JK Rowling is trending on Twitter, but I'm afraid that has nothing to do with Harry Potter. On Dec. 19, Rowling showed her support of a London-based researcher who was fired from her job for posting contentious tweets, and fans are not happy about it. If you're confused why JK Rowling's tweet about Maya Forstater has caused such a stir, let me first explain who Forstater is and why she lost her position.
In July 2018, the United Kingdom's government asked the internet for feedback about how they might improve the UK's Gender Recognition Act, which went into effect back in 2005. Forstater — a researcher at an international think-tank called Centre for Global Development that campaigns against poverty and inequality — took to Twitter to voice her views on the proposed GRA reform. Currently, the GRA allows individuals who've received a medical diagnosis of gender dysmorphia to change their legal gender. Reforming the GRA could allow trans and non-binary individuals to receive legal recognition of their gender change through self-identification rather than medical diagnosis.
Forstater responded to the government consultation with a series of tweets that argued against self-identification. In her opinion, self-ID would "dramatically change scope of the law," and infringe on the rights of cis women.
Forstater tweeted in support of Fair Play For Women, a group that aims to "facilitate the much-needed factual discussion about the need for sex-based policies for women." Forstater said she shared the concerns of the organization, and she suggested that reforming the GRA threatened the safety of cis women. "Everyone's equality and safety should be protected, but women and girls lose out on privacy, safety and fairness if males are allowed into changing rooms, dormitories, prisons, sports teams," she concluded.
She continued to offer her opinions about sex and gender on Twitter throughout September 2018. On Sept. 9, she reposted an article about Karen White — a trans sex offender sent to a woman's prison — along with the comment, "This is appalling," and on Sept. 25, she criticized Pips Bunce, a gender fluid Credit Suisse director. Then, in March 2019, she published an article on Medium entitled "International development: lets talk about sex." In the piece, she argues against "redefining womanhood," saying that ensuring human rights shouldn't depend on accepting "the belief that men can become women." That same month, following an investigation into Forstater's tweets, her contract with the Centre for Global Development was not renewed, though she'd planned to stay with the organization for two more years.
In response, Forstater argued that her beliefs should be protected under the 2010 Equality Act, funding her legal challenge through a CrowdJustice campaign. She presented her case at an employment tribunal in November 2019, and a month later, she lost the test case after her opinions were ruled "absolutist." That's when Rowling came to her defense, personally tweeting for the first time since September.
After Forstater tweeted about the judgment on Dec. 18, Rowling responded a day later, suggesting that Forstater was unjustly fired. "Dress however you please," she tweeted to her 14.6 million followers. "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 their jobs for stating that sex is real?" A representative for Rowling declined Elite Daily's request for comment on her tweet.
The tweet has since garnered thousands of responses, and while some have applauded the author, most have condemned her for backing the woman whose views had been ruled "incompatible with human dignity and fundamental rights of others." Many have accused both Rowling and Forstater of being TERFs — trans-exclusionary radical feminists.
One fan shared disappointment that the same woman who'd "inspired millions of kids to be good to each other" is now failing to show her support of trans rights.
Another fan pointed out that, while "biological sex is absolutely real," it isn't a binary, and supporting anti-trans sentiments is not OK.
One mother expressed dismay on behalf of her trans daughter, saying Rowling seemed to believe that "discrimination against her [daughter] is perfectly fine behavior."
Back in March 2018, Rowling similarly dismayed fans when she liked a tweet that referred to trans women as "men in dresses." A rep for Rowling told Metro.co.uk that the like had been a mistake. "I’m afraid JK Rowling had a clumsy and middle-aged moment and this is not the first time she has favorited by holding her phone incorrectly," the rep claimed. Unfortunately, I don't think this latest tweet can be excused as a "middle-aged moment."