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The author of the Harry Potter series, Joanne Rowling, known by her pen name J.K. Rowling has been making news headlines for her controversial remarks on the transgender community since 2017. On October 17, J.K. Rowling posted another photo on Twitter that said “Repeat after us: Trans women are women” projected on a government building, to which she wrote “No” as a caption. This sparked another debate on the ongoing transgender issues as Rowling was later seen defending her comments as she continued to say that she would “happily” go to jail, “if the alternative is compelled speech and forced denial of the reality and importance of sex”.
She continued to remark that doing two years in jail would be more fun for her than she had had on the red carpet. She joked about all the possible jobs that she will do if she has to go to jail, by saying that she hopes for the library but she will do okay in kitchens as well. “Laundry might be a problem. I have a tendency to shrink stuff/turn it pink accidentally. Guessing that won’t be a major issue if it’s mostly scrubs and sheets, though,” she added.
These comments come after the U.K. Labour Party proposed amends in laws that would include not calling someone by their preferred pronouns “a criminal offense,” with up to two years in jail. The U.K. already recognized hate crimes that are based on one’s gender, race, sexual orientation, and religion.
What were the controversial remarks made by J.K. Rowling?
On June 6, 2020, Rowling retweeted an op-ed piece that talked about “people who menstruate”. Rowling shared the tweet by saying that there used to be a word for “people who menstruate”. As her response received critical backlash, Rowling went on to defend her opinions in detail. She said that if sex is not real, then same-sex attraction is not possible. “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 added.
She continued to say that she has felt empathy for trans people all her life as they are exposed to the same vulnerabilities as that of women, which is “male violence”. If need be, she would march along with them if they were discriminated against on the basis of being trans. However, she said that since her entire life has been shaped by the experience of being a female, it is not hateful for her to say so.
Since 2017, Rowling’s opinions on the trans community have been garnering a lot of attention, leading to split opinions on the internet as some have supported her while others have criticized her. In 2017, Rowling liked a tweet that was criticizing the transgender rights movement. In 2018, she liked another tweet that said that trans women are just “men in dresses”. In 2019, Rowling was seen supporting Maya Forstater, a tax specialist who was fired from her job for saying that “men cannot change into women”. In 2020, Rowling penned a long letter titled “TERF Wars” in order to address the increasing backlash against her opinions.
How have other celebrities responded to Rowling’s viewpoint?
Daniel Radcliffe, who plays the role of Harry Potter in the film franchise, commented by saying that “trans women are women” and saying anything that contradicts this would lead to the erasure of the identity and dignity of trans people. In addition to this, it will also go against all the “advice given by professional health care associations who have far more expertise on this subject matter than either Jo or I.” That’s why, it is important to not invalidate the identities of trans people and “not cause further harm.”
Emma Watson, who played the role of Hermoine Granger, voiced her opinion on how trans people deserve to live their lives without being constantly questioned or told about “who they are”. Rupert Grint also came forward to say that his opinions echo the opinions of his peers as he believes that “trans women are women and trans men are men”.