If you watched Saturday Night Live this weekend, you heard Pete Davidson criticize JK Rowling for a slew of what Davidson and cast mate Colin Jost referred to as “transphobic” comments.
I agree with Davidson and Jost regarding their criticism. Rowling has been an enormous disappointment in this regard. But I can’t stand the word that they used to describe her comments:
I hated “homophobic” when I first heard it many years ago (and wrote a cringeworthy short story about it), and I hate “transphobic” just as much.
Let’s call Rowling what she really is:
I understand that Davidson and Jost were technically correct with their use of the word. The definition of transphobic is “having or showing a dislike of or prejudice against transsexual or transgender people.”
But I think that definition stinks.
Since when did “phobia” become an indicator of bigotry? The definition of phobia is “an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something.” Rowling may possess an extreme or irrational fear or aversion to members of the transgender community, but her attitude and opinions, based upon her comments, go far beyond simple fear and aversion.
She’s a bigot. She’s intolerant. Hateful. She believes that transgender people do not deserve equal protection under the law.
None of this has anything to do with a phobia of any kind.
I have an irrational fear of Ranch salad dressing. I have an irrational aversion to sitting in a room with my back to the door. I have an irrational fear and aversion to the fourteenth hole at Rockledge Golf Club.
But “fear” and “aversion” are not synonymous to “intolerance” and “hate.”
We don’t use the word “phobic” when referring to people who are intolerant and hateful towards Black and brown people. We call them racists.
We don’t use the word “phobic” when referring to people who are intolerant or hateful towards the opposite sex. They are sexists.
We don’t currently have words like “racist” and “sexist” to refer to people who are hateful or intolerant to members of the LGBTQ community, but transphobic is not the right word. Affixing “phobic” to that word implies that the person’s intolerance and hate is somehow related to, governed by, and perhaps attributable to fear.
This may be true, but let’s not offer an excuse for the behavior while attempting to define it.
Let’s not explain away a person’s bigotry by making it something akin to an innate reaction to the unknown. Let’s not unwittingly imply that their irrational fear has led to intolerance.
It’s bigotry. Pure and simple.
JK Rowling is a bigot.
She’s written some incredible books. She’s rightfully credited with an entire generation of voracious readers. She’s donated enormous sums of money to worthy causes. She created so much joy and happiness in this world.
She has entertained me beyond measure.
But when it comes to transgender people, she is a bigot. At least for now.
My hope is that she finds her way to greater understanding and acceptance because I also believe in enlightenment, forgiveness, and change.