In Depth

Why everyone’s talking about J.K. Rowling’s transgenderism tweets

Harry Potter author facing online backlash over ‘anti-trans comments’

J.K. Rowling has been accused of tweeting “anti-trans comments” just six months after triggering controversy by supporting a woman sacked for using “offensive and exclusionary” language on social media.

The latest row began on Saturday, when the Harry Potter author mocked the phrasing of an online article headlined “Creating a more equal post-Covid-19 world for people who menstruate”.

“‘People who menstruate’. I'm sure there used to be a word for those people,” Rowling tweeted along with a link to the op-ed, published on media platform Devex. “Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”

Fellow Twitter users quickly called out the bestselling writer, noting that many people who do not menstruate identify as women, including transgender women, women who have gone through menopause, and those who may not have periods at all. 

Critics also pointed out that not everyone who does menstruate identifies as a woman, such as transgender men and non-binary people. 

As the backlash intensified, Rowling responded with a series of tweets detailing her views:

Firing back a response to her arguments, LGBTQ rights-focused media monitoring organisation Glaad tweeted: “J.K. Rowling continues to align herself with an ideology which willfully distorts facts about gender identity and people who are trans... In 2020, there is no excuse for targeting trans people.”

Meanwhile, Forbes’ senior art contributor Dani Di Placido warned that “J.K. Rowling is destroying her legacy, one tweet at a time”.

This view was echoed by actor Jameela Jamil, who tweeted: “To JK Rowling: verb: To go out of your way to destroy your iconic legacy.”

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Rowling wasn’t “left completely twisting the wind though”, says The Telegraph.

Former tennis player Martina Navratilova defended Rowling in a tweet to one of the author’s critics. “I am sorry if you think speaking up for a level playing field for girls and women in sports is hurtful. What is hurtful is saying to girls and women to just try harder,” Navratilova wrote.

Chat show host Jonathan Ross also backed Rowling, writing: “JK Rowling is both right and magnificent. For those accusing her of transphobia, please read what she wrote. She clearly is not.”

But Pride.com disagrees, condemning the writer’s views on trans issues as “repugnant” and accusing her of “doubling down on transphobia”. 

“It’s becoming an increasingly familiar sight for trans folk, watching Rowling comment on their lives,” adds Pink News. “Her actions which have stirred reaction have, in the past, been called ‘middle-aged moments’ by her representatives.”

Rowling caused uproar in December by tweeting her support for Maya Forstater, a British researcher who filed a lawsuit claiming that her employer, the Washington D.C.-based Center for Global Development, had discriminated against her because of her beliefs that people cannot change their sex.

“Dress however you please,” Rowling wrote on Twitter at the time. “Call yourself whatever you like. Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you. Live your best life in peace and security. But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real? #IStandWithMaya #ThisIsNotADrill.”

In response, Alphonso David, president of LGBTQ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, accused Rowling of being an anti-trans fundamentalist.

“J.K. Rowling says she’s opposed to fundamentalism in any form, but she’s promoting a harmful fundamentalism that endangers the LGBTQ community - particularly transgender youth,” David said in a statement. “She should apologise.”

In the wake of Rowling’s latest controversial post, Forbes contributor Di Placido concludes that her “sudden shift into trans-exclusionary feminism emphasises the importance of staying away from Twitter, for sanity’s sake.

“The opinions of beloved children’s authors are, sometimes, better left to the imagination.”

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