Daniel Radcliffe and JK Rowling in Twitter row over transgender identity The Times 09.06.20

The original article is here.

The author of the Harry Potter books and the actor who played the boy wizard have been brought together in a new drama. This time, however, the magic has been replaced by accusations of transphobia.

Daniel Radcliffe, who appeared in the eight Harry Potter films, has apologised on behalf of JK Rowling after she tweeted about the importance of biological sex. In a show of support for those offended by Rowling’s comments, the actor said he hoped that it would not “taint” the stories after the author attracted criticism from trans groups.

Rowling wrote on June 6 that she was puzzled by a headline on an article about creating a more equal world that referred to “people who menstruate”.

“I’m sure there used to be a word for those people,” she wrote. “Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?” When others replied that she was being transphobic, she argued that biological sex was meaningful to her and other women despite claims by some trans commentators that it was unimportant.

Radcliffe, who supports the Trevor Project, a suicide prevention charity, responded that “transgender women are women” regardless of biology.

“Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional health care associations who have far more expertise on this subject matter than either Jo or I,” he wrote in a blog post for the project.

Radcliffe, 30, said that he owed his career to the author and that his response was not intended as “in-fighting between JK Rowling and myself”.

He cited figures from the charity that suggested 78 per cent of transgender and non-binary youth had reported being the subject of discrimination because of their gender identity.

“It’s clear that we need to do more to support transgender and non-binary people, not invalidate their identities, and not cause further harm,” he added.

He added: “I really hope that you don’t entirely lose what was valuable in these stories to you. If these books taught you that love is the strongest force in the universe, capable of overcoming anything; if they taught you that strength is found in diversity, and that dogmatic ideas of pureness lead to the oppression of vulnerable groups; if you believe that a particular character is trans, non-binary or gender fluid, or that they are gay or bisexual; if you found anything in these stories that resonated with you and helped you at any time in your life — then that is between you and the book that you read, and it is sacred. And in my opinion nobody can touch that. It means to you what it means to you and I hope that these comments will not taint that too much.”

Rowling’s comments were described as a “slap in the face” by Scarlet Marie, a Harry Potter fan who recently came out as a trans woman. “Harry had all of this power and a world awaiting him, but he hid away. I related to that,” she told Radio 1 Newsbeat.

The debate attracted further attention when the broadcaster Jonathan Ross first endorsed, then withdrew support for Rowling. Defending the author, Ross had tweeted that she was both right and magnificent. “For those accusing her of transphobia, please read what she wrote. She clearly is not.”

Then after one of his daughters, Honey Kinney Ross, had criticised Rowling, he added: “Those who know me will concede I try to be thoughtful & not a dick. Having talked to some people (OK, my daughters) re my earlier tweet, I’ve come to accept that I’m not in a position to decide what is or isn’t considered transphobic. It’s a wildly sensitive subject. Let’s keep talking.”

Rowling did not respond publicly to Radcliffe’s statement, but has said she stands by her comments. She tweeted: “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.”

In December Rowling, 54, who has 14.5 million followers on Twitter, was accused of being transphobic when she supported a researcher who was sacked after tweeting that transgender people cannot change their biological sex.

Rowling rows
Cultural appropriation
JK Rowling’s musings on the history of magic in North America, posted on her Pottermore website, drew criticism from a Native American campaigner who claimed that the author was engaging in “cultural appropriation”. Adrienne Keene said on Twitter that Rowling had no right to refer to stories about “skinwalkers”.

Scottish independence
Rowling, who has lived in Scotland for 27 years, donated to the Better Together campaign during the 2014 referendum on independence, when she argued that leaving the UK would be “a historically bad mistake”. The author provoked fury by accusing the pro-independence movement of being peppered with “blood and soil nationalists”.

Brexit
During the 2016 referendum Rowling endorsed a tweet by the Times columnist Hugo Rifkind that Vernon Dursley, Harry Potter’s reactionary uncle, would vote to leave. She responded: “True that.”

Jeremy Corbyn
Rowling was sceptical about his credentials as Labour leader. In a series of tweets in 2018 she wrote a biblical pastiche about “Saint Jeremy”, mocking his stance on Brexit.