JK Rowling found herself at the center of a fiery Twitter debate on gender identification on Thursday.
The Harry Potter came under heavy fire from people accusing her of transphobia, after she tweeted her support for a woman who was sacked for posting a gender-critical tweet.
Maya Forstater, 45, was fired from the Centre for Global Development — a London/Washington-based think tank that campaigns against poverty — after claiming that "men cannot change into women" on her personal twitter account.
She took her case to an employment tribunal, which ruled against her on Thursday, prompting the controversial post from Rowling.
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
"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," wrote Rowling. "But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real? #IStandWithMaya #ThisIsNotADrill."
The response on twitter was instant, and equally divided, as "JK Rowling is a TERF" — Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist — began trending.
The debate was as explosive as the Battle of Hogwarts. Some, such as "Father Ted" creator Graham Linehan applauded her for what he insisted was standing up for women's rights.
the fact that you think speaking up for women's rights is transphobic says nothing about her and everything about you.
This is fantastic to hear. We need more blue ticks speaking out in support of gender identity policy capture, and how it's impacting on the lives of women despite @S_A_Somerville @NicolaSturgeon claiming it won't. Everyone liking this tweet should respond to the consultation.
Can't believe I'm defending you but you're right. You can't fire someone for believing in simple biology. Sex is sex & it's determined at birth. People can identify later, I don't begrudge them doing what makes them happy as an adult but you can't force everyone to deny science.
I transitioned at 18 but I would have done it at 16 had it not been for people telling me I'd never be a "real girl". Then, when I finally plucked up the courage, people would shout at me in the street to tell me I wasn't a "real" woman, making me afraid to go outside for years.
How do you think it would feel for someone trans to have to go to work every day with someone they know perfectly well hates them or disrespects who they are at such a basic level? That is the definition of creating a hostile work environment
Forstater originally posted her opinion in response in reaction to UK government plans to allow people to self-identify as another gender.
On September 30th, amid a Twitter discussion, she posted: "What I am so surprised at is that smart people who I admire, who are absolutely pro-science in other areas, and champion human rights & womens rights are tying themselves in knots to avoid saying the truth that men cannot change into women (because that might hurt mens feelings)".
What I am so surprised at is that smart people who I admire, who are absolutely pro-science in other areas, and champion human rights & womens rights are tying themselves in knots to avoid saying the truth that men cannot change into women (because that might hurt mens feelings)
When the Centre for Global Development decided not to renew her contract, she took the case to the employment tribunal, which became a test case on whether such "gender-critical" views — that there are only two biologically-defined sexes — were a protected philosophical belief under the UK's 2010 Equality Act.
Judge James Tayler did not think so.
In his ruling, he said that Forstater had been involved in a "very bitter" dispute with a transgender co-worker, Gregor Murray, who had accused her of misgendering them.
"Rather than seeking to accommodate Gregor Murray's legitimate wishes she stated: 'I had simply forgotten that this man demands to be referred to by the plural pronouns 'they' and 'them', Murray also calls it 'transphobic' that I recognize a man when I see one. I Disagree. In reality Murray is a man. It is Murray's right to believe that Murray is not a man, but Murray cannot compel others to believe this.'"
Judge Tayler also pointed out she said: "I reserve the right to use the pronouns 'he' and 'him' to refer to male people. While I may chose to use alternative pronouns as a courtesy, no one has the right to compel others to make statements they do not believe."
The judge went on: "If a person has transitioned from male to female and has a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC), that person is legally a woman. That is not something Ms Forstater is entitled to ignore. Ms Forstater's position is that even if a trans woman has a GRC, she cannot honestly describe herself as a woman."
Judge Tayler concluded: "The claimant is absolutionist in her view of sex and it is a core component of her belief that she will refer to a person by the sex she considered appropriate even if it violates their dignity and/or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment. The approach is not worthy of respect in a democratic society."
Charity worker @MForstater was sacked for stating publicly that transgender women cannot change their biological sex (surely an indisputable statement of scientific fact). She lost her employment tribunal. These two paragraphs of the judgement are disturbing beyond words. pic.twitter.com/15XwT3BjEE
In a statement following the ruling, Forstater expressed her shock and disbelief, which she insisted "will be shared by the vast majority of people who are familiar with my case."
"This judgment removes women's rights and the right to freedom of belief and speech. It gives judicial license for women and men who speak up for objective truth and clear debate to be subject to aggression, bullying, no-platforming and economic punishment," she said, per The Independent.
Her lawyers claimed that had she been successful, she would have established legal protection for people to express their beliefs in the workplace — on either side of the debate — without being discriminated against.
Forstater stood by her sentiments: "I accept everybody's gender identity, I just do not believe it overrides their sex. I refuse to believe human beings can change their sex," she said at the tribunal.
She added in a blog post: "I am perfectly happy to use preferred pronouns and accept everyone's humanity and right to free expression. Transwomen are transwomen. That's great. But enforcing the dogma that transwomen are women is totalitarian."
Back in March 2018, Rowling came under fire for liking a tweet calling trans women 'men in dresses'; a rep later said she accidentally liked it while holding her phone incorrectly.
"Some people believe that what makes a woman is the fact of female biology. Some believe it is an inate sense of gender identity. These beliefs are incompatible. Like atheism & religion. But that doesnt mean that people with different beliefs *hate* each other or can't get along"