J.K. Rowling, the author known for creating the Harry Potter series, is in hot water over recent anti-trans comments. Since her initial tweet, former collaborators and LGBTQ activists alike have penned responses, condemning her stance. Now, only days later, she continues to stand firm in her remarks, leading to even further controversy.
The Tweet That Started It All
Over the weekend, Rowling took to Twitter to share an article highlighting the impact of COVID-19 on “period poverty.” The pandemic, and the coinciding economic crisis, has had a unique impact on those who live in poverty and menstruate. The article itself is well researched and would be widely well-received, but Rowling’s comment on the post sparked outrage.
Above the attached article, her post read “‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?” The Devex piece specifically uses the phrase in order to be inclusive towards trans people, but Rowling takes issue with that choice.
This instance on its own would be concerning, but it might not have caused such a strong response had it not been for a long history of of questionable commentary in regard to trans issues on Rowling’s Twitter.
In December, Rowling received criticism for tweeting in support of Maya Forstater, who had lost her job over anti-trans statements including, “men cannot change into women.” In 2018, the author had also liked a tweet that referred to trans women as “men in dresses,” which her public relations coordinator successfully downplayed as a “middle-aged moment.” This week’s events are just the most recent iterations of a larger pattern.
There are over 31,000 comments on the now-infamous tweet, most of which are expressions of disappointment and anger. Playing on the language of the Harry Potter universe, some users have tweeted that Rowling ought to use an incantation like “Deletus Tweeto” or “Tweetus Deletus” to rid her social media feed of offensive posts. Yet the tweet in question remains live on her account.
Eddie Redmayne, who stars in the Fantastic Beasts series, broke his silence on the issue in a lengthy statement:
“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.”
Redmayne was nominated for an Academy Award for his staring role in The Danish Girl, in which he played Einar Wegener, one of the first people in history to undergo a sex-change operation. While the casting of a cis-gendered male actor in the role garnered some criticism at the time, Redmayne has been a vocal supporter of the trans community since his involvement with the film.
Daniel Radcliffe, who played the title wizard in all eight Harry Potter movies, responded to Rowling’s comments in an essay published to the Trevor Project’s website. The organization works to prevent suicide and mental health crises within LGBTQ communities. “Transgender women are women,” the actor wrote. “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.”
J.K. Rowling Stands By Her Comments
Rowling has made no attempt to apologize for the remarks, but has instead chosen to double-down on the comments. She released a statement on her website that referenced personal trauma rooted in gender violence as justification for her views.
“I’ve been in the public eye now for over 20 years and have never talked publicly about being a domestic abuse and sexual assault survivor… I’m mentioning these things now not in an attempt to garner sympathy, 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.”
Rowling also makes clear that she has met with numerous trans people, read endless literature, and has studied the issue deeply, both for personal gain, as well as for research for the crime fiction series she’s released under the pen-name Robert Galbraith. (Make what you will of the fact that she has published four crime novels under a man’s name).
In her comments, Rowling does not deny her respect for trans-identifying people, but stands firm in the belief that those born anatomically female face health, safety, and psychological concerns that are not experienced equally by those who were not assigned female at birth.
She also admits to being “canceled” four or five times over for exhibiting “wrongthink,” a phrase lifted from George Orwell’s 1984, in which an oppressive government punishes those who even think opinions that are contrary to state policy. Rowling stands firm in her right to think freely in regard to the issue, and writes that she does not plan to bow to those who demand otherwise.