J.K. Rowling Faces Backlash From Fans Over Tweets Considered Transphobic

Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling is facing backlash after being accused of making transphobic comments on social media.

By Pamela Avila Jun 07, 2020 12:57 AMTags
J.K. Rowling, JK RowlingChris Jackson/Getty Images

Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling is facing backlash after being accused of making transphobic comments on social media. 

On Saturday afternoon, the 54-year-old author shared an opinion article from a global health website titled "Creating a More Equal Post-COVID-19 World for People Who Menstruate" and shared her confusion with the phrase "people who menstruate." 

"I'm sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out," she went on in her initial tweet. "Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?"

The DevEx article outlined the "many gendered aspects of the pandemic, including increased vulnerabilities to gender-based violence during lockdowns, and the risks faced by primary caretakers." The article stated that an estimated 1.8 billion girls, women and gender non-binary persons menstruate, adding that this "has not stopped because of the pandemic" and still require the necessary "menstrual materials, safe access to toilets, soap, water and private spaces in the face of lockdown living conditions that have eliminated privacy for many populations." 

Quickly thereafter, the author became a trending topic on Twitter as many followers and people on social media began calling her out for her comments. 

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Survivor's Zeke Smith, replied to the author writing, "Hi! I'm a man! I menstruate! Stop being an a--hole!"

Smith appeared in the 34th season of CBS' Survivor: Game Changers and was outed as transgender by a fellow contestant. Following his reply, a Twitter user asked Smith why he was "politicizing" how he identifies as. To which Smith responded, "[J.K. Rowling] is the one who is politicizing it by both denying that trans men exist and that all women menstruate! I do talk to my doctor about it! I have nothing to gain from it! My body just insists on doing it! I am not a woman!"

Despite the backlash she received for her initial comments, Rowling continued to express her viewpoint.

In a follow-up tweet, the author wrote, "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 wrote, referring to the backlash she was receiving online

The Fantastic Beasts author then tweeted, "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." 

Singer and music producer Brad Walsh also responded to the author's claims on Twitter, writing, "You're a smart person. How do you not yet understand the difference between sex and gender? The only way I can possibly explain your ignorance at this point is willfulness. It's incredibly disappointing."

He added, "Ok muting now because the TERFs are out."

TERF, or trans-exclusionary radical feminist, is a term that the author has been referred to as before. In December of last year, the author became a trending topic once again on Twitter after publicizing her support for British researcher Maya Forstater who has also been criticized as being transphobic. According to NBC News at the time, in tweets and Slack messages from 2018, Forstater criticized proposed changes to the United Kingdom's Gender Recognition Act of 2004 that allowed people to self-identify their gender. 

Rent alum Anthony Rapp also took to Twitter this afternoon to express his frustration over Rowling's tweets, "She has such a powerful voice. Why is she using that voice to die on a hill of transphobia? It is damaging and sad and makes zero sense. Is it really her belief that trans women somehow threaten her own selfhood? What is she so f-cking afraid of?"

Actress Patti Harrison shared on social media that the author's choice to tweet about "trans women not being real women RIGHT NOW during BLM uproar really shows her depth of thought about trans people AND black people... I am gettin flu-like symptoms trying to imagine her thoughts (or lack-there-of) on... the intersection."

Singer, songwriter and model Kim Petras replied to Rowling and also criticized her for how she was utilizing her platform on Twitter, where the author has amassed over 14 million followers.  "maam ... read the room and post about BLM ! how is this the right time to go off on this ?" Petras wrote

LGBTQ rights organization GLAAD also took to Twitter to speak out against Rowling's comments. "If you want to direct your rightful anger over JK Rowling's latest anti-trans comments into something positive, support orgs that help Black trans people like @MBJInstitute, @blacktransusa, @TransJusticeFP, @Genderintell and @ukblackpride." 

In another tweeted, the organization wrote, "JK 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." 

Despite the controversy Rowling's tweets stirred, she went on to write, "I've spent much of the last three years reading books, blogs and scientific papers by trans people, medics and gender specialists. I know exactly what the distinction is. Never assume that because someone thinks differently, they have no knowledge."