Covid-19 has put many things on hold, but not the transgender thought police. JK Rowling had been in their sights since Christmas when she tweeted her support for Maya Forstater, who had lost her job at a think tank after questioning whether trans women were women (spoiler: we are not — we are the other sex).
When the children’s author accidentally tweeted the contents of her clipboard last Friday the thought police reached new levels of apoplexy. Not for anything Rowling had said: the tweet was swiftly deleted and an explanation given. She was condemned for what she had been reading.
It involved the attack on Maria Maclachlan, a woman caught up in a dispute between feminists and trans activists at Speakers’ Corner in September 2017. Tara Wolf, who identifies as trans, was later found guilty of assault and fined £150 at Hendon magistrates’ court. Worse, the version Rowling had been reading adorned Maclachlan’s attacker with male pronouns: he.
To the quasi-religious transgender police this is blasphemy. In a world where anything can be transphobic, they upped the ante and accused Rowling of being unsafe around children. Readers may be imagining an outraged throng of teenagers whipped up in a social media bubble. But the transgender debate gives licence to grown adults, even professionals, to verbally attack women with impunity. A GP from Liverpool, likened Rowling to Jimmy Savile. Possibly fearing legal action, he later deleted his tweet, describing it as “insensitive”.
In little more than five years, transgender ideology has brought us to the point where a GP thinks it’s merely insensitive — and “poorly worded” — to suggest that JK Rowling isn’t safe to be around children. What would have been good wording, I wonder?
Terrifyingly, our institutions have been similarly infected. At Forstater’s tribunal hearing, Judge James Tayler told her that her beliefs about gender reassignment were “not worthy of respect in a democratic society”. When Maclachlan gave evidence at Wolf’s trial, Judge Kenneth Grant criticised her for using male pronouns to describe her attacker.
Somewhere, transgender people like me got caught up in this. It’s time for us to call it out. Biology is not transphobic. Men cannot become women by some leap of faith, and magic belongs in Harry Potter, not in real life. As Rowling herself said in December, “we can live our best life in peace and security” but we can’t change sex, and this hounding of women must stop.
Debbie Hayton is a physics teacher and campaigner for trans rights
* This article was first published by The Times on 3 June 2020: JK Rowling fell foul of transgender thought police.