OPINION: Believe trans children when they say who they are

by Juno Roche | Author
Thursday, 2 July 2020 10:13 GMT

ARCHIVE PHOTO: Lulu, a transgender girl, leans on a hammock at her home in Buenos Aires July 25, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

Image Caption and Rights Information

* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Many transgender children who found sanctuary in "Harry Potter" will feel that J. K. Rowling has taken that away from them

Juno Roche is the author of “Gender Explorers”, out now in all good book shops

How many times can we say or try to prove that transgender women are not a threat to cisgender women – women who are not trans, who are born with a biological configuration that suggests they are women?

I’m scared about using a wrong phrase or descriptor to describe me or them for fear of being jumped on. At a certain point two years ago, I stopped writing articles because it wasn’t worth the grief.

After my first book “Queer Sex” came out someone discovered my elderly mother’s home address and started sending gay porn there, the inference being that I was really a gay man and not a trans woman so I would be happy to be seen as writing gay porn. The book was about love and relationships.

Luckily, my mum ran pubs off the Woolworth Road so wasn’t particularly fazed by photographs of naked men. But it terrified me, the extent to which some people wanted to personally attack me.

All I have ever wanted to do in my writing is create space for us to explore who we are and how we feel as trans people in a society that sometimes seems intent on taking our breath away. In denying us the sliver of space we have to exist in.

I’m old now and I can take these attacks. But imagine being an eight-year-old in this climate.

A brave, brilliant eight-year-old who was defined male or female at birth, purely because of their genitals, but feels radically different from that. Maybe they feel the binary opposite or maybe they feel neither.

Imagine being able to sit down at eight years old and compose an email to your family and your headteacher. And in that email not only explain how you feel and say you’re sorry if you’ve let them down, but also take the time to include some places – email addresses and telephone numbers - where they can get support around trans issues.

Imagine being that eight-year-old trying to be the best that you can be, even though you’re in turmoil, and still having the emotional intelligence and space to consider others.

I interviewed that eight-year-old in my new book, “Gender Explorers”.

They told me that the only thing that made them sad was when they spoke their truth and people said, “We don’t believe you.”

Imagine being that eight-year-old trying to do the right thing, by simply saying who you are, and feeling hostility.

Enter the queen of all things wizardry, J. K. Rowling.

So many young people I interviewed for my book used Potterisms – spells appeared mid-sentence and debates about which Hogwarts house they would be in became tongue-in-cheek ways to settle disputes.  

So why would a wizarding, non-trans expert upset the very young people who adore the world she created and saw it as a sanctuary?

No trans person is trying to steal space or close space down. In fact, the very opposite is true.

In seeking to use the words “people who menstruate”, which Rowling took issue with, we allow a few more humans to find comfort. All we do is reflect our contemporary reality, that there are people who menstruate who don’t see themselves as women.

All the young people who shared their stories with me want to do is to live their lives with dignity, laughter and perhaps a little bit of Hogwarts fantasy.

They just need us adults to listen and believe them.


Authors quit J. K. Rowling's agency over trans rights

OPINION: J. K. Rowling and her inaccuracies about trans youth

Daniel Radcliffe backs trans youth after J. K. Rowling tweets