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:

J.K. Rowl­ing Defends Don­ald Trump’s Right to Be “Offen­sive and Big­ot­ed”

J.K. Rowl­ing Is Pub­lish­ing Her New Children’s Nov­el Free Online, One Chap­ter Per Day

Har­ry Pot­ter Final­ly Gets Trans­lat­ed Into Scots: Hear & Read Pas­sages from Har­ry Pot­ter and the Philosopher’s Stane

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:


    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.


  • 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


    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:

    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:



    Lots of “love”

    Tired John Stephen

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