Everything you need to know about trans TV star India Willoughby, including JK Rowling conflict

India Willoughby

Transgender broadcaster, journalist and former co-host of Loose Women, India Willoughby, has been in the headlines this week due to a high-profile online altercation with Harry Potter writer J.K. Rowling.

JK Rowling misgendered Willoughby and accused her of “cosplaying a misogynistic male fantasy of what a woman is” in a social media post described by Willoughby as “grotesque”.

The Harry Potter author has faced repeated backlash in recent years because of her comments on the trans community, even saying she’d “happily do two years” in jail instead of using a trans person’s pronouns

But there is certainly much more to this trailblazing broadcaster than just her recent clash with Rowling: she’s been fighting the cause of trans rights publicly for many years, even receiving death threats at times due to her refusal to back down or stop being vocal about the key issues facing the transgender community.

Here’s everything you need to know about India Willoughby:

Britain’s first transgender national television newsreader

India Willoughby (R) wins the media moment of the year award and poses next to award presenter (L) Sarah Garrett at the Diversity in Media Awards on September 15, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)
India Willoughby (R) wins the media moment of the year award and poses next to award presenter (L) Sarah Garrett at the Diversity in Media Awards on September 15, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

India Willoughby presented the news in the North East and Cumbria as a TV reporter at ITV Border before she came out as a transgender woman and transitioned.

You may like to watch

She left that job after ten years of presenting the show but five years later, she re-joined as India following her gender reassignment surgery. In 2017, she joined 5News on Channel 5 – becoming Britain’s first transgender national television newsreader.

The same year, Willoughby was invited onto ITV daytime chat show Loose Women to tell her story as a guest – but due to the public’s positive response to her appearance, she was invited back to be a co-host.

In January 2018, she took part in Celebrity Big Brother, but received online hate and backlash due to her appearance. She was the first person evicted, on the 11th day of the programme.

India Willoughby enters the "Celebrity Big Brother" (Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images)
India Willoughby enters the “Celebrity Big Brother” house (Getty)

Nomination for Woman of the Year

In 2023, broadcaster and trans activist India Willoughby made history by becoming the first trans Women of the Year nominee.

In July, Willoughby was nominated for the accolade for her campaign work by a panel of women, but said she was unable to announce the honour, due to a threat made earlier in the year against her safety.

A death threat, which is being investigated by the Met Police, was allegedly delivered to her home by the neo-Nazi group National Action in May 2023.

Women of the Year – a non-profit organisation which held its first event in 1955 – aims to recognise, celebrate and advance the achievements of women in the UK and around the world.

The TV personality, who was the first trans woman to co-host all-woman talk show Loose Women, announced her nomination on X / Twitter in October.

Followers were quick to celebrate Willoughby’s achievement, writing that it was “well deserved”, but, predictably, it also attracted an anti-trans backlash.

“Your nomination is so well-earned. Proud moment for all your followers too. Thanks for representing like you do,” one person commented.

Another wrote: “Oh India, this has made my day! So well-deserved. Finally some positive acknowledgment for you and your dedication.”

One comment foreshadowed the backlash the nomination would stir, adding: “Oh this is going to create a Twitter storm! You ready for it, and well done!”

India Willoughby during a segment on Question Time.
India Willoughby received a torrent of abuse for making history as the first trans Women of the Year nominee. (BBC)

Lesbian former tennis star Martina Navratilova, who has campaigned against trans people participating in women’s sport, was among those to hit out at Willoughby on X, calling her a “nasty piece of work”.

In a second post about the nomination, Navratilova described Willoughby as “not anyone I would ever want to hang out with, to say the least”.

Willoughby told PinkNews she found the tennis star’s comments “very sad”.

“Today is a celebration of women from all walks of life, each with our own stories,” the broadcaster added.

“Although it may not seem it at times, the right are losing their war on culture. This isn’t the 1970s anymore.”

The 58-year-old dedicated her award to “every trans and gender diverse person in Britain, who has been made the target of the most disgusting, heavy-artillery propaganda campaign in British history”.

Question Time appearance

In February 2023, India Willoughby appeared on the BBC’s Question Time programme as a panellist, where she faced extreme hostility.

The programme included a discussion about the rights of trans women to enter single-sex spaces, as well as the controversy surrounding the UK government’s decision to block the Scottish Gender Recognition Reform bill. Many members of the audience made anti-trans remarks directly to Willoughby, who was praised for how she handled things.

India Willoughby reiterated that trans women are women, while telling viewers that there are “bad apples in all walks of life” and trans people should not be discriminated as a result.

Quitting GB News

In June 2021, India Willoughby dramatically quit as a commentator on GB News, accusing the news channel of “demonising trans people at every opportunity”.

Willoughby had originally agreed to appear on the controversial news channel GB News as a commentator, appearing weekly on the panel of Tonight Live with Dan Wootton on Sunday nights.

As a “patriotic” person with “right of centre” political views, she told PinkNews: “I was really looking forward to doing it… I thought it was going to be a breath of fresh air. I like debates.”

But the reality was not what she expected.

“It’s a monster,” she said. “It’s an absolute nightmare… For people like me, it’s opened the gates of hell.”

India Willoughby taking part in a GB panel news discussion online: the screen is split with Dan Wootton on the left, and India Willoughby with three other commentators on the right
India Willoughby’s tense and no-holds-barred appearance on Dan Wootton’s GB News show (GB News)

She went into Wootton’s show, after “a full week of anti-trans rhetoric”, “determined to put up a passionate defence”.

Her appearance started on a tense note when Wootton introduced her as “trans reporter India Willoughby”, to which she responded: “Well, it’s great to be on gay presenter Dan Wootton’s show.”

She said: “I told Dan that I was sick to the teeth of all the anti-trans stuff. The fact that they weren’t giving people a fair crack of the whip, that it was all negative, [that] trans people were portrayed as dangerous.

“I don’t want any part of it. So I’m quitting. It’s GB for ‘goodbye from me’.”

So, as you can see, there’s much more to transgender broadcaster and journalist India Willoughby than just her high-profile, recent fight with J.K. Rowling, and we will keep this article updated as time goes on.

Please login or register to comment on this story.