fired. Yesterday she lost her case when a judge ruled that her “absolutist” views can violate the dignity of others and are “not worthy of respect in a democratic society.” Prominent activists and celebrities have come out in support of Forstater, considering this censorship.

And J.K. Rowling is involved how?

Today J.K. Rowling returned from a months-long Twitter vacation with the following tweet:

Cue the internet splitting in two, to either praise Rowling or call her a transphobic TERF. Rowling is familiar with ensnaring herself in such a fray. Last year she liked a tweet that referred to “men in dresses,” and her book scenes have been criticized for transphobia.

What’s a TERF?

The term stands for trans-exclusionary radical feminist, and it’s used by critics to denounce views seen as transphobic or unwelcoming to trans women. Forstater considers herself a women’s rights activist. She has said she’s “concerned that governments around the world are rushing through laws and policies which say that people with male bodies can become women simply by identifying as women,” and is alarmed “at the rapid mainstreaming of the idea that female people no longer need a name, or specific civil rights protections,” without consideration for the impact this will have on women and girls, and on single-sex spaces, services, and sports.

What’s next for gender recognition reform in the U.K.?

This week the Scottish government introduced a draft bill that would move the process forward, but plenty of opposition remains. You can read all about the progress here.

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