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Joanne Roberts

J.K. Rowling And The Free Speech Debate

As an Intersex person, I have more than ‘earned’ the right to express my views relative to the subject of biological sex, gender and free speech, although in truth free speech is not, and never was a right which has to be earned, it is simply a naturally occurring part of being human; an expression of one’s own point of awareness, an expression of one’s own unique and individual point of view in the world.

That being said, it becomes more clear to me as the years go by that there are seemingly plenty of people in the world who do not value free speech in the same way I do. This has become particularly evident recently when the author J.K. Rowling was once again lambasted for expressing views on Twitter deemed ‘transphobic’ by activists in the Transgender community. In reference to an article she read online, Rowling, in an attempt at satirical humour, remarked upon the article’s attempt to avoid describing people who menstruate as women, presumably in order to avoiding ‘upsetting’ trans activists by defining a woman as someone who menstruates.

Before I give my views on this, I would firstly like to give some background information. I am an Intersex person. I was given a female birth certificate when I was born, then, upon going into hospital at age 3 for an inguinal hernia operation, the doctors discovered internal gonads which were surgically removed from my body. The lead up to the surgical procedure caused colossal trauma to me. When the doctors attempted to take me away from my Mother I loudly and vocally objected, screaming and crying, as half a dozen doctors forced anaesthetic down my throat and pinned me down. They removed the gonads despite those being my direct route to going through puberty naturally, citing an alleged (and some might say exaggerated) cancer risk as the reason. Subsequently, I was given a non-consensual vaginoplasty at age six, and had a further biopsy, with a view to finding a ‘cure’ for what I am, forced on me at age eight, causing considerable pain in my private parts. I was poked, prodded, photographed and regularly asked to undress from the waist down so that groups of adult male doctors could ogle my genitalia and muse upon how well it had been ‘normalised’. I have layers of trauma no mainstream psychologist could even begin to understand, let alone ameliorate.

I was raised ‘socially’ as a girl, referred to with female pronouns, and was told about my Intersex status incrementally at ages ten and fourteen. I did not adjust well. I attempted to suppress, deny and disown anything within me remotely male, including even personality traits and characteristics. As anyone with an understanding of spiritual psychology or Jungian psychology could guess, this suppression did not work out well for me and I spent around four years at high school being deliberately ‘misgendered’ on a daily basis by mobs of people. My ‘worst nightmare’ came true; day after day I was referred to as a man, such was other’s perception of me at that time. Still desperately fighting against my self, I actually, tragically sought out two further normalising surgeries in adulthood, one of which was breast implants, something I hope to have reversed. The medical profession’s steering of me towards a female gender identity was so forceful that it often wandered into the territory of brainwashing. Pure denial and neurosis. Withholding of information was so pervasive that I was in my twenties before any individual in the medical profession even mentioned to me that my chromosomes are male. Layer after layer of deceit, dishonesty and manipulation was slowly revealed.

I have reached a point in my life where I have now decided what I want to self-define as, and it is as an Intersex person. It is only as an Intersex person. I want to balance the masculine and feminine within me. I want people to see me not as a mistake of nature, but an expression of it.

However, part of my psychological, emotional and spiritual maturation is that no matter how I choose to identify, I cannot and will not any longer try to police other people’s perceptions of me, nor will I try to police the words which come out of their mouths. This is personal responsibility for my own feelings, and I owe it to myself. When a person has raw emotional wounds which require healing, being deliberately ‘misgendered’ can feel enormously threatening. But trying to control the words coming out of another person’s mouth, let alone their thoughts and perceptions, is futile, pointless and frankly, dangerous.

I am not in control of how others see me. What J.K. Rowling said was her own unique perspective, and a form of self-expression. I do not agree that one community in society should be allowed to mob other groups in society into silence and acquiescence. I believe that the millions of people in this country who still see a ‘woman’ as someone whom menstruates and is able to carry a baby inside of her are entitled to their free speech, and if someone wants to regard me as ‘male’ or ‘female’, that is their perception, and they are entitled to it. I will show myself the self-love and compassion which I believe all human beings deserve. If I need to cry, I will cry, but I will do my best to retain some semblance of faith that if I don’t go out of my way to deliberately harm people, then other people will show me the same respect.

I remain unsure whether the intimidation mob known as trans activists actually genuinely represent the entire trans community, or whether they merely represent a somewhat entitled group of individuals who believe it is the duty of the general population to treat them like a fragile three year old, but I strongly suspect that a large number of trans people do not go through life expecting everyone around them to constantly walk on eggshells. That is no way for anyone to live.

I care about free speech, and have had to face some very harsh truths about myself. There was a time when I too thought that it was the responsibility of others to ‘look after’ my feelings, but I have had to come to terms with the fact that sadly, the average person is not going to be able to empathise particularly well with the Intersex community and the human rights abuses they have suffered, so the onus is on us to treat ourselves as we want to be treated, and own our Intersex status. We need to treat ourselves with love, compassion and respect, we need to balance the masculine and feminine in our psyche. This is our responsibility, not anyone else’s.

Ironically, the Intersex community is arguably the one group in LGBT+ whom have suffered the worst human rights abuses, yet remain the most neglected and ignored group at the hands of our mainstream media, who, for the most part, continue to be spineless cowards, and the medical profession, who continue to wield scalpels against Intersex people, some as young as eighteen months old. Furthermore, virtually all the narratives and spaces in society which Intersex people try to create for themselves are increasingly being controlled, infiltrated and domineered by trans activists who persist in making everything about them. This is not okay. We exist on our own terms, and as a distinct category of people whom have the same right to individuation as anyone else in society. There are definitely crossovers between the two groups, but the issues affecting both groups are, in many respects, radically different. Intersex people struggle so greatly to be heard in western society that we do not need to ‘dilute’ our causes and narratives by including trans people in them. Trans people have their own spaces in society – and lots of them.

I will fully and completely support the trans community in their choice to self-identify as whatever they wish and live as whatever they wish without harassment, intimidation or mistreatment of any kind – but trans activists need to extend the same courtesy to those whom are born into the gender binary, leave those people’s free speech alone, stop policing other people’s perception of them and learn the art of emotional responsibility. It is not an easy path, but I am fairly certain it will be worth it in the end.

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