In a statement posted on an LGBTQ+ suicide prevention charity website, Daniel Radcliffe – who found fame portraying Harry Potter in the film adaptations of JK Rowling’s books – has responded to her controversial comments on gender identity.
And he has done so beautifully.
Working with The Trevor Project
Radcliffe began supporting The Trevor Project, which provides suicide-prevention counselling to young people in the US, in 2009. It makes sense, then, that he decided to share his response directly with them (and, in doing so, highlight the incredible work they do for the LGBTQ+ community) rather than a news outlet or tabloid.
As one journalist tweeted: “It shows how mindful [Radcliffe] is of the harm [Rowling’s] comments had on trans youth.”
Keeping the focus on what’s important
“I realise that certain press outlets will probably want to paint this as in-fighting between J.K. Rowling and myself, but that is really not what this is about, nor is it what’s important right now,” Radcliffe begins his statement.
He’s 100% correct, of course. And, while certain tabloids would have loved nothing more than to spin this into a feud, Radcliffe’s decision to acknowledge the impact Rowling has had upon his life before beginning his statement in earnest has allowed him to keep the spotlight focused on what’s important: the transgender community.
“Transgender women are women”
Explaining that it’s important not to “invalidate” transgender people’s identities and “cause further harm”, Radcliffe said: “Transgender women are women.”
The actor continued: “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.”
As many readers will no doubt already be aware, Rowling sparked outrage when she tweeted about an article discussing “people who menstruate.”
“I’m sure there used to be a word for those people,” wrote the Harry Potter author. “Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”
In response, Rowling was branded by critics as transphobic.
“We’re in a global pandemic,” tweeted Juno Dawson. “We’re protesting police brutality and racial injustice, and the most famous author in the world is twisting linguistic pretzels to say ‘trans women are not women’?
The YA fiction writer continued: “She put a polite veneer on her words, I’d like to break down what she’s saying.”
Dawson went on to decode Rowling’s comments, noting: “’Sex is real and unchangeable. Trans women are therefore male. Single-sex spaces, therefore, must exclude ‘biological males’.
“Trans women can’t access public life. That is what she is saying.”
Rowling responded to the accusations by saying it “isn’t hate to speak the truth.”
“I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives,” she added.
Where to educate yourself on LGBTQ+ issues
As Radcliffe goes on to say, “78% of transgender and nonbinary youth reported being the subject of discrimination due to their gender identity.”
It is for this reason, then, that the actor directs people to The Trevor Project’s Guide to Being an Ally to Transgender and Nonbinary Youth, an educational resource that not only explains the key differences between sex and gender, but offers advice on how we can all better support the transgender community.
And a final message for Harry Potter fans
In the wake of Rowling’s original comments, many Harry Potter fans expressed disappointment over the fact that the books which meant so much to them growing up had now been tainted.
Radcliffe ended his statement with an apology to anyone whose “experience of the [Harry Potter] books has been tarnished.”
“If these books taught you that love is the strongest force in the universe… that dogmatic ideas of pureness lead to the oppression of vulnerable groups; if you believe that a particular character is trans, non-binary, or gender fluid, or that they are gay or bisexual; if you found anything in these stories that resonated with you and helped you at any time in your life – then that is between you and the book that you read, and it is sacred,” he said.
Radcliffe finished by noting: “[The Harry Potter series] means to you what it means to you and I hope that these comments will not taint that too much.”
UPDATED ON 11 JUNE 2020:
JK Rowling responds to criticism over trans tweets
In a blog post titled ’Answers’, Rowling has said she was motivated to address transgender issues through her Twitter account because of what she sees as an increasingly misogynistic society.
“We’re living through the most misogynistic period I’ve experienced,” she explained.
“Back in the 80s, I imagined that my future daughters, should I have any, would have it far better than I ever did, but between the backlash against feminism and a porn-saturated online culture, I believe things have got significantly worse for girls.
“Never have I seen women denigrated and dehumanised to the extent they are now.”
Rowling also noted that she “been in the public eye now for over 20 years and have never talked publicly about being a domestic abuse and sexual assault survivor.”
She continued: “This isn’t because I’m ashamed those things happened to me, but because they’re traumatic to revisit and remember.
“I also feel protective of my daughter from my first marriage. I didn’t want to claim sole ownership of a story that belongs to her, too.
“However, a short while ago, I asked her how she’d feel if I were publicly honest about that part of my life and she encouraged me to go ahead.
“I’m mentioning these things now not in an attempt to garner sympathy, but out of solidarity with the huge numbers of women who have histories like mine, who’ve been slurred as bigots for having concerns around single-sex spaces.”
How to be a better LGBTQ+ ally
If you would like to be a better LGBTQ+ ally, then please consider donating to one of the following charities:
- The Trevor Project
- GIRES: The Gender Identity Research & Education Society
- Trans Media Watch
- Albert Kennedy Trust
You can find a full list of support and community organisations in the UK that work with trans and non-binary people of all ages via All About Trans.