Why is J.K. Rowling supported in China: Trans Visibility and Transphobia in China 在骄傲月,正视跨性别群体

每年六月的“骄傲月(Pride Month)”最初是为纪念1969年同志平权运动“石墙暴乱”而发起的运动,在五十年后的今天已经成为了一系列全球性的关注LGBTQA+群体的活动。今年,尽管线下活动大多受到了新冠疫情影响,但人们并没有放弃在线上的庆祝与呼吁。然而,在社交媒体上,六月迄今为止与LGBTQA+相关的最引人关注的话题之一,却是J.K.罗琳所发表的关于跨性别群体的观点与随之引起的广泛讨论。在本文中,笔者试图以此为契机,就这个在LGBTQA+群体中被较多地误解与污名化的群体在国内互联网环境的际遇展开探讨。 Following the celebration of Pride Month 2020, the author, intrigued by the discussion aroused on Chinese social platforms following J.K. Rowling’s controversial speech concerning transgender people, tries to understand trans visibility and transphobia in China and beyond. The article is initially intended for Chinese readers and later translated into English, thus non-Chinese readers may find some examples and situations that feel alien or don’t apply to their society.




MTF (male to female) :跨性别女性。

FTM(female to male):跨性别男性。

TERF(trans-exclusionary radical feminist):认为跨性别女性不属于女性的激进女权主义者。


每年六月的“骄傲月(Pride Month)”最初是为纪念1969年同志平权运动“石墙暴乱”而发起的运动,在五十年后的今天已经成为了一系列全球性的关注LGBTQA+群体的活动。今年,尽管线下活动大多受到了新冠疫情影响,但人们并没有放弃在线上的庆祝与呼吁。然而,在社交媒体上,六月迄今为止与LGBTQA+相关的最引人关注的话题之一,却是J.K.罗琳所发表的关于跨性别群体的观点与随之引起的广泛讨论。

Pride Month, initially a memorial event for the 1969 Stonewall Riot, one of the first demonstrations of the gay community in the US, is now a series of events celebrating the LGBTQA+ community worldwide which take place in June. This year, despite the global pandemic, people still actively speak up on social media to raise the awareness for LGBTQA+ community. However, one of the most discussed topics concerning this issue this year is J.K. Rowling’s’ speech about the transgender community and the debate that follows.


Disclaimer: In this article, the author attempts to discuss the often misunderstood and stigmatized transgender community. Though having done background reading on this topic, as a cisgender woman, I am well aware that I am speaking from a privileged position and thus don’t really qualify for this topic. Despite the author’s best intentions, the article may still be offensive for some readers. I apologize in advance and am open to criticism and discussion.

Report on Chinese social media about J.K. Rowling’s speech and the most popular comments of Chinese netizens, which mostly support her view.

风波源于罗琳在推特上转发了一条使用“来月经的人(people who menstruate)”这一措辞的新闻,并表示“我记得过去是有个词用来形容这种人的吧?”(指“女人”)。这一表态被解读为恐跨性别的(transphobia),因为出生时生理性别为男的跨性别女性并没有月经,而尚未变性完成的跨性别男性则可能仍有月经。但罗琳的说法否认了这一观点:跨性别群体的性别应当取决于他们的心理性别,而非生理性别。在受到攻击后,她在个人网站上发表了一篇长文,主张“声援女性的单一性别空间”。她的发言再次被舆论所反对,其中数位知名的《哈利·波特》的演员都发声反对了罗琳,并表示自己对跨性别群体的支持。

Rowling retweeted a piece of news that used the term “people who menstruate”, (refering to “women”), which was immediately accused of being transphobic, as transgender women whose biological sex is male at birth do not menstruate, while it is possible for transgender men to still menstruate. Such speech goes against the belief that transgender people should be defined by their preferred gender instead of biological sex. Shortly after the dispute, Rowling posted an article on her personal website, claiming to defend those who wish to “retain their single sex spaces”, which faced backlash again on the Internet. Among those who spoke against her were celebrities in the Harry Potter franchise, such as Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe and Eddie Redmayne.

Eddie Redmayne, who starred in Danish Girl, speaking for the transgender community


Different from the voices from abroad, when reading news on Chinese social media concerning the topic, one would find that most people in the comment section voiced their support for Rowling, and the majority of them actually come from women, even those who are more liberal and support feminism and gay rights. Most of the opinions were “I support the rights of transgender people, but if claiming to identify as woman alone allows a person to enter female spaces(toilet, public bath etc.), it will offend women and make it more convenient for certain men to voyeurise and more serious crime attempts.” In fact, it’s not what Rowling emphasized in her article, and surely not the reason to accuse transgender people of. Solutions like unisex toilet can easily solve the worries above, not to mention men don’t  need the identity of transgender women to cause harm to women. It is cisgender men who’ll possibly carry out the crime, but the conflict was directed to transgender women.”What made such opinions popular was still the mainstream cisgender heterosexual gaze: questions like “would straight men be sexually assaulted if gay men are allowed into a male toilet” rarely make it to public discussion. Most educated people understand that saying things like “I’m not homophobic, I just think they shouldn’t seek publicity”, “I’m not racist, but people of colour are not as advanced as other races” and “I don’t discriminate against women, but they’re biologically inferior to men” are obviously discriminating, but why do they become oblivious when the target becomes transgender people?



Given that I have stated myself very clearly in the previous paragraph how I don’t agree with the whole “faking transgender identity to take advantage” speech that’s so popular on Chinese internet, it’s kind of ironic that discussing the possibility of men violating spaces like women’s toilet still makes me shudder. Most women are clearly aware of their inferior status in a patriarchal society through experience, and men often do not understand and even scoff when it comes to a woman walking alone at night or hailing a taxi on her own. On hearing the description of “men entering women’s toilets by claiming to be transgender women”, it’s hard to blame us for the primitive fear that looms in our heart, which is almost like knee-jerk reflection. I am not stating that being transphobic is reasonable, but trying to explain the reason behind it.


On second thought, is it really transgender people who are to blame? Are the oppositions against an imaginary enemy, like the windmills Don Quixote battled? Who are transgender women? Drag queens who wear make-up? (Note: these are different concepts). ”Incomplete” women who are unable to bear children? Now think more carefully, how many transgender women have you come across in real life and on social media? What about transgender men?


By now some of the readers may have realized how transgender voices are absent from the public sphere, especially in domestic public conversations in China. Their voices are even less heard than those of gays, lesbians and bisexuals who are also from the LGBTQA+ community. Such situations are directly related to widespread discrimination and transphobia. Many people insist that only those who have performed gender reassignment surgeries are “real” transgender people, but it is not always feasible. In real life, transgender people in China (and sometimes the world) face the opposition of parents and are at times, even forced to be “treated.” There is also the inconvenience of daily life, where they have to plan carefully whenever going to unfamiliar places so as to solve the toilet problem. It is even harder to find a job, when they are discriminated against by employers and colleagues. In such an environment, it is already hard enough to recognize and admit their transgender identity, with stuggles and pains cisgender people find hard to imagine. The lack of publicity doesn’t mean they are as scarce as it seems, it only means discrimination and tranphobia deprive them of the chance and courage to speak out. The lack of transgender voices in turn deprives their living spaces further. As a member of the cisgender majority, it is time to stop defining “good” transgender people, but return  their own narrative to them.


So far the article mainly discusses transgender women, just like what can be found on Chinese social media. It is probably because of how the topic is closely related to feminism. As is mentioned above, many cisgender women hold the transphobic opinion that transgender women will violate their “single sex spaces”, while women are too easily labelled as TERF(trans-exclusionary radical feminist), a term that was originally neutral but gradually became stigmatizatizing. Under the current situation where  both communities are still seeking equal rights, setting each other as the imaginary enemy is ignoring the elephant in the room that both women and transgender people are vulnerable groups. In a patriarchal, heterosexual-dominated society, limiting the space of each other is not the solution, while striving for the rights everyone deserves is.


I sincerely hope that every cisgender person can take the chance to read, reflect on their own thinking and try to hear transgender voices that speak out for themselves. Changing one’s view on sex and gender is not easy, but it is hoped that the article can at least provoke a few minutes’ of thinking.

This article was written by Cecilia Sun based in Shanghai, China. Please send an email to xs1073@nyu.edu to get in touch.
Photo Credit: from Instagram

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