JK Rowling: Hachette UK book staff told they are not allowed to boycott author over trans row

‘Freedom of speech is the cornerstone of publishing,’ said the company in a statement

Ellie Harrison
Wednesday 17 June 2020 11:49 BST
JK Rowling in lengthy explanation over transgender comments

JK Rowling’s publisher, Hachette UK, has told staff they are not allowed to refuse to work on her novels because they disagree with her views on transgender issues.

The news comes after a group of employees at the company objected to being asked to work on the author’s new children’s story, The Ickabog.

“Freedom of speech is the cornerstone of publishing,” said Hachette in a statement. “We fundamentally believe that everyone has the right to express their own thoughts and beliefs. That’s why we never comment on our authors’ personal views and we respect our employees’ right to hold a different view.

“We will never make our employees work on a book whose content they find upsetting for personal reasons, but we draw a distinction between that and refusing to work on a book because they disagree with an author’s views outside their writing, which runs contrary to our belief in free speech.”

Rowling has sparked a great deal of controversy in recent days, after appearing to take issue with a headline about “people who menstruate”. Following a backlash in which she was accused of being transphobic, Rowling then wrote a 3,700-word article on her website explaining that she was a survivor of sexual assault and that helped convince her of the need to maintain women-only spaces.

She also argued that biological sex is meaningful and claimed sections of the trans community are “seeking to erode women as a political and biological class”.

Her essay was not supported by Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson or Rupert Grint, who all rose to fame through their roles in the Harry Potter franchise.

This is the second controversy Hachette has found itself at the centre of in recent months. In March, it cancelled its plans to publish Woody Allen’s memoir after a staff mutiny.

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