Succession’s Brian Cox ‘proud’ of Scotland’s gender bill – but defends JK Rowling’s trans views

Brian Cox on Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg. He is pictured wearing a brown suit and a maroon tie with a blue shirt.

Succession star Brian Cox has said people are “high and mighty” about JK Rowling and her views on trans people.

Speaking as part of a panel discussion on the BBC’s flagship politics show Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, Cox said Rowling is “entitled to her opinion” on the trans community.

“I don’t like the way she’s been treated actually,” Cox told Kuenssberg when asked about the Harry Potter author.

“I think she’s entitled to her opinion, she’s entitled to say what she feels – as a woman she’s very much entitled to say what she feels about her own body, and there’s nobody better to say that as a woman.

“So I do feel that people are being a bit high and mighty about their own attitude towards JK Rowling, quite frankly.”

Cox made his comments during a discussion about Scotland’s gender recognition reforms, which the country’s parliament passed in December, making it easier for trans people in the country to gain a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC).

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A photo of author JK Rowling wearing a low cut black dress as she poses for photos at the world premiere of Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore
JK Rowling’s comments about trans people has led to much online backlash over the last year. (Getty Images/Stuart C. Wilson)

Before the panel discussion, Labour leader said in an interview with Kuenssberg that he had “concerns” about the Scottish legislation. He also spoke out against a provision in the bill which would allow 16 and 17 year olds to get a GRC.

Brian Cox ‘proud’ of Scotland for passing gender reforms

When asked by Laura Kuenssberg what his impression was of Keir Starmer’s interview, Brian Cox said it was “mixed”.

“I’m very proud of Scotland for doing the gender identification act because I think that’s long needed and it’s a debate that has to happen,” the actor said.

“I do question the 16 thing but that’s my own personal feeling, but I do feel we need to address that and I think that’s absolutely right.”

Elsewhere, Tory MP Caroline Nokes was asked if she thinks the UK government should follow through on threats to block the Scottish bill by invoking Section 35 of the Scotland Act.

“I chair a select committee which recommended a raft of proposals which are broadly in line with what the Scottish government has done, so from my perspective I think it would be grossly hypocritical of me to say yes the government should block it,” Nokes said.

“But there are real legal and constitutional implications of this. I think using Section 35 of the Scotland Act on this particular issue… it absolutely looks like an odd issue to pick your constitutional fight over.”

Tory MP Caroline Nokes speaks at the 2022 PinkNews Awards.
Caroline Nokes says that trans people need to have their rights defended. (PinkNews)

JK Rowling came up again when transport secretary Mark Harper sat down with Kuenssberg to discuss strike action.

When questioned on whether the government would block Scotland’s gender recognition reforms, Harper said they would wait to receive “detailed legal advice” before making a decision.

[JK Rowling] has said some very reasonable things that people are entitled to say and she’s been treated very badly in response.

“I think the government has been very careful about how we talk about this. There are conflicting rights here – there are trans people who have suffered discrimination and want their rights respected, but equally I’ve listened very carefully to the concerns that many women have had about worries that they’ve got for their safety.”

He continued: “[JK Rowling] has said some very reasonable things that people are entitled to say and she’s been treated very badly in response.

“I think this discussion is best if we talk about it thoughtfully and carefully, which is why the government’s not rushing to a conclusion but it’s waiting to see that detailed legal advice and will then take a careful, thought through decision which we will then announce.”

Lack of trans representation is a ‘disgrace’

Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg has attracted criticism on social media for inviting an all-cis line-up to comment extensively on trans rights.

India Willoughby, a trans television presenter, told PinkNews that the lack of trans representation more broadly in British media “is nothing short of a disgrace”.

JK Rowling and the vicious gender critical movement are not the victims here. Defenceless and voiceless trans people are.

“I’m sick and tired of watching TV debates where we are dissected like lab rats by a room full of cis people,” Willoughby said.

She criticised Brian Cox for his comments, saying he knows “diddly-squat” about trans lives.

“JK Rowling and the vicious gender critical movement are not the victims here. Defenceless and voiceless trans people are.”

The discussion came about after Scotland passed its gender recognition reforms in December.

Placards promoting reform of gender recognition laws outside the Scottish Parliament, as inside MSPs prepare to debate the Gender Recognition (Scotland) Bill at Stage 1, on October 27, 2022.
Placards promoting reform of gender recognition laws outside the Scottish Parliament, as inside MSPs prepare to debate the Gender Recognition (Scotland) Bill at Stage 1, on October 27, 2022. (Ken Jack/Getty)

The bill is considered international best practice by many human rights advocates, but it’s proven controversial among “gender critical” campaigners.

The bill would demedicalise the gender recognition process for trans people in Scotland and would allow them to self-declare their own gender.

It would also allow 16 and 17 year olds to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC), although they must have lived in their acquired gender for a longer period of time than those over 18.

As Scotland moved closer to passing the legislation, Rowling emerged as one of its most vocal opponents, using her platform to speak out repeatedly against it.

This isn’t the first time Brian Cox has rushed to JK Rowling’s defence – in 2020 he blamed “cancel culture” for the wave of criticism she faced when she published a lengthy essay detailing her views on trans people.

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