Those seeking to understand why the average person is too terrified to speak up against transgender activism need only to look to J.K. Rowling. In a promotional trailer for Rowling’s forthcoming film, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, which she co-wrote and co-produced, her name barely appears. This contrasts with how prominently her name was featured in previous advertisements for the franchise.
Rowling has endured a continued campaign of punishment and harassment ever since she (rightfully) ridiculed the term “people who menstruate” last year on social media. Her most recent transgression, according to activists, was criticizing the police in Scotland for classifying offenders based on their gender self-identification. This means that a male rapist who identifies as female will have his offense recorded as being committed by a woman.
Why might rapists want to be categorized as female and subsequently housed in women’s prisons? One does not need to have a background working with incarcerated sexual offenders, as I do, to wager a guess. Of course, it is important to take into consideration that some offenders may legitimately experience gender dysphoria at the time of committing an offense and that transgender women who are incarcerated will be at greater risk of harm if they are housed with male inmates.
But the fact that questioning gender self-identification policies is considered completely unacceptable demonstrates how those pushing these policies operate in an alternate reality. In the last 18 months, 12 Scottish male inmates convicted of sexual or violent crimes were transferred to women’s prisons because they identified as female. Of those offenders, only one had undergone transition.
The cruel reality of these decisions is realized not by those petitioning for these practices but by female inmates. Classifying crimes by self-expressed gender obfuscates the truth of the matter, creating confusion that puts everyone in the community at risk.
Some might argue Rowling’s wealth offers her a certain level of protection. I can tell you from my experience the harassment that accompanies this particular strain of activism is not something I would wish upon anyone.
Additionally, being labeled as “anti-trans” and a trans-exclusionary radical feminist (or “TERF”) by the media and being disavowed by some of the franchise’s cast members sends the message to everyone watching that challenging this ideology, no matter how compassionately or sensitively, is unacceptable. Many surely think to themselves: If Rowling is not safe from abuse, what chance do I have of surviving?
Dr. Debra Soh is a sex neuroscientist, the host of The Dr. Debra Soh Podcast, and the author of The End of Gender: Debunking the Myths About Sex and Identity in Our Society.