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Please understand the impact of your public statements on trans people.

Warning: please be aware that the following post discusses issues which may cause distress.

Today, J.K.Rowling re-stated her position on transgender lives. We have previously reached out to her both publicly and privately, offering a calm conversation around the issues she has raised and today, we sent a further email to her team, renewing that offer. We are yet to receive a response.

As part of that email, we have disclosed something we hoped never to say. We say it now with permission from those involved. Without giving personal detail, without betraying confidences, we must represent the seriousness of the situation. We are aware through our work with families that there have been cases of self-harm and even attempted suicide following J.K.Rowling’s statements and the public response on social media and in the press. Surely this must cause us all to pause and question the way young trans lives are being debated in public. 

*If you are affected by issues covered in this post, please contact Samaritans.

For those working with transgender children, young people and families, this is not a gladiatorial sport to be won or lost with a tweet here, a forum post there, a weekly radio debate followed by an opinion article and a well-timed blog post preceding a parliamentary decision. this isn’t about a ‘woke’ majority enforcing politically correct beliefs on others. Trans people are far from being accepted by society and suffer real life discrimination, including physical violence, employment discrimination and everyday harassment on the street. Trans young people should not be used to amplify separate issues such as male violence, bodily autonomy or patriarchy. Our service users and supporters are real people with real lives, struggling to live freely in a world which, they say, feels increasingly cruel, hostile and unwilling to listen.

In her blog post today, J.K.Rowling states: ‘I absolutely refute the accusation that I hate trans people or wish them ill… Like the vast majority of the people who’ve written to me, I feel nothing but sympathy towards those with gender dysphoria…’

We do not believe J.K. Rowling ‘hates’ trans people. We also welcome and accept that she is sympathetic towards trans children and teenagers. Therefore, as a woman of great power and someone sympathetic to trans young people, we ask her to acknowledge the many young people around the world who fundamentally disagree with her position on trans acceptance and we beg her to at least consider the possibility that trans young people are able to express who they are for themselves.

J.K. Rowling rightly speaks of brave ‘detransitioned’ young women. Yet, does she consider trans people, living openly in spite of public hostility, less brave? Are those who have fought for decades to be treated with respect and dignity in a society that ridicules and demonises them, less brave? Are those children and young people who state their true gender in the face of rejection from family and friends less brave? At Mermaids, we support people no matter the path they take and that of course includes those who transition, detransition or retransition.

J.K. Rowling’s blog goes on to say: ‘I believe the time is coming when those organisations and individuals who have uncritically embraced fashionable dogma, and demonised those urging caution, will have to answer for the harm they’ve enabled.’ 

Mermaids is not named and we must assume the author is referring to other groups unknown to us. Still, let us be clear. We are a charity, operating under the same scrutiny as any other in the UK. Following years of transparency, we are open to any approach from the team at the Charity Commission, for whom we have great respect. Indeed, any further form of official inquiry would be welcomed in our efforts to strengthen the support we offer.  The image of trans organisations cowering away from public inquiry is a figment of the anti-trans movement’s imagination. We work tirelessly every day, simply to support children and families in the face of constant adversity.

If standing beside trans young people and their families is radical, then please J.K. Rowling, be radical.

J.K. Rowling may see that as part of a ‘radical trans rights movement’, we see it as our duty. If we are considered radical by some, then we will accept the badge and wear it with pride. We do not consider it radical to listen to young people and support them without prejudice. We do not consider it radical to believe that trans adults were once trans children. We do not consider it radical to believe that children and young people know who they are, for themselves, without arbitration from strangers. If standing beside trans young people and their families is radical, then please J.K. Rowling, be radical. 

No movement is perfect, no movement can succeed without evolution, but history is kind to those who stand up for their rights. We can all look back in admiration at those brave, radical people deserving of statues, who stood against racism, homophobia, misogyny and all forms of prejudice, all the while threatened by the famous, rich and powerful of their day. 

We hope people will soon see the damage being done to vulnerable people by the nature of this polarised, misinformed ‘debate’. We repeat our call for people of all perspectives to refrain from threatening and aggressive behaviour and we utterly condemn anyone sending threatening or abusive content to J.K. Rowling. We ask J.K.Rowling to make a similar appeal to those using her name in their profiles whilst threatening and abusing trans people and their friends, supporters and families. 

Again, as we have asked before: please, do not speak about trans children and young people, until you have listened to them first.

The Mermaids team, families and allies.