J. K. Rowling, one of the world’s most famous authors and the creator of the much-cherished Harry Potter franchise, faced a backlash this weekend after being accused of releasing a transphobic tweet after deciding to take issue with a headline of an opinion piece that referred to “people who menstruate.” The tweet sparked a debate, with many criticising J. K.’s decision to undermine trans people in the midst of Black Lives Matter protests, Pride Month, and a global pandemic. Many felt that her tweet showed a lack of intersectional understanding, and frankly, empathy when our focus should be on marginalised communities, and making them feel supported, rather than derailing and disrupting the conversation. Below, 120+ activists have written and signed a letter to Rowling on why they actively include and stand along trans people, and encourage her to do the same. Here, Gabby Edlin shares the powerful letter with GLAMOUR…
Dear J.K. Rowling,
I am writing to you as the CEO and founder of Menstrual Equity and Period Poverty charity, Bloody Good Period, along with a breadth of co-signatories. We were incredibly disappointed to read your tweet on the 7th of June, as were countless others who care passionately about injustice. Now is a time where powerful cis white women should be doing everything they can to stand up for the rights of other groups; your words reflect a wilful lack of understanding and compassion for those different from you.
We write this, not to incite trolling, but to invite you in to an open-minded, justice-focused feminist space. We write this with the simple intention of promoting accountability and for the growth of you as an individual to do better by trans and non binary people as well as the betterment of the Menstrual Equity and Intersectional feminist movements.
It is particularly distressing that you chose to tweet such a comment during a time where Black trans, non binary and Gender Non Conforming people are more threatened than ever. Such a tweet from a prominent white woman will, as we’re sure you know, only serve to detract from the press attention on important events concerning Black Lives Matter.
The issues are, of course, interconnected. As highlighted in a recent piece in The Independent by Melz Owusu, Tony McDade, a Black Transgender, man was shot and killed by police in May 2020, and was the twelfth known Trans victim this year. Black Trans people are disproportionately victims of violence, simply for existing. They are made to feel invalidated and mocked for menstruating. Nobody should be made to feel shame for their body.
As a global movement, we were delighted to have made progress in the menstrual field, with the introduction of free period products in New Zealand. Sadly, your message reminds us of how far we have yet to go.
The fact of the matter is that yes, when we as a society were woefully uneducated, there used to be a word for people who menstruate, and that word was “women”. What we know now, due to extensive work and amplification from the trans activist community, is that it is not just women who menstruate, but trans men, GNC and non binary people. Menstruation does not maketh a woman, and to imply so, not only erases the experience of trans women, but also of cis women who do not menstruate. We invite you to read this evidence-based blog post from Sally King, Research Director of Menstrual Matters. Each of the points below is expanded in her excellent blog which you can read here.
- Only half the female population is of reproductive age so half do not menstruate
- A significant part of the female reproductive population use hormonal medications/ devices that prevent menstruation and are therefore not people who menstruate
- A fairly significant part of the female reproductive population does not menstruate for health or exercise reasons
- A small part of the female reproductive population is pregnant or breastfeeding and so, are not menstruating
- A small part of the female reproductive population has experienced early menopause and so, are not menstruating
- A small part of the female reproductive population cannot menstruate
- A small part of this population do not identify as ‘women’ or ‘girls’
Generalisations about an entire gender are impossible (and usually dodgy.) You are right that the term TERF (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist) should not apply to you. While your incorrect views on menstruation certainly exclude trans women, feminist is not a term we think applies to anyone who does not stand for ALL women, and ALL people. Including all those who menstruate.
We implore you to spend some time researching, and learning from the generosity of trans and non-binary activists and academics, a small number of whom we have listed below.
- Kenny Ethan Jones – the first trans man to front a period campaign
- Munroe Bergdorf – activist and model
- Charlie Craggs – activist and founder of Nail Transphobia
- Juno Dawson – Writer
- Jamie Windust – Writer and activist
- Jono Roche – Writer
- Freddy McConnell (the “Seahorse” dad)
We urge you, among other actions, to make a public apology and would welcome a significant donation to charities best placed to serve the trans folk you so deeply hurt. We continue to actively include and stand alongside trans people and invite you to do the same.
Yours in hope,
Gabby Edlin, CEO and Founder of Bloody Good Period.