Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling is again facing backlash online, this time for defending a woman who lost a chance to have her contract renewed with an employer for repeatedly posting anti-trans rhetoric on her Twitter account. In doing so, Rowling engaged in some of that transphobic language herself, confirming concerns that many transgender individuals and allies had that the author is on the wrong side of history on this topic.

The woman Rowling has sided with is Maya Forstater, who sued her employer after they decided not to renew her contract following the discovery of transphobic tweets that included “men can not change into women.”

This kind of misrepresentation of trans people is common among a subsection of feminists known as TERFs, or trans-exclusionary radical feminists.

Forstater argued that her tweets were protected speech under the U.K.’s 2010 Equality Act, but the judge overseeing the case has ruled against her.

“I conclude from … the totality of the evidence, that [Forstater] is absolutist in her view of sex and it is a core component of her belief that she will refer to a person by the sex she considered appropriate even if it violates their dignity and/or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment,” Judge James Tayler stated in his ruling. “The approach is not worthy of respect in a democratic society.”

In response to this, Rowling tweeted with the hashtag #IStandWithMaya, claiming that she had been fired for “stating that sex is real.”

This is a misrepresentation of the tweets that resulted in a company declining to renew Forstater’s contract and also confirms that Rowling believes in what Judge Taylor called “absolutist” views of sex that are typical of TERFs and come down to a refusal to recognize trans women as women.

This is not the first time Rowling has been accused of transphobia. In 2018, she caught heat for liking a tweet that called trans women “men in dresses,” though she claimed that liking the tweet was a mistake. Some questioned how such a mistake could be made, and renowned writer and journalist Katelyn Burns, a trans woman herself, investigated.

Burns found that Rowling had previously liked a transphobic Medium article and pointed to transphobic tropes in Rowling’s 2014 crime fiction novel The Silkworm. Although Burns concluded that Rowling is no more transphobic than most people, she suffered harassment for her investigative piece from stalwart Harry Potter fans.

This latest tweet, however, pushes Rowling into a new category of those committed to misgendering trans people, which is an extremely harmful action to a group that already faces massive prejudice and discrimination.

And trans people, particularly trans women, are feeling very hurt today.

Harry Potter and the whole crew would disapprove, Rowling.

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*First Published: December 19, 2019, 11:34 am