Row over JK Rowling’s new novel on ‘transvestite killer’ The Times 15.09.20

The original article is here.

JK Rowling faced further allegations of transphobia last night after an early review of her latest crime thriller said it features a “transvestite serial killer”.

Troubled Blood is the latest addition to the Cormoran Strike detective novels. The story involves a male murderer who fetishises women’s clothing and disguises himself as a woman to abduct one of his victims.

In a review in The Sunday Telegraph, Jake Kerridge wrote: “One wonders what critics of Rowling’s stance on trans issues will make of a book whose moral seems to be: never trust a man in a dress.”

The details of the novel’s plot, which Rowling wrote under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, reignited the row over her views on transgender issues yesterday. She was accused of transphobia by several Twitter users, while the hashtag “RIPJKRowling” began trending on the social media platform.

One said: “In memory of JK Rowling. She ain’t dead, but she killed her own career by proudly hating trans people.” Another suggested that Rowling’s new book could cause “horrifying” damage to the transgender community.

A statement on Twitter clarified that the Harry Potter author “is not dead”. Rowling, 55, was defended by other users who tweeted the hashtag #IStandWithJKRowling and said she was being unfairly targeted with “disgusting” abuse.

The author has found herself embroiled in a bitter identity politics debate after expressing her views on transgender issues in June. It began when she wrote on Twitter that she was puzzled by a headline in an article on an international development website in which the phrase “people who menstruate” was used instead of “women”.

Following a backlash, the writer elaborated in a 3,700-word article on her website, where she described her empathy with trans women but criticised attempts to “erode ‘woman’ as a political and biological class”.

She also identified herself as a survivor of sexual assault in the essay and said that had helped to convince her of the need to maintain single-sex spaces.

Rowling denies being transphobic and has said that she has been overwhelmed by thousands of private emails of support from her followers, many from people who felt “vulnerable and afraid because of the toxicity surrounding this discussion”.

Since she entered the debate Rowling has been opposed by the lead actors in the Harry Potter films and has been criticised by fan sites devoted to her series of books. Support charities have said that her focus on criminality is demeaning to trans people, who are more likely to be victims of crime.

Watson, 30, tweeted: “Trans people are who they say they are and deserve to live their lives without being constantly questioned or told they aren’t who they say they are.” Grint, 31, said: “Trans women are women. Trans men are men.”

Robbie Coltrane, who played Rubeus Hagrid in the Harry Potter films, told Radio Times: “I don’t think what she said was offensive really. I don’t know why but there’s a whole Twitter generation of people who hang around waiting to be offended. They wouldn’t have won the war, would they?”

He acknowledged that he may come across as a “grumpy old man” but said that he had little time for people online who took offence. “Oh, get over yourself. Wise up, stand up straight and carry on,” Coltrane, 70, said.

Rowling declined to comment on the row yesterday. Last month she returned a human rights award given to her by the family of Robert Kennedy after they denounced her stance as transphobic. Rowling was criticised by Kerry Kennedy, the late senator’s daughter and president of the humanitarian organisation set up in his name.

Ms Kennedy, 60, wrote on the organisation’s website this month that she had spoken to the author “to express my profound disappointment that she has chosen to use her remarkable gifts to create a narrative that diminishes the identity of trans and nonbinary people”.

She added that the transgender community “disproportionately suffers from violence, discrimination, harassment, and exclusion” leading to suicide and mental and bodily harm.

“From her own words, I take Rowling’s position to be that the sex one is assigned at birth is the primary and determinative factor of one’s gender, regardless of one’s gender identity — a position that I categorically reject,” Ms Kennedy wrote.