JK Rowling urges Labour to apologise to Rosie Duffield over transphobia row

JK Rowling
JK Rowling said Rosie Duffield 'believes exactly what I believe' - Debra Hurford-Brown

JK Rowling has said urged Labour to apologise to an MP investigated over allegations of transphobia after a frontbencher said she agreed with the author’s stance on biological sex.

On Monday night, Shabana Mahmood, the shadow justice secretary, said she supported Rowling’s view that “biological sex is real and is immutable”, prompting the Harry Potter author to urge Labour to say sorry to Rosie Duffield.

The Canterbury MP was investigated by Labour over a complaint that she had been transphobic for liking a tweet by Graham Linehan, the Father Ted creator who is now a gender-critical campaigner.

The party dropped its year-long investigation into Ms Duffield earlier this year, but she has spoken about feeling “isolated” among Labour MPs because of her views.

Those with gender-critical views believe that a person’s sex cannot be changed and are generally opposed to the idea that gender identity is more important than biological sex.

Following Ms Mahmood’s comments on Monday night, Rowling wrote on X, formerly Twitter: “If senior opposition figures agree with me that sex is real and immutable, I hope we’ll soon see an apology to [Ms Duffield], who believes exactly what I believe.”

Shabana Mahmood
Shabana Mahmood said that 'often many women have had to go to court, usually in employment tribunals, in order to clarify their rights to free speech' - Heathcliff O'Malley for The Telegraph

Ms Mahmood said: “Hashtag movements are sometimes used to shut down debate, and often many women have had to go to court, usually in employment tribunals, in order to clarify their rights to free speech.

“To clarify their right to believe that, for example because you referenced JK Rowling, clarify their right to say that biological sex is real and is immutable – a position that I also agree with. But they shouldn’t be in the position of losing their jobs for having views that are perfectly legal, and that they are perfectly entitled to express.”

Ms Duffield said Ms Mahmood’s intervention was “great news”, adding: “Perhaps there’ll be fewer investigations from now on into the only Labour MP cast aside for holding the same views?”

Ms Mahmood also said she believed that “in this era of social media, it’s been a real challenge for people to hold onto what we would consider are normal legal norms”.

The Birmingham Ladywood MP said “some of those issues are being resolved now” but she believed that “it’s taken us far too long to get to this point.

“I think that campaigners, like JK Rowling and others, have had to lead the fight in this area. I know it’s become a bit of a toxic debate, but fundamentally we should take refuge in the laws of our land – they’re there to protect everybody.”