Allow me to set you straight, little lady

“Sophie Grace” Chappel wrote an open letter to Rowling last month; it was posted at Crooked Timber.

There are several paragraphs about the way Chappel derived understanding of his trans nature from reading fantasy novels including Rowling’s, and an expression of sympathy for Rowling’s experiences of abuse, and then the “but you’re wrong” part.

But I urge you to look a little more closely, and from a different angle, at some of the issues that you’re raising.

First, a quick harrumph of exasperation. You wrote on twitter that “If trans people were suffering discrimination on the basis of being trans then I would march with them”. To be honest, that tweet took my breath away. If we were suffering discrimination?? Trans people are one of the most discriminated-against groups in the world! What have you been reading for three years, if you haven’t noticed that?

Ah but what have you been reading if you take it for granted that that claim is true? We are indeed constantly told that trans people, especially trans women (i.e. men), are the most discriminated-against, but it’s always just telling. It turns out to mean that trans women who are sex workers are subject to a lot of violence.

But let’s let that pass; perhaps it was a Saturday-night lapse. Let’s move on to some points of simple and straightforward agreement. 

And here we are already: the patronizing man bursts out from behind the girly mask. That’s how men talk to women they disagree with, “Sophie-Grace” – it’s a tell.

The climate of hatred does none of us any good. And it is particularly toxic for trans women who, like me, have grown up (at school and elsewhere) in an atmosphere of derision and rejection. I see from what you say that you understand how that kind of hatred can be internalised if you’re exposed to it long enough. When trans-unsympathetic feminists deliberately misgender trans women, or deride our appearance, or tell us “You’re men really”, or stigmatise us as perverts and predators, just the same thing is going on. It’s a raw nerve for us, and angry (and sometimes inexcusably violent) responses are evoked by that kind of hate-speech, because we ourselves have had to battle our way to self-acceptance, in the teeth of our own internalised transphobia.

He has no clue what it’s like to be female, does he. Despite the years of marriage, despite the daughters – still no clue. It’s only his experience that counts.

After that he gets into the shared spaces issue and zzzzzzz and sorry but I skipped ahead to his summing up:

Ms Rowling, it’s certainly not my intention, or the intention of any trans activists whom I personally know, to erode or erase the biological reality of (cis) women’s experience. Certainly not. Natal females start in a different place from trans women, and have a different journey and a different story, and undergo different things both good and bad. All these stories are worthwhile and valuable, and no one should be trying to prevent any of them from being told. Like the rest of the world, I look forward eagerly to seeing which of all these stories, in the future, you yourself choose to tell.

Patronizing git.

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