“SEX IS REAL” (Rowling) versus “SEX IS IMPORTANT” (Groves–McDaniel)
… or HOW TO BE DISINGENUOUSLY MALICIOUS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING
So let me start by defining my terms:
Sex — here I’m using the popular convention that defines sex as a the presence and arrangement of bodily characteristics, understood in terms of two large binary domains of biological types.
Real — here I mean physically extant, evidentially present to the senses, and consistent over time.
Of course both terms are controversial. There are other equally useful definitions available to us, many of which are habitually used. Language is always flexible. But I’ll rest with these, in a manner that (I hope) concedes a lot to the ideas of common sense as I suppose J K Rowling would use them.
Thus, I gather that when Rowling says “Sex is real” she means that our (her and my) bodily sex characteristics are a real function of our lives, and have consequent deterministic implications.
Here’s a surprise. She’s right. Of course that’s true.
The problem is, that’s not truly what she’s saying. What she means by “real” is more like “Here are the two biological sex domains, and anything else is counterfeit”. Her consideration is that by saying “Sex is real” there must be some sort of harmfully ‘fake’ sex-identity going the rounds in society. A kind of ‘wooden nickel’ version of biological sex characteristics that one should never accept.
The implication is not a statement-of-fact, but a disingenuous insult masquerading as common sense. That I (being transgender) am somehow being a counterfeit woman for my own nefarious reasons. Consequently I’m a threat to ‘real’ women, or at the very least, to their “spaces”.
But here’s another surprise. If she had said “Sex is important” I would have agreed with her.
If I say “Sex is important” I mean that ones bodily sex characteristic CAN have vital implications within very specific aspects of life. They have consequences for women and for men. For example, though I am a woman in every sense that socially matters, if I were to go to hospital with a serious case of prostate cancer I’d be only too happy to be treated by science that comes from the category of ‘male’ medicine. To do otherwise would be exceptionally silly, and dangerous for my health. Similarly, when I have sex with another person the arrangement of my genitals matters a great deal. But only between us as consenting lovers, not with society as a whole.
My biological sex IS important. I fully realise that. I also realise the limitations that my past and biology place on specific events within my life. But they are very contextually specific events. They don’t define my identity, because they don’t define Rowling’s either. Neither do I think that because I have such-and-such an identity I have free and absolute access to all facilities within the public sphere.
For example: Do I still have access to male toilets? No. Do I gain unfettered access to all female counselling systems? No. Do I always have the absolute right to be in women (or men) only places? No.
And neither do you, dear reader. Whatever sex or gender you may entertain.
Rowling’s generalities have implied malice embedded within them. They disingenuously hide her twisted fears behind the respectable image of a well-known and beloved author. Her massive public voice dwarfs and belittles me within the inequitable global media system. I fear what she has verbally created, not because it has any truth in it, but because its seeming ‘common sense’ turn of phrase will make life much harder for me. She insults people like me freely, because she knows she can always hide behind her celebrity status.
And all for a the sake of an author’s phobia.