I’ve been slowly reading through JK Rowling’s “Reasons for Speaking Out on Sex and Gender Issues.” If you have time, it is worth the effort—she reiterates many points I’ve run into elsewhere. She clearly and, I must say compassionately, lays out the dilemma for both women and for people suffering from gender dysphoria. Moreover, she is by no means a social conservative. She doesn’t have any trouble with the idea of men and women transitioning to be the other gender. She does, however, insist that biological sex is real. And she pushes back hard against misogyny. This, of course, is unacceptable. The effort to cancel her is still going strong. I hope that effort fails, but, of course, no institution seems to be on her side. I just want to pull out two passages.
If you didn’t already know – and why should you? – ‘TERF’ is an acronym coined by trans activists, which stands for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist. In practice, a huge and diverse cross-section of women are currently being called TERFs and the vast majority have never been radical feminists. Examples of so-called TERFs range from the mother of a gay child who was afraid their child wanted to transition to escape homophobic bullying, to a hitherto totally unfeminist older lady who’s vowed never to visit Marks & Spencer again because they’re allowing any man who says they identify as a woman into the women’s changing rooms. Ironically, radical feminists aren’t even trans-exclusionary – they include trans men in their feminism, because they were born women.
But accusations of TERFery have been sufficient to intimidate many people, institutions and organisations I once admired, who’re cowering before the tactics of the playground. ‘They’ll call us transphobic!’ ‘They’ll say I hate trans people!’ What next, they’ll say you’ve got fleas? Speaking as a biological woman, a lot of people in positions of power really need to grow a pair (which is doubtless literally possible, according to the kind of people who argue that clownfish prove humans aren’t a dimorphic species).
We’re living through the most misogynistic period I’ve experienced. Back in the 80s, I imagined that my future daughters, should I have any, would have it far better than I ever did, but between the backlash against feminism and a porn-saturated online culture, I believe things have got significantly worse for girls. Never have I seen women denigrated and dehumanised to the extent they are now. From the leader of the free world’s long history of sexual assault accusations and his proud boast of ‘grabbing them by the pussy’, to the incel (‘involuntarily celibate’) movement that rages against women who won’t give them sex, to the trans activists who declare that TERFs need punching and re-educating, men across the political spectrum seem to agree: women are asking for trouble. Everywhere, women are being told to shut up and sit down, or else.
I’ve read all the arguments about femaleness not residing in the sexed body, and the assertions that biological women don’t have common experiences, and I find them, too, deeply misogynistic and regressive. It’s also clear that one of the objectives of denying the importance of sex is to erode what some seem to see as the cruelly segregationist idea of women having their own biological realities or – just as threatening – unifying realities that make them a cohesive political class. The hundreds of emails I’ve received in the last few days prove this erosion concerns many others just as much. It isn’t enough for women to be trans allies. Women must accept and admit that there is no material difference between trans women and themselves.
But, as many women have said before me, ‘woman’ is not a costume. ‘Woman’ is not an idea in a man’s head. ‘Woman’ is not a pink brain, a liking for Jimmy Choos or any of the other sexist ideas now somehow touted as progressive. Moreover, the ‘inclusive’ language that calls female people ‘menstruators’ and ‘people with vulvas’ strikes many women as dehumanising and demeaning. I understand why trans activists consider this language to be appropriate and kind, but for those of us who’ve had degrading slurs spat at us by violent men, it’s not neutral, it’s hostile and alienating.
Of course, I find it rather ironic that Rowling posted this on June tenth, and on the fifteenth, the Supreme Court made its fantastical ruling that there will be no protections for women and girls in all those places where they would most want them—in the gym, in school, in competitive sports, but really everywhere by the time this is all over. If only the Justices could have perhaps read the internet, or anything, other than the shibboleth of today.
A lot of Christians are anxious about what this means for the church. Al Mohler’s briefing is great on this point and Senator Hawley. Me? I’m not worried about the church. Jesus can handle it—as he promises he will. Christians all around the world (Nigeria, China…) are being pressed against the wall, persecuted in ways we are, of course, beginning to contemplate more fully. It is time to stand up and suffer. It will be as fun as it looks.
What I don’t relish, as I look at my four lovely daughters and two lovely sons (they would all hate to be called lovely) is how complicated their lives are going to be. I told Elphine (not her real name) a bit about what is going on. She doesn’t really like to read the news as her brothers do, and relies on me to fill her in on our daily walk. “This is the term,” I said, “if you think women are really women, and that a man can’t, no matter the surgery or the hormones, be turned finally and completely into a woman, nor understand from the inside out what it means to be a woman, but only by looking in from the outside—here’s the word, TERF—Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist.” “I’m not a feminist,” she sniffed. “You are now,” I said. “Get used to it.” Thank goodness she hates taking most kinds of physical exercise. Muscling up against some troubled person in the gym will not be a problem for her. But the other three? They love sportsing.
And what of the boys? They will have to be very careful. None of them, actually, boys or girls, have any margin to make any youthful mistakes. They need to grow up all the way before they get online or get a job or join any organization. They need to have more wisdom than Solomon, than all the people who ever lived before them.
As western culture careens frantically down the broad, wide, road of destruction I have been interested in the kinds of subversions, the clever institutional ways God’s order in creation has been thrown down by the side of the road, left there to die. The beauty of marriage, wherein the theological verity of Christ and the Church is displayed no matter the religious ideals of the man and woman, was cast away under Obergefell. Before that, the image of God in the very eyes and baby fingers of humans before they are born, from the first moment of God’s creative act, was thrown into ruin with the legalization of abortion. That was clever because the civil rights act had corrected a certain number of terrible wrongs. But we couldn’t have that. No, that oppressed community just starting to emerge into the light was particularly singled out for the horror of abortion. Don’t lecture me about whose lives really matter. Try some time imagining what the racial makeup of this country would be like if all those African American babies might have been allowed to live. White America might be a minority, which would absolutely be fine.
Anyway, abortion and the undoing of marriage wasn’t far enough, now we must enshrine into law the destruction of God’s creatures even if they do make it out of the womb—body, mind, and spirit. We must not help desperate and confused young people to feel comfortable and happy in the bodies they’ve been given, nor protect the physically weak from the strong. Instead, by law, the person God made can be painfully broken apart and remade into some other kind of image, some caricature, some frenzied, quixotic, ruined creature.
Well, there is a lot of sickening injustice out there. If you were thinking about mourning, this would be a great day to do it.