HomeArts & EntertainmentBooksJK Rowling says statements about trans people have been ‘profoundly’ misunderstood

JK Rowling says statements about trans people have been ‘profoundly’ misunderstood

JK Rowling is addressing the controversy surrounding her stance on transgender rights head-on in an forthcoming podcast entitled The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling.

The Harry Potter author has faced a sustained backlash in recent years for statements she’s made about gender ideology that critics and prominent voices in the LGBT+ community have described as “transphobic”.

“I never set out to upset anyone. However, I was not uncomfortable with getting off my pedestal,” Rowling says in the trailer for the podcast, which is hosted by Free Press.

Free Press is the independent media company founded by former New York Times opinions editor Bari Weiss, who is known for writing provocative columns about “woke culture” and gender issues.

“What has interested me in recent years, particularly on social media [is when fans say], ‘You’ve ruined your legacy. Oh, you could have been beloved forever, but you chose to say this.’ And I think: ‘You could not have misunderstood me more profoundly,’” Rowling adds.

The podcast will be hosted by Megan Phelps-Roper, granddaughter of Fred Phelps – pastor of the notorious Westboro Baptist Church. The Anti-Defamation League has described the infamous church as “a small, virulently homophobic, anti-Semitic hate group”. After leaving the church in 2012, Phelps-Roper became a prominent critic of its philosophy and practices.

The Free Press describes The Witch Trials of JK Rowling as an “audio documentary that examines some of the most contentious conflicts of our time through the life and career of the world’s most successful author”.

The announcement of Rowling’s podcast comes days after the murder of 16-year-old transgender girl Brianna Ghey, which police are investigating as a possible hate crime.

A report published by the Home Office last October stated that hate crimes targeting transgender people had reached a record high, rocketing 56 per cent in a year.

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The backlash against Rowling appeared to begin in December 2019, when she came out in support of researcher Maya Forstater, a visiting fellow at the Centre for Global Development whose contract was not renewed after she made a number of anti-trans posts on social media.

In June 2020, Rowling called out an article’s use of the phrase “people who menstruate”. She wrote: “I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”

(Getty Images)

Many people including numerous celebrities criticised her comment as “anti-trans” and “transphobic”, arguing that many trans men, non-binary and non-gender conforming people can also menstruate, and many women cannot.

Rowling has continued to regularly discuss gender issues and trans rights on social media in the years since.

Among those to criticise the author was Harry Potter film star Daniel Radcliffe who wrote an essay for The Trevor Project in support of trans people. In the article, he wrote: “Transgender women are women. 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 [Rowling] or I.

“It’s clear that we need to do more to support transgender and nonbinary people, not invalidate their identities, and not cause further harm.”

In recent weeks, many have called for a boycott against a new video game adaptation of Rowling’s wizarding franchise, Hogwarts Legacy.

Rowling did not have any involvement in the concept or writing of the game, but she will receive royalties from its sales.

The first two episodes of The Witch Trials of JK Rowling podcast will be released 21 February on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and other audio platforms. Following this, five more episodes will be released weekly.

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