I had a work teleconference to attend this afternoon, but as I’ve effectively had a panic attack and am full of anxiety, I sent in my apologies. And while eating my late lunch, I jumped on to one of the news sites I follow and read this headline –
‘JK Rowling’s career declared ‘dead’ via #RIPJKRowling hashtag’.
I knew immediately that this would be about her position and comments on transgenders (and other such things) on the day that her latest book is published. You may not be aware that JK Rowling has expressed opinions (via Twitter) over recent times about transgenders (and other things) that has caused lots of negative and angry reaction. It just so happens that:
- I’ve recently been thinking a lot about how people can’t take a contrary position on transgenders (or make any kind of comment that is not immediately supportive) without being judged harshly and condemned.
This could also be true of taking a position on black matters if you’re white, police matters if you’re black or a criminal, white matters if you’re black (or a white idiot, supporting black matters to the point where you’re rejecting your whiteness), First Nations if you’re from a long line of colonials, or white, etc and so forth and so on!
- I picked up the latest Cormoran Strike book this morning (JK writes this series as Robert Galbraith). Apparently (I haven’t read the book yet) there is a ‘male’ transvestite serial killer. Oh no!
- And of course, the world has gone crazy and you can’t possibly suggest that a transvestite could be a serial killer – especially if we suspect that you are against transgenders (even though I understand that a transvestite is a person who enjoys cross-dressing and is not necessarily a transgender; who is a person with a gender identity different to their gender at birth).
What has happened to it being okay to hold an opposing opinion? JK Rowling and some of her contemporaries express this as the intolerance of opposing views. A link to a letter shared in Harper’s magazine in July 2020 is here. I have pulled out some of the phrases and declarations that jumped out at me:
- The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted.
- … spreading more widely in our culture is … an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty.
- We uphold the value of robust and even caustic counter-speech from all quarters.
- … the result has been to steadily narrow the boundaries of what can be said without the threat of reprisal.
- We are already paying the price in greater risk aversion among writers, artists, and journalists who fear for their livelihoods if they depart from the consensus, or even lack sufficient zeal in agreement.
- This stifling atmosphere will ultimately harm the most vital causes of our time.
- The restriction of debate …. invariably hurts those who lack power and makes everyone less capable of democratic participation.
- We refuse any false choice between justice and freedom, which cannot exist without each other.
- … we need a culture that leaves us room for experimentation, risk taking, and even mistakes.
- We need to preserve the possibility of good-faith disagreement …
I’ve read several articles that discuss the position and comments that JK has made, and it seems to me that she is being quite reasonable. But in the cancel culture we currently inhabit, it is almost impossible to speak against any of the current trends and alternate lifestyle positions (I didn’t say ‘choices) without being harshly judged and vilified.
It is quite helpful for me to have access to this letter because it helps me present to you snippets of somebody else’s word explanations for the feelings I’m trying to express. And as a writer in a writing community here on WordPress, a cancel culture impinges on my ability to express myself and my thoughts, and have open debate and conversation.
I am a white, middle-aged woman whose husband earns a good living and the pressure has been off me to reciprocate in the financial sphere. I have been extremely lucky. Therefore (apparently) it seems that I am not allowed any opinion on anything or anybody else, because ‘who am I to talk’?
I’ve an almost guaranteed freedom of movement and safety just because of who I am, barring the standard risk of accident, home invasion, or visitor of the murderous persuasion.
But, I’m also in a perfect situation to be an avid observer of the world. Through listening, watching news programs, following social commentary, interacting in my community and above all – reading; I get to see things and hear things from a stand-off position that allows me some understanding of things, without having to live it. In fact, having to live things can close you off to other possibilities and opinions, because you are in fact living it.
My observation is that JK Rowling and others aren’t saying it is wrong to be transgender. She has expressed concern at the large numbers of very young people showing a desire to transition – where has it come from, has it been pushed on them? People who feel lost and don’t know where they fit look to popular culture, and aspire to what seems the surest way to be loved and accepted. Being transgender could be perceived as trendy, and if you’ve uncertainty about your sexual identify, perhaps transitioning could seem like the way to go.
People arguing against the prevalence of transitioning are asking ‘has the right decision been made for this person? Is it being made for the right reason? Were there other alternatives. And in a society where support, support, support seems to be the creed – don’t ever suggest that somebody cannot – it is important to be able to say that the decision to transition is by true definition ‘life changing’ and to be undertaken carefully.
And here I clumsily interject as an example; look at the overuse and prevalence of Ritalin and other amphetamine type drugs administered to a generation of children unnecessarily. Dare I compare?
I do feel bamboozled by all the changes in society. The idealism about rights, the bombardment and intensity of expression about wants, needs, rights. What we used to think of as minority groups (and I’m not talking black people) have such loud voices and the platform now – that they are disallowing the rest of us to have or express a contrary opinion. They want to disallow me to identify as a woman and a mother as per the most base definition. A woman bleeds, gives birth, marries a man (if that is her choice). She is the feminine parallel to man. I have absolutely no problem accepting all the different types and ways of being in this world.
I don’t want to be identified as cisgender, because you want to be labelled as ‘across/other’, you want me to be labelled as ‘same as’.
I am a woman; don’t cancel me out. And, don’t cancel my right to voice.