JK Rowling says she knew trans views would make Harry Potter fans ‘unhappy’: ‘It has not been fun’

Author JK Rowling arrives at the RFK Ripple of Hope Awards in New York in 2019

JK Rowling has admitted that she knew her comments on transgender issues would make Harry Potter fans deeply unhappy.

In the latest episode of the Witch Trials of JK Rowling podcast, the author explained that she had anticipated a backlash to her views, but that there had been a “tonne of fans that were grateful that I said what I said”. 

In the fifth episode of the series, released on Tuesday (14 March), she spoke specifically about tweets she had made in 2019 and 2020, comments which made her divisive views about the trans community public for the first time. 

Speaking to the podcast’s host, former Westboro Baptist Church member Megan Phelps-Roper, Rowling explained that her first public comment on trans issues referred to Maya Forstater, who, in 2019, lost her job as a think-tank researcher over her own tweets about trans people. 

JK Rowling’s first tweets on the trans community

Maya Forstater lost her job at the Centre for Global Development after tweeting that transgender women could not change their biological sex, but won her claim at an employment tribunal on the grounds that her dismissal constituted discrimination against her beliefs.

JK Rowling expressed her support for Forstater, tweeting: “Dress however you please. Call yourself whatever you like. Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you. Live your best life in peace and security.

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“But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real? #IStandWithMaya #ThisIsNotADrill.”

Speaking on the podcast, Rowling explained that she knew Harry Potter fans would not agree with her views, and that it would have been easier not to speak out on the issue. 

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“When I first became interested, then deeply troubled by what I saw as a cultural movement that was liberal in its methods and very questionable in its ideas, I absolutely knew that if I spoke out, many folks would be deeply unhappy with me,” she said.

“I knew that because I knew… that they believe they were living the values that I had espoused in those books. I could tell that they believed they were fighting for underdogs and difference and fairness.

“And I thought it would be easier not to, you know, that this could be really bad. And honestly, it has been bad personally, it has not been fun.

JK Rowling during a red carpet event.
Harry Potter author JK Rowling. (Getty Images)

“Time will tell whether I’ve got this wrong. I can only say that I’ve thought about it deeply and hard and long. And I’ve listened, I promise, to the other side,” Rowling said.

“And I believe, absolutely, that there is something dangerous about this movement, and it must be challenged.”

She added that she had been “considerate enough” to inform her management team she was about to post her first tweet, “because I knew it’s going to cause a massive storm”.

Following her post about Forstater, the author went on to write several more tweets about the trans community, including criticism of gender-neutral terms for people who have periods, before posting a lengthy essay about her views on the trans community, entitled TERF Wars.

Along with LGBTQ+ fans, several cast members of the Harry Potter film franchise, including the three main stars, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson, publically criticised Rowling’s views.

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Rowling, however, explained on the podcast that lots of fans support her, and that her views on the trans community aligned with messages in the Potter stories.

“I’m constantly told that I have betrayed my own books, but my position is that I’m absolutely upholding the positions that I took,” she said.

“My position is that this activist movement in the form that it’s currently taking, echoes the very thing that I was warning against in Harry Potter.”

She added: “But at the same time, I have to tell you, a tonne of fans were still with me… in fact, a tonne of Potter fans are grateful that I said what I said.”

Those who were unwilling to engage or debate with her on the issue were “intellectually incredibly cowardly”, she stated.

“I am fighting what I see, as a powerful, insidious misogynistic movement that I think has gained huge purchase in very influential areas of society. I do not see this particular movement as either benign or powerless.

“I stand with the women who are fighting to be heard against the threat of loss of livelihood and threats to their personal safety.”

JK Rowling posing for a photo.
JK Rowling has been criticised for her stance on trans rights in the past. (Getty Images)

The Witch Trials of JK Rowling is billed as an audio documentary examining “some of the most contentious conflicts of our time through the life and career” of JK Rowling.

Host Phelps-Roper has also spoken to trans YouTuber Natalie Wynn, known as ContraPoints, who now states that she regrets appearing on the podcast.

After the interview, Wynn has said she felt “used” and that agreeing to chat with Phelps-Roper was a serious lapse in judgment after she was grilled about her own transition for a “pretty miserable three hours”. 

In a previous episode, Rowling said she felt a “moral obligation” to express her views on trans issues, despite people in her life begging her not to. 

She added that she “never set out to upset anyone”, and that she has been profoundly misunderstood on the issue.

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