J.K. Rowling Doesn't Speak For Abuse Survivors

I resent the weaponising of our stories and putting words in our mouths, Rachel Charlton-Dailey writes.

Like most of Twitter, I’ve been watching J.K. Rowling attempting to dig herself out of the very deep hole she created for herself with her views on transgender rights and their threat to real women.

Over the last couple of years, J.K. Rowling hasn’t hesitated to share her opinions of transgender people and their rights all over Twitter, despite her never being asked.

This came to a head this weekend when she tweeted her outrage at the term, “people who menstruate”, insinuating it was an attack on real women. By J.K. Rowling’s standards, this rules me out, as I had a hysterectomy three years ago so probably I’m probably not even allowed to identify as a demi-woman, which I do.

After celebrities such as her film star darlings Daniel Radcliffe, Evanna Lynch and Emma Watson condemned her comments, Rowling felt compelled to explain herself.

While nobody was expecting an apology from the author, who regularly quote tweets those who disagree with her to her 14.5 million followers, nobody was prepared for the over 3,600 word-long, excuse-riddled diatribe, which, in turn, conflated trans rights with autism, abuse, rape, child abuse and, bizarrely, delays in MS diagnosis.

Within the essay, she spoke publicly for the first time about being a domestic abuse and assault survivor, which I agree is very brave of her. As a survivor myself, I know how hard it can be to speak up about abuse and assault and I believe it should be a lot more normalised.

JK Rowling
JK Rowling

However, I don’t agree with how she used this as a reason for not wanting transwomen to inhabit women-only spaces.

Understandably, after something so traumatic, many female abuse survivors are very wary of men and don’t want them in spaces which are supposed to be women only. But, of course, trans women aren’t men and they have as much right to be in these spaces as cis women.

Rowling cites the age-old cliché of men pretending to be women to sneak into our toilets and perve on women and children. Again, trans women aren’t disgusting men in a dress, and, besides, when has telling predatory men they can’t do something ever stopped them

“I resent how JK Rowling and others like her are weaponizing the stories of abused women and putting words in our mouths.”

I’m thankfully married to a wonderful man now, but I have been in emotionally, mentally, physically and sexually abusive relationships in the past. I know how hard it can be to recover from, in some ways you never do. I was, rightly so, wary and even terrified of men for a long time after my experiences. Despite this, I remain a decent person and would never dream of blaming innocent people who just want to live their lives peacefully.

Rowling claimed to be sharing her survivor story, not for sympathy, but “out of solidarity with the huge numbers of women who have histories like mine, who’ve been slurred as bigots for having concerns around single-sex space”.

As just one of those women, I resent how J.K. Rowling and others like her are weaponizing the stories of abused women and putting words in our mouths. When we share our fears of having men in a supposed single-sex space, that’s what we mean. Cis men who, however well intentioned, speak over us and attempt to minimise our experiences because they just want to share how they have also experienced this.

She insists that she does care about trans women and she knows how much they are victims of domestic violence, but it comes across like she just cares about men in women’s bathrooms more.

When we speak about feeling unsafe in single-sex bathrooms, we should be talking about the men who insist on using female loos in a drunken nightclub, staring too long at the women at the sinks.

When we speak about keeping our children safe in single-sex spaces we should be talking about the male teachers in positions of power who patrol girls’ changing rooms during PE, something I’m sure many of us have heard of from friends if we haven’t experienced it ourselves.

What we shouldn’t be speaking about is trans women, who just want to pee in peace, and maybe top up their lipstick, the same as we do.

Rachel Charlton-Dailey is a freelance writer.


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