JK Rowling hands back award as her views on trans issues are criticised

Julia Hunt
·Contributor
·3-min read
File photo dated 30/07/16 of JK Rowling who has announced she is publishing a stand-alone fairy tale called The Ickabog. She wrote on Twitter: "I always meant to publish it, but after the last Potter was released I wrote two novels for adults and, after some dithering, decided to put those out next."
JK Rowling (PA)

JK Rowling has said she is returning an award given to her by the Kennedy family, amid the ongoing debate about her views on trans issues.

The Harry Potter author was accused of being transphobic after she posted a message on Twitter earlier this year objecting to the use of the word "people” to describe those who menstruate, instead of the word "women".

She later denied she was transphobic and released a lengthy blog post defending her position, but has still been hit by a backlash.

Read more: John Cleese 'baffled' by debate over JK Rowling tweet

Rowling’s views were recently criticised by Kerry Kennedy, president of the Robert F Kennedy Human Rights organisation (RFKHR), which presented her with the Ripple Of Hope award last year.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 12: President, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Kerry Kennedy and the Kennedy family present an award to J.K. Rowling on stage during the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Hosts 2019 Ripple Of Hope Gala & Auction In NYC on December 12, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for for Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights)
Kerry Kennedy and the Kennedy family present an award to JK Rowling on stage during the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Hosts 2019 Ripple Of Hope Gala & Auction (Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for for Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights)

Kennedy claimed that Rowling had used her gifts “to create a narrative that diminishes the identity of trans and non-binary people, undermining the validity and integrity of the entire transgender community”.

Rowling has now said she feels she has no option other than to give the award back.

Addressing the issue in a new blog post on her website, Rowling said Kennedy’s statement “incorrectly implied that I was transphobic, and that I am responsible for harm to trans people.

“As a longstanding donor to LGBT charities and a supporter of trans people’s right to live free of persecution, I absolutely refute the accusation that I hate trans people or wish them ill, or that standing up for the rights of women is wrong, discriminatory, or incites harm or violence to the trans community,” she said.

“Like the vast majority of the people who’ve written to me, I feel nothing but sympathy towards those with gender dysphoria, and agree with the clinicians and therapists who’ve got in touch who want to see a proper exploration of the factors that lead to it.”

File photo dated 26/09/11 of Harry Potter author JK Rowling who is donating �1 million to help the homeless and those affected by domestic abuse during the coronavirus pandemic.
Harry Potter author JK Rowling (PA)

Rowling said since she first joined the public debate on gender identity and women’s rights, she has received “thousands of private emails of support” from people affected by these issues “both within and without the trans community”.

“Clinicians, academics, therapists, teachers, social workers, and staff at prisons and women’s refuges have also contacted me,” she continued.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 12: J.K. Rowling accepts an award onstage during the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Hosts 2019 Ripple Of Hope Gala & Auction In NYC on December 12, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Pont/Getty Images for Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights)
JK Rowling accepts an award onstage during the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Hosts 2019 Ripple Of Hope Gala & Auction (Mike Pont/Getty Images for Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights)

“These professionals, some at the very top of their organisations, have expressed serious concerns about the impact of gender identity theory on vulnerable adolescents and on women’s rights, and of the dismantling of safeguarding norms which protect the most vulnerable women.

“None of them hate trans people.”

Read more: Jonathan Ross backtracks over support for JK Rowling in 'anti-trans' row

Explaining her decision to return the Ripple Of Hope, she said: “In solidarity with those who have contacted me but who are struggling to make their voices heard, and because of the very serious conflict of views between myself and RFKHR, I feel I have no option but to return the Ripple Of Hope Award bestowed upon me last year.

“I am deeply saddened that RFKHR has felt compelled to adopt this stance, but no award or honour, no matter my admiration for the person for whom it was named, means so much to me that I would forfeit the right to follow the dictates of my own conscience.”