Dame Edna star Barry Humphries backed JK Rowling over trans views, leaked email shows

Dame Edna star Barry Humphries sent email of support for JK Rowling.

Tributes have poured in for the late Dame Edna Everage star Barry Humphries following the comedian’s death on Saturday (22 April), though for some, it’s been a regretful reminder of his history of anti-trans comments.

Humphries died in a Sydney hospital aged 89, following complications from the hip surgery he underwent earlier this year.

While Humphries was widely celebrated for his brand of sharp satire and for helping to bring drag into the mainstream, his six-decade career in the world of entertainment was undoubtedly tarnished by a string of anti-trans remarks in the late 2010s.

Now, a leaked email has added another stain to his otherwise vibrant legacy, as it reveals that he once wrote a letter of support aimed at JK Rowling in regards to her controversial stance on trans rights.

Journalist Ben Fordham revealed on the Australian radio show 2GB that Humphries once signed a petition in support of Rowling, following the outrage sparked by her 2020 ‘TERF Wars’ essay.

JK Rowling at a red carpet event.
JK Rowling has been criticised for her views on trans people. (Getty)

In the lengthy post on her website, Rowling outlined why she wanted trans women banned from single-sex spaces, and voiced concerns about the “increasing numbers [of trans people] who seem to be detransitioning” – despite data indicating that the number of people who detransition is extremely low.

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Fordham suggested that, in October 2020, four months after Rowling posted the essay, Humphries wrote in an email: “You have my signature [of support]. I’ve been banned by the Melbourne Comedy Festival, which Peter Cook and I launched … I’ve been attacked and branded fascist and transphobic by the ‘they’ brigade.”

He also described the response to Rowling’s comments as a “cowardly betrayal”. It’s not clear who the email was addressed to.

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In 2019, the Melbourne Comedy Festival removed Barry’s name from its top award, previously called the Barry Award, after 19 years.

The decision to wipe Humphries’ name from the award came after the comic suggested that trans people were “a fashion”.

The late Barry Humphries dressed as his drag alter-ego Dame Edna Everage, with purple hair, horn-rimmed glasses and a pink dress
Dame Edna creator Barry Humphries was criticised for his comments about trans people in the years before his death. (Getty/James D. Morgan)

During a 2016 interview with The Telegraph, Humphries shared his agreement with writer Germaine Greer, who had described transgender women as “men who believe that they are women and have themselves castrated”.

“I agree with Germaine! You’re a mutilated man, that’s all. Self-mutilation, what’s all this carry on?” he said.

In 2019, Humphries claimed his statements had been “grotesquely interpreted” but did not share more on his views.

Following his death and the revived discussions around his removal from the Melbourne Comedy Festival, Harry Potter actor and friend of Humphries, Miriam Margolyes, has spoken out in his defence.

“I don’t think he was properly treated particularly by the Melbourne [International Comedy] Festival who cancelled him rather late in life. How dare they,” she said in an interview with ABC News.

“I’m outraged by it and I want to speak out now to support him. It’s not about transgender. This was an artist. A great artist,” she added, before stating that she disagreed with his views, but still felt he had been mistreated. 

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The festival’s director has recently dismissed claims that Humphries was “cancelled” by the event, instead saying: “Many in our industry were baffled by [his] comments that lacked empathy … We can celebrate Barry’s artistic genius while not much liking some of his views.”

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