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JK Rowling ‘transphobia’ controversy: Everything you need to know

JK Rowling has attracted the ire of transgenders, activists and their allies because of her allegedly anti-trans tweets. Many have been reevaluating the diversity quotient in her books.

Written by Kshitij Rawat | New Delhi |
Updated: June 14, 2020 8:42:46 am
 JK Rowling, jk rowling controversy, JK Rowling 'transphobia' controversy, JK Rowling 'trans conroversy Here is what the JK Rowling’s ‘transphobia’ controversy is all about. (Photo: JK Rowling/Facebook)

English author JK Rowling, best known for the Harry Potter books, has come under fire for her alleged transphobic tweets and statements. The author has attracted the ire of transgenders, activists and their allies, many of whom have been reevaluating the diversity quotient in her books. Her supporters are saying even if her opinion is inconvenient for some, she should have the right to express it.

The current controversy arose when Rowling tweeted an article whose headline read, ‘Opinion: Creating a more equal post-COVID-19 world for people who menstruate.’ She wrote while tweeting the article, “People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”

Later, Rowling wrote in a series of tweets, “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. 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.”

She added, “I respect every trans person’s right to live any way that feels authentic and comfortable to them. 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.”

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Rowling has received intense criticism ever since she tweeted this. She is being called TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) among other things. One tweet read, “Can’t wait for @jk_rowling’s next book: Fantastic Beasts and How to Misgender Them.”

Rowling then wrote an essay on her website and shared it with the text “TERF wars”. She said in the essay, “I believe the majority of trans-identified people not only pose zero threat to others, but are vulnerable for all the reasons I’ve outlined. Trans people need and deserve protection. Like women, they’re most likely to be killed by sexual partners. Trans women who work in the sex industry, particularly trans women of colour, are at particular risk. Like every other domestic abuse and sexual assault survivor I know, I feel nothing but empathy and solidarity with trans women who’ve been abused by men.”

She added, “So I want trans women to be safe. At the same time, I do not want to make natal girls and women less safe. When you throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman – and, as I’ve said, gender confirmation certificates may now be granted without any need for surgery or hormones – then you open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside. That is the simple truth.”

The stars of the Harry Potter film series have also taken issue with her comments, including the main three, albeit not directly. Daniel Radcliffe, who played the titular character, said in a long statement posted on The Trevor Project, “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.”

Also Read | Daniel Radcliffe apologises to Harry Potter fans hurt by JK Rowling’s anti-trans tweets

Emma Watson, Hermione Granger of Harry Potter series, tweeted, “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.”

Also Read | After Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Eddie Redmayne and others react to JK Rowling’s controversial trans tweets

Rupert Grint spoke to The Times, “I firmly stand with the trans community and echo the sentiments expressed by many of my peers. Trans women are women. Trans men are men. We should all be entitled to live with love and without judgement.”

Bonnie Wright, who played the role of Ginny Weasely in Harry Potter, wrote on Twitter, “If Harry Potter was a source of love and belonging for you, that love is infinite and there to take without judgment or question. Transwomen are Women. I see and love you, Bonnie x.”

Eddie Redmayne, who plays the lead role of Newt Scamander in the Fantastic Beasts film series that falls under Rowling’s Wizarding World franchise, told 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. 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.”

Warner Bros, the studio behind Rowling’s film adaptations, released a statement which read, “The events in the last several weeks have firmed our resolve as a company to confront difficult societal issues. Warner Bros.’ position on inclusiveness is well established, and fostering a diverse and inclusive culture has never been more important to our company and to our audiences around the world. We deeply value the work of our storytellers who give so much of themselves in sharing their creations with us all. We recognize our responsibility to foster empathy and advocate understanding of all communities and all people, particularly those we work with and those we reach through our content.”

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