JK Rowling defends comments about transgender people despite backlash

Lifestyle Team
·4-min read

J.K. Rowling is defending her views on transgender issues, even as many people on the internet, including actor Daniel Radcliffe and others who starred in the film adaptations of her Harry Potter books, continue to criticise her.

The author angered many on June 6 when she commented on an article headlined, Opinion: Creating a more equal post-COVID-19 world for people who menstruate, saying, “‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”

After Rowling was called out, because people who don’t identify as women menstruate, too, she argued that people were wrongly “erasing the concept of sex.”

In the days since that exchange, several actors who’ve appeared in movies based on Rowling’s work have publicly disagreed with her.

“Transgender women are women,” Radcliffe, who played the title character in her most famous film franchise, wrote in an essay for the non-profit LGBTQ organisation Trevor Project.

“Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional health care associations who have far more expertise on this subject matter than either [Rowling] or I.”

Most recently Emma Watson, an outspoken activist who played Hermione Granger in the series, responded to Rowling’s controversial post on Twitter, including two organisations she donates to that support trans people — Mermaids and Mama Cash.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 7: Emma Watson attends "Little Women" World Premiere on December 7, 2019 at Museum of Modern Art in New York City. (Photo by Paul Bruinooge/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
Emma Watson has called out J.K. Rowlings tweet. Photo: Getty

“Trans people are who they say they are and deserve to live their lives without being constantly questioned or told they aren’t who they say they are,” Emma wrote.

“I want my trans followers to know that I and so many other people around the world see you, respect you and love you for who you are.”

Now Rowling has shared a 3,600-word essay on her website, in which she outlined the reasons she feels compelled to speak out on the issue and why she’s “worried about the new transgender activism.”

She explained she’s been interested in trans issues for several years because, professionally, she’s writing a crime series with a character who’s affected by the same issues. Personally, her reasons included being “a domestic abuse and sexual assault survivor.”

“I’m mentioning these things now not in an attempt to garner sympathy,” Rowling wrote, “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.”

J.K. Rowling has been criticized for her views on transgender people. (Photo: Taylor Hill/FilmMagic)
J.K. Rowling has been criticized for her views on transgender people. (Photo: Taylor Hill/FilmMagic)

She defended her earlier argument, when she said, “But, as many women have said before me, ‘woman’ is not a costume. ‘Woman’ is not an idea in a man’s head. ‘Woman’ is not a pink brain, a liking for Jimmy Choos or any of the other sexist ideas now somehow touted as progressive.

“Moreover, the ‘inclusive’ language that calls female people ‘menstruators’ and ‘people with vulvas’ strikes many women as dehumanising and demeaning. 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.”

After Rowling published her essay, the Human Rights Campaign responded in a statement from the organisation’s president, Alphonso David, given to Variety:

The fact that J.K. Rowling is doubling down in using her massive platform to spread anti-trans propaganda while refusing to respond to outreach by LGBTQ groups like the Human Rights Campaign is appalling. As one of the most famous women in the world and one whose work has inspired countless LGBTQ young people to imagine a world of acceptance and inclusivity, she bears an extra responsibility to ensure that her words do not do damage. Let me be clear: J.K. Rowling is trafficking in harmful lies at a time when the trans community is facing unspeakable violence. At least twenty-six transgender and gender non-confirming people were killed in 2019. 2020 has already seen at least twelve transgender or gender non-conforming people killed. Trans women are women, and Rowling’s attempt to hide behind the mantle of trans-exclusive feminism hurts both the trans and feminist communities. Rowling’s words are inflicting harm on the transgender and non-binary community, who are already among the world’s most marginalized and endgangered [sic] populations. If she won’t listen to trans advocates about the harm she is causing, she does not deserve her platform.

Additional reporting by Raechal Shewfelt.

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