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JK Rowling insists she’s not transphobic while returning prestigious human rights award over criticism

Reiss Smith August 28, 2020
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JK Rowling arrives at the RFK Ripple of Hope Awards at New York Hilton Midtown on December 12, 2019 in New York City. (Dia Dipasupil/Getty)

JK Rowling refuted allegations that she is transphobic while returning a Ripple of Hope award to the Robert F Kennedy Human Rights organisation.

Rowling announced she is giving back the honour after Kerry Kennedy, daughter of the late senator and president of the human rights nonprofit, shared her “profound disappointment” in the author’s remarks on trans rights.

Kerry Kennedy released a statement on August 3, eight months after Rowling received the award for her work on behalf of children. She joined previous honourees including Barack Obama, Desmond Tutu and Hillary Clinton.

“I have spoken with JK Rowling to express my profound disappointment that she has chosen to use her remarkable gifts to create a narrative that diminishes the identity of trans and non-binary people, undermining the validity and integrity of the entire transgender community,” she wrote, citing Rowling’s tweets and essay on trans lives, as well her liking a tweet “that opposed a bill to ban conversion therapy”.

Kennedy rejected what she understands Rowling’s position to be: that sex as assigned at birth “is the primary and determinative factor of one’s gender, regardless of one’s gender identity”.

“The science is clear and conclusive: Sex is not binary,” she continued.

“Trans rights are human rights. JK Rowling’s attacks upon the transgender community are inconsistent with the fundamental beliefs and values of RFK Human Rights and represent a repudiation of my father’s vision.”

JK Rowling can’t keep Robert Kennedy award in good conscience.

In response, Rowling wrote Thursday (August 27): “The statement incorrectly implied that I was transphobic, and that I am responsible for harm to trans people.

“As a longstanding donor to LGBT charities and a supporter of trans people’s right to live free of persecution, I absolutely refute the accusation that I hate trans people or wish them ill, or that standing up for the rights of women is wrong, discriminatory, or incites harm or violence to the trans community.”

She continued by repeating her claim that she “feels nothing but sympathy towards those with gender dysphoria”, and her baseless allegation that “an ethical and medical scandal is brewing” regarding gender-affirming therapies.

Rowling ended her statement by disagreeing with the Kennedy organisation’s stance on trans rights: that they do not clash with women’s rights.

“The thousands of women who’ve got in touch with me disagree, and, like me, believe this clash of rights can only be resolved if more nuance is permitted in the debate.”

She concluded: “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.”

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