JK Rowling under fire by LGBTQ groups over ‘anti-transgender’ tweets

Harry Potter author faces backlash after taking aim at reference to ‘people who menstruate’

JK Rowling, the Harry Potter author, has come under fire from LGBTQ groups after she took aim at an article that referred to "people who menstruate". The online op-ed article posted last month, with the headline "Creating a more equal post-Covid-19 world for people who menstruate", highlighted some of the risks faced by primary carers, "particularly women in the household and health care workers", during the coronavirus pandemic.

The article explored how women still need “menstrual materials, safe access to toilets, soap, water and private spaces” during lockdown conditions. “An estimated 1.8 billion girls, women and gender nonbinary persons menstruate, and this has not stopped because of the pandemic,” wrote the authors of the article, which was published on the media platform Devex.com.

On Saturday Rowling wrote on Twitter, where she has 14.5 million followers: “’People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?” Her post appeared to be responding to a line that described the “menstrual health and hygiene needs of girls, women and all people who menstruate”.

The backlash was swift, with users calling out her comments as being anti-transgender people. One user wrote on Twitter: “I decided not to kill myself because I wanted to know how Harry’s story ended. For a long time, that was all that kept me alive. Until I met my husband who helped me learn to love myself and to want to live. You just insulted him to my face.”


Glaad, an LGBTQ advocacy organisation, condemned Rowling’s comments. “Looking for some summer reading?” the group wrote on Twitter. “‘Percy Jackson’ author Rick Riordan isn’t transphobic.”

Rowling responded with messages relating to sex and to her support for transgender people. “If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction,” she wrote on Twitter. “If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives. It isn’t hate to speak the truth.”

She added, “I respect every trans person’s right to live any way that feels authentic and comfortable to them.” She summed up the thread with: “I’d march with you if you were discriminated against on the basis of being trans. At the same time, my life has been shaped by being female. I do not believe it’s hateful to say so.” Mark Hutchinson, a representative for the author’s public-relations team, declined to comment further.

This is not the first time that Rowling has been criticised by LGBTQ groups. In December she defended a British researcher, Maya Forstater, who lost her job last year at a think tank in London after posting messages on Twitter saying that transgender women cannot change their biological sex. "Dress however you please," Rowling wrote on Twitter at the time. "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."

Even before the December post on Twitter, there had already been suspicions among some LGBTQ supporters that Rowling held negative views of transgender people. In 2018, she liked a Twitter post that referred to transgender women as “men in dresses”.

The Human Rights Campaign, an influential LGBTQ advocacy organisation in the United States, responded to Rowling on Saturday by retweeting a message that the organisation posted in December. “Evergreen tweet,” the group said. “Trans women are women. Trans men are men. Nonbinary people are nonbinary. CC: JK Rowling.” – New York Times