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J.K. Rowling vs. transgender people

J.K. Rowling is a British author and the most prominent anti-transgender activist in the world. Rowling has used wealth and influence to cause tremendous harm to the trans rights movement worldwide, but particularly in the United Kingdom.

Rowling’s primary anti-trans focuses are:

  • supporting sex segregation
  • opposing legal recognition on the basis of gender identity and expression
  • opposing value-neutral and inclusive scientific language about human anatomy and body functions
  • supporting the “LGB erasure” conspiracy theory, particularly the conspiracy that gender-affirming care is “conversion therapy” on lesbian, gay, and bisexual minors
  • opposing those who note Rowling is transphobic or a TERF, often threatening legal action against those who do
  • opposing the “new trans activism”


Joanne “Jo” Rowling was born on July 31, 1965 in Yate, Gloucestershire, England. Rowling’s parents both served in the British Navy before marrying. Rowling has a younger sibling Dianne. Rowling earned a bachelor’s degree from Exeter in 1987.

Rowling came up with the idea for the Harry Potter series in 1990. After holding several unfulfilling jobs, Rowling moved to Portugal to teach English. There, Rowling met journalist Jorge Arantes, and they married in 1992. They had a child Jessica in 1993, but Rowling left because the relationship was abusive. They divorced in 1995. Rowling earned a teaching certificate in 1996 and began teaching.

The first Harry Potter book was published in 1997. Since publication of the final book in 2007, the series has amassed a huge fandom for the franchise, including movie series, plays, video games, amusement park tie-ins, and extensive merchandizing. Rowling is one of the most successful authors in the history of publishing.

In 2001 Rowling married physician Neil Murray and purchased Killiechassie House, a Scottish estate. They have two children: David (born 2003) and Mackenzie (born 2005).

Rowling subsequently wrote additional children’s books and adult novels, including some under the pen name Robert Galbraith.

Anti-transgender activism

After a series of increasingly anti-transgender statements, in 2022 Rowling came out against the proposed Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill. As Rowling’s anti-trans views became more strident, Rowling began openly supporting anti-transgender extremists in the UK and beyond.

Harper’s letter (2020)

Rowling signed the Harper’s letter with many other leading lights of anti-transgender extremism, including Meghan Daum, Caitlin Flanagan, David Frum, Michelle Goldberg, Jonathan Haidt, Katie Herzog, Phoebe Maltz Bovy, Steven Pinker, Katha Pollitt, Kat Rosenfield, Jesse Singal, Bari Weiss, Matthew Yglesias, Emily Yoffe, and Cathy Young.

2020 open letter

A 2020 Sunday Times open letter supporting Rowling was signed by many key figures in anti-transgender activism, including Lionel Shriver, Graham LinehanStella O’Malley, Nina PaleyJulie BindelAbigail ShrierLisa MarchianoZubyDebbie HaytonJonny BestSam Leith, Malcolm Clark, and Jess de Wahls.

Beira’s Place (2022)

Rowling also created Beira’s Place, a privately funded trans-exclusionary help center for cisgender women who have experienced sexual assault or domestic violence. Rowling was enraged that other local resources offered help to trans people who had been sexually assaulted. Rowling was also enraged that the Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre’s CEO Mridul Wadhwa is transgender. In a 2021 interview, Wadhwa said “this is about who has power and who doesn’t,” adding:

Sexual violence happens to bigoted people as well. And so, you know, it is not discerning crime. But these spaces are also for you. But if you bring unacceptable beliefs that are discriminatory in nature, we will begin to work with you on your journey of recovery from trauma. But please also expect to be challenged on your prejudices, because how can you heal from trauma and build a new relationship with your trauma, because you can’t forget, and you can’t go back to life before traumatic incident or traumatic incidents. And some of us never, ever had a life before traumatic incidents. But if you have to reframe your trauma, I think it is important as part of that reframing, having a more positive relationship with it, where it becomes a story that empowers you and allows you to go and do other more beautiful things with your life, you also have to rethink your relationship with prejudice. Otherwise, you can’t really, in my view, recover from trauma and I think that’s a very important message that I am often discussing with my colleagues that in various places.

Wadhwa (2021)

Anti-trans supporters

Rowling’s supporters are anti-trans activists from across the political spectrum and include Pamela Paul, Kathleen Stock, Maya Forstater, Alison Bailey, Helen Joyce, Pamela Paul, Lianne Timmerman, Angela Wild, Suzanne Moore, Bari Weiss, and Julie Bindel.

2024 comments on Nazi persecution of trans people (2024)

On March 13, 2024, X user jaytuberr posted in a thread on trans healthcare, “The Nazis burnt books on trans healthcare and research, why are you so desperate to uphold their ideology around gender?” Rowling then responded, “How did you type this out and press send without thinking ‘I should maybe check my source for this, because it might’ve been a fever dream’?” Many people interpreted Rowling’s post as denial of the 1933 Nazi looting and burning of Magnus Hirschfeld’s clinical books and research on trans people and sexual minorities. Rowling stated in part: “I’m familiar with such activists’ assertions that transgender people have been uniquely persecuted and oppressed throughout history, but claims that trans people were ‘the first targets’ of the Nazis – a claim I refuted on X, and which led to these accusations – and that I ‘uphold [Nazi] ideology around gender’ is a new low.”


Rowling’s critics include numerous LGBT rights organizations, authors, actors who have appeared in filmed versions of Rowling’s books, and the vast majority of the trans community.

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Hayes, Britt (March 15, 2024). J.K. Rowling’s Transphobia Hits a New Low With Holocaust Denial. The Mary Sue

Rowling, J.K. (March 14, 2024). Statement from J.K. Rowling, 14th March 2024.

Montgomerie, Katy (June 15, 2020). Addressing The Claims In JK Rowling’s Justification For Transphobia. Medium

Romano, Aja (March 3, 2023). Is J.K. Rowling transphobic? Let’s let her speak for herself. Vox

Gardner, Abby (February 7, 2023). A Complete Breakdown of the J.K. Rowling Transgender-Comments Controversy. Glamour

Muir, Ellie (Feburary 20, 2023). A timeline of JK Rowling’s comments about women and transgender rights. The Independent

Chiu, Allyson (8 July 2020). Letter signed by J.K. Rowling, Noam Chomsky warning of stifled free speech draws mixed reviews. Washington Post. [archive

Milne, Amber; Savage, Rachel (11 June 2020). Explainer: J. K. Rowling and trans women in single-sex spaces: what’s the furore? Reuters

Brooks, Libby (11 June 2020). Why is JK Rowling speaking out now on sex and gender debate? The Guardian

Kottasová, Ivana; Andrew, Scottie (20 December 2019). J.K. Rowling’s ‘transphobia’ tweet row spotlights a fight between equality campaigners and radical feminists. CNN

Staff report (11 June 2020). JK Rowling responds to trans tweets criticismBBC News / Reuters

Staff report (4 January 2021). Feminist writer Judith Butler has given her theory on why JK Rowling has deemed it necessary to speak out onPink News.

Staff report (22 December 2020). BBC nominates J.K.Rowling’s controversial essay of trans rights for award. dw. [archive

Flood, Alison (9 October 2020). Stephen King, Margaret Atwood and Roxane Gay champion trans rights in open letter. The Guardian.

Rowley, Glenn (11 June 2020). Artists fire back at J.K. Rowling’s anti-trans remarks, share messages in support of the communityBillboard.

Siegel, Tatiana; Abramovitch, Seth (10 June 2020). Universal Parks responds to J.K. Rowling tweets: ‘Our core values include diversity, inclusion and respect.’ The Hollywood Reporter

Skrebels, Joe (1 October 2020). WB Interactive president responds to ongoing debate over supporting JK Rowling. IGN

Rosenblatt, Kalhan (10 June 2020). J.K. Rowling doubles down in what some critics call a ‘transphobic manifesto.’ NBC News

Petter, Olivia (17 September 2020). Mermaids writes open letter to JK Rowling following her recent comments on trans peopleThe Independent [archive]

Law, Katie (15 October 2020). JK Rowling and the bitter battle of the book world. Evening Standard

Hancock, Sam (27 April 2021). Maya Forstater: who is woman in employment tribunal over transgender comments?The Independent. [archive]

Thorpe, Vanessa (14 June 2020). JK Rowling: from magic to the heart of a Twitter storm. The Guardian [archive]

Yang, Maya (7 October 2021). ‘I’m team Terf’: Dave Chappelle under fire over pro-JK Rowling trans stance. The Guardian

Yasharoff, Hannah (30 December 2021). How the ‘Harry Potter’ reunion addresses author J.K. Rowling’s anti-trans controversy. USA Today

Shirbon, Estelle (10 June 2020). J.K. Rowling reveals past abuse and defends right to speak on trans issues. Reuters [archive]

(1 January 2021). ‘I don’t think JK Rowling is transphobic,’ says gender-fluid comedian Eddie Izzard”The Daily Telegraph. [archive]

(11 June 2020.). JK Rowling responds to trans tweets criticism. BBC News

Grant, Katie (22 March 2018). JK Rowling liked transphobic tweet in ‘middle-aged moment.’ i

(19 December 2019.). Woman sacked over trans tweets loses tribunal. BBC News  Archived 

Sommer, Marni; Kamowa, Virginia; Mahon, Therese (28 May 2020). Opinion: Creating a more equal post-COVID-19 world for people who menstruateDevex Archived 

Petter, Olivia (15 June 2020). JK Rowling criticised over ‘transphobic’ tweet about menstruation. The Independent Archived 

Moreau, Jordan (6 June 2020). J.K. Rowling Gets Backlash Over Anti-Trans Tweets. Variety Archived 

Avila, Pamela (6 June 2020). J.K. Rowling Faces Backlash Over Tweets Considered TransphobicE! OnlineArchived 

Harry Potter fan sites distance themselves from JK Rowling over transgender rights.” The Guardian. 3 July 2020. Archived 

Chilton, Louis (3 July 2020). Harry Potter fan sites distance themselves from JK Rowling over transgender commentsIndependentArchived 

Bui, Hoai-Tran (11 June 2020). The ‘Harry Potter’ Kids Are All Right: Emma Watson, Eddie Redmayne Condemn J.K. Rowling’s Trangender CommentsSlashFilm.comArchived

Haynes, Suyin (11 June 2020). Emma Watson, Eddie Redmayne and Other ‘Harry Potter’ Actors Voice Support for Transgender PeopleTime.

Lewis, Isobel (12 June 2020). Rupert Grint speaks out after JK Rowling’s comments about trans peopleThe Independent.

Radcliffe, Daniel (8 June 2020). Daniel Radcliffe Responds to J.K. Rowling’s Tweets on Gender Identity. The Trevor Project. Archived 

Malvern, Jack (13 June 2020). JK Rowling: flood of tweets reverses Noma Dumezweni’s praise of authorThe TimesArchived 

Hibberd, James (17 March 2021). Ralph Fiennes defends J.K. rowling amid trans controversy, says backlash is ‘disturbing’The Hollywood Reporter.

Shirbon, Estelle (10 June 2020). J.K. Rowling reveals past abuse and defends right to speak on trans issuesReuters.comArchived 

D’Alessandro, Anthony (10 June 2020). J.K. Rowling Defends Trans Statements In Lengthy Essay, Reveals She’s A Sexual Assault Survivor & Says “Trans People Need And Deserve Protection”Deadline.

Explainer: J. K. Rowling and trans women in single-sex spaces: what’s the furore?”Reuters. 11 June 2020

J K Rowling, predatory men and the nuance we’re all missing outThe Independent. 11 June 2020

The battle for Stonewall: the LGBT charity and the UK’s gender wars”New Statesman. 3 November 2021

An open letter to J.K. Rowling. Mermaids. 12 June 2020. Archived 

Moore, Matt (13 June 2020). Mermaids writes open letter to JK Rowling following her anti-trans tweetsGay TimesArchived 

Calvario, Liz (10 June 2020). GLAAD President Says J.K. Rowling’s Words Create Dangerous Environment for Transgender CommunityET OnlineArchived

Ferber, Alona (22 September 2020). Judith Butler on the culture wars, JK Rowling and living in “anti-intellectual times”New StatesmanArchived 

Siegel, Tatiana; Abramovitch, Seth (10 June 2020). Universal Parks responds to J.K. Rowling tweets: ‘Our core values include diversity, inclusion and respect’The Hollywood Reporter.

Chris Murphy (10 June 2020). Warner Bros. Finally Responds To J.K. Rowling’s Shocking Commitment to Being TransphobicVulture.

Ntim, Zac. Hagrid actor Robbie Coltrane says people accusing JK Rowling of transphobia ‘hang around waiting to be offended’InsiderArchived 

Succession star Brian Cox jumps to JK Rowling’s defence while lambasting inclusive language around menstruation. 24 September 2020. Archived 

Thorpe, Vanessa (14 June 2020). JK Rowling: from magic to the heart of a Twitter stormThe ObserverArchived from the original on 4 July 2020. Retrieved 6 July 2020. Arrayed on Rowling’s side are some of the veteran voices of feminism, including the radical Julie Bindel, who spoke out in support this weekend: “Her political position is nothing to do with transgender issues. She has always been a feminist and she has inspired generations of young women and men to look into issues of sex-based discrimination,” she told the Observer.

Hirsi Ali, Ayaan (25 June 2020). J.K. Rowling’s lonely fight for women’s rightsThe Washington Examiner. Archived 

The winners:2020 Russell prize for best writing. BBC News. 21 December 2020. Archived 

Fitzsimons, Tim (19 June 2020). GOP senator quotes J.K. Rowling while blocking vote on LGBTQ billNBC NewsArchived 

Waterson, Jim (22 June 2020). Authors quit JK Rowling agency over transgender rightsThe GuardianArchived 

Waterson, Jim (23 July 2020). Children’s news website apologises to JK Rowling over trans tweet rowThe GuardianArchived 

Flood, Alison (28 August 2020). JK Rowling returns human rights award to group that denounces her trans view”The GuardianArchived 

A Statement from Kerry KennedyRobert F. Kennedy Human Rights website. 3 August 2020. Archived 

Statement from J.K. Rowling regarding the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Ripple of Hope AwardArchived 

JK Rowling’s latest book is about a murderous cis man who dresses as a woman to kill his victimsPinkNews. 14 September 2020. Archived 

Review: Yep, J.K. Rowling’s new thriller has transphobic elements. It’s also a crashing boreLos Angeles Times. 22 September 2020. Archived 

Kolirin, Lianne (15 September 2020). JK Rowling’s new book sparks fresh transgender rights row. CNN. Archived 

Flood, Alison (15 September 2020). JK Rowling’s Troubled Blood: don’t judge a book by a single reviewThe GuardianArchived 

Hellen, Nicholas (27 September 2020). Literati rally to JK Rowling’s defence in row over Cormoran Strike bookThe Sunday TimesArchived 

Letters to the Editor. The Sunday Times. 27 September 2020. Archived

Eddie Redmayne condemns ‘vitriol’ aimed at JK Rowling after her trans rights commentsThe Guardian. 29 September 2020. Archived 

Cordero, Rosy. Eddie Izzard defends J.K. Rowling, says she doesn’t believe author is transphobicEW

‘I don’t think JK Rowling is transphobic,’ says gender-fluid comedian Eddie IzzardThe Telegraph. 1 January 2021.

Tony Blair: Without total change Labour will die. New Statesman. 11 May 2021.

‘I’m team Terf’: Dave Chappelle under fire over pro-JK Rowling trans stanceThe Guardian. 7 October 2021.

US quidditch leagues to change name in effort to break from JK Rowlingthe Guardian. 20 December 2021.

Michèle, Joséphine (1 January 2022). Why Harry Potter’s Reunion Mostly Ignores JK RowlingScreenRant

Return to Hogwarts: Critics bemoan Rowling’s absence in Harry Potter reunion. BBC News. 29 December 2021

Romano, Nick (30 December 2021). Why J.K. Rowling didn’t join the Harry Potter reunion for the Return to Hogwarts specialEntertainment Weekly

Russell, Rachel (12 March 2022). JK Rowling accuses Keir Starmer of ‘misrepresenting equalities law’ on trans women. Sky News

Chilton, Louis (25 April 2022). JK Rowling accused by Lesbian Visibility Week founder of ‘stirring hate within our community’The Independent

Bollinger, Alex (25 April 2022). JK Rowling now thinks she can say who’s a lesbian & who’s notLGBTQ Nation

Wakefield, Lily (26 April 2022). JK Rowling blasted as ‘perfect example of how not to be an ally’ by Lesbian Visibility Week founderPinkNews

Beal, James (19 May 2022). Nadhim Zahawi backs schoolgirl forced out after trans rowThe Times.

JK Rowling backs protest over Scottish gender billBBC News. 6 October 2022. Retrieved 28 December 2022. Author JK Rowling has supported a protest rally by wearing a T-shirt calling Scotland’s first minister a “destroyer of women’s rights”.

JK Rowling launches support centre for female victims of sexual violenceThe Guardian. 12 December 2022.

Alex Bollinger (19 December 2022). JK Rowling gleefully tweets anti-trans “holiday” message to fanLGBTQ Nation.

John Russel (13 December 2022). JK Rowling opened a rape crisis center that excludes trans womenLGBTQ Nation.

Ring, Trudy (19 December 2022). J.K. Rowling Lambasted for ‘Merry Terfmas’ TweetThe Advocate.

Duggan, Jennifer (28 March 2021). Transformative readings: Harry Potter fan fiction, trans/queer reader response, and J. K. Rowling. (PDF). Children’s Literature in Education53 (2): 147–168. doi:10.1007/s10583-021-09446-9.

Pape, Madeleine (2022). Feminism, trans justice, and speech rights: a comparative perspectiveLaw and Contemporary Problems85 (1): 215–240.

Pedersen, Sarah (2022). ‘They’ve got an absolute army of women behind them’: the formation of a women’s cooperative constellation in contemporary ScotlandScottish Affairs31 (1): 1–20. doi:10.3366/scot.2022.0394

Schwirblat, Tatiana; Freberg, Karen; Freberg, Laura (2022). Chapter 21: Cancel culture: a career vulture amongst influencers on social media. In Lipschultz, Jeremy Harris; Freberg, Karen; Luttrell, Regina (eds.). The Emerald Handbook of Computer-Mediated Communication and Social Media. Emerald Publishing Limited. doi:10.1108/978-1-80071-597-420221021

Steinfeld, Jemimah (2020). Not my turf: Helen Lewis argues that vitriol around the trans debate means only extreme voices are being heardIndex on Censorship49 (1): 34–35. doi:10.1177/0306422020917609

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