GLAAD President Says J.K. Rowling's Words Create Dangerous Environment for Transgender Community (Exclusive)
By Liz Calvario
GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis says that J.K. Rowling's comments about the transgender community can create a dangerous environment.
Ellis spoke with ET's Denny Directo for the ET Live special, Live With Pride, about how she hoped the famed Harry Potter scribe would have taken a different approach when it came to her recent comments.
"J.K. has a history of problematic tweets for the trans community. Oftentimes being trans has been boiled down to the physical aspect of it and the bodily aspect of it, and that is not necessarily the case," Ellis explained. "So it is very disappointing to see J.K. Rowling, with such a platform, such an influence, and because she's been so near and dear to the queer community in her fantastical writings, that she would turn her back on the trans community and the LGBTQ community."
Ellis continued by adding that, in her opinion, "By turning your back on the trans community, you are turning your back on the LGBTQ community. ... And so I just think it's such a stain on who she is, when she could have been so phenomenal about this. But this is a series of tweets. This isn't just one tweet. She has over and over again done this about trans people specifically."
Rowling has been heavily criticized for replying to an article talking about "people who menstruate," joking that there "used to be a word" for those people. After being slammed on social media by members and allies of the transgender community, the British author clarified her position, tweeting, "If sex isn't real, there's no same-sex attraction. If sex isn't real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. 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."
Rowling may have inspired generations with her beloved Harry Potter book series and movie franchises, but how are her fans feeling?
"No one is untouchable, especially when you're spewing hate. And the challenge here is that's what happened," Ellis stated. "She has such power and influence…and the trans community is constantly in danger, especially black trans women. So her festering and creating this environment that delegitimizes or devalues these people -- these are human beings -- is very dangerous."
"But I will tell you, I've had people stop me on the street in my own community -- I live in a small town -- who are allies to the community saying, 'I can't believe J.K. Rowling did that,'" she shared. "And that's the first time I've heard that. She's done this a number of times. This is the first time I've actually heard allies who are confused and not seeing this line up with who she is as a brand and an author."
GLAAD also released a formal response to Rowling’s continued anti-trans rhetoric: "It seems J.K. is good at only one thing: writing fantasy. Her misinformed and dangerous missive about transgender people flies in the face of medical and psychological experts and devalues trans people accounts of their own lives. She is sowing divisiveness in a time when real leaders are driving toward unity. And to all the trans and cisgender youth raised on her books who are now loudly speaking up in support of the trans people you know and love, you are the future and we can’t wait to read and watch the beautiful art you will create."
On Wednesday morning, after days of online attacks, Rowling posted a lengthy explanation on her website to explain her thinking. She began by explaining that she was "triggered" after reading that the Scottish government is "proceeding with its controversial gender recognition plans, which will in effect mean that all a man needs to ‘become a woman’ is to say he’s one."
Rowling then explained that she was "ground down by the relentless attacks from trans activists on social media," and then spent "much of Saturday in a very dark place inside my head, as memories of a serious sexual assault I suffered in my twenties recurred on a loop."
The writer added that she did not wish to "garner sympathy" with her sexual assault revelation, but rather to show "solidarity" with women who have similar histories, "who’ve been slurred as bigots for having concerns around single-sex spaces."
Meanwhile, amid the ongoing controversy, Warner Bros. -- the studio that works with Rowling on the Fantastic Beasts series, a Harry Potter spinoff film franchise penned by Rowling herself -- released a statement on the matter.
"The events in the last several weeks have firmed our resolve as a company to confront difficult societal issues. Warner Bros.’ position on inclusiveness is well established, and fostering a diverse and inclusive culture has never been more important to our company and to our audiences around the world," the statement reads. "We deeply value the work of our storytellers who give so much of themselves in sharing their creations with us all. We recognize our responsibility to foster empathy and advocate understanding of all communities and all people, particularly those we work with and those we reach through our content."