JK Rowling: author knew views on trans issues would make Harry Potter fans 'deeply unhappy'

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The world famous author claims despite enormous backlash to a tweet made in 2019, there were “a tonne of Potter fans that were grateful that I said what I said”

JK Rowling says she “absolutely knew” that her comments and views on transgender issues would make Harry Potter fans “deeply unhappy”.

Rowling has previously been criticised for her staunch views on gender identity, but has strongly denied accusations of transphobia, saying she was partly motivated to speak out because of her experience of domestic abuse and sexual assault. Speaking on the latest episode of the podcast The Witch Trials Of JK Rowling, the world-famous author addressed a tweet she had made in 2019, in which she expressed support for tax expert Maya Forstater, and the resulting fallout.

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Forstater lost her job over her own tweets made about transgender people, and later took the case to an employment tribunal on the grounds that her dismissal constituted discrimination against her beliefs.

At the time, Rowling tweeted: “Dress however you please. 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.”

Speaking on the podcast, Rowling admitted it would have been “easier” to not wade in on the debate. “When I first became interested and then deeply troubled by what I saw as a cultural movement that was liberal in its methods and was very questionable in its ideas, I absolutely knew that if I spoke out, many folks would be deeply unhappy with me,” she said.

J.K Rowling at the World Premiere of the film Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore in March 2022 (Photo: TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)J.K Rowling at the World Premiere of the film Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore in March 2022 (Photo: TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
J.K Rowling at the World Premiere of the film Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore in March 2022 (Photo: TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

“I knew that because I knew… that they believe they were living the values that I had espoused in those books. I could tell that they believed they were fighting for underdogs and difference and fairness," the author continued. “And I thought it would be easier not to, you know, that this could be really bad. And honestly, it has been bad personally, it has not been fun."

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Rowling claimed to have been scared at times for her own safety, "and overwhelmingly for my family’s safety".

She added: “Time will tell whether I’ve got this wrong. I can only say that I’ve thought about it deeply and hard and long. And I’ve listened, I promise, to the other side. “And I believe, absolutely, that there is something dangerous about this movement, and it must be challenged.”

Rowling said she had been “considerate enough” to inform her management team that she was about to post her initial tweet “because I knew it’s going to cause a massive storm”.

Following the online post the author received thousands of replies from fans expressing their disappointment and disgust in her. Stars of the Harry Potter franchise – Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint – also spoke out publicly in opposition to her views on gender.

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“I’m constantly told that I have betrayed my own books, but my position is that I’m absolutely upholding the positions that I took in Potter,” Rowling said. “My position is that this activist movement in the form that it’s currently taking, echoes the very thing that I was warning against in Harry Potter.”

“But at the same time, I have to tell you, a tonne of Potter fans were still with me. In fact, a tonne of Potter fans are grateful that I said what I said.” She added that the lack of willingness by many to engage with her on the issue as “intellectually incredibly cowardly”.

“I am fighting what I see, as a powerful, insidious misogynistic movement that I think has gained huge purchase in very influential areas of society. I do not see this particular movement as either benign or powerless,” she said. “So I’m afraid I stand with the women who are fighting to be heard against threat of loss of livelihood and threats to their personal safety.”

The author has faced criticism for a number of her Tweets since, including her criticism of a new Police Scotland policy plans for trans suspects, after the force said it would record rapes and sexual assaults by offenders with a penis as carried out by a woman if they identified as female. Rowling appeared to suggest the move was Orwellian, referencing George Orwell famed totalitarian novel, 1984.

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Making use of ‘doublethink’ - a practice in 1984 by which citizens are made to believe contradictory ideas to stop them thinking rationally - Rowling tweeted: “War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength. The Penised Individual Who Raped You Is a Woman.”

She has also accused outgoing Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon of being a "destroyer of women's rights," over the SNP's Gender Recognition Reform Bill, and took issue with an op-ed piece referencing “people who menstruate,” appearing to take issue with the piece not calling them women.

As well as facing criticism from many of the Harry Potter film franchises' stars, others have criticised and distanced themselves from Rowling. The real-life sport of Quidditch - named after the fictional sport in the book series - recently changed its name to Quadball.

QuidditchUK said: “We cannot continue to call ourselves quidditch and be associated with JK Rowling while she continues to make damaging and hateful comments against the many transgender athletes, staff, and volunteers who call this sporting community home.”

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Rowling previously said that she had agreed to take part in the podcast after being approached by author and activist Megan Phelps-Roper. She said she thought that she and Phelps-Roper, a former member of the Westboro Baptist Church, could have a “real, interesting, two-sided conversation that might prove constructive”.

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