J.K. Rowling Defends Woman Who Loses Position Due To Transgender Comments

Erik Pendzich/Rex/Shutterstock

Dec 19, 2019

Posted by: Emma Pocock

Fans, J.K. Rowling, News

Content warning: Descriptions of comments ruled discriminatory and transphobic

**Note: this piece is being updated with information and reactions as the story develops**

Today, J.K. Rowling tweeted her support for researcher Maya Forstater, who lost her position at an international thinktank due to comments made on social media about transgender and non-binary peoples, found by an employment judge to be “absolutist” and “offensive and exclusionary”.

Forstater had an ongoing contract as a visiting fellow at international thinktank, the Centre for Global Developemt (CGD), which campaigns against poverty and inequality. Forstater’s contract at the thinktank was not renewed in March due to her publicising her views of gender on social media. Recently, the tax expert lost a test case at an employment tribunal, and Rowling today (December 19th 2019) tweeted her support for Forstater’s case, saying #IStandWithMaya:

Rowling previously came under fire on social media for ‘liking’  tweets and ‘following’ accounts sharing transphobic views, and via social media associating with a group of feminists known as TERFs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists), a rising group previously explored by the New York Times.

 

Forstater was accused of using “offensive and exclusionary” language, opposing government proposals to reform the Gender Recognition Act, which aims to allow people to self-identify, which Stonewall says “governs how trans people can have their identity legally recognised”.

Saying in tweets “men cannot change into women” and highlighting her opinions on the distinction between sex and gender, Forstater defended her claims, and a preliminary hearing asked whether her comments on Twitter should be defended under the Equality Act of 2020. Judge Tayler refuted this in a 26 page judgment:

“I conclude from … the totality of the evidence, 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. The approach is not worthy of respect in a democratic society.”

Forstater responded to the ruling as follows:

“I struggle to express the shock and disbelief I feel at reading this judgment, which I think will be shared by the vast majority of people who are familiar with my case.

“My belief … is that sex is a biological fact, and is immutable. There are two sexes, male and female. Men and boys are male. Women and girls are female. It is impossible to change sex. These were until very recently understood as basic facts of life by almost everyone.

“… This judgment removes women’s rights and the right to freedom of belief and speech. It gives judicial licence for women and men who speak up for objective truth and clear debate to be subject to aggression, bullying, no-platforming and economic punishment.

“I will consider the judgment closely with my legal team to determine what can be done to challenge it.”

The case has caused much debate over questions of free speech, intersectional feminism, and support and protection of transgender and non-binary peoples.

According to The Guardian, a solicitor advising the CGD on the case, Louise Rea, stressed the ‘enormous pain that can be caused by misgendering a person’. Rea said on the ruling:

“Judge Tayler held that ‘the claimant’s view, in its absolutist nature, is incompatible with human dignity and fundamental rights of others’. 

“A number of commentators have viewed this case as being about the claimant’s freedom of speech. Employment Judge Tayler acknowledged that there is nothing to stop the claimant campaigning against the proposed revisions to the Gender Recognition Act or, expressing her opinion that there should be some spaces that are restricted to women assigned female at birth. However, she can do so without insisting on calling transwomen men. It is the fact that her belief necessarily involves violating the dignity of others which means it is not protected under the Equality Act 2010.”

The judgment also revealed that Forstater had written the following in a letter to Anne Main MP, in an attempt to block the new Gender Recognition Act:

Screenshot 2019-12-19 16.39.03

The judgment also states accounts of Forstater purposefully and publicly misgendering others, as well as stating various views publicly that were deemed harmful and exclusionary at tribunal.

Full claims can be read in the employment judgment here.

J.K. Rowling has not tweeted since at this present time (1:00pm EST). Members of the fan community have been giving their opinions on the issue, including LeakyCon guest, activist (a previous Director at the Harry Potter Alliance!) and online Creator Jackson Bird, who wrote Sorted, a ‘transgender memoir’ about finding oneself and Bird’s journey to coming out as a transgender man in his mid-twenties:

The Leaky Cauldron stands with members of the transgender, non-binary and LGTBQ+ communities and those within the fandom today. Stand by as we update this piece as news develops.

UPDATES:

Reactions of the fandom are rolling in, hugely in support of transgender and non-binary communities:

 

 

Evanna Lynch also responded after fans called upon actors to voice their views.

PotterCast just released an episode  with aforementioned Jackson Bird, giving the low-down on the situation from the perspective of a transgender dedicated member of the Harry Potter community:

If you are a member of the trans / non-binary community, or a member of another vulnerable community and would like to speak about how we can better elevate and protect minority communities in the fandom, please email [email protected], we’d love to hear your story and words on this issue.





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The Leaky Cauldron is not associated with J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros., or any of the individuals or companies associated with producing and publishing Harry Potter books and films.