Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling has found herself in the midst of a major Twitter storm after lending her public support to a British woman who recently lost her job as a result of sharing her beliefs about a person’s sex — that it is an immutable, biological fact.
Dress however you please.— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) December 19, 2019
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
“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?” wrote Rowling on Thursday morning.
The tweet quickly racked up over 41,000 likes and more than 17,000 comments. She concluded her tweet with the hashtags #ThisIsNotADrill and #IStandWithMaya, the latter referring to the case of Maya Forstater, the woman at the center of the controversy. Forstater is out of a job as a thinktank researcher after an employment tribunal ruled that her opinions on biological sex were “absolutist.”
Forstater, 45, was a visiting fellow at the Centre for Global Development (CGD), which campaigns against poverty and inequality. Her contract was reportedly not renewed in March after a dispute over her tweets — declaring that transgender women cannot change their biological sex and voicing opposition to government proposals to reform the Gender Recognition Act, which would allow people to self-identify their gender.
On Wednesday, Judge James Taylor ruled that Forstater's views did “not have the protected characteristic of philosophical belief.”
Responding to the verdict on Wednesday, Forstater tweeted: "I struggle to express the shock and disbelief I feel at reading this judgment." She further explained, on a CrowdJustice fundraising page, “My belief as I set out in my witness statement is that sex is a biological fact, and is immutable. There are two sexes, male and female. Men and boys are male. Women and girls are female. It is impossible to change sex. These were until very recently understood as basic facts of life by almost everyone.
“As I said at my tribunal I will as a matter of courtesy use preferred pronouns and I support human rights. Everyone should be free to express themselves, to break free of gender stereotypes and to live free of violence, harassment and discrimination. But this does not require removing people’s freedom to speak about objective reality, or to discuss proposed changes to law and to government policies clearly.”
Forstater was clearly thrilled by Rowling’s much-buzzed-about response to the ruling.
OMG! We are all crying. This is all i wanted for Christmas https://t.co/5ucPGUHIxY— Maya Forstater (@MForstater) December 19, 2019
But Rowling’s stance also stoked plenty of anger, with transgender activists and other supporters firing back at the author, declaring her what is known, derogatorily, as a TERF — transgender exclusionary radical feminists; the phrase “JK Rowling is a TERF” has gained serious traction on Twitter.
well its finally happened. JK Rowling has taken the mask off and shown everyone what trans people have been telling you for years: she's a terf.— sinéad naoimh ⚧ 🦀🍾 (@sineadactually) December 19, 2019
maybe believe us next time we tell you someone is crypto? pic.twitter.com/V17h9phGZ5
Charlotte Clymer, press secretary for the non-profit LGBTQ Human Rights Campaign, weighed in on the controversy on Twitter: "In fact, the World Health Organization — among countless other medical authorities — validate trans people in their authentic gender identity. It is quite clear you don't understand the first thing about the trans community or the science at play. This is heartbreaking."
Another person shared, "The saddest thing is that the woman who inspired millions of kids to be good to each other, include each other despite our differences and stand up against those who would oppress us - is now a bigot herself. Good job."
It was not the first time Rowling was accused of being transphobic, and plenty of others quickly chimed in to give their thoughts:
This is incredibly disappointing to see, from someone whose writing espouses so much kindness. Ms. Forstater has the right to think what she pleases, but she does not have the right to expect that employers will always be okay with that. Trans people have to go to work too.— Louisa 🌈👭 (@LouisatheLast) December 19, 2019
I grew up as a trans child reading your books as an escape. I would often pick out names from characters to give to myself, before I ever felt comfortable in who I was. This decision, to support people that hate me, and want to do me harm. It brings me to tears... Why. Why?— Noel is entering peak holiday spirit (@notafootstool) December 19, 2019
As a gay man that found safety in Hogwarts throughout my childhood - knowing that Trans people wouldn’t be able to have that safety breaks my heart.— Shahmir Sanni (@shahmiruk) December 19, 2019
I’m not here to cancel JK Rowling as a person and stoke mob outrage. I’m just here to educate and inform. Trans rights are human rights and trans women are women. Also, white feminism can sometimes intersect with trans exclusion or white supremacy, which is unjust.— Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) December 19, 2019
However, Rowling did receive support from some, including journalist Hadley Freeman who replied: "Thank you, JK Rowling."
Meanwhile, feminist writer Julie Bindel shared: "YOU ARE AMAZING,” with others sharing similar sentiments in support of both Rowling and Forstater.
YOU ARE AMAZING— Julie Bindel (@bindelj) December 19, 2019
Well said JK Rowling. Cancel culture has to go and 99% of the population doesn’t have to adjust its behavior so as not to offend 1% of the population who identify as ridiculous— Jonathan Falcon (@JonathanFalcons) December 19, 2019
That definitely wins the house cup! Thanks for speaking out.— Kathleen 🕷️ #Girly Swot #IStandWithMaya (@socksknitter) December 19, 2019
Thank you JK Rowling! I hope the press report this as women's RIGHTS, not anti-trans offensive BS @DailyMailUK @guardian @libby_brooks @Independent @BenInLDN @Emmabarnett @KayBurley @BBCWomansHour @schofe @jonsnowC4 @Channel4News @thetimes @PrivateEyeNews @piersmorgan @GMB— Ella Witchwood (@EllaWitchwood) December 19, 2019