J.K. Rowling is making headlines for defending a woman whose employer declined to continue her contract over her anti-trans tweets.
On Thursday, the Harry Potter author tweeted #IStandWithMaya in response to the case of Maya Forstater. A visiting fellow at the Center for Global Development, Forstater’s contract with the nonprofit think tank was not renewed after she tweeted “men cannot change into women” in regards to the Gender Recognition Act, a proposed U.K. law that would allow transgender people to self-identify their gender.
Forstater appealed her former firm’s decision not to offer her future work, arguing that the statements were protected under the U.K.’s Equality Act 2010. In a Medium post published back in May, the former tax expert claimed that misgendering trans people is akin to “other religious or philosophical beliefs.”
However, an employment tribunal disagreed, ruling against Forstater. Earlier this week, Judge James Tayler stated that her anti-trans opinions are “absolutist” and do “not have the protected characteristic of philosophical belief.”
In tweeting her dissatisfaction with the verdict, Rowling argued that women were being forced “out of their jobs for stating that sex is real.”
“Dress however you please,” the acclaimed writer tweeted to her 14.6 million followers. “Call yourself whatever you like. Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you. Live your best life in peace and security.”
While her comments were met with glee from gender-critical British feminists — a group often referred to as Trans Exclusive Radical Feminists or “TERFs” — leading trans activists, writers, and public figures responded with shock and dismay. Charlotte Clymer, a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, called Rowling’s tweets “heartbreaking.”
“In fact, the World Health Organization — among countless other medical authorities — validate trans people in their authentic gender identity,” said Clymer. “It is quite clear you don't understand the first thing about the trans community or the science at play.”
“Trans people are who they say they are and deserve to live our lives with dignity,” added U.K.-based journalist Paris Lees, arguing that Rowling’s “words will hurt vulnerable young people and embolden their bullies.”
For some, the controversy will confirm long-term speculation that Rowling holds anti-trans views. In 2018, Rowling “liked” a post from a Twitter user complaining that support for transgender people amounts to “misogyny.” “Men in dresses get brocialist solidarity I never had,” the individual claimed.
A spokesperson for Rowling apologized for the tweet, calling it a “middle-aged moment” and an accidental “mistake,” but it wasn’t the author’s only misstep. The same year, she also “liked” a column by Times writer Janice Turner comparing transgender inmates housed in accordance with their gender identity to a “fox in a henhouse.” It’s unclear if that action was also brought on by middle age.
What’s more, them. contributor Katelyn Burns pointed out that a transgender woman is subjected to a rape threat in Rowling’s 2014 crime novel The Silkworm, published under the pen name Robert Galbraith.
Rowling has yet to respond to criticism of her most recent social media post. This story will be updated should she issue a statement.