Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling on Thursday came out in support of a woman who was fired for her tweets saying that transgender women should not be legally recognized.
"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? #IStandWithMaya #ThisIsNotADrill," Rowling said to her 14.6 million followers.
The “Maya” in Rowling’s tweet is Maya Forstater, a tax expert who lost her job after posting a series of tweets in opposition to the UK government’s proposed plan to reform the Gender Recognition Act to allow people to change their legal gender.
On Wednesday, a London employment tribunal upheld Forstater’s former employer’s decision to not renew her employment contract, ruling that her belief, as she stated in court, that sex is “a material reality which should not be conflated with ‘gender’ or ‘gender identity’” is not a protected philosophical belief. Therefore, the court ruled, her company’s decision to not consider her for renewed employment for holding this belief was not discrimination.
Employment judge James Tayler described Forstater’s beliefs in the ruling as “absolutist” and “incompatible with human dignity and the fundamental rights of others.”
Forstater’s contract for her position as visiting fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD) ended in December 2018 and was not renewed following concern from her colleagues about her “transphobic” and “offensive and exclusionary” language on Twitter.
In a blog post about what she described as her "firing," Forstater identified some specific tweets that led to her being contacted by CGD’s human resources department:
In one tweet, Forstater referenced Rachel Dolezal, the white former president of the Spokane, Washington, chapter of the NAACP who was passing as black.
Following the ruling, Forstater wrote on Twitter that she was struggling “to express the shock and disbelief” she felt as she read the decision.
“This judgment removes women’s rights and the right to freedom of belief and speech. It gives judicial license for women and men who speak up for objective truth and clear debate to be subject to aggression, bullying, no-platforming and economic punishment."
BuzzFeed News has reached out to Forstater's legal team for comment.
Rowling’s alignment with Forstater sparked immediate controversy, and the author’s name was a trending Twitter topic worldwide.
Trending with Rowling’s name was the word “TERF,” an acronym for trans-exclusionary radical feminist. TERFs — or, as they prefer to be known, gender critical feminists, since some see the word “TERF” as a slur or even hate speech — do not believe that transgender women should be considered women for the purposes of shared spaces and political discussion.
Some Harry Potter fans responded to Rowling saying that her tweet went against everything she wrote about in the series.
A number of fans have also shared this 2018 tweet from actor Emma Watson, who portrayed Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movies, wearing a shirt reading “trans rights are human rights.”
BuzzFeed News has reached out to Watson's representatives for comment.
Rowling was also criticized by prominent LGBTQ and human rights advocacy organizations.
In a statement to BuzzFeed News, GLAAD said that following the author's tweet, they had "reached out to Rowling's PR team and offered to have an off-the-record conversation involving members of the trans community, to which a publicist from Rowling’s team declined."
Although this is the first time that Rowling has made her beliefs on gender identity known, her Twitter activity over the past few years has led some fans to wonder if she held the view that transgender women shouldn’t be considered women.
The author has liked tweets linking to stories that argue transgender women shouldn’t be housed in women’s prisons due to rape fears.
A representative for the author told BuzzFeed News that “there won’t be any comment from J.K. Rowling or her team on this issue.”
Veronica Dulin contributed additional reporting to this story.
The references to gender identity as "a preference" have been removed from this post.