Don’t Listen to JK Rowling. Rights Aren’t Pie.

Harry Potter was defining for a generation. It was truly a phenomenon. My kids read the books, watched the movies, and listened to the audio books. But the author’s crusade — and I use that word deliberately — against trans rights has poisoned all my feelings about her work.

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JK Rowling was trending on Twitter today because Stephen King had retweeted Rowling, and she had praised King in response on Twitter, but then King tweeted, “Trans women are women,” and Rowling deleted her tweet in praise of King.

JK Rowling should be ashamed of herself, but she isn’t. She has gone all the way down a rabbit hole to a distorted world of sex and gender essentialism, a worldview that actually harms all cis women and reduces them to the GOP definition of them: baby-growers on legs.

Her position is also inevitably tied into whiteness, heteronormativity, and ableism: an arrogant assumption that all cis women’s experiences around the world must be the same as hers, that she must be able to understand how cis women everywhere understand and shape their lives because they have vaginas and so does she.

The dynamic at the base of this attitude is the same that underpinned “the sun will never set on the British Empire.” We know how that worked out. Turns out colonial subjects don’t like being “unified” under imperial rule, forced to conform with a culture that isn’t theirs, couched in terms of “for their own good” but in reality, extremely self-serving for the imperialists.

JK Rowling is wrong. There is no Single Unifying Theory of Women based in our biology. (I say “our” because I have a set of XX chromosomes and a uterus and ovaries, although I identify as a genderfluid womxn.)

So say it with me: Trans women are women.

JKR is looking at rights with a scarcity mentality. As someone wrote on a t-shirt: rights aren’t pie. If trans folks gain rights, it doesn’t mean there’s less leftover for women.

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Having been involved in freedom struggles for, ahem, more than two decades now, I can also say that this way of looking at rights is exactly how management circumscribes the conversation when dealing with labor. “Well, if we pay you more, then we’ll have to pay these other workers less. Is that what you want?”

Such thinking comes from a small mind lacking in imagination.

It’s also morally cowardly.

I keep saying this, and I’ll keep saying it: all our liberations are interconnected.

We don’t measure out rights so that every marginalized group gets some, but no marginalized group gets all. That is a formula to maintain the status quo, with whiteness, wealth, cis-masculinity, heterosexuality, ability, and the Global North perpetually at the top, while the rest of us fight over our positions underneath.

But liberation — TRUE liberation — is like love: more of it creates MORE.

Here is what I believe: every single human being on the planet has a birthright to live in and express their identity without being disadvantaged, punished, or killed for it.

Is that a radical position? If so, call me a radical.

But it’s also the position that is fully opposed to Nazism.

Think about it: anything less than this belief allows the possibility that Nazism had a point.

The Jewish people did not, by living, pose an existential threat to non-Jewish Germans, but non-Jewish Germans took millions of Jewish people out of existence, simply for being who they were. Why? Because of fear, and because it was ultimately self-serving for them to do so, at a horrible cost to Jewish people in Europe.

Trans women do not in any way threaten the rights of cis women. But JK Rowling is looking to abrogate the rights of trans women — rights many of them don’t even have codified into law yet — because she believes they pose a threat to her, and therefore to all of cis womanhood. But it’s ultimately self-serving: she seeks a better position for cis women within the structure of patriarchy at the cost of trans women. This doesn’t “smash the patriarchy”: it reinforces it.

We can say “no” to this kind of thinking. We can decide to work together against ALL the structures that place some identities at the top and hold all others down.

We can work for a world where there is enough pie for everyone, and we all enjoy it together.

(Like this? I keep my writing free because I want it to be accessible, but I still have kids to feed. If you can afford to, please support my work:

A group of trans Latinas stand on a stage. One speaks into a mic, one holds a trans flag, others hold a banner.
Members of El/La Para TransLatinas speak on a stage in the Compton’s Transgender Cultural District, at the 2019 San Francisco Trans March. Photo by Pax Ahimsa Gethen, used under Creative Commons license. Original image here.

Writer, activist, inclusion and equity consultant. Parenting, immigration, LGBTQ+, racial justice. Pub list: