The J.K. Rowling Index

List of all J.K. Rowling's writings.

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Sturgeon is deaf to women’s concerns over gender ID

Index ID: STDEAF — Publication date: October 15th, 2022

Note: Published on The Times on October 15th.

Just over a week ago, I posted a picture of myself wearing a T-shirt printed with the words “Nicola Sturgeon: Destroyer of Women’s Rights” on Twitter. I did this to show my solidarity with women who were protesting outside the Scottish parliament against the proposed Gender Recognition Act reform bill.

Some of the women, like Maya Forstater and Helen Joyce, have public profiles, but most of the women protesting do not. They also knew they might be taking a risk in demonstrating. It takes guts for Scottish women to stand up for their rights these days — not, I should emphasise, anywhere near the same guts as Iranian women are currently displaying, but guts nonetheless. They risk being targeted by activists, police complaints being made against them and even the threat of a spell in jail for posting what are seen as “transphobic” comments or images by their complainants.

Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, believes the protesters outside parliament on October 6 have nothing to complain about. The woman who calls herself a “real feminist” said to the BBC that her proposed new Gender Recognition Act “doesn’t give any additional rights to trans people nor does it take any rights away from women”.

I disagree. So, to name just a few who were also protesting that day, do Rhona Hotchkiss, the retired prison governor with a masters in law and a qualification in research methodology; Isabelle Kerr, former manager of Glasgow and Clyde Rape Crisis Centre, who was awarded an MBE for her international work helping rape and sexual assault victims; all-female independent policy analysis collective Murray Blackburn Mackenzie; and For Women Scotland, a grassroots feminist group that has emerged as a leading voice for Scottish women over the past few years.

If Sturgeon’s new act passes into law, a person will be able to change their legal gender as long as they’ve lived in their acquired gender for three months, and made a statutory declaration that they intend to keep doing so. Remarkably, nobody seems able to explain what living in an acquired gender actually means, so how those granting certificates can judge whether the criteria has been met is anyone’s guess.

Under the current act, those who wish to change their gender need a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, ie, persistent distress and discomfort with their natal sex. However, all medical gatekeeping has been removed from Sturgeon’s revised bill. I presume this is in response to the strong push from the trans activist lobby to “depathologise” trans identities. The argument is that trans people aren’t mentally ill: being trans is as natural as being gay. As Rachel Cohen, campaigns director of Stonewall wrote in 2017: “Being trans is not about ‘sex changes’ or clothes, it’s about an innate sense of self.” You may ask how anyone can assess the authenticity of somebody else’s “innate sense of self”. I haven’t a clue.

Soon, then, in Scotland, it may be easier to change the sex on your birth certificate than it is to change it on your passport. In consequence, intact males who are judged to have met the meagre requirements will be considered as “valid” and entitled to protections as those who’ve had full sex reassignment surgery, and more male-bodied individuals will assert more strongly a right to be in women’s spaces such as public bathrooms, changing rooms, rape support centres, domestic violence refuges, hospital wards and prison cells that were hitherto reserved for women.

In 2019, The Sunday Times made a freedom of information request to the Ministry of Justice that revealed almost 90 per cent of sexual offences committed in changing rooms happened in those that are unisex. Nevertheless, Sturgeon loftily dismisses anyone who fears her new legislation could be wide open to abuse. “It is men who attack women [feminists should worry about] and we need to focus on that, not on further stigmatising and discriminating against a tiny group in our society that is already one of the most stigmatised.”

In saying this, Sturgeon is employing no fewer than three arguments beloved of trans activists.

The first is that trans women are extremely vulnerable, far more so than biological women. This is in spite of the fact that no trans woman has been murdered in Scotland to date, whereas 112 women were murdered by men in Scotland between 2009 and 2019.

The second argument is that men who transition, uniquely among all other categories of those born male, never harm women. Yet there is no evidence to show that trans women don’t retain male patterns of criminality. According to Jo Phoenix, professor of criminology at the University of Reading: “Sex is the single strongest predictor of criminality and criminalisation. Since criminal statistics were first collected (in the mid 1850s) males make up around 80 per cent of those arrested, prosecuted and convicted of crime. Violent crime is mostly committed by males . . . This remains the case regardless of stated gender identity.” The Ministry of Justice’s own figures show that there are proportionately more trans-identified men in prison for sexual offences than among incarcerated males taken as a whole.

The third argument Sturgeon uses is that it’s transphobic to suggest any man would fraudulently claim a female identity. This claim is extraordinary. Nobody but the very naive can fail to be aware that predatory men are capable of going to great lengths to gain easy access to victims, and have often sought out professions or special status that offer camouflage for their activities. Sex offenders have historically been found among social workers, teachers, priests, doctors, babysitters, school caretakers, celebrities and charity fundraisers, yet no matter how often the scandals break, the lesson appears never to be learned: it is dangerous to assert that any category of people deserves a blanket presumption of innocence. Incidentally, it seems that prison is the perfect space in which to discover your innate sense of self: half of Scottish prisoners currently claiming a trans identity only did so after conviction.

This shouldn’t need saying, but in the current climate, it does: literally no feminist I’ve ever met claims all trans women are predators, any more than we believe that all men are predators. As I’ve already stated publicly, I believe that some trans people are truly vulnerable. That, though, is not the point.

I’ve spent much of the past 25 years campaigning for and funding initiatives to help women and children. These have included projects for female prisoners, campaigns for the rights of single mothers, the funding of safe spaces for victims of rape and male violence, and the fight to end child institutionalisation. I’ve also learned a huge amount about safeguarding from experts, both in relation to vulnerable children placed in institutions, who’re often abused or trafficked, and in the context of sexually abused women.

I say all this to make it clear that concern for women’s and children’s safety isn’t something I’m pretending to be interested in to mask a deep hostility to trans people. The question for me and all the feminists I know is, how do we make trans people safe without making women and girls less safe?

One of the most damning things I’ve heard about the consultation process for Sturgeon’s new bill is this: Murray Blackburn Mackenzie identified five female survivors of male violence who were prepared to meet with the committee and explain what had happened to them, the severe impact it had upon their lives, and why they fear the government is making it easier for violent or predatory men to get access to women and girls. The committee declined to meet the survivors, telling them to put their concerns in writing. Susan Smith, one of For Women Scotland’s founders, told me: “These women were prepared to parade their trauma and were rebuffed.” The committee did, however, find time to meet 17 trans-identified individuals.

In 1983 Andrea Dworkin wrote: “No matter how often these stories are told, with whatever clarity or eloquence, bitterness or sorrow, they might as well have been whispered in wind or written in sand: they disappear, as if they were nothing. The tellers and the stories are ignored or ridiculed, threatened back into silence or destroyed, and the experience of female suffering is buried in cultural invisibility and contempt . . . the very reality of abuse sustained by women, despite its overwhelming pervasiveness and constancy, is negated.”

Nearly 40 years later, Rhona Hotchkiss says that vulnerable women in Scotland are being told “their concerns, their fears, their despair, must take second place to the feelings of men who identify as women. Politicians who say there is no clash of rights have no idea about the lives of women in situations they will never face.”

Rarely in politics is it easy to draw a direct line from a single policy decision to the harm it’s done, but in this case, it will be simple. If any woman or girl suffers voyeurism, sexual harassment, assault or rape in consequence of the Scottish government’s lax new rules, the blame will rest squarely with those at Holyrood who ignored safeguarding experts and women’s campaigners.

And nobody should be held to higher account than the first minister, the “real feminist” who’s riding roughshod over the rights of women and girls.


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Queen Elizabeth II has died

Index ID: QEII — Publication date: September 8th, 2022

Note: Published as a short thread on J.K. Rowling's Twitter Account: https://twitter.com/jk_rowling/status/1567930638216433665

Some may find the outpouring of British shock and grief at this moment quaint or odd, but millions felt affection and respect for the woman who uncomplainingly filled her constitutional role for seventy years. Most British people have never known another monarch, so she’s been a thread winding through all our lives. She did her duty by the country right up until her dying hours, and became an enduring, positive symbol of Britain all over the world. She’s earned her rest.


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Bogus tweet posted by @KEBrightbill

Index ID: BGTW — Publication date: September 1st, 2022

Note: Published on JK Rowling's official website.

A recent tweet posted by @KEBrightbill featured an old screenshot of a fake tweet purportedly by me, which has been circulating for some years despite being thoroughly debunked as a fabrication.  On this occasion I have found it necessary to make it clear that the screenshotted tweet was not posted by me, because the accompanying thread about it by @KEBrightbill was both false and damaging.  Kathryn Brightbill has now removed the tweet.

 


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The Ink Black Heart

Index ID: IBH — Publication date: August 30th, 2022

Note: Published as Robert Galbraith.
Only the beginning of this text can be displayed here for research purposes. I apologize!

Of all the couples sitting in the Rivoli Bar at the Ritz that Thursday evening, the pair that was having the most conspicuously good time was not, in fact, a couple.


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Statement to The Times

Index ID: STT — Publication date: August 16th, 2022

Note: The Times published some quotes from this statement on their edition of August 16th, 2022: https://archive.is/Tmqgp

The last few years have seen an escalation of bullying of female authors both inside and outside publishing in the UK. Rachel Rooney and Gillian Phillips in particular have suffered severe personal and professional harm because they dared challenge a fashionable ideology which has been remarkably successful in demonising those who protest against the current attack on women’s rights.

On Saturday, Joanne Harris, Chair of the Society of Author’s Management Committee, responded to a Twitter user who asked whether she had ‘expressed sympathy to JK Rowling’, ‘yes, and to everyone in a similar position.’ I was startled to read this, as I’ve received no communication whatsoever from Harris expressing sympathy for the death and rape threats I’ve received. I was less surprised to learn that Katharine Quarmby urged the society to condemn these threats in 2020 and 2021 and nothing was done.

Harris has consistently failed to criticise tactics designed to silence and intimidate women who fail to support her personal position on gender identity ideology and has said publicly, ‘Cancel isn’t a dirty word. We habitually cancel things we no longer want’. I find it impossible to square the Society’s stated position on freedom of speech with Harris’s public statements over the past two years and stand in solidarity with all female writers in the UK who currently feel betrayed by their professional body and its leader.


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I’ve been facing down the Punch-and-Kill-TERFs brigade for a while now…

Index ID: IFWPKT — Publication date: July 12th, 2022

Note: It was published as a Twitter thread on J.K. Rowling's official account: https://twitter.com/jk_rowling/status/1546843546392711168

Respectfully, I’ve been facing down the Punch-and-Kill-TERFs brigade for a while now and not once have I thought, ‘what I really want is to hand this over to a man who thinks feminism is one of the worst things to happen to western civilisation.’

Like many women on the left, I despair that so many self-proclaimed liberals turn a blind eye to the naked misogyny of the gender identity movement and the threat it poses to the rights of women and girls. Walsh’s film undeniably exposed what many leftists are too scared to, but a shared belief that women exist as a biological class (and water’s wet and the moon’s not made of cheese) does not an ally make. I believe women are susceptible to certain harms and have specific needs and that feminism is necessary to secure and protect our rights.

Walsh believes feminism is ‘rotten’ and his default appears to be denigrating women with whom he disagrees. He’s no more on my side than the ‘shut up or we’ll bomb you’ charmers who cloak their misogyny in a pretty pink and blue flag.


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I cannot overstate my contempt…

Index ID: ICOMYC — Publication date: July 11th, 2022

Note: It was published as a Twitter thread on J.K. Rowling's official account: https://twitter.com/jk_rowling/status/1546473378168594434

I cannot overstate my contempt for those supporting policies that endanger extremely vulnerable girls. This is a travesty. Have we learned nothing from successive abuse scandals? Do we value the disabled so little? Nearly 20 years ago I founded Lumos to reform care systems for vulnerable children. I know from long experience how vulnerable children are in institutions. The statistics on predation are appalling. Disabled women and children are many times more likely to be abused.

Predators go where there is access. Predators love victims who can’t fight back or speak out. Successive studies show that 98-99% of sexual abusers are male. This validation of male feelings over disabled girls’ protection is abhorrent. I’m so bloody angry my hands are shaking. I’m the daughter of a disabled mother and I’ve campaigned for the rights of vulnerable children for many years, but I’m still constantly shocked by the cruelty and indifference shown to those who cannot advocate for themselves. I urge everyone who feels the same way I do on reading this article to contact their MP, as I will certainly be contacting mine and anyone else I know who can stand up to this horror show.


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Children trapped in orphanages are the hidden victims of the war in Ukraine

Index ID: CHUKR — Publication date: March 25th, 2022

Like everyone right now, I wake up each morning shocked and dismayed by the horror of the war in Ukraine and the humanitarian crisis unfolding in front of our very eyes. Lumos, the children’s charity I founded fifteen years ago has been working with the Ukrainian government since 2013 to help transform the institutional care system there, which before the war housed 100,000 children – the highest number in Europe.

Lumos launched a fundraising appeal the day after the invasion and I’m so grateful to those who have donated so far. I’m matching donations up to £1m and the money raised will go directly to helping the thousands of children trapped by the fighting in Ukraine’s orphanages, unable to leave due to disability or lack of available family care. The conditions these children are facing are unimaginable, compounding the already present trauma of being confined to an institution in the first place.

As soon as the invasion began, the Ukrainian authorities prioritised evacuating as many children as possible from residential care, especially from institutions close to the front line of the conflict. This resulted in some children being placed back with their families of origin without the usual careful reintegration processor – where this was not possible – children were placed in emergency foster care. Other children have been moved to other institutions in Ukraine or have even been relocated to other countries.

But inevitably some children have been left behind in residential institutions, often because they have such profound and complex disabilities, it was not safe to quickly move them or to find appropriate family-based placements. Not only are these children at risk of being caught up in the war, but there are serious concerns they are also suffering from neglect due to staffing shortages and a lack of food and other essential resources.

Currently, Lumos is working directly with the Ukrainian authorities to help the most vulnerable children: those remaining in residential care; those placed in emergency foster care; those rapidly returned home to families without the right support in place; those living in families in vulnerable situations; and displaced children. The funds being donated to Lumos’ Ukraine Appeal are:

  • Providing emergency food, hygiene and medicine kits
  • Supporting the relocation of vulnerable children and ensure their care and protection
  • Providing psychological support to parents, caregivers and children
  • Supporting foster carers and emergency foster carers taking in children from orphanages

Lumos is also providing direct support to the authorities to help them improve monitoring of child protection risks and gaps. Lumos is deeply concerned that there is no centralised information management system to keep track of the whereabouts, safety and well-being of the 100,000 children from institutions. This creates immense child protection risks. Sometimes family members are not even informed about cross-border evacuations of children, which might result in long term child-family separation and lifelong negative consequences.

As this child protection emergency worsens, the plight of the millions of child refugees grows day by day. It’s reported to date more than 3.5m refugees have fled Ukraine and are crossing borders into neighbouring countries, sometimes unaccompanied. The displacement of children and family separation exposes children to all forms of neglect, abuse and puts them at risk of exploitation and trafficking and being housed in yet more institutions.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­50% of the refugees entering Moldova, where Lumos also operates, are children, with growing numbers of children who are unaccompanied. Lumos is actively participating in national working groups and coordinating with NGOs and other authorities to find urgent solutions to child protection issues and resource shortages, and to address longer-term needs such as education and psychological support.

Lumos will continue to work with the Ukraine authorities and partners to ensure support is available to help the most vulnerable children and their families in Ukraine, and the refugees and displaced children in the surrounding countries.

Tragically, this war has destroyed countless childhoods in a matter of weeks, torn families apart and put at further risk those extremely vulnerable children still trapped in the institutions. Lumos’ mission is to give every child the chance to grow up in a family, by building community care and family support to replace orphanages and other institutions. Every child deserves to grow up in a loving, family environment – never has this been so important as now.

You can support the Lumos Ukraine Appeal here.

1Although misrepresented as ‘orphans’, most children in institutions do have at least one living parent.


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I never said there are only two genders

Index ID: OTG — Publication date: December 29th, 2021

Note: Published as a Twitter thread on December 29th, 2021: https://twitter.com/jk_rowling/status/1476194103528407046

Small but important point: I’ve never said there are only two genders. There are innumerable gender identities.

The question at the heart of this debate is whether sex or gender identity should form the basis of decisions on safeguarding, provision of services, sporting categories and other areas where women and girls currently have legal rights and protections.

Using the words ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ interchangeably obscures the central issue of this debate. If you’re interested in what I actually said, see https://www.jkrowling.com/opinions/j-k-rowling-writes-about-her-reasons-for-speaking-out-on-sex-and-gender-issues/ (in which I literally say ‘trans lives matter’ and ‘trans rights are human rights.’)


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J.K. Rowling on the Magic of ‘Things’

Index ID: MOT — Publication date: December 24th, 2021

Note: It was published on December 24th, 2021, on The New York Times website. A version of this article appears in print on December 26th, 2021, on The New York Times Sunday Book Review.

I own a cuddly tortoise sewn by my mother, which she gave me when I was 7. It has a floral shell, a red underbelly and black felt eyes. Even though I’m notoriously prone to losing things, I’ve managed to keep hold of that tortoise through sundry house moves and even changes of country. My mother died over 30 years ago, so I’ve now lived more of my life without her than with her. I find more comfort in that tortoise than I do in photographs of her, which are now so faded and dated, and emphasize how long she’s been gone. What consoles me is the permanence of the object she made — its unchanging nature, its stolid three-dimensional reality. I’d give up many of my possessions to keep that tortoise, the few exceptions being things that have their own allusive power, like my wedding ring.

The most valuable thing I ever lost, at least in a strictly monetary sense, was a pair of spectacular diamond earrings I won many years ago at a charity ball auction. Though very beautiful, my new clip-ons were heavy and turned out to be exceptionally painful to wear, so tight they made my earlobes throb. I wore them to a formal event in London and found them so uncomfortable I discreetly removed them and stowed them in my evening bag. The following day, having flown back to Scotland, I opened my suitcase and they were nowhere to be found; irrevocably lost.

I put those departed earrings into my new children’s book, “The Christmas Pig,” which is a story of objects lost and found, of things beloved and things unregretted. I made my lost earrings grand and snooty, as befitted objects that demanded the wearer suffer for their beauty. When they reach the Land of the Lost, where the hero must go to rescue his most beloved toy, my earrings are angry that they aren’t treated with the respect they think they deserve. They soon find out that being made of diamonds counts for very little in the strange world where human-made objects go when lost, because a thing’s importance there depends on how much it’s truly loved.

There can be a strange magic in human-made things. Not in all of them: not in plastic bottles or Q-Tips or batteries; but in those that are interwoven with our pasts, with our homes, with our great loves. These are things that have been mysteriously imbued with humanity — our own or other people’s.

The magic of “things” often goes unnoticed until they break or are lost. We have favorite mugs and tea towels, comforting in their familiarity and utility; we treasure the lopsided objects our children made for us in nursery school, and we may still own those toys that soothed us when we were tiny. “The Christmas Pig” was inspired in part by one of those achingly necessary toys without whom sleep is impossible: a cheap cuddly pig around eight inches tall, with a belly full of plastic beans, that belonged to my son, David.

David was so attached to that pig, but so prone to losing it, that I became scared it would one day be lost and never found again. I therefore bought an identical replacement and hid it. David was 3 when he went rummaging in the cupboard where I’d stowed his pig’s twin and took it out, slightly confused. He declared it to be his pig’s brother and kept both of them. They’re both still with us, though their names are different from the pigs’ names in the story. Only David’s habit of hiding his beloved pig, then forgetting where he put it, is taken from real life.

Every writer is asked where ideas come from. It’s a relief to have an answer for once, because more often than not I don’t know — the ideas simply arrive. “The Christmas Pig” sprang from my musings on what it means to be a replacement toy. I’d always wanted to write a Christmas story, and once I’d dreamed the Land of the Lost into being I realized I’d found one at last. Christmas was the perfect backdrop to a tale of loss and love, sacrifice and hope.

Of course, it isn’t necessary to actually celebrate Christmas to grasp that element of the story. Every culture has its sacred, celebratory days when feasts are made and consumed, when the grown-ups are making a special effort, when the whole family assembles, when gifts are exchanged.

“The Christmas Pig” explores a deep attachment to an old object, with all its half-understood associations and meanings, at a time when we’re supposed to be in thrall to acquiring the new. It’s about the journey of a boy, Jack, who has a complicated family life, and is consequently a little lost himself, but who discovers his bravery and deep capacity for love in a strange new world. Of all the books I’ve written, this is the one that made me cry the most, because I was dealing with emotions that run deep in all of us. Loss and change are hard for children, but acceptance of these inevitable parts of life isn’t much easier for adults. There was a particular poignancy in finishing the book (which I began to think about in 2012) during a pandemic that has plunged us all into a frightening new world. “The Christmas Pig” shows how human beings — even small, lost ones — are capable of wonderful, heroic, transformative acts. It’s a story in which hope triumphs over despair and individual acts of kindness bring about huge, positive change.

A very strange thing happened on the day I finished editing “The Christmas Pig.” After emailing the final manuscript to my editor, I set about the mundane job of clearing out a cupboard. Sorting through its items — half my mind still in the story, with Jack and the things that came alive on Christmas Eve — one of the last objects I picked up was a small, nondescript box. It rattled. I opened it.

Now, you might believe this or you might not. I can’t blame you if you don’t; after all, I make things up for a living. Nevertheless, this is the truth: There, twinkling up at me as though they’d just been cleaned, were my long-lost diamond earrings, which I hadn’t seen for decades. How they came to be in that box, in that cupboard, I have no idea, nor can I fathom how they moved house with us without my knowledge. Nor do I understand how they escaped the careful search I made of the evening bag and the suitcase from which they disappeared.

Doubtless there’s a prosaic explanation, though I can’t for the life of me imagine what it is. Sitting on the floor amid the piles of dusty things I’d been sorting, utterly astonished by my discovery, I tried the earrings on again. They were exactly as painful as I remembered.

I’ve decided to sell them and give the proceeds to my charity, Lumos, which works to end child institutionalization. I think it rounds out my earrings’ story rather nicely, to have them return from their long exile humbled, wanting to do some good for children in the Land of the Living. I’ll write a note for the new owner — whose earlobes, with any luck, will be made of sterner stuff than my own — and explain their history, in hopes that they’ll give somebody as much pleasure as their rediscovery gave me.

How many times have I been asked whether I believe in magic? On the day I finished “The Christmas Pig,” for a few shining moments I really did.


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