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J.K. Rowling Came Out In Support Of A Woman Who Was Fired For Her Tweets About Transgender Women

The Harry Potter author is facing intense criticism for backing Maya Forstater, who opposes the UK government’s proposal to allow people to change their legal gender. The case has driven #IStandWithMaya.

Last updated on December 19, 2019, at 3:50 p.m. ET

Posted on December 19, 2019, at 3:43 p.m. ET

John Phillips / Getty Images

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:

@AW_Baker @economeager @_alice_evans @SarahEOV @aidthoughts I am perfectly happy to use preferred pronouns and accept everyone's humanity and right to free expression. Transwomen are transwomen. That's great. But enforcing the dogma that transwomen are women is totalitarian

@leecrawfurd @_alice_evans @SarahEOV @aidthoughts No indeed. And when men wear make-up, heels, dresses they don't become women. But the norm seems to be that we should pretend they do to avoid hurt feelings.

In one tweet, Forstater referenced Rachel Dolezal, the white former president of the Spokane, Washington, chapter of the NAACP who was passing as black.

@economeager @ryancbriggs @_alice_evans @SarahEOV @aidthoughts I honestly don't see the difference between Rachel Dolezal's internal feeling that she is black and a man's internal feeling that he is a woman (ie adult human female). Neither has basis in material reality.

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.

Also, who knew that JK's imagination was so great that she could create, from her own mind, a whole cast of characters that would think her behavior is appalling? Incredible! https://t.co/dSbQEfILel

jk rowling will forever be remembered as a person who could have shut the fuck up after 2007, but for some reason did not

"dumbledore was gay in a way that didn't matter" "harry potter is a cop now" "that fucked up snake voldemort used to milk is actually a korean lady" "i'm a straihgt up terf" MEERY XMAS FROM JK ROWLING

In JK Rowling’s universe you can transform yourself into a chair but biological sex is unchangeable.


Some Harry Potter fans responded to Rowling saying that her tweet went against everything she wrote about in the series.

@jk_rowling 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?

@jk_rowling And for heartbroken trans Harry Potter fans, Remember what Hagrid said after being outed as half-giant: I am what I am, an’ I’m not ashamed. ‘Never be ashamed,’ my ol’ dad used ter say, ‘there’s some who’ll hold it against you, but they’re not worth botherin’ with’

@jk_rowling My daughter, who is trans, is a big fan of yours. It breaks my heart to see you post something indicating that discrimination against her is perfectly fine behaviour for an employee. The world’s most credible medical orgs affirm trans people. Please catch up.


@jk_rowling How do you think it would feel for someone trans to have to go to work every day with someone they know perfectly well hates them or disrespects who they are at such a basic level? That is the definition of creating a hostile work environment

@jk_rowling 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.

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.

💖✊🏻 @stonewalluk @Mermaids_Gender @AllAboutTrans @Genderintell

Rowling was also criticized by prominent LGBTQ and human rights advocacy organizations.

Trans women are women. Trans men are men. Non-binary people are non-binary. CC: JK Rowling.

.@jk_rowling has aligned herself with an anti-science ideology that denies the basic humanity of people who are transgender. Trans and non-binary people are not a threat to women, and to imply otherwise puts trans people at risk.

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.

I know everyone is obsessed with wizard turds or whatever but jk r*wling is doing a lot more damaging, insidious shit and pretending no one cares

JK Rowling hitting that like button on a "trans women are rapists" piece, if you were wondering whether to relax as a trans person in the UK

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.

UPDATE

The references to gender identity as "a preference" have been removed from this post.

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