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Letters to the Editor: How readers responded to JK Rowling debate

Response to last week’s cover story by Sarah Ditum, “The war against JK Rowling”, has dominated TNE mailbag, attracting both praise and criticism. Here, we publish a representative selection of correspondence from readers.

Author JK Rowling was the subject of last week's cover story. Photograph: PA.

I’d like to thank The New European for Sarah Ditum’s very reasonable and measured article on JK Rowling.

Thank you also for having the courage to put it on the cover. I know that you will receive criticism and abuse just for publishing it but I am also certain that a vast majority of readers – especially female readers – will appreciate and be relieved to see it.

The New European has been a bright new light in UK journalism since it first appeared in 2016. It continues to be so now. Thank you.
S L Jones

Do not believe Sarah Ditum. Self-ID of trans people in the UK has nothing to do with the Gender Recognition Act. Instead it is the Equality Act that allows trans women to use women’s services.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission code of practice says that intention to transition can be evidenced by wearing the clothes of the other gender, and that a trans person should be treated as of the gender they present in.

So, merely by changing clothes, a trans woman is entitled to use women’s services. This has been the case since 2008. Ditum states that the campaign against trans rights really got going in 2016. If there was any problem with trans women self-identifying into women’s spaces, the campaign would have started long before then.

Please do not misinform your readers about trans people. We are a tiny, abused minority. A gender recognition certificate only changes the birth certificate. It used to affect the right to marry, and get a pension earlier, but now it does not even affect that.
Abigail Maxwell
Wellingborough

Print edition of The New European, 4 to 10 November 2021.

I am horrified and very hurt, betrayed and upset by your front page that allies TNE with haters, bigots and those who believe that I and those like me should not have the human rights others have.

JK Rowling did not just step over a boundary but has sought to trample all over the transgender community with her hate and prejudice.

I am an anti-Brexit and pro-EU activist. I identify with the political centre. I am also very afraid of the growth of a phoney culture war mostly drummed up by the far right but also aided and abetted by the far left. I am not a trans-activist. What I am is a human being, a trans woman. I am frightened by the spread via the mainstream media of a hate campaign against me. This is an existential threat. You have clearly joined forces with these people who hold monstrous and cruel views. How could you?
Zoe Perry
Chepstow

Last week’s cover story was an excellent, calm explanation of a modern day rabid witch-hunt.

Well done to The New European and Sarah Ditum
J Anderson

I loved your article on Rowling. The only thing I found confusing was the reference to gender from Chappelle…

“When the stand-up David Chappelle wanted to signal where he stood on the gender war, he only needed to drop one name: JK Rowling. ‘They cancelled JK Rowling,’ he says in his latest Netflix special, The Closer, incredulously.
“They cancelled her because effectually she said gender was a fact… I agree. I agree, man. Gender is a fact.”

Sex is a fact. Gender is a social construct. Gender is in a person’s head, reflected in the way someone presents, according to society’s stereotypical ways of interpreting sex roles and behaviour in society.

I love how clearly the discussion was presented in the rest of the article and I thank you for this. I’ve shared the article as I think it’s a useful piece in helping people understand the basics of the discussion.
Emma Grover

I just wanted to write in to thank you for the rational and fair article on JK Rowling and the response she’s received on sharing absolutely average and commonplace viewpoints on the reality of sex and the implications of denying it.

The one-sided trans argument has been going on too long with people too afraid to speak up because they see how people who state such widely held views are vilified, and most of us don’t have the protections JKR has in place.
It is absolutely appalling that she is subject to such ongoing abuse without repercussions on the perpetrators.

The view that if you don’t 100% agree with trans activitists, you must be a bigot or a transphobe is hysterical and untrue.

We can all have sympathy for people going through dysphoria and also have calm discussions about how best to accommodate that without detriment to any other societal classes. The fact that we cannot seem to do this, that there is to be no debate, is a massive red flag. Even more reason to discuss it and address the conflicts it presents head on. More of this balance, please! Media should be objective and discuss/explore both sides of any contentious issue.

There is never one version of the truth and we’ve been subject to attempts to control people’s thinking for far too long.
Stephanie

Thank you so much for writing such a considered article. It is much needed and timely and the relief I feel as a woman is enormous.
Elizabeth

Thank you for the piece on the demonisation of JK Rowling. Rowling has not done anything wrong, and her opinions are widely shared and would until recently have been uncontroversial (as indeed they are, being simple statements of women’s material reality). The era of ‘no debate’ is over. Let’s keep talking about the reality and importance of biological sex, particularly for women. Let’s also work to dismantle gender stereotypes for both men and women, rather than reinforce them.
Jo Whelan

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I am utterly disgusted that Ditum’s article was given such prominence.
A fundamental flaw in both Rowling’s and Ditum’s reasoning is that they correlate ‘male violence’ and trans folks. This obviously ‘hurts trans people’ if cis people, especially women, learn to think ‘trans equals violence’.

Further, while Ditum cites Rowling’s more egregious tweets and her thought-piece, she has somehow overlooked the 2020 novel Troubled Blood in which Rowling re-enforces the pernicious idea that men dress as women to attack women. There is no feminist argument for writing a novel that re-enforces such a harmful trope. I can understand (but disagree with) some brands of feminist feeling uncomfortable about the more inclusive language but there is no justification for perpetuating the idea that men are pretending to be women to invade women-only spaces. There is nothing to actually stop a man walking into a women’s bathroom and, if stories from trans folk are anything to go by, dressing femme does not remove all suspicion over why that person is in that space as this trope implies.
Kat Deuchars
Somerset

Thank you for this interesting article on JK Rowling and the reasons she has been so vilified as a successful, principled woman.

I am still mystified why her views and stance on the need to protect single-sex spaces is considered anti anything: a phoney war waged (out of envy?) against a woman who has battled and won against the odds.

I applaud her and would defend any woman against vile misogyny even if I didn’t totally agree with her views.
M Wingfield

It was a good article by Sarah Ditum. Since questioning the meaning of words and its consequences, in particular the erasure of ‘woman’, JK Rowling has grown and grown in my estimation. She is a giant. She raised her head above the parapet, which so many wouldn’t dare to do. And she did it for women.

The saddest bit, which JKR would agree with, is how badly this has affected trans people. Thank you New European. So many people must be so confused at this wrong-headed hatred.
Christine Hankinson
Leeds

Your cover story on JKR clearly demonstrates the need for women to assert their sex-based rights and the danger of self-id. Women have a right to assert our boundaries. I sympathise with those uncomfortable with their birth sex but this should not lead to men being granted access to women-only spaces and it should not lead to the redefining of homosexuality from same-sex attracted to same gender attracted.

I find the trans activist movement frightening in their bullying and denial of free speech. They claim their protests are peaceful but there is nothing peaceful about their use of intimidation and porn to silence women. We need institutions and journalists to be braver if women are not going to suffer a complete loss of rights.
Pauline Pollard

Sarah Ditum’s article exposes the misogyny that underlies so much of the hounding of JK Rowling.

The gender identity industry’s unremitting assault on women’s rights and biological reality affects us all, yet so many give in to its insistence on ‘no debate’. Thank you for having the courage to give this important issue front page prominence.
Alan Neale
Dorset

I am gender critical, but find it difficult to be open about that in my social circles because in most of the groups that I belong to, the line of ‘trans women are women’ feels unassailable. I have several friends who are trans or non-binary – I am happy to use whatever name they chose and whatever pronouns they chose, and I think that they have the right to be safe and secure regardless of what clothes they wear and how they express themselves. But I find the arguments for a ‘gender identity’ that is separate from the body to be untenable.

So I don’t agree that ‘trans women are women’ nor that anyone can change their gender or sex.

I’m not a transphobe, I’m not trans-exclusionary – I simply do not hold the same metaphysical beliefs as people who say ‘trans women are women’, and I see no reason why I should be forced to.

The public debate is extremely polarised because of this demonification of anyone who is sceptical about the idea of ‘gender identity’.

At some point I will probably need to state publicly that I am gender critical – but I’m not sure how or when. Until then, I remain quiet on the topic – which for someone who is deeply political, is a difficult situation. So, I’m very glad to see that The New European is providing a platform for gender critical voices and being brave enough to stick up for honest public debate without extremism.

Chris

It was dismaying and disappointing to see Sarah Ditum’s transphobia apologia piece appear in The New European. It may have been less hysterical than recent articles in other publications but the portrayal of openly transphobic people as victims, the mass generalisations about trans people, and the creepy implication that people who would quite like to be left alone to mind their own business should somehow be expected to announce what genitalia they have before they walk into a room… all these old favourites were present.

In addition, there was a suffocating moral certainty seeping out of the page about how statements from J.K. Rowling ‘should’ have been received if only those pesky trans people would stop complaining.

There is an onslaught against trans people in this country at the moment, with the dignity of fellow citizens repeatedly disrespected. Examples of horror are dredged up from around the world in order to make pernicious associations between people with a trans identity and the threat of male violence against women. With this article being published in TNE, it is clear that no media is immune from the moral panic of our time.
Robin Meltzer
London NW6

The New European claimed it was founded to fight the extremes of the right-wing press. It constantly reports on about the awful treatment of LGBT+ people in Poland and Hungary, or even under Donald Trump. It tells us we must avoid being divided by the government’s culture wars.

It was a shining light for giving a voice to those being sidelined by Brexit. It’s very own motto is ‘think without borders’. So why oh why did it see fit to go down the transphobic route, hiring a known controversial voice, to undo the great work it had done previously?
Geoff Marsters

I am truly saddened that The New European has misrepresent trans people in the same way that the Leave campaign misrepresented Brexit.

As a Remainer I campaigned against Brexit and the same kind of overwhelming media dominance and misrepresentation that TNE was set up to counter.

No-one has put trans people’s side of the argument. There is more than one side to the story you published but it fits into what is known as the “anti-gender” campaign in Europe and beyond. As an anti-Brexit publication, you are doing your readers a disservice and undermining your own central message by supporting this campaign. The strength of your brand was that it was prepared to go against the Brexit media bias, the media bias against trans people is very considerably greater than the bias against Brexit ever was.
Dr Natacha Kennedy

My identity is non-gendered. And I have suffered every day throughout most of my adult life due to overarching transphobic bigotry that manifests itself in various forms.

Sarah Ditum has one-sided misconceptions about trans people. Shame on you for giving her a platform. Shame on me for assuming that most who understood the true naked folly of Brexit could empathise to some degree with the extraordinary predicament that trans people are facing in the UK.
Christie Elan-Cane

  • Have your say by emailing letters@theneweuropean.co.uk

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