Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling set off a social media firestorm with a collection of comments many found transphobic on Saturday. The series of tweets began with Rowling criticizing a headline on the coronavirus pandemic's impact on people who menstruate. Rowling later defended her comments, but the following remarks were found just as offensive. GLAAD called the tweets "inaccurate and cruel."
The controversial tweets began with Rowling sharing an article headlined "Opinion: Creating a more equal post-COVID-19 world for people who menstruate." Rowling picked up on the last three words, adding, "I'm sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?" After that tweet caused a firestorm, Rowling pleaded ignorance, suggesting she "spent much of the last three years" reading about the transgender community. "I know exactly what the distinction is. Never assume that because someone thinks differently, they have no knowledge," she wrote.
Rowling then published a thread on sex, arguing that if "sex isn't real, there's no same-sex attraction" and "the lived reality of women globally is erased." While Rowling said she does "know and love trans people," erasing "the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives." "It isn't hate to speak the truth," the author 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.— GLAAD (@glaad) June 7, 2020
She called the idea that she hates trans people "nonsense" because she has been "empathetic" to trans people for decades and feels a "kinship" because they are "vulnerable" just like all women. "I respect every trans person's right to live any way that feels authentic and comfortable to them," Rowling wrote. "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."
Rowling's comments earned quick condemnation from around Twitter, with celebrities and organizations calling her out as well. Others also brought up Rowling's other controversies, including her support for Maya Forstater. Back in December 2019, Rowling tweeted "#IStandWithMaya" to back Forstater, a researcher who was fired from a think tank because she said people cannot change their biological sex. These comments led to many labeling Rowling a "TERF," an acronym for Trans Exclusive Radical Feminist.
So, you want my thoughts on Cho Chang? Okay, here goes...(thread)— Katie Leung (@Kt_Leung) June 7, 2020
Harry Potter actress Katie Leung also became inundated with questions about her character, Cho Chang. Some have found the only main Asian character in the franchise offensive, in part due to the name Rowling gave her. Leung responded by publishing a Twitter thread listing foundations helping black trans people.
Trans women are women. Trans Black people & trans non-Black people are discriminated against every single day. They’re dying. We’re fighting for Black people & trans people and you’re doing this? https://t.co/2l5PHDCpKD— Jonathan Van Ness (@jvn) June 7, 2020
You have power and influence. Why would you do this? What does it achieve? Do you feel like more of a woman when you punch down? Are you threatened? Some trans men menstruate. Why does that affect you? Why do you want to police that?— Mary Lambert (@marylambertsing) June 6, 2020