‘Harry Potter’ author J.K. Rowling says ‘a ton’ of fans are ‘still with me’ after trans remarks

‘Harry Potter’ author J.K. Rowling says ‘a ton’ of fans are ‘still with me’ after trans remarks

J.K. Rowling addresses controversial transgender remarks: ‘Fans were grateful that I’d said what I said’

The Harry Potter author said that she’s “fighting what I see as a powerful, insidious, misogynistic movement that I think has gained huge purchase in very influential areas of society.”

“I have to tell you, a ton of Potter fans were still with me,” the author said on Tuesday’s episode of The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling podcast. “And in fact, a ton of Potter fans were grateful that I’d said what I said.”

Over the years, Rowling has been criticized by members of own her fanbase and LGBTQIA organizations for reiterating hurtful rhetoric that is tied to the TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminists) movement, which often posits the belief that trans women are not women. Earlier, Rowling said that she “absolutely knew” that her fanbase would be “deeply unhappy” if she chose to speak out about sex and gender issues because “I could see that they believed 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.”

“Personally, it has not been fun and I have been scared at times for my own safety and, overwhelmingly, for my family’s safety,” Rowling continued. “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.”

Still, Rowling acknowledged that it “hit differently” to be attacked online by those with left-wing political beliefs rather than conservatives because “I would assume we share certain values.” She added that she is often “told that I have betrayed my own books” by fans who do not support her beliefs. “My position is that I am absolutely upholding the positions that I took in Potter,” she 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.”

J.K Rowling poses on the red carpet after arriving to attend the World Premiere of the film “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” in London on March 29, 2022.

J.K. Rowling

| Credit: TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images

During the podcast, Rowling said that she wrote her controversial June 2020 tweets after opening Twitter and seeing an article about “creating a more equal post-COVID-19 world for people who menstruate” that made her “really angry.” In response, she tweeted, “‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?'”

In hindsight, Rowling compared the tweet to “dropping a hand grenade into Twitter.” She expanded on her thought process in a follow-up Twitter thread, writing, “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.”

Since then, Harry Potter stars including Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson have all spoken out against Rowling’s rhetoric, while others — including Ralph Fiennes and Helena Bonham Carter — have come to her defense. To this day, Rowling still stands “by every word that I wrote” at the time. “But the question is, What is the truth?” she said. “I’m arguing against people who are literally saying sex is a construct, it’s not real.”

Amid the backlash online, Rowling penned a June 10, 2020 essay titled “J.K. Rowling Writes about Her Reasons for Speaking out on Sex and Gender Issues,” which she read from during the podcast. “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.”

Rowling continued, “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 — and, as I’ve said, gender confirmation certificates may now be granted without any need for surgery or hormones — then you open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside. That is the simple truth.”

She also addressed the idea of fans trying to hold her accountable for her actions online. “I’ve heard this all the time, ‘We’re holding you accountable. We’re holding you accountable,'” Rowling said. “Well, I would say this: I’m a great believer in looking at not what people say, but what they do. How are you behaving? If you are threatening, if you are threatening to remove livelihoods, if you are saying ‘this person is canceled,’ that is the language of a dictator: ‘I cancel you, I obliterate you, you are dead.'”

She noted that she’s “literally lost count” of the amount of times she’s seen the hashtag #RIPJKRowling trending online and seen people sidestep the argument by saying that “there is no point in arguing with a TERF.” 

“I don’t call that being held accountable. If you want to debate with me, I am absolutely open to that. And I think I have proven that I’m very willing to engage on the ideas, but I notice a remarkable disinclination to engage on the ideas,” she said. “The response is, ‘Well, we can’t listen to you. You are evil. You must not be listened to.’ That to me is, intellectually, incredibly cowardly. I don’t believe that any righteous movement behaves in such a way.”

She then compared the other side of the movement to the Death Eaters, Voldemort’s most loyal followers, in her novels. 

“Some of you have not understood the books. The Death Eaters claimed we have been made to live in secret and now is our time. And any who stand in our way must be destroyed. If you disagree with us, you must die,” she said. “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. 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.’ 

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