JK Rowling
© Getty Images/Gabriel Bouys
JK Rowling
JK Rowling's June 10 blog post about the downsides of trans rights activism — including the erosion of the legal definition of sex and its replacement with gender — has been met with outrage by trans activists and with joy by those seeking open dialogue.

Rowling is continuing to speak up despite receiving cancellations, and a torrent of hate and violent threats since entering this fraught arena nearly two years ago.

In her blog post she describes how much is at stake, from freedom of speech to women's rights.

"We're living through the most misogynistic period I've experienced," she writes. "... Never have I seen women denigrated and dehumanised to the extent they are now" by people ranging to the sexual predator who's US president to "the trans activists who declare that TERFs [trans-exclusionary radical feminists] need punching and re-educating,"

Rowling comes across as having great empathy for trans people and deep understanding of the issues, not as being a transphobe.

I'm not transphobic either. And Rowling's blog entry galvanized me to speak up — because the consequences of not doing so are far more terrifying than the risk of being verbally or physically assaulted.

In fact I believe that COVID-19 and strident trans rights activism are both part of an all-out assault on women's rights.

The hysteria surrounding COVID-19 is herding us towards compulsory vaccination. It's adding unprecedented force to the years-long World Health Organization-, Bill Gates- and Big Pharma-backed push to turn public-health officials and physicians into vaxx-aholics. This removes among other things women's right to determine what gets injected into our bodies and into our children's bodies.

(A progressive Toronto politician said at a meeting last fall of the city's board of health, when I and dozens of others spoke against this, that bodily autonomy no longer exists. His reasoning? Pathogens and pollution invade the body from the moment of birth, making bodily autonomy "a false dream.")

For their part, trans rights activists (TRAs) are attempting to make women believe "that there is no material difference between trans women and themselves," writes Rowling. In the process, the trans movement is "doing demonstrable harm in seeking to erode 'woman' as a political and biological class."

In her inimitable prose, Rowling says,
"It would be so much easier to tweet the approved hashtags - because of course trans rights are human rights and of course trans lives matter - scoop up the woke cookies and bask in a virtue-signalling afterglow. There's joy, relief and safety in conformity. As Simone de Beauvoir also wrote, '... without a doubt it is more comfortable to endure blind bondage than to work for one's liberation; the dead, too, are better suited to the earth than the living.'"
I know that cocoon of conformity all too well: in the past I've marched alongside others chanting slogans such as, "Trans women are women!" I've experienced first-hand how easy it is to believe tidy narratives about oppression and injustice without questioning whether one is being used as a pawn.

As a same-sex-attracted woman, activist and investigative journalist, I knew vaguely that there are holes in the TRAs' narrative.

But I paid scant heed until last fall. That's when Meghan Murphy was scheduled to speak at a public library in Toronto, Ontario, where I live. Murphy is the founder and editor of Feminist Current and was invited to speak by Radical Feminists Unite.

Toronto's head librarian, Vickery Bowles, staunchly defended Murphy's right to speak. This resulted in a furor among TRAs that received media coverage around the world, similar to but not as high-profile as the reaction to Rowling's writings on the topic.

After quickly looking more into the issue, I decided to speak in favour of Bowles' stance at a library-board meeting a week before Murphy's talk.

"In society we see too much narrowing of the debate on too many issues," I said in my impromptu deputation. "... There should be some room for some thought, and not just closing down and saying, 'Nobody can question trans rights.'"

My words and those of the few others brave enough to publicly support Bowles and Murphy were met with outraged cries from the dozens of TRAs at the meeting.

The event went ahead seven days later. I didn't have a ticket to it but went to the library anyway and tried to talk to some of the protesters outside. It didn't go well. For example, the provincial parliamentarian for my riding was aghast that I was supporting Murphy and called her "a bigot."

And I had to flee not long after that because the crowd had worked itself into a frenzy and everyone was screaming in unison, "TERFs Go Home!"

Murphy's talk wasn't transphobic. But the next afternoon Toronto's city council passed a motion to review all of the city's facilities' room-booking policies in the wake of the "egregious and unacceptable" airing of "harmful transphobic views" at the library the previous evening. I tweeted my dismay.

And freedom of expression is far from the only major issue at play: another is the medicalization of adolescence.

I'm very familiar with the corrupting influence of Big Pharma on the medical establishment because I have an MSc in molecular biology from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Calgary and was a freelance medical writer and journalist for trade publications for 22 years.

I quit that work four years ago, after getting very tired of being lied to every time I interviewed physicians and medical scientists about their studies and clinical guidelines. They always claimed they were free of bias - but I always detected the influence of the corporate funders.

So it doesn't surprise me that physicians are being told today that they must accept and affirm the gender identity of children and adolescents who present with gender dysphoria (GD) (defined as marked incongruence between one's felt gender or gender identity and one's biological sex) and refer them for diagnosis of GD as quickly as possible.

This is followed routinely by starting these youngsters on puberty blockers, or skipping this step if they're 16 or older, and then prescribing hormones of the opposite sex (cross-sex hormones). Many youth are then referred for sex-reassignment surgery involving double mastectomies for transboys/men and/or removal and replacement of reproductive organs. (The usual very high bar for allowing removal of healthy tissue and organs has been all but waived for medical trans procedures.)

Non-medical therapies such as exploring the underlying causes and conditions of these young people's distress and also 'watching and waiting' (that is, holding off on irreversible and invasive treatments until the youth have finished adolescence) were the mainstay for children and adolescents until relatively recently. This is because the majority with gender dysphoria shed these symptoms without intervention as they pass through puberty.

But this non-invasive approach is increasingly viewed as unethical and transphobic. In fact there are moves in countries such as the UK and Canada to render it criminal; these moves conflate talk therapy for gender identity with conversion therapy for sexual orientation. And academics or others who question the medical approach and other aspects of the TRA narrative often have their work retracted or significantly altered by scientific journals' editors.

The medical approach is recommended by the powerful World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH). WPATH's Standards of Care (SOC) for people who are transsexual, transgender or gender non-conforming, published in 2011, is widely used in the UK, Europe, North America and elsewhere.

WPATH's SOC is funded by "an anonymous donor" and by the Tawani Foundation. The foundation was created by Jennifer Pritzker, a trans woman. She and other members of her very deep-pocketed and politically-connected family own Squadron Capital, which controls several medical-company-financing and medical-device firms.

Following the money is always instructive. The very rapidly rising rate of medical transitioning - greatly boosted by the controversial new phenomenon of rapid-onset gender dysphoria — means there's a ballooning market for hormone prescriptions, surgeries and fertility treatments for youth, who become permanent medical patients.

The SOC uses language of equality, tolerance and human rights, making the underlying medicalization of puberty highly palatable. For example, it warns that:
Refusing timely medical interventions for adolescents might prolong gender dysphoria and contribute to an appearance that could provoke abuse and stigmatization. As the level of gender-related abuse is strongly associated with the degree of psychiatric distress during adolescence (Nuttbrock et al., 2010), withholding puberty suppression and subsequent feminizing or masculinizing hormone therapy is not a neutral option for adolescents.
[...]
[H]ormone therapy and surgery have been found to be medically necessary to alleviate gender dysphoria in many people (American Medical Association, 2008; Anton, 2009; World Professional Association for Transgender Health, 2008).
The SOC also deems 'fully reversible' the use of puberty blockers and 'partially reversible' the use of cross-sex hormones, even though these claims are very disputable and both types of treatment have significant adverse events.

The document includes a list, on page 46, of possible adverse events from these treatments, ranging from weight gain, to "possible destabilization of psychiatric disorders," to cardiovascular disease.

(Females who take testosterone for any significant period of time are well known to have much higher risk of heart attack and males who are on estrogen for years are at elevated risk of blood clots and strokes. But the SOC doesn't admit this.)

The SOC mentions a pair of long-term studies that found very elevated rates of suicide and other causes of death in people who underwent gender-reassignment surgery compared to those in the general population - but largely dismisses them and simply says they point to the need for more long-term psychiatric care and studies.

The list of adverse effects includes male sexual dysfunction — but it isn't discussed anywhere else in the text.

And the list doesn't include infertility. This is despite the fact that most of the medical treatments in the SOC can render people permanently unable to have children without outside interventions such as in vitro fertilization.

In fact the word 'infertile' isn't mentioned once in the SOC. And 'infertility' is only mentioned twice (and neither time is in the context of saying the recommended treatments can cause infertility). The SOC instead simply includes a section on the range of medical options for preserving sperm and eggs before medical treatments proceed.

Many medical associations are following WPATH's SOC. But at least one analysis points to fatal flaws.

These flaws include recommendations that are completely non-evidence-based and not reviewed for safety or efficacy. Also, the chair of the guidelines committee and several other members having their positions funded by the Tawani Foundation.

Nonetheless, medical treatments for gender identity are widely supported in the mainstream press. This 'Journalist's Resource' article asserts there are very few drawbacks to these invasive surgeries (and at the bottom of the page there's a note saying the website is funded by grants from various organizations including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation).

WPATH is active in flexing its muscles in other ways. For example, it issued a call in 2015 for legislation to be passed around the world allowing people to switch genders very easily.

And countries are obeying that call - despite the negative implications such as the possibility of violent predators easily gaining access to women's prisons. Such predators are few in number and are not trans. But they solely seek to victimize women and take advantage of gender-identity legislation to do so. The same goes for the men who self-identify entering women's and girls' washrooms and dressing rooms to spy on females or expose themselves for their own sexual pleasure.

In July 2015 the Irish Gender Recognition Act was passed. It allows anyone over 18 to self-declare as a different gender and immediately gain legal recognition for their adopted gender. Scotland's Gender Recognition Reform Bill is poised to do the same thing.

So were the proposed reforms to the UK's Gender Recognition Act. However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government reportedly backed down a few days ago (the government apparently also has decided to preserve female-only spaces but will ban conversion therapy, which it defines as including non-medical treatments for gender identity).

In addition, several countries allow minors, including those who haven't yet entered puberty, to receive these treatments without parental consent if they are considered capable of giving informed consent themselves.

This is being challenged in the UK.

And more and more healthcare professionals are pushing back by issuing powerful critiques of this approach because of, among other things, its often-irreversible nature and large number of serious adverse effects. They are proferring other pathways to health for people with gender dysphoria.

In addition, groups like the UK's Royal College of General Practitioners have called for a more objective examination of the outcomes and unintended consequences of medical transitioning.

"I never forget that inner complexity when I'm creating a fictional character and I certainly never forget it when it comes to trans people. All I'm asking - all I want - is for similar empathy, similar understanding, to be extended to the many millions of women whose sole crime is wanting their concerns to be heard without receiving threats and abuse," Rowling writes at the end of her blog post.

Count me among those millions. We need calm, objective discussion and evaluation of evidence, just as many of us strive for with COVID-19.
Rosemary Frei has an MSc in molecular biology from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Calgary and was a freelance medical writer and journalist for 22 years. She is now an independent investigative journalist. You can watch her June 15 interview on The Corbett Report, read her articles on Off-Guardian and follow her on Twitter.