James Kirkup James Kirkup

In just a few words, JK Rowling has changed the transgender debate

One of the (many) frustrations of writing a lot about sex and gender is knowing that there are a lot of people who are concerned about these issues but who do not, for various reasons, say so.

I’ve written quite a lot about the politicians, of all parties, who have private worries and criticisms about policies and laws intended to benefit transgender people which, however inadvertently, might have implications for women and their legal rights. I’ve also written about the failure of some media outlets, including some (but not all) parts of the BBC, to cover this issue properly.

I am also aware of lots of women in lots of different walks of life who worry about this stuff but do not say so. Many are fearful of the backlash, the accusations of transphobia that could follow. Some of these women are prominent and famous and rich and powerful. The fact that such people keep quiet gives you some idea of the power of fear here.

Fear that silences such concerns means this issue is not properly debated. Some people have deliberately sought to make sure such debate does not take place: see this for the tactics involved.

Yet slowly, slowly, things are starting to change. More people are starting to talk, calmly and sensibly, about a matter of policy and culture that needs more discussion. Bit by bit, more people are starting to see that this is an issue that can and should be talked about.

That turning of the tide has been slow and modest, but today the pace quickened, a lot. The gender debate has seen an event that many people have been waiting for. JK Rowling has spoken.

In a single tweet, the woman who gave us Harry Potter, has quite deliberately entered a debate that many people have avoided for too long:

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