JK Rowling and the row over trans rights: Timeline of author’s fall out with Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson

Rowling’s relationship with the actors who brought her beloved Harry Potter books to life appears irreparably broken

Emma Guinness
Friday 12 April 2024 08:22 BST
Anti-hate crime law protesters rally at Scottish Parliament as JK Rowling invites police to arrest her

JK Rowling has become an increasingly divisive figure in recent years because of her views on transgender people.

In an apparent bid to protect women’s rights, the author, 58, has repeatedly misgendered trans women in recent weeks and months – and recently implied the community was full of sexual predators.

Now, her relationship with the actors who brought her beloved Harry Potter books to life appears to be irreparably broken.

On Wednesday (10 April), the author suggested on X/Twitter that she will never “forgive” Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson for speaking out in favour of trans rights.

The First Waves of Controversy – 2019

Rowling first expressed gender-critical views back in 2019 when she spoke in favour of Maya Forstater after the researcher lost her job for her allegedly transphobic tweets.

But it wasn’t until the summer of 2020 that Rowling made her views on the subject explicit, retweeting an article about “people who menstruate” – taking umbrage with the inclusive choice to use the word “people”.

JK Rowling photographed with Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint at a ‘Harry Potter’ premiere in 2010 (David Fisher/Shutterstock)

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

The author followed this with a tweet where she insisted that gender identities do not exist on a spectrum.

“If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased,” she wrote.

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“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.”

This prompted widespread outrage from trans activists, Harry Potter fans and many of the actors who starred in the hit franchise from 2001 to 2011.

The author believes she is defending women’s rights by being gender-critical. (Yui Mok/PA Wire)

Rowling Condemned – 2020

Daniel Radcliffe, who played Harry Potter, was the first actor to speak out against Rowling’s stance on transgender identities.

“Transgender women are women,” he said in a 2020 statement released by The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention charity for young LGBT+ people.

“Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional health care associations who have far more expertise on this subject matter than either Jo or I.”

He was quickly backed up by Emma Watson (Hermione Granger), who made similar comments.

“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,” she wrote on X/Twitter.

“I want my trans followers to know that I and so many other people around the world see you, respect you, and love you for who you are.”

The film adaptations of Rowling’s books thrust Radcliffe, Watson and Grint into the limelight. (PA)

Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) also gave his support to the trans community, asserting, as Radcliffe had, that trans women are women.

“I firmly stand with the trans community and echo the sentiments expressed by many of my peers. Trans women are women. Trans men are men,” Grint told the Sunday Times .

“We should all be entitled to live with love and without judgment.”

Other Harry Potter actors gave similar statements in support of the trans community.

In 2022, Emma Watson even appeared to call out the author at the Baftas, telling the audience that she was “for all the witches” when she came on stage to present an award.

Rowling has said she won’t forgive the Harry Potter stars for defending trans rights. (PA)

However, Jason Isaacs, who played Lucius Malfoy, said he “was not going to be jumping to stab [JK Rowling] in the front – or back” in 2022.

“There’s a bunch of stuff about Jo,” Isaacs said. “You know, I play complicated people, I’m interested in complicated people. I don’t want to get drawn into the trans issues, talking about them, because it’s such an extraordinary minefield.”

The Hate Crime Act – 2021

Rowling’s alleged defence of women’s rights was seemingly amped up a gear following the introduction of the new Hate Crime Act in Scotland this month.

The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021, which came into force on 1 April, states that it is a crime to “stir up hatred” based on protected characteristics including age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity or being intersex.

This prompted the author to challenge Scottish police to arrest her for misgendering trans people and, in some cases, pointing out their crimes.

She wrote: “Scottish lawmakers seem to have placed higher value on the feelings of men performing their idea of femaleness, however misogynistically or opportunistically, than on the rights and freedoms of actual women and girls.

“It is impossible to accurately describe or tackle the reality of violence and sexual violence committed against women and girls, or address the current assault on women’s and girls’ rights, unless we are allowed to call a man a man.

“Freedom of speech and belief are at an end in Scotland if the accurate description of biological sex is deemed criminal.”

This was followed up by a list of transgender women, who she unanimously described as men, where the author proceeded to point out their alleged misdeeds.

The list included trans activists and public figures alongside figures including convicted rapist Isla Bryson and Amy George, who abducted and assaulted a schoolgirl.

Rowling said: “I’m currently out of the country, but if what I’ve written here qualifies as an offence under the terms of the new act, I look forward to being arrested when I return to the birthplace of the Scottish Enlightenment.”

The author challenged Scottish police to arrest her this month. (@jk_rowling/Twitter)

In response to this, Police Scotland said they would not be taking the author up on her apparent “arrest me” challenge – despite receiving complaints about her posts.

She wrote: “I hope every woman in Scotland who wishes to speak up for the reality and importance of biological sex will be reassured by this announcement, and I trust that all women – irrespective of profile or financial means - will be treated equally under the law.

“If they go after any woman for simply calling a man a man, I’ll repeat that woman’s words and they can charge us both at once.”

The Cass Report – 2024

Rowling claimed she was further vindicated in her crusade for women’s rights by the Cass Report, which was released On Wednesday (10 April), Rowling praised the newly-released Cass Report, which examines children’s gender services.

Making suggestions for improvements, the report claims there is “remarkably weak evidence” for giving children and young people gender-affirming care such as puberty blockers.

“The reality is we have no good evidence on the long-term outcomes of interventions to manage gender-related distress,” Cass wrote.

“It is unusual for us to give a potentially life-changing treatment to young people and not know what happens to them in adulthood, and that’s been a particular problem that we haven’t had the follow-up into adulthood to know what the results of this are.”

Dr Cass toldToday that many of the assigned female at birth people presenting at gender clinics in their early teens “often” had “quite complex additional problems”.

Dr Hilary Cass has published a long-awaited report into children’s gender services (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Wire)

Rowling responded by saying this report should be evidence enough for those in favour of gender-affirming care to reconsider their stance.

She wrote: “Even if you don’t feel ashamed of cheerleading for what now looks like severe medical malpractice, even if you don’t want to accept that you might have been wrong, where’s your sense of self-preservation?”

“The bandwagon you hopped on so gladly is hurtling towards a cliff.”

A Twitter user – who went by the name “FarRightHooligan” – then told the author they were waiting for Radcliffe and Watson to give the author “a very public apology”.

They wrote: “Just waiting for Dan and Emma to give you a very public apology… safe in the knowledge that you will forgive them.”

The author replied: “Not safe, I’m afraid. Celebs who cosied up to a movement intent on eroding women’s hard-won rights and who used their platforms to cheer on the transitioning of minors can save their apologies for traumatised detransitioners and vulnerable women reliant on single sex spaces.”

The Independent has reached out to representatives for Rowling, Radcliffe, Watson and Grint for comment.

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