Daniel Radcliffe Writes a Thoughtful Response to J.K. Rowling’s Statements about Trans Women

Image by Gage Skidmore, via Wikimedia Commons

There are many more important things happening in the world than the tweets of Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, but the tweets of J.K. Rowling are nonetheless worthy of attention, for the sake of fans of the series, many of whom are young and do not understand why their parents might suddenly be angry with her, or who are very angry with her themselves. As you have probably heard, Rowling has doubled and tripled down on statements others have repeatedly told her are transphobic, ignorant, and offensive.

Whatever you think of her tweets (and if you agree with her, you’re probably only reading this post to disagree with me), they signal a failure of empathy and humility on Rowling’s part. She could just say nothing and try to listen and learn more. Empathy does not require that we wholly understand another’s lived experience. Only that we can imagine feeling the feelings someone has about it—feelings of marginalization, disappointment, fear, desire for recognition and respect, whatever; and that we trust they know more about who they are than we do.




Rowling is neither a trans woman, nor a doctor, nor an expert on gender identity, a fact that Daniel Radcliffe, Harry Potter himself, points out in his response to her:

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. According to The Trevor Project, 78% of transgender and nonbinary youth reported being the subject of discrimination due to their gender identity. It’s clear that we need to do more to support transgender and nonbinary people, not invalidate their identities, and not cause further harm.

While the author has qualified her dogmatic statements by expressing support for the trans community and saying she has many trans friends, this doesn’t explain why she feels the need to offer uninformed opinions about people who face very real harm from such rhetoric: who are routinely victims of violent hate crimes and are far more likely to live in poverty and face employment discrimination.

Radcliffe’s thoughtful, kind response will get more clicks if it’s sold as “Harry Potter Claps Back at J.K. Rowling” or “Harry Potter DESTROYS J.K. Rowling” or “Harry Potter Bites the Hand that Fed Him” or something, but he wants to make it clear “that is really not what this is about, nor is it what’s important right now” and that he wouldn’t be where he is without her. He closes with a lovely message to the series’ fans, one that might apply to any of our troubled relationships with an artist and their work:

To all the people who now feel that their experience of the books has been tarnished or diminished, I am deeply sorry for the pain these comments have caused you. I really hope that you don’t entirely lose what was valuable in these stories to you. If these books taught you that love is the strongest force in the universe, capable of overcoming anything; if they taught you that strength is found in diversity, and that dogmatic ideas of pureness lead to the oppression of vulnerable groups; if you believe that a particular character is trans, nonbinary, 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. And in my opinion nobody can touch that. It means to you what it means to you and I hope that these comments will not taint that too much.

The statement was posted at the Trevor Project, an organization providing “crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25.” Learn more about resources for young people who might need mental health support at their site.

Update: You can read Rowling’s response, posted today here.

Related Content:

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness


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Comments (24)
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  • Stephen Lindsey says:

    What has happened to OC, I don’t care which side of the argument you’re on but if you want to make political points why don’t you use your own twitter account.

  • OC says:

    Stephen,

    We do precisely that–and then people try to tell us how to use our Twitter feed. No matter what, we get unsolicited editorial advice.

    We can’t please everyone with every post. And we’re not going to avoid politics, especially when there is a clear cultural dimension (as is the case here). If you don’t like the content, remember two things: 1) you’re not paying for any of it. No point in complaining about a free meal. And 2) you can always look elsewhere for the media that better suits your taste. It’s your call.

    Thanks
    OC

  • Stephen Lindsey says:

    I meant to use your personal twitter accounts and I have not declared any side in this debate.

    I have been following OC for many years, clicking on your adverts, forwarding your posts, recommending the site to many, many people.

    Your answer was basically two words.

    • OC says:

      Appreciate the support. Respectfully, please don’t tell us how to run our site or Twitter feed. It’s really presumptuous. Most likely, you don’t want someone else telling you how to run your social media accounts (or website, if you have one). The same goes the other way.

  • The Jester says:

    What do you call JK Rowling in space?

    An AstroTERF

  • Deh! says:

    It truly is a thoughtful response, and especially compared with Rowling who managed to create one of the dullest franchise in the history of movie franchises. Seriously each episode following the boy wizard and his pals from Hogwarts Academy as they fight assorted villains has been indistinguishable from the others. Aside from the gloomy imagery, the series’ only consistency has been its lack of excitement and ineffective use of special effects, all to make magic unmagical, to make action seem inert.

    Perhaps the die was cast when Rowling vetoed the idea of Spielberg directing the series; she made sure the series would never be mistaken for a work of art that meant anything to anybody?just ridiculously profitable cross-promotion for her books. The Harry Potter series might be anti-Christian (or not), but it’s certainly the anti-James Bond series in its refusal of wonder, beauty and excitement. No one wants to face that fact. Now, thankfully, they no longer have to.

    >a-at least the books were good though

    “No!”

    The writing is dreadful; the book was terrible. As I read, I noticed that every time a character went for a walk, the author wrote instead that the character “stretched his legs.”

    I began marking on the back of an envelope every time that phrase was repeated. I stopped only after I had marked the envelope several dozen times. I was incredulous. Rowling’s mind is so governed by cliches and dead metaphors that she has no other style of writing. Later I read a lavish, loving review of Harry Potter by the same Stephen King. He wrote something to the effect of, “If these kids are reading Harry Potter at 11 or 12, then when they get older they will go on to read Stephen King.” And he was quite right. He was not being ironic. When you read “Harry Potter” you are, in fact, trained to read Stephen King.

  • Rationality says:

    “While the author has qualified her dogmatic statements by expressing support for the trans community”

    So the equivalent of an Antebellum Southern slave owner saying “Look, I *support* black people, I just don’t think they should be free, or allowed to vote, or allowed to use the same drinking fountains” Or a 19th century man saying “Look, I *support* women but they shouldn’t be allowed to vote”.

    “saying she has many trans friends”
    Oh wow! She literally used the “I’m not a racist, I have lots of black friends” card.

  • Kerl Reitman says:

    Mr “Deh!”. You are pathetic, I feel sorry for you.

  • Deh! says:

    “Fine deh, Sundeh. In my opinion, best deh of the week. Why is that, Dehdley?”

  • Don Drapdeh says:

    I don’t think about you at all.

  • ROBERTO says:

    No concuerdo para nada con el ex-niño-mago. Expresa un gran desapego por la verdad y la realidad. Y una devoción por el “Pensamiento políticamente correcto”. Una cosa es mi deseo e ilusión y otra lo que realmente es. Pero no es algo que sorprenda en la era de la mentira sistemática de la batalla cultural marxista. Sin embargo por más que hagan, los genes “no se manchan” y aunque una persona pretenda ser un reloj de Dalí, seguirá siendo hombre o mujer. Y un hombre nunca será una mujer y viceversa (Salvo en las escasas excepciones que ya conocemos). Y cada vez más se observa en el mundo una preferencia por la mentira. Y así todo sera peor.

  • ROBERTO says:

    Por favor, ignore mi declaración anterior. Resulta que soy un pinchazo fascista amargo, desagradable, cuyo fallecimiento no será llorado.

  • John says:

    This is a disgraceful response. The poster was respectful. You are arrogant, like this substantive post. Why bother posting if your agenda is only to give two fingers to people who don’t buy your ideology? You invite comments for feedback. Stepehen’s feedback is that this post is a poor fit with the general content on this site. FWIW i agree with that. I am much less impressed that you tear into him for expressing that view.

    You could have said, “ok, thanks for leaving a comment. We feel it is an important contribution to understanding culture.”

    The substantive piece though, wow. It’s main mission is to tell JKR she is not qualified to comment. Plainly, she is. Disagreeing with your perspective doesn’t make her unqualified. It means she doesn’t share your perspective. The reason people like Trump get elected and attack trans rights is that people like the OP make enemies out of allies, and express their perspectives as the One Truth – everyone else is a bad person. Then when trump comes along you have nowhere else left to go, all your exasperation and fury has been used on JKR, and people say, ‘well you said that about good pro trans people like JKR, therefore if you say it about an actual bigot I don’t believe you anymore.”

    Hw do I vote against that! I can’t even leave a comment disagreeing, because you tell us, in your own way, to eff off.

    Your substantive criticsm of JKR is that she doesn’t share your analysis. But the piece sneakily morphs that into ‘attack on trans people.’ She has never attacked trans people, she attacked your idea of trans rights.

    For the record, I support trans rights. I also support JKR’s attack on a flawed ideology. Until you see he difference it makes it really, really hard to Find the good in the original post.

    Thanks commenter Stephen for noting that.

  • John says:

    PS: I’m Stephen using a “John” here as a sockpuppet, to attempt to defend my massive transphobia and inability to let people have any opinion that differs from my own, just in case you couldn’t work it out.

  • Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die. says:

    >”substantive”
    You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.

  • John says:

    No, I’m not Stephen and a sock puppet. I’m someone who disagrees with you. I’m not transphobic. I don’t have an inability to disagree (ironic point given the substance,)

    Failing to engage with the argument, and smearing the person making them instead, demonstrates my point. You are alienating potential allies for no gain.

    Instead of sneering, maybe try to understand why people disagree, as I understand you want to signal support for trans rights. I’m fine with that. So is JKR. What we’re not fine with is the baggage you unnecessarily bring along.

    The boundaries of this are difficult. Demonisation and sneering doesn’t help anyone find them.

  • Totally not Stephen says:

    “No, I’m not Stephen” said Stephen.

  • The Jester says:

    What do you call John at the seaside?

    A Surf and TERF

  • Tired of this cloud says:

    What “thoughtful response”? He completely missed the point of her letter and just repeated non-sensical trans-activist mantras.
    Hence he became the mansplaining king of twitter of that day.
    TW are TW. No one is denying their human rights: housing, job, safety, right to marry, edication, health care, etc. but they are biological males. The same applies to TM who are usually conveniently omitted from these social media crusades, btw.
    The self-ID laws are the issue here because they’re ripe for abuse. You can’t open female only spaces to every man who IDs himself as a woman and expect that no one will abuse that right. It just shows the lack of thought for biological women.

  • Tired of this cloud says:

    BTW: In case it wasn’t clear, I should mention that I am in fact a massive transphobe in case my previous post didn’t make that clear.

  • The Jester says:

    What do you call it when ‘Tired of this cloud’ and JK Rowling have a fight?

    A TERF war

  • Tired of this cloud says:

    I should also probably mention, that like “John” I am in fact Stephen.

    You may now refer to me as: Tired John Stephen

  • Sid Knee says:

    Why should anyone listen to Daniel Radcliffe. In an interview a few years ago he was saying “I know some really f—ing racist people, friends I vehemently disagree with … And I’m still friends with them because I don’t think that friendship should be drawn along those lines.”…and the rest of the article is just poor. The writer says Rowling should be quiet and just listen, that she has no empathy, that she is not trans (neither is radcliffe of course , but we should listen to him?). Why should Rowling be quiet if she has very real concerns about attacks on women’s rights, you are right she is not trans, but she is a woman, so perhaps the writer of this article should be quiet for a second and listen to what Rowling is saying

  • Sid Knee says:

    tl;dr on my previous post:

    TERF
    TERF TERF. TERF TERF TERF. TERF! TERF TERF TERF TERF!

    TERF TERF.

    Lots of “love”

    Tired John Stephen

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