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J.K. Rowling faces backlash over transgender comments

Actors Anthony Rapp and Sarah Paulson are among

Actors Anthony Rapp and Sarah Paulson are among artists who publicly denounced "Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling's comments on Twitter. Credit: Invision / AP / Joel C. Ryan

"Harry Potter" novelist J.K. Rowling, in attempting to explain a humorous comment many took as disparaging of the transgender community, opened herself to additional criticism from LGBTQ celebrities and others.

The author, 54, on Saturday had tweeted a link to an opinion piece titled, "Creating a More Equal Post-COVID-19 World for People Who Menstruate," and joked, "I'm sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?"

Following a backlash, Rowling less than a half-hour later began tweeting a semantic argument: "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."

Writing that she had "spent much of the last three years reading books, blogs and scientific papers by trans people, medics and gender specialists," Rowling added shortly afterward, "The idea that women like me, who've been empathetic to trans people for decades, feeling kinship because they're vulnerable in the same way as women - ie, to male violence - 'hate' trans people because they think sex is real and has lived consequences - is a nonsense. I respect every trans person's right to live any way that feels authentic and comfortable to them. 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."

Critics included "Star Trek: Discovery" actor Anthony Rapp, 48, who asked why Rowling was using her "powerful voice … to die on a hill of transphobia? … Is it really her belief that trans women somehow threaten her own selfhood?" In a subsequent tweet, Rapp noted, "There are a number of white dudes in my mentions saying something along the lines of 'I don't see what's transphobic about what #JKRowling said.' White dudes: your privilege is showing. A vulnerable community of people is telling you their lived experience. LISTEN TO THEM!!!"

Emmy Award-winner Sarah Paulson, 45, retweeted two expletive-filled comments critical of Rowling, and agreed, respectively, "Word. Goodnight and shut up" and "Oh yes. YES YESSSSSSS." "The Good Place" star Jameela Jamil, 34, challenged Rowling to "please share some of your $650million mega wealth with this charity," and linked to a GoFundMe page to help homeless African American trans women in Atlanta.

"If you are a TERF and following us, please ... [expletive] off and unfollow us," tweeted the Canadian indie-pop twin sisters Tegan and Sara Quin, 39, using the acronym for "trans-exclusionary radical feminists.”

"Trans women are women," tweeted "Queer Eye" and "Gay of Thrones" reality-TV star Jonathan Van Ness, 33.

The LGBTQ advocacy organization GLAAD, in a series of tweets, said, "We stand with trans youth, especially those Harry Potter fans hurt by her inaccurate and cruel tweets,” and added of another fantasy novelist, " 'Percy Jackson' author Rick Riordan isn't transphobic." Riordan, who turned 56 on Friday, asked on his own Twitter feed that readers "turn the attention to great #ownvoices trans/NB+ authors and buy their books instead."

Rowling had a defender in venerable British talk-show host and producer Jonathan Ross, 59, who called Rowling "both right and magnificent. For those accusing her of transphobia, please read what she wrote. She clearly is not." He replied to an accusatory comment, "I have never seen her call anyone worthless. Can you support that claim? Genuinely asking."

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