Author J.K. Rowling raised a furor on Twitter on Sunday by sending out a series of tweets around gender and sex — which led to several users labeling her “transphobic” or a trans-exclusionary radical feminist (TERF).
The author of the Harry Potter series enraged several people with comment on an article that stated that 1.8 billion people — girls, women, and gender non-binary people — menstruate. “People who menstruate. I am sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?” said Rowling.
Several users immediately called out Rowling’s tweet as exclusionary, as it didn’t acknowledge the fact that transgender people can also menstruate. Many medical experts have contended that trans people menstruate but face challenges such as feeling alienated in accessing menstrual hygiene products as they are categorized as women’s products.
Rowling added fuel to the fire by sending out another barrage of tweets around biological sex. The author said “erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives. It isn’t hate to speak the truth.”
GLAAD, an organization for LGBTQ+ rights, said that Rowling’s comments targeted trans people and the author aligned herself with an ideology which “distorted” facts about gender identity and trans people.
Human Rights Campaign, the largest advocacy group for LGBTQ+ rights in the US, also criticized Rowling’s latest tweets and said that several medical and other scientific experts validated and affirmed trans people.
Rowling’s complicated relationship with trans people
This isn’t the first time that Rowling has faced backlash on her opinions on gender and sex. In December 2019, the author spoke out in support of Maya Forstater, who was fired from a think tank for saying that men could not change into women.
“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. But force women out of jobs for stating that sex is real?” Rowling had said in support of Forstater at the time.
In 2018, Rowling faced flak for liking a tweet that called trans women “men in dresses.” At the time, the author’s publicity team had said she liked the tweet in a clumsy and “middle-aged moment.”
According to Rowling’s critics, her comments belie the belief that trans women are not really women — thereby pinning the experience of being a woman on those who only biologically identify as “women.” However, gender identity and gender expression have been consistently cited by several leading human rights organizations as the real conception of gender.