JK Rowling has sensationally returned an award after she says organisers falsely labelled her transphobic.
The Harry Potter author sent back her prestigious Ripple of Hope Award – whose recipients include Barack Obama and Joe Biden – to the US organisation Robert F Kennedy Human Rights (RFKHR), who awarded it to Rowling last year for her work to protect abused children in orphanages.
RFKHR president Kerry Kennedy was among those who criticised the best-selling writer’s views on gender identity, saying she told Rowling of her “profound disappointment” in a statement posted online earlier this month.
“She has chosen to use her remarkable gifts to create a narrative that diminishes the identity of trans and nonbinary people, undermining the validity and integrity of the entire transgender community,” Kennedy’s statement read.
Announcing her decision to hand back the gong, Rowling said the organisation’s president and daughter of the late senator Robert Kennedy, “felt it necessary to publish a statement denouncing my views”.
“The statement incorrectly implied that I was transphobic,” Rowling wrote on her website. “I absolutely refute the accusation that I hate trans people or wish them ill.
“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.”
Rowling, 55, has been at the centre of a row over trans rights since December last year when she tweeted her support for a woman who was sacked over making comments that were deemed transphobic.
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And Rowling sparked another storm in June when she posted a response to a headline referring to “people who menstruate”, writing: “I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”. The post was met with widespread backlash.
Actors from the Harry Potter universe, including main star Daniel Radcliffe, have criticised the author. In June, Radcliffe penned a post published on the website of LGBTQ youth charity The Trevor Project.
“While Jo is unquestionably responsible for the course my life has taken, as someone who has been honoured to work with and continues to contribute to The Trevor Project for the last decade, and just as a human being, I feel compelled to say something at this moment,” Radcliffe wrote.
“Transgender women are women. 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.”
Emma Watson, who played Hermione Granger, also threw her support behind the transgender community in a tweet.
“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. “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.”
Four authors resigned from Rowling’s literary agency after claiming the company refused to publish a statement in support of transgender rights.
In a near 4000 word essay published to her website in June, Rowling clarified her stance on gender identity.
“So I want trans women to be safe. At the same time, I do not want to make natal girls and women less safe. When you throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman — and, as I’ve said, gender confirmation certificates may now be granted without any need for surgery or hormones — then you open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside. That is the simple truth.”