SARAH VINE: JK Rowling is an inspiration, an icon and a hero. And while she's been let down by the Harry Potter stars she helped make... the women of Britain are behind her

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JK Rowling has chosen her hill to die on, and it’s fair to say it’s becoming more crowded by the minute. What used to be an unspoken taboo – the notion that biological males, with their meat and two veg and their bodies shaped by testosterone, are not the same as biological women – is no longer something that women (or men) are afraid of pointing out, on pain of cancellation.

For years now, a powerful, passionate and vocal trans lobby, led predominately by trans women (for some reason trans men aren’t quite so aggressive and territorial: I wonder why?) has attempted to impose its ideological belief than a human male can become a human female as fact, using – somewhat ironically – the tactics traditionally deployed by male aggressors: intimidation, threats of violence, overt misogyny.

JK Rowling published a series of tweets yesterday in which she attacked the Scottish Government's new Hate Crime and Public Order Act

What began as a perfectly legitimate movement designed to fight back against the prejudice traditionally experienced by trans people, and especially trans women, has spiralled into a vicious culture war. In their determination to eliminate anyone who stands in their path, campaigners have trampled over the lives – and livelihoods – of many who have dared to argue with them.

Women like Maya Forstater, a business studies and international development researcher who was fired for her gender critical views and had to fight for years to clear her name; Sharron Davies, the former Olympic swimmer who stands up for women’s rights in sports; the journalist and writer Suzanne Moore, who was hounded out of her job at the scrupulously woke Guardian newspaper (also somewhat ironically edited by a woman).

And let us not forget the men, such as Graham Linehan, the writer and creator of Father Ted, who was not so much cancelled as obliterated. Even prominent trans women such as Caitlyn Jenner and Debbie Hayton who have voiced their concerns have taken a metaphorical beating, accused of being traitors to their kind.

Not to mention the rest of us who, to a greater or lesser extent, have been branded Terfs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists) or bigots merely for expressing the slightest batsqueak of concern at the way affording trans women open and unfettered access to shared spaces with biological women (or girls) might affect the rights and safety of the latter.

Concern about how, for example, it might affect a young girl if she finds herself sharing a dressing room with a biologically intact teenage male. Or whether, for example, said teenage male’s intentions are entirely legitimate, given what we know about the desires of young men. Or how it might feel to be facing a strapping 6ft trans girl armed with a big stick on a hockey pitch. Or a victim of domestic abuse or sexual assault who suddenly finds herself sharing a bathroom in jail with someone with a penis who has been convicted of rape.

Until recently, to raise these questions in even a non-accusatory way, tip-toeing through the minefield of trans-approved terminology, caveating every syllable with painstaking care, has been fraught with danger. Faced with the prospect of being branded transphobic (the 21st century equivalent of being accused of witchcraft), many women have understandably decided to just keep their heads down and hope it doesn’t happen to them.

But not anymore. JK Rowling has changed all that.

She has, through her courage and clear-sighted determination, fought back in the face of this Orwellian nightmare and, at no small risk to herself, stood firm in the face of the onslaught. She has spoken out where others could not, and she has used her voice to embolden still more. Without JK, I could not write this column, we could not be having any kind of honest conversation about these issues. She is, in every sense, a trailblazer.

The Harry Potter author described several trans women as men, including double rapist Isla Bryson, and challenged authorities to arrest her

What makes her stance even more admirable is that she didn’t need to do any of it. Insulated by her (well-earned) wealth and fame, she could very easily have taken the path of least resistance, lounging on some superyacht somewhere, safe in the knowledge that none of these issues were ever going to affect her or her family.

Instead, she chose to stick her neck out and take a stand, and in so doing make herself a target of what I can only describe as deranged fury on the part of her critics. She has been let down by the very people whose lives and careers she helped foster – not least Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe, leading cast members of the vastly lucrative Harry Potter franchise, whose careers might well have sunk without a trace were it not for her. She was even excluded from a 20th anniversary special in 2022.

On Monday, she took her bravest stance yet, which was to openly (and with characteristic wit, another thing that drives her critics spare) write a series of tweets in response to the Scottish Government’s new Hate Crime and Public Order Act, which creates a new crime of ‘stirring up hatred’ relating to age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity or being intersex.

Rowling described several trans women – including Isla Bryson, a double rapist, and Amy George, a butcher who abducted and sexually abused an 11-year-old girl – as men and accused the Scottish Government of placing ‘higher value on the feelings of men performing their idea of femaleness, however misogynistically or opportunistically, than on the rights and freedoms of actual women and girls’, adding that Scottish women are being forced to ‘deny the evidence of their eyes and ears, repudiate biological facts and embrace a neo-religious concept of gender that is unprovable and untestable’. She then challenged the authorities to arrest her.

No one wanted this fight. The vast majority of women – myself included – have absolutely no objection whatsoever to trans women living in their chosen gender. But when that right to self-expression begins to impinge on the hard-won rights of other women, that is where we all have an obligation to step in.

By making criticism of trans or intersex people a hate crime, the Scottish Government has effectively made it impossible to question the actions and behaviour of anyone who self-identifies in that way – regardless of their motives for doing so. It is effectively barring women from being able to protect themselves against predatory males – and threatening to throw them in the slammer if they try to do so. It is, quite literally, insane.

Whether JK’s defiance succeeds in changing this new law remains to be seen. As to whether the Scottish authorities accept her challenge, yesterday the Scottish police said JK’s posts did not break the new hate crime law. I suspect they’re ‘feart’, as my ex mother-in-law would say. But in a way JK has already won her fight. Because regardless of the detail now, what she has succeeded in doing is giving women back their voice, which for a time had been stifled. She has not only shown us how to have the courage to stand up for our rights, regardless of threat or intimidation, but given us permission to do so.

In a world where so few people are prepared to stand up and be counted, or risk their own comfort and freedoms for something they believe in, she is an inspiration. What a woman, what an icon – what a hero. Be in no doubt, JK, the women of Britain are behind you.

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