A Complete Breakdown of the J.K Rowling Transgender Comments Controversy
Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling is currently under fire for controversial
tweets she posted about the transgender community. Her stance has caused fans and stars like Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Eddie Redmayne to speak out against her. Here's everything you need to know:
What did J.K. Rowling say, exactly?
On June 6, Rowling retweeted an op-ed piece that discussed "people who menstruate," apparently taking issue with the fact that the story did not use the word women. "'People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?," she wrote.
That initial tweet garnered a lot of backlash, but Rowling did not relent and wrote about her views in more detail. "If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives. It isn’t hate to speak the truth," she tweeted. "The idea that women like me, who’ve been empathetic to trans people for decades, feeling kinship because they’re vulnerable in the same way as women – ie, to male violence – ‘hate’ trans people because they think sex is real and has lived consequences – is a nonsense."
"I respect every trans person’s right to live any way that feels authentic and comfortable to them," she continued. "I’d march with you if you were discriminated against on the basis of being trans. At the same time, my life has been shaped by being female. I do not believe it’s hateful to say so."
Then, on June 10, Rowling published a lengthy post on her website and sent out a tweet that read "TERF Wars." (TERF is an acronym that stands for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist.)
"This isn’t an easy piece to write, for reasons that will shortly become clear, but I know it’s time to explain myself on an issue surrounded by toxicity. I write this without any desire to add to that toxicity," she wrote. "For people who don’t know: last December I tweeted my support for Maya Forstater, a tax specialist who’d lost her job for what were deemed ‘transphobic’ tweets. She took her case to an employment tribunal, asking the judge to rule on whether a philosophical belief that sex is determined by biology is protected in law. Judge Tayler ruled that it wasn’t."
She explains that she became interested in trans issues while researching a character she's writing. Rowling also outlined "five reasons for being worried about the new trans activism." Read her full post here.
The fan backlash
Rowling's initial tweets and her subsequent doubling down have drawn a lot of ire from trans activists and fans of Harry Potter, many of whom found comfort in the story of an outsider finding a place he belonged.
The celebrity and industry response
Radcliffe, Harry Potter himself, was the first star from the franchise to release a statement (via The Trevor Project) about Rowling's comments.
"I realize that certain press outlets will probably want to paint this as in-fighting between J.K. Rowling and myself, but that is really not what this is about, nor is it what’s important right now. While Jo is unquestionably responsible for the course my life has taken, as someone who has been honored to work with and continues to contribute to The Trevor Project for the last decade, and just as a human being, I feel compelled to say something at this moment," he said. "Transgender women are women. 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 Jo or I. According to The Trevor Project, 78% of transgender and nonbinary youth reported being the subject of discrimination due to their gender identity. It’s clear that we need to do more to support transgender and nonbinary people, not invalidate their identities, and not cause further harm."
"To all the people who now feel that their experience of the books has been tarnished or diminished, I am deeply sorry for the pain these comments have caused you. I really hope that you don’t entirely lose what was valuable in these stories to you…And in my opinion nobody can touch that. It means to you what it means to you and I hope that these comments will not taint that too much," he continued.
Watson, who played Hermione Granger, also spoke out in support of the trans community. "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. 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," she wrote in a series of tweets. "I donate to
@Mermaids_Gender and @mamacash. If you can, perhaps you’ll feel inclined to do the same. Happy #PRIDE2020 Sending love x"
(Watson has not been without controversy lately, either. She was criticized by some for originally just posting black squares on Instagram in early June in support of Black Lives Matter but failing to provide any information about the cause.)
Redmayne, who appeared in Rowling's Fantastic Beasts franchise, released a lengthy statement to Variety.
“Respect for transgender people remains a cultural imperative, and over the years I have been trying to constantly educate myself. This is an ongoing process," he said. “As someone who has worked with both J.K. Rowling and members of the trans community, I wanted to make it absolutely clear where I stand. I disagree with Jo’s comments. Trans women are women, trans men are men, and non-binary identities are valid. I would never want to speak on behalf of the community but I do know that my dear transgender friends and colleagues are tired of this constant questioning of their identities, which all too often results in violence and abuse. They simply want to live their lives peacefully, and it’s time to let them do so.”
Warner Bros., which produced the Harry Potter films, released this statement about Rowling's comments:
This post may be updated as new information is available.
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