JK Rowling and the 'TERF' war: how did we get here?

Thursday 17 September 2020

Duration: 6:20PM - 7:20PM

Status: Booking

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In Britain especially, the stand-off between gender-critical feminists (often referred to by the derogatory acronym TERF, ‘trans-exclusionary radical feminist’) and people who support greater inclusion and acceptance of transgender people (sometimes referred to as TRAs, ‘trans-rights activists’) shows no sign of abating. Their long-time battleground has been Twitter, but a controversial post by Harry Potter author JK Rowling on her blog in July this year propelled the discussion into the mainstream.

For both sides, this is a real battle for individual rights and personal freedoms. It has divided newsrooms, political parties, workplaces, families – and even ended careers. The few people brave enough to express a point of view either way – JK Rowling included – are subject to extraordinary abuse on social media from those who disagree with them. And all the while, the threat of discrimination, victimisation and violence to people on both sides (which is overwhelmingly posed by straight, cisgender men) just keeps growing.

Join us for a ThinkIn in which we will explore how and why this peculiarly British culture war became so toxic. Are there lessons to be learnt in feminist history that could show where we go from here?

Editor: Liz Moseley, Editor and Co-founder, Tortoise

Invited experts

Stella O’Malley, Psychotherapist, author and broadcaster
Stella O’Malley is a mental health professional, best-selling author, public speaker and a parent with many years’ experience working in counselling and psychotherapy. Her latest book, Fragile, Why We Feel More Anxious, Stressed and Overwhelmed Than Ever, was published in 2019. In 2018, Stella presented the ground-breaking Channel 4 Documentary, Trans Kids: it’s time to talk, which examined the huge rise in numbers of young people embarking on gender transition. She also writes extensively about mental health issues for newspapers such as the Irish Times, Sunday Times, Sunday Independent, Irish Examiner, Evening Herald, Daily Mail, Irish Tatler, Pregnancy and Parenting magazine and many other media outlets.

Dr Debbie Hayton, Teacher, Trade Unionist, author
Originally from the north of England, Dr Hayton is a physics teacher and trade unionist who happens to be a trans person. She has written extensively about what it means to be trans and how trans people can be included in society without compromising the rights of other vulnerable groups. She has also been a contributor to BBC News, Channel 5 and Sky News and her work has been published in The Times, The Spectator, The Morning Star, The Economist, Quillette, Unherd and elsewhere.

Nathalie McDermott, Founder And Chief Executive, On Road Media / All About Trans. Nathalie is a former broadcast journalist, and worked at the BBC, Guardian and Media for Development where she set up the Prison Radio Outreach Project in Wandsworth Prison. As a fellow at The School for Social Entrepreneurs, in 2008 she founded On Road Media to improve media coverage of communities that are misrepresented. On Road has been selected by the Observer and Nesta as one of the New Radicals in 2018, and also was winner in the “Small Charity, Big Achiever” category of the Third Sector Awards in 2017.


Doors open at 6.20pm for a welcome and briefing. Come early to get settled, meet the team and chat to other members. ThinkIn starts at 6.30pm.