The day after a GLAAD-led coalition and a group of New York Times contributors delivered letters calling the paper out for anti-trans bias, it has run an opinion column defending J.K. Rowling against charges of transphobia.
The column is by Pamela Paul, a relatively new Times contributor who has faced criticism for her coverage of LGBTQ+ issues.
“This campaign against Rowling is as dangerous as it is absurd,” Paul wrote. “The brutal stabbing of Salman Rushdie last summer is a forceful reminder of what can happen when writers are demonized. And in Rowling’s case, the characterization of her as a transphobe doesn’t square with her actual views.”
The Harry Potter creator is being called a transphobe, Paul continued, “because she has asserted the right to spaces for biological women only, such as domestic abuse shelters and sex-segregated prisons,” “has insisted that when it comes to determining a person’s legal gender status, self-declared gender identity is insufficient,” “has expressed skepticism about phrases like ‘people who menstruate’ in reference to biological women,” and “has defended herself and … supported others, including detransitioners and feminist scholars, who have come under attack from trans activists.”
But Rowling “is not disputing the existence of gender dysphoria,” “has never voiced opposition to allowing people to transition,” and “is not denying transgender people equal pay or housing,” Paul asserted. “There is no evidence that she is putting trans people ‘in danger.’” Rowling has been threatened with violence herself, Paul said.
However, Rowling, who is the subject of a new podcast, The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling, has made comments and taken actions that are widely considered transphobic. She has claimed to love trans people but also essentially questioned their existence. She has made statements that were supportive of trans-exclusionary radical feminists, a.k.a. TERFs, and has painted trans rights as somehow in conflict with women’s rights. She recently funded a center in Scotland for survivors of sexual abuse that refuses to serve trans women. Some conservative politicians have used Rowling’s comments to support their transphobic positions.
The Human Rights Campaign, which signed on to the GLAAD coalition letter, objected strongly to Paul’s column. “Today’s article is the latest in a long line of Paul’s transphobic opinion pieces; earlier this year she wrote a piece condemning the use of inclusive language and another about how the LGBTQ+ movement should stop using the word ‘queer,’” notes an HRC press release.
“Just yesterday, HRC joined hundreds of people and organizations, including many of the Times’ own contributors, to call on TheNew York Times to stop publishing stories that harm the transgender and nonbinary community,” HRC President Kelley Robinson said in the release. “And just one day later, yet another transphobic column by one of their most consistently anti-transgender opinion writers is published to defend one of the most famous transphobic writers in the world. The circumstances are so outlandish that I almost can’t believe it — but that’s the reality for transgender people in our country: every day is a battle. The Times must stop consistently platforming anti-LGBTQ+ extremists. They must do better, because there are real lives at stake.”
Jeopardy champ Amy Schneider slammed the Times over the piece.
Legal expert Alejandra Caraballo wrote, "The day after hundreds of current and former NYT writers pleaded with the NYT to stop their transphobic coverage and days after a 16 year old trans girl in the UK was murdered in a hate crime, they publish this bullshit."
She added, "They don't care. The cruelty is the point."