JK Rowling’s horrific claim that trans women “retain male pattern criminality”

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This transphobic disinformation has been floating around for many years now and has been debunked repeatedly. Despite this it persists as a quasi-religious belief amongst transphobes such as JK Rowling who repeated the claim on Twitter.

This claim is so infamous amongst trans discourse that you only have to say the words “the Swedish study” and anyone who has even barely been paying attention will know exactly what you mean. JK Rowling is not the first and certainly won’t be the last to repeat this obviously bigoted lie and so its worth once again exploring in great detail.

What is the lie exactly? In short; transphobes like JK Rowling believe that trans women are just as likely to commit (usually sexual) violence as “any other man”. They get to this conclusion via the statistic “98% of violent crime is committed by males” which they include trans women in. They then say that there is no reason to believe or evidence for the idea that transition decreases this statistic and in fact one study published in 2011 even confirms their beliefs.

Indeed the document that JK Rowling linked to, written by Kathleen Stock and submitted to UK Parliament as part of the conversation surrounding reform of the GRA, includes this study – ‘the Swedish study’ – as it’s first point. Stating all of the above and even pulling a real actual paraphrased quote from it; “male-to-females… retained a male pattern regarding criminality. The same was true regarding violent crime.”

Which does look damning, however the author of the study, Cecilia Dhejne, has clarified the findings of the study in interviews after it became popular to misrepresent the findings the way transphobes like JK Rowling are doing.

The short story is that there are two cohorts of transgender people in the study. One between 1973 to 1988 and another from 1989 to 2003. The earlier group had an elevated crime rate but the latter group did not; “for the 1989 to 2003 group, we did not find a male pattern of criminality”.

So the lie is that actually no, the study did not find that trans women “retain male pattern criminality”. It just outright does not say the thing that transphobes like JK Rowling want it to and therefore does not in any way justify the way they want to treat us because of that.

But even if it did say what they want it to say, it still wouldn’t justify the way they treat us because that’s not the point of studying criminality amongst different demographics at all. We don’t do it to single people out as somehow inherently bad or evil.

No, the point of studying the criminality of different demographics is to understand why some demographics are over-represented in crime statistics whereas others aren’t. If trans women were committing crimes at a higher rate than other women between 1973 and 1988 but not 1989 and 2003 – then there must be a reason for both of these.

Looking at the historical context surrounding Sweden across this 30 year period; it was 1972 when Sweden became the first country to allow transgender people to legally change their sex. Though you had to be a Swedish citizen, over 18, unmarried (get divorced if you have to), have lived 2 years as the opposite gender, be sterilised and have undergone sex reassignment surgery.

Yes I did say be sterilised specifically. They re-evaluated this in 2007 and eventually it and the requirement to have reassignment surgery were removed in 2013. Sweden has offered to pay compensation to transgender people it sterilised, though I don’t know how well that has gone for anyone involved.

Suffice to say; Sweden wasn’t a super place to be trans in the 1970s though clearly shows signs of improving by the 2000s. This is probably the reason we see an elevated criminality for transgender women in the earlier cohort but not in the later cohort. Society improved for us and less transphobia meant we were able to get jobs, not have to do illegal sex work, steal food and were less likely to fall into drug addiction and all the associated harms that come with that. Therefore, less criminality.

Swedish trans people also probably found themselves being less policed too. It is no secret that policing and justice systems have biases against minorities, after all policing and justice systems are ran by people and people kind of suck. In the UK for example, gender clinics would give trans people a letter saying that we were trans and not some sort of sexual pervert so that cops would leave us alone. These letters were issued as recently as 2012.

So even if trans women were disproportionately represented in crime statistics – which we have zero evidence of, I cannot stress this enough – it wouldn’t necessarily mean that trans women are truly bad and need to be kept out of women’s spaces for everyone’s safety. That’s a transphobic argument made by transphobic people, just as the same argument made about people of colour is a racist argument made by racist people.

The reality is that these statistics could just as well mean that the people they are about are impoverished, deprived and/or marginalised by authorities and the justice systems.

Still none of this even remotely comes close to justifying the blatantly exclusionary and bigoted anti-trans beliefs of JK Rowling and her friends. The closest attmept so far being the quote from the beginning; “98% of violent crime is committed by males” and even then that quote falls flat when you realise it isn’t the same thing as “98% of males commit violent crime”.

Also, for a group who don’t stop going on about how biology matters while spouting off rhetoric like this; I can’t for the life of me figure out what part of the biology it is they think makes “males” so much more likely to engage in criminality. I think if you ask anyone who has actually studied this they are going to say the biggest factors are social things like power and opportunity. They sure as heck won’t tell you it has anything to do with an activated SRY gene or a Y chromosome.

JK Rowling is not just wrong and bigoted about this, she is so bigoted and wrong about this that she should be embarrassed to have fallen for it. Not least since its literally just a barely reheated version of racist rhetoric that also works to frame people of colour as criminal and therefore undeserving of equality. This is basically the trans 13/52.

People like JK Rowling who have helped spread nasty anti-trans propaganda like this should be ashamed of themselves for having done so. Not that she’ll ever hear she’s wrong and bigoted from inside the echo chamber of people amping her up to be horrific about trans people to 13.9 million followers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gemma Stone
Gemma Stone is a transgender writer who has been covering the rise of transphobic hate campaigning in the UK. She has written hundreds of articles dissecting aspects of transphobia including debunking blatant disinformation. She is very tired and trying her best, and hopefully having a positive impact on such a beautiful community.

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