In case you're just catching up on the J.K. Rowling TERF controversy, here's a primer: J.K. Rowling supported a transphobic woman on Twitter, got called out for it. She recently doubled down with some transphobic tweets during Pride month, inspiring Harry Potter cast members like Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Bonnie Wright to speak out in support of trans rights. And then, most recently, J.K. Rowling penned an essay defending her stance and revealing herself to be a survivor of abuse and sexual assault.
Now, The Sun has decided to publish a front-page interview with J.K. Rowling's abuser, her ex-husband Jorge Arantes, which has enraged people on all sides of the issue and distracted from the core, still ultimately transphobic message of Rowling's essay.
I am not RTing The Sun front page but I really hope that wherever you stand on JK Rowling you can see that this headline is violence to a woman written in the words of a perpetrator. It is just more misogyny and it makes me sick Solidarity to survivors everywhere— suzanne moore (@suzanne_moore) June 11, 2020
The Sun interview is titled, "Ex's Sick Taunt: J.K Rowling's abusive first husband admits he slapped her but says 'I'm not sorry.'" Many, including several MPs (Members of Parliament), spoke out against the interview, saying it legitimizes domestic violence and gives her abusive ex a platform which he very much doesn't deserve.
Not to mention, it drags up his images and his name, which J.K. Rowling did not use, probably purposefully, in her essay. Critics called the choice to put interview her abuser "a total error of judgment," "very irresponsible," and "truly appalling."
The Sun put out a statement clarifying its choice. In a statement for the publication, a spokeswoman said, "We were disgusted by the comments of J.K. Rowling's ex-husband, and branded him as 'sick' and 'unrepentant' in our coverage. It was certainly not our intention to 'enable' or glorify' domestic abuse, our intention was to expose a perpetrator's total lack of remorse. Our sympathies are always with the victims."
But in what world does putting an interview with an abuser on the front page of your newspaper not glorify that person, at least to some extent? The actions of The Sun are reprehensible, and they should be called out for it.
But it's also extremely important to mention that this debacle has completely derailed the original conversation and the very real and valid criticism that J.K. Rowling felt she had to address.
In addition to the bombshell about her abuse, which is tragic and heartbreaking for her to have experienced, she triples down on harmful transphobic views, writing — without citing evidence — that many trans youth regret their transitions. She also expressed unfounded fear and concern that if anyone can get a "gender confirmation certificate," then "you throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he's a woman."
The idea that predatory men will abuse non-discriminatory bathroom policies to assault women has long been known to be a myth, a harmful hypothetical that anti-trans people use to argue their cause but which is not at all rooted in truth.
1. JK Rowling discloses abuse in a ~4000 word essay about how trans people aren’t real.— colette arrand (@colettearrand) June 12, 2020
2. The Sun takes that and interviews her abuser.
3. British MPs call The Sun abhorrent/Rowling’s dehumanizing essay heroic.
4. Trans charities have to tweet that they abhor abuse.
J.K. Rowling's decision to use this moment to reveal her survivor status and The Sun's decision to publish an interview with her abuser, as Colette Arrand points out, has served to disrupt the conversation at hand. And indeed, that's exactly what's happened.
J.K. Rowling claimed in her essay that she didn't bring up her abuse "in an attempt to garner 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 spaces." She's admitting to using her story to defend the idea that trans people shouldn't be allowed to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity.
It is entirely possible to be simultaneously appalled by JK Rowling’s treatment of trans people, and The Sun’s treatment of JK Rowling.— 🏳️🌈 Max 🏳️🌈 (@SpillerOfTea) June 12, 2020
The two positions are not mutually exclusive, so stop with all the, “You’re probably secretly pleased,” bullshit.
The abuse and assault that J.K. Rowling experienced is unequivocally horrible. As @SpillerOfTea points out, it's possible to realize that what The Sun has done is disgusting and to still understand that her essay is not only misguided and misinformed but that she's actively harming trans people everywhere with her words.