Author and philanthropist J.K. Rowling. (Getty Images)

Author and philanthropist J.K. Rowling. (Getty Images)

Over the past year, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling has been the recipient of much criticism surrounding her comments about biological sex and the transgender movement, criticism that was sparked again after she replied on July 19 to a July 18 tweet that said: “I wish you a very nice pipebomb in mailbox.”  

Rowling, whose Harry Potter books have sold more than 500 million copies, replied on July 19, “To be fair, when you can’t get a woman sacked, arrested or dropped by her publisher, and cancelling her only made her book sales go up, there’s really only one place to go.”

In the same thread, she responded to another comment inquiring whether the threat was about the author’s past comments on the transgender movement. Rowling posted, “Yes, but now hundreds of trans activists have threatened to beat, rape, assassinate and bomb me I’ve realised that this movement poses no risk to women whatsoever.”

On June 6, 2020, Rowling retweeted an op-ed piece entitled, “Creating a more equal post-COVID-19 world for people who menstruate,” apparently criticizing the fact that it did not use the word women.

“‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?” she wrote.

Despite an abundance of backlash, Rowling held to her words, and posted on Twitter again later that day saying, “If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives. It isn’t hate to speak the truth.”

She continued, “The idea that women like me, who’ve been empathetic to trans people for decades, feeling kinship because they’re vulnerable in the same way as women—i.e., to male violence—‘hate’ trans people because they think sex is real and has lived consequences—is nonsense.”

“I respect every trans person’s right to live any way that feels authentic and comfortable to them. I’d march with you if you were discriminated against on the basis of being trans. At the same time, my life has been shaped by being female. I do not believe it’s hateful to say so,” Rowling said.

On June 10, 2020, Rowling released a lengthy post on her website further explaining her views. In it, she expresses concern over the ease and lack of evaluative process that is associated with sex reassignment and how this poses a danger to biological women.

“The current explosion of trans activism is urging a removal of almost all the robust systems through which candidates for sex reassignment were once required to pass,” she wrote. “A man who intends to have no surgery and take no hormones may now secure himself a Gender Recognition Certificate and be a woman in the sight of the law. Many people aren’t aware of this.”

“So I want trans women to be safe,” she wrote. “At the same time, I do not want to make natal girls and women less safe. When you throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman…then you open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside. That is the simple truth.”

Daniel Radcliffe, the actor who portrays “Harry Potter” himself, publicly criticized Rowling’s words. “Transgender women are women,” he wrote in a statement released by the Trevor Project. “Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people…”

Emma Watson, who played “Hermione Granger,” also spoke out in response to Rowling. “Trans people are who they say they are and deserve to live their lives without being constantly questioned or told they aren’t who they say they are.”

Historically, Rowling has supported the LGBT community, and revealed in 2007 that one of her characters in the Harry Potter series, the wizard Dumbledore, is gay.

Her “rags to riches” story of triumph through single parenting and literary success has influenced women for years, and she was featured on the Carolina Women’s Center, The Center for Gender Equity as an inspiration for Women’s History Month in March 2016.