The tweet has sparked the trending hashtag, #IStandWithMaya.
Forstater, a feminist activist and founder of the “Let Toys Be Toys” campaign to end gender stereotyping in retail toy marketing, has argued that although trans-identifying people should not face discrimination, the Gender Recognition Act of 2004 has consequences for the protection of women and girls which women should be allowed to discuss.
On March 6, 2019, Maya Forstater published an article on Medium titled, “International development: lets talk about sex”. The article defends the use of the biological definition of “woman” rather than one based on gender identity and self-identification:
“But defining womanhood as a feeling rather than a biological fact has implications for protection of women’s rights. Organisations concerned with social justice, international development and human rights would struggle to articulate their goals, policies and research without a word to denote female people. Yet few are willing to stand up for the biological definition of women, or even to hold open a space for clear, calm discussion.”
The article also clarifies that Forstater believes human rights for transgender people are possible without relying on self-identification:
“However as Professor Rosa Freedman argues ensuring human rights protections for people who are transgender does not depend on accepting the belief that men can become women.”
This article prompted an inquiry into Forstater by her employer and she was eventually fired. Forstater brought the case to an employment tribunal since philosophical belief is a protected class in the United Kingdom.
On December 18th, Judge James Taylor ruled against her arguing that while her philosophical position that biological sex can not be changed is a legitimate and genuinely-held belief with internal consistency, that “incompatible with human dignity and fundamental rights of others.” This is in spite of the fact that Forstater’s position clearly lays out paths to humans rights for transgender people without self-identification.
Claire Graham, an intersex activist, laid out the hypocrisy of this judgment which uses the medical conditions of those with Disorders of Sexual Development (DSDs) to make its case:
“The fact is people with DSDs have been stripped of their dignity, their right to be told the truth about their bodies and their sex, to have accurate information about their medical conditions and development. This is our history. It shouldn’t be our present and our future. It was what we wanted to end, but it’s now written down in a legal judgement in the UK that this is how the world should be, and to counter this is, allegedly, “anti-science” and undignified for trans people. It could lose you your job.”
Rowling’s support of Forstater marks an important milestone for women who are being silenced in the current gender debate, painted as “hateful” for rejecting the erasure of their biological reality.
In her tweet, Rowling cites Kathleen Stock’s article, “This Is Not A Drill”, which was published on Medium in response to the Forstater judgment. The article calls on UK Philosophers (of which Stock is one) to demonstrate their academic integrity by standing up for freedom of belief:
“Yet, philosophers and other academics continue to lecture me: “no-one is talking about sex — everyone knows sex and gender are distinct!”. Well, this employment tribunal judge apparently doesn’t know it. In fact, despite the brave efforts of people like Maya, there is huge public confusion about the relation between sex and gender in the UK, largely due to Stonewall’s lobbying, training, and propaganda. Women are losing not just their legal and social protections, but we are approaching a situation where women (and men) cannot even legally speak about this loss.”
Rowling appears to have been moved by this public plea, having previously recanted her support of feminists when pressured by the public. Jezebel writes that Rowling follows a significant number of radical feminists on Twitter, such as Julie Bindel, who is a campaigner to end prostitution. Rowling was also heavily criticized for following feminist YouTuber Magdalen Berns, who passed away in September of a brain tumor at the age of 36.
Rowling has been repeatedly called a “TERF” (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist), a term typically associated with violent threats and misogyny, leading many to consider it a slur.
In response to her latest tweet, which makes it clear that people should be able to “Live your best life in peace and security”, Rowling has once against been called a “TERF”, “bigot”, "bitch", and told to “Shut the fuck up” by men. However, many women and feminists are thanking her for her bravery in speaking up despite the expected backlash.
Cover Photo by S.macken6, CC-BY-SA
CC-BY-SA, M. K. Fain