JK Rowling has revealed she is a domestic abuse and sexual assault survivor as she has defended her right to speak about trans issues.
The Harry Potter creator has faced a backlash from trans activists who have taken issue with a series of social media posts.
In the latest controversy, a post by Rowling criticised the use of the phrase “people who menstruate” and drew negative responses, including from Daniel Radcliffe, who played Potter in a series of films.
Rowling had taken issue with a headline on an online article discussing “people who menstruate”, and said: “I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”
In December, last year she voiced her support for a researcher who was sacked after tweeting that transgender people cannot change their biological sex.
In a personal essay in which she explained the reasons for her position, Rowling, 54, detailed five reasons she felt the need to talk about the issue – including her interest in “both education and safeguarding” and “freedom of speech”.
Explaining her final reason, she wrote: “I’ve been in the public eye now for over 20 years and have never talked publicly about being a domestic abuse and sexual assault survivor.
“This isn’t because I’m ashamed those things happened to me, but because they’re traumatic to revisit and remember.
“I also feel protective of my daughter from my first marriage. I didn’t want to claim sole ownership of a story that belongs to her, too.
“However, a short while ago, I asked her how she’d feel if I were publicly honest about that part of my life and she encouraged me to go ahead.
“I’m mentioning these things now not in an attempt to garner sympathy, but out of solidarity with the huge numbers of women who have histories like mine, who’ve been slurred as bigots for having concerns around single-sex spaces.”
In the blog post, Rowling also said she was motivated to address transgender issues via her Twitter account because of what she sees as an increasingly misogynistic society.
“We’re living through the most misogynistic period I’ve experienced,” she continued.
“Back in the 80s, I imagined that my future daughters, should I have any, would have it far better than I ever did, but between the backlash against feminism and a porn-saturated online culture, I believe things have got significantly worse for girls.
“Never have I seen women denigrated and dehumanised to the extent they are now.
“From the leader of the free world’s long history of sexual assault accusations and his proud boast of ‘grabbing them by the pussy’, to the incel (‘involuntarily celibate’) movement that rages against women who won’t give them sex, to the trans activists who declare that TERFs need punching and re-educating, men across the political spectrum seem to agree: women are asking for trouble.
“Everywhere, women are being told to shut up and sit down, or else.”
Rowling said she had felt “mentally sexless” as a girl growing up in Gloucestershire, which had prompted her to develop mental health issues.
She wrote: “When I read about the theory of gender identity, I remember how mentally sexless I felt in youth.”
She explained the concerns she has about how women’s rights and some young people’s lives were being impacted by some forms of trans activism.
Some of the reasons for her interest were professional, but some were rooted in personal experience.
“I’ve wondered whether, if I’d been born 30 years later, I too might have tried to transition,” she wrote. “The allure of escaping womanhood would have been huge.”
Rowling said she had been influenced by Colette and Simone de Beauvoir’s views of gender during this period.
She added: “As I didn’t have a realistic possibility of becoming a man back in the 1980s, it had to be books and music that got me through both my mental health issues and the sexualised scrutiny and judgment that sets so many girls to war against their bodies in their teens.
“Fortunately for me, I found my own sense of otherness, and my ambivalence about being a woman, reflected in the work of female writers and musicians who reassured me that, in spite of everything a sexist world tries to throw at the female-bodied, it’s fine not to feel pink, frilly and compliant inside your own head; it’s OK to feel confused, dark, both sexual and non-sexual, unsure of what or who you are.”
Addressing the specific issue of the use of phrases like “people who menstruate” as a way of including trans women, Rowling said such language was demeaning to many women.
“I understand why trans activists consider this language to be appropriate and kind, but for those of us who’ve had degrading slurs spat at us by violent men, it’s not neutral, it’s hostile and alienating.”