Harry Potter author JK Rowling faces intense backlash for saying 'sex is real'

Writer J.K. Rowling
Writer J.K. Rowling | Reuters/Suzanne Plunkett

The author of the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling, is facing intense backlash online for reiterating that biological sex is real, comments many are now deeming hateful and "transphobic."

In a thread of tweets Saturday, the author, who had previously voiced similar sentiments online, stressed that speaking about biological sex is not hateful and that being female has profound meaning.

"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," Rowling said.

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"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 — ie, to male violence — ‘hate’ trans people because they think sex is real and has lived consequences — is a 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."

As of Tuesday morning, her first comment had over 200,000 likes, and approximately 92,000 retweets.

Commenting on a May 28 Devex op-ed that contained the phrase "people who menstruate" in the headline, Rowling also quipped in a separate Saturday tweet: "I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?"

The author also posted a May 2019 article from The Velvet Chronicle by Julia Diana Robertson who published a letter form an anonymous lesbian who wrote that she has never been more terrified as she was in the past few years living around LGBTQ-identified people. Lesbians were being viciously harassed and targeted by men, some of whom claim to be lesbians, she explained.

Numerous media articles calling Rowling "anti-trans" and "transphobic" soon surfaced and LBGT activists blasted the author.

"JK Rowling continues to align herself with an ideology which willfully distorts facts about gender identity and people who are trans. In 2020, there is no excuse for targeting trans people," tweeted the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, who called the Rowling's remarks "inaccurate and cruel."

Many of the replies to Rowling's latest posts referred to her as a TERF, which stands for "trans-exclusionary radical feminist" and is considered a derogatory slur to refer to left-wing feminists who reject the notion that males can become women merely by identifying as such.

Concurrent with the ascendency of and increased emphasis on transgender-related policy within LGBT activism is the emerging belief in those circles that sex exists on a spectrum, is not binary, and is not determined by sex organs and other observable characteristics. Often cited as evidence of these claims are individuals with disorders of sexual development, which are also known as intersex conditions.

Writing in defense of Rowling in Quillette Sunday, biologist Colin Wright noted that the claims of contemporary gender activists "follow from fundamental misunderstandings about the nature of biological sex, which is connected to the distinct type of gametes (sex cells) that an organism produces."

"As a broad concept, males are the sex that produce small gametes (sperm) and females produce large gametes (ova). There are no intermediate gametes, which is why there is no spectrum of sex. Biological sex in humans is a binary system," he said.

In December, Rowling spoke out in defense of tax researcher Maya Forstater — a woman who was ousted from her job for writing on Twitter that men who identify as transgender are not women — following an employment tribunal ruling where the judge said Forstater's views were "not worthy of respect."

"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 their jobs for stating that sex is real? #IStandWithMaya #ThisIsNotADrill," Rowling said at the time.

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