JK Rowling says some loved ones ‘begged’ her not to share views on trans people

A still of JK Rowling from a video interview
JK Rowling (Image: YouTube)

JK Rowling has said that certain loved ones “begged” her not to reveal her views on trans people and gender publicly.

The Harry Potter author makes the admission in her new new book of 30 essays, The Women Who Wouldn’t Wheesht.

An extract of the book, detailing the writer’s first public statements on the matter in 2019, has been published today (Wednesday 29 May 2024) in The Times.

“I kept my thoughts to myself in public” – JK Rowling

The 58-year-old writes: “By the standards of my world, I was a heretic. I’d come to believe that the socio-political movement insisting ‘trans women are women’ was neither kind nor tolerant, but in fact profoundly misogynistic, regressive, dangerous in some of its objectives and nakedly authoritarian in its tactics. However, I kept my thoughts to myself in public, because people around me, including some I love, were begging me not to speak. So I watched from the sidelines as women with everything to lose rallied, in Scotland and across the UK, to defend their rights. My guilt that I wasn’t standing with them was with me daily, like a chronic pain.”

Elsewhere in the extract, Rowling reveals that her views have affected some of her working relationships, writing: “People who’d worked with me rushed to distance themselves from me or to add their public condemnation of my blasphemous views (though I should add that many former and current colleagues have been staunchly supportive). In truth, the condemnation of certain individuals was far less surprising to me than the fact that some of them then emailed me, or sent messages through third parties, to check that we were still friends.”

“Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”

Rowling first shared her gender-critical views publicly in 2019 while defending Maya Forstater, a British researcher whose contract at a think tank was not renewed after she made unsupportive statements about gender diversity. The move sparked a high-profile legal case and significant debate on free speech and trans rights. Rowling tweeted at the time: “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.”

Then, in a 2020 series of tweets, she took issue with the phrase “people who menstruate” in an op-ed title. “‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?” she said.

“Bring on the court case”

In 2020, Rowling also tweeted: “If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction. 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.”

The star has made many such public statements since, including when she claimed in 2023 that she’d “happily do two years [in prison] if the alternative is compelled speech and forced denial of the reality and importance of sex. Bring on the court case, I say. It’ll be more fun than I’ve ever had on a red carpet.”

Last month Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe restated his support for “all” LGBTQ people, adding that JK Rowling’s views make him “really sad.”

Radcliffe, who starred in eight films based on Rowling’s best-selling book series, made the rare comments in an interview with The Atlantic.

“I do look at the person that I met, the times that we met, and the books that she wrote, and the world that she created, and all of that is to me so deeply empathic,” the actor told the outlet.

Elsewhere in the interview, the Kill Your Darlings star said: “Jo, obviously Harry Potter would not have happened without her, so nothing in my life would have probably happened the way it is without that person. But that doesn’t mean that you owe the things you truly believe to someone else for your entire life.”

Speaking of his co-stars Rupert Grint and Emma Watson, who are also publicly supportive of trans people, Radcliffe went on: “There’s a version of ‘Are these three kids ungrateful brats?’ that people have always wanted to write, and they were finally able to. So, good for them, I guess.”

Concluding his thoughts, the star said: “I will continue to support the rights of all LGBTQ people, and have no further comment than that.”

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