Last summer, at the height of the vicious JK Rowling witch-hunt, our street had a party. Those few of us left at sundown were invited into a neighbouring garden to continue chatting around a fire by the two twenty-something-year-old men who occupied the house. One was a little effeminate (I’ll call him Mr X) and I thought he may be gay, although they were clearly housemates, not a couple.
We were all getting on very well and the atmosphere was fun, until my husband brought up the subject of gendered language, inspired by an interesting literary essay he’d read that day. He is a writer, speaks four languages and has a decent grasp of Latin, so was speaking from a position of a little knowledge. The atmosphere immediately turned frosty and Mr X began disagreeing with my husband, despite being ignorant of linguistics, etymology and the languages under discussion. Mr X argued purely from a gender ideological position.
Now, if I hadn’t had a few beers I would have judged the situation more carefully and, not wanting a whole heap of shit thrown at me, would have policed myself. But, I was feeling the injustice of what was then happening to JK Rowling and before I knew it had joined the conversation with this little opener: “I think JK Rowling has a point…”
Rather mild, no?
It seems not.
What happened in the next split-second was utterly disorientating. Mr X jumped out of his seat screaming (yes, screaming) at me to get out. His housemate had to restrain him from physically assaulting me. My husband, another neighbour and I left as quickly as we could. I felt shocked and physically shaken for days after. The level of aggression directed at me was off the scale (I note that none was directed at my 6’2” husband for voicing his opinions). If the housemate hadn’t restrained Mr X then I’ve no doubt I would have been injured. Until we moved house recently, I had to walk past his door every day.
I am a woman in my 50s. As well as having been subject to the usual sexual harassment all women have to put up with from puberty onwards, I have experienced rape, serious domestic violence, and the subsequent choking isolation of single parenthood while suffering PTSD.
Now, I’m still not sure if Mr X identifies as a woman, or whether he is simply a trans activist. What I do know is that Mr X works in television. He has worked on documentaries about rape, and, when I’d questioned him earlier in the day, was glibly confident about the way his production company dealt with the subject, and the aftercare it provides.
It disgusts me that this man is let anywhere near women who have been subjected to male violence. It disgusts me that he believes he empathises with womens’ lived experience. And it scares me that he has his foot on the ladder of a career in the media.