All women’s experiences are real women’s experiences
Like many of our community members, AWN is dismayed and disappointed to learn about JK Rowling’s most recent transmisogynistic comments about sex and gender. Among other comments, Rowling claimed that she would march in support of trans people if trans people experienced discrimination. As the leading autistic organization of autistic women (both trans and cis) and trans people of all genders, AWN condemns in no uncertain words the entirety of Rowling’s tweets and her blog post that attack and undermine trans women, trans men, and trans nonbinary people.
Many of our AWN leadership, staff, and volunteers are trans, and we know that autistic people as a whole are much more likely to be transgender in all possible gender identities, including as trans women and transfeminine people. We therefore know very personally the extreme discrimination, prejudice, hostility, and violence that trans people suffer every day – especially trans women who are Black or Native, who do sex work, who are in prison, and/or who are immigrants. The fact that Rowling chose to use her past experiences as a survivor of sexual abuse and domestic violence as a reason to question the validity of trans women’s experiences deeply saddens us, and further demonstrates her alignment with TERF ideology. Untold numbers of trans women have been victims and survivors of sexual abuse and domestic violence, often because they are trans.
Further, we are horrified to learn that Rowling has chosen to double down on her initial statements by questioning whether or not autistic children are being manipulated into falsely believing that they are transgender. Such statements, commonly made about autistic children who were assigned female at birth, rely on ableist beliefs about autistic people’s incompetence and presume that cisgender and neurotypical people know us better than we know ourselves. AWN is encouraged that larger numbers of children – both autistic and nonautistic – are willing to explore their genders today, than were in decades past. This demonstrates the power of community support and affirmation for multiple gender identities and expressions, and for people who are questioning and exploring their own sense of gender.
Likewise, AWN is dismayed that Rowling chose to frame her own experiences with obsessive compulsive disorder as speculation that she might have been convinced to pursue medical transition while younger. This framing, along with her repeated claims that she has listened to trans people and has a trans friend, attempts to disguise her open bigotry, but fails to do so. Trans people who undergo medical transition do not do so quickly, easily, or due to emotional manipulation; in fact, there are enormous financial barriers along with rampant anti-trans beliefs and ableism built into the process to even receive approval to begin hormone replacement therapy.
For many years before, trans women have called attention to JK Rowling’s support for openly transmisogynistic beliefs and known TERF activists. We offer our support to all trans women in the wake of Rowling’s public alignment with these sentiments, and our outrage that someone with such an enormous platform has chosen to use it to further harm against trans women.
AWN also shares in the hurt and disappointment of trans people who gained solace and comfort from the Harry Potter universe over the past few decades. While imperfect in many ways, the Harry Potter universe still featured messages and allegories emphasizing acceptance for weird people, solidarity with marginalized people, and resistance against oppressive forces, including state-sponsored eugenics and racism. It’s no surprise that many autistic people, and especially many autistic trans people, have often related deeply to many of the characters in the Harry Potter universe.
Like many trans advocates have suggested, AWN supports buying merchandise and art either secondhand or from individual creators, especially trans creators, instead of official merchandise where proceeds benefit Rowling. We further support the power of fanfiction as a way to imagine different possibilities for a Harry Potter world where trans women and other trans people are core parts of that magical universe. Fans know better than anyone the power of storytelling for imagining new and better worlds into existence. And as Albus Dumbledore said, “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”
(We note, of course, the irony that Rowling penned this statement while disbelieving trans women about their experiences.)
For community members who are less familiar with some of the words we have used in this statement, we offer the following definitions as starting points:
Cisgender: When a person’s sense of their own gender matches the gender they have been assumed to be by others since birth. Usually, cisgender people are women or men. (For example, a man who was born with a penis, labeled male and a boy when born, and still considers himself a man.)
TERF: This is an acronym for “trans-exclusionary radical feminist.” It refers to a specific set of beliefs (an ideology) originally held by a group of cisgender women who describe themselves as radical feminists, and who also believe that transgender women are not real women. Historically, many TERFs were lesbian cisgender women, but today, TERFs also include heterosexual (straight) cisgender women, and cisgender men. TERFs usually believe that transgender women are actually men who are pretending to be women, culturally appropriating womanhood, and doing so to threaten cisgender women and demand sexual intimacy with cisgender women.
Transfeminine: Transgender people who are feminine or want to appear feminine. Most often, transfeminine people were assigned male at birth (assumed to be boys). The word transfeminine can mean someone’s identity. It can also mean someone’s expression or how they want to appear to other peop