trans rights

What Is J.K. Rowling Talking About?

Photo: John Phillips/Getty Images

On Thursday, the billionaire author of the Harry Potter franchise, J.K. Rowling, found herself at the center of controversy yet again, after tweeting in support of Maya Forstater, a researcher who was fired after insisting that a person cannot change their biological sex. In the post, Rowling asserted that Forstater was fired for “stating that sex is real” — a statement that many read as explicitly transphobic.

Forstater had been employed at a think tank that focuses on poverty and inequality; in March, the organization declined to renew her contract after finding “offensive and exclusionary” language in some of her tweets. (Among other things, she has tweeted that “men cannot change into women.”) The hashtag #IStandWithMaya refers to a court case Forstater filed in London against her former employer — and which she lost on Wednesday. In a 26-page ruling, the judge wrote that Forstater is “absolutist in her view of sex, and it is a core component of her belief that she will refer to a person by the sex she considered appropriate even if it violates their dignity and/or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.” Forstater responded to the ruling by telling the Guardian, “I struggle to express the shock and disbelief I feel at reading this judgment,” adding that she believes “sex is a biological fact, and is immutable.”

This belief is a tenet of trans-exclusionary radical-feminist (TERF) politics — click on the hashtag “IStandWithMaya” and you will be immersed in a sea of anti-trans sentiment ranging from the explicit to the thinly veiled — and Rowling’s tweet strongly suggests a deep sympathy with this ideology. Note that she doesn’t merely write that Forstater should be allowed to keep her job, but also implies that her views are unassuming and agreed upon. LGBTQ civil-rights organizations like the Human Rights Campaign would beg to differ.

What Is J.K. Rowling Talking About?