Author J.K. Rowling received a lot of backlash on Twitter this Sunday for sending out a series of tweets around gender and sex. It upset a lot of users who went on to label her as “trans phobic” or a trans-exclusionary radical feminist (TERF).
J.K. Rowling is the author of best-selling series, Harry Potter, amongst many other works. On Saturday afternoon, the 54-year-old author shared an opinion article from a global health website titled “Creating a More Equal Post-COVID-19 World for People Who Menstruate.”
Rowling enraged several people with her poor comment on the article that stated that 1.8 billion people, including, girls, women, and gender non-binary people, menstruate.
“People who menstruate. I am sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?” said J.K. Rowling.
What the article was about
The article outlined “many gendered aspects of the pandemic, including increased vulnerabilities to gender-based violence during lock downs, and the risks faced by primary caretakers.” It stated that an estimated 1.8 billion girls, women and gender non-binary persons menstruate. The article added that this “has not stopped because of the pandemic.” They still require the necessary “menstrual materials, safe access to toilets, soap, water and private spaces.” Now more so than ever, since “the lock down living conditions have eliminated privacy for many populations.”
Backlash from users
Several users found J.K. Rowling’s tweet in poor taste and quite insensitive. Because not only was it exclusionary, but it also didn’t acknowledge the fact that transgender people can also menstruate. Many medical experts have contended that trans people menstruate but face challenges such as feeling alienated in accessing menstrual hygiene products as they are categorised as women’s products.
Unfortunately, the author didn’t stop there. Despite the backlash she received for her initial comments, J.K. Rowling added fuel to the fire by sending out another barrage of tweets that did nothing to improve her image.
In a follow-up tweet, the author wrote, “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.”
People on Twitter were quick to call Rowling’s comments “anti-trans” and “trans phobic.” Many tried to put it out there that transgender people, non-binary people and gender-nonconforming people can also menstruate. Users also pointed out that the author is repeatedly failing to read the room. Saying that this isn’t the time to be putting down Trans people. Instead she should be using her platform to educate, spread awareness and fight for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Criticism from celebrities from organisations
Singer and music producer, Brad Walsh, also responded to the author’s claims on Twitter. “You’re a smart person. How do you not yet understand the difference between sex and gender? The only way I can possibly explain your ignorance at this point is wilfulness. It’s incredibly disappointing.”
GLAAD, an organisation for LGBTQ+ rights were quite disappointed in the author. ”J.K. Rowling continues to align herself with an ideology which wilfully distorts facts about gender identity and people who are trans. In 2020, there is no excuse for targeting trans people.”
Human Rights Campaign, the largest advocacy group for LGBTQ+ rights in the US, also criticised Rowling’s latest tweets. They said that several medical and other scientific experts validated and affirmed trans people.
Comedian Mae Martin tweeted: “I can’t believe that in this moment J.K. Rowling has decided the most useful thing to tweet to her 14.5 million followers is wilfully pedantic, gender-critical TERF nonsense. The world is full of threats worth fighting against. Trans people are not a threat.”
Rowling’s complicated past with the Trans community
This may or may not come as a surprise to few, but this isn’t the first time that Rowling has struck the wrong nerve with the trans community. TERF, or trans-exclusionary radical feminist, is a term that the author has been referred to as before. In December of last year, the author faced a lot of criticism after she publicly showed her support for British researcher Maya Forstater. Maya Forstater, also called a trans phobic, was fired from a think tank for saying that men could not change into women.
The author was upset that Maya was laid off and decided to publicly support the fellow author. “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 jobs for stating that sex is real?”
In 2018, J.K. Rowling again faced flak for liking a tweet that called trans women “men in dresses.” At the time, the author’s publicity team had said she liked the tweet in a clumsy and “middle-aged moment.”
Despite the ongoing controversy, Rowling decided to respond after being labelled a ‘TERF’. “I’ve spent much of the last three years reading books, blogs and scientific papers by trans people, medics and gender specialists. I know exactly what the distinction is. Never assume that because someone thinks differently, they have no knowledge.”