The last number of years have seen growing rifts between transgender and feminist activists over the issues of female only spaces, women’s rights, and the idea of “gender-affirmative care”, which effectively argues that clinicians and society in general should agree with any statement a child makes about their gender identity, an approach which critics argue is leading to very young children being pushed towards gender transition.
The move came after Kerry Kennedy, daughter of Robert F. Kennedy and President of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (RFKHR), released a statement on the website of the organisation condemning Rowling for her “transphobic tweets and statements.” Kennedy also said that “J.K. Rowling’s attacks upon the transgender community are inconsistent with the fundamental beliefs and values of RFK Human Rights and represent a repudiation of my father’s vision.”
Rowling was awarded the Ripple of Hope award by RFKHR in December of last year. She was given the award due to her “dedicated work on behalf of children”, particularly her work with Lumos, an NGO which she founded in 2005 and which seeks to help children in orphanages or institutional care. Rowling described receiving the award as “one of the highest honours I’ve ever been given.”
The controversy started when Rowling responded to an article which had used the phrase “People who menstruate” in place of “women.” Rowling tweeted, “I’m sure there used to be a word for those people…Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?” Kennedy described that tweet as glib and dismissive about transgender identity.
Kennedy also took issue with an essay Rowling wrote explaining why she felt the need to talk about sex and gender issues. Rowling had used that essay to state that she believed that transgender people had a right to “live any way that feels authentic and comfortable to them” before saying that her own life had been shaped by her experience of being born biologically female and that it was not hateful to say that there are differences between those born female and those born male, regardless of their preferred gender.
Rowling responded, saying that Kennedy was wrong to say that she was transphobic, and that Rowling was a longstanding donor to LGBT charities. She said “I absolutely refute the accusation that I hate trans people or wish them ill, or that standing up for the rights of women is wrong, discriminatory, or incites harm or violence to the trans community…. I feel nothing but sympathy towards those with gender dysphoria.”
Rowling also added a note of caution, referencing the detransition movement and saying that “I believe the time is coming when those organisations and individuals who have uncritically embraced fashionable dogma, and demonised those urging caution, will have to answer for the harm they’ve enabled.”
Rowling closed her response to Kennedy by saying, “I am deeply saddened that RFKHR has felt compelled to adopt this stance, but no award or honour, no matter my admiration for the person for whom it was named, means so much to me that I would forfeit the right to follow the dictates of my own conscience.”
You can read Rowling’s full statement HERE
The statement from Kennedy can be read in full HERE.