J.K. Rowling Defends Transgender Comments amid Firestorm — as Harry Potter Stars Weigh In
J.K. Rowling wrote a lengthy essay defending her previous statements many have deemed transphobic
Saying she wants "to explain myself on an issue surrounded by toxicity," Rowling, 54, writes that as an advocate for women's and children's rights, "I refuse to bow down to a movement that I believe is doing demonstrable harm in seeking to erode ‘woman’ as a political and biological class and offering cover to predators like few before it."
Stating that she's a survivor of sexual assault and domestic abuse, she writes, "So I want trans women to be safe. At the same time, I do not want to make natal girls and women less safe. When you throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman...then you open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside."
LGBTQ advocates and multiple stars of Rowling's movies quickly spoke out against Rowling's comments, with GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis calling it a "misinformed and dangerous missive about transgender people" that "flies in the face of medical and psychological experts and devalues trans people accounts of their own lives."
Sarah McBride, national press secretary for the LGBTQ-rights advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, says comments like Rowling's can be dangerous to members of the trans community.
"What's really clear is J.K. Rowling is doubling down on dangerous and discredited myths around transgender people and transgender rights," McBride tells PEOPLE in response to Rowling's essay. "You'd think that for someone who has professed support for inclusivity and equality in other ways, that her use of the same arguments that Donald Trump and far-right extremists in the United States are using would give her pause."
"To be very clear, in painting transgender people, particularly trans women, as caricatures and potentially as threats to the safety of other people, she is reinforcing the very prejudices that are at the heart of the discrimination, and oftentimes the violence, that comes to the trans community's way," McBride adds. "The United Kingdom has allowed for transgender people to use restrooms consistent with their gender identity for years. There has not been a problem. When trans people face discrimination in employment and housing and public spaces, it's discrimination that's rooted in the prejudice that transgender people are not who we say we are. And that is exactly what J.K. Rowling is reinforcing."
Rowling's essay comes days after she once again faced criticism for her tweets about transgender issues, including her comments about a headline addressed to "people who menstruate." “I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?“ Rowling wrote.
The author wrote that her fears for safety come from her own experiences with domestic violence and sexual assault when she was younger, a topic she opens up about for the first time — and says she empathizes with trans women who face abuse.
"If you could come inside my head and understand what I feel when I read about a trans woman dying at the hands of a violent man, you’d find solidarity and kinship," she wrote. "I have a visceral sense of the terror in which those trans women will have spent their last seconds on earth, because I too have known moments of blind fear when I realized that the only thing keeping me alive was the shaky self-restraint of my attacker."
"Like every other domestic abuse and sexual assault survivor I know, I feel nothing but empathy and solidarity with trans women who’ve been abused by men," she added.
Several stars of the Harry Potter movies based on her books have spoken out. "Trans people are who they say they are and deserve to live their lives without being constantly questioned or told they aren’t who they say they are," tweeted Emma Watson on Wednesday.
Bonnie Wright also tweeted, "If Harry Potter was a source of love and belonging for you, that love is infinite and there to take without judgment or question. Transwomen are Women. I see and love you, Bonnie x"
"Transgender women are women," wrote Daniel Radcliffe in a short essay for the Trevor Project published on Monday. "Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional health care associations who have far more expertise on this subject matter than either Jo or I."
Eddie Redmayne, the star of the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movie franchise, told Variety in a statement, “I disagree with Jo’s comments. Trans women are women, trans men are men and non-binary identities are valid. I would never want to speak on behalf of the community but I do know that my dear transgender friends and colleagues are tired of this constant questioning of their identities, which all too often results in violence and abuse. They simply want to live their lives peacefully, and it’s time to let them do so.”
McBride adds that Rowling's wide international audience gives her comments outsize reach. "It's really disappointing to see someone whose books have inspired and empowered young LGBTQ people around the world, whose books have helped so many people to understand the importance of diversity and inclusion — it's disappointing to see the very author of those books fail in that fundamental point in such a dangerous way," she says.