J.K. Rowling used Twitter to mock an op-ed for using the term “people who menstruate” in an effort to include transgender, non-binary, and gender-nonconforming people alongside cisgender women like her. Rowling has become perhaps the best-known opponent of the “trans women are women” viewpoint, what her critics call trans-exclusionary radical feminism.
Daniel Radcliffe, in addition to playing Harry Potter in the films, is a longtime advocate for LGBTQ youth. He has publicly supported The Trevor Project since 2009, and he responded to Rowling’s tweets with a statement posted on that organization’s website addressed to Potter fans troubled by her words.
“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,” Radcliffe wrote.
Then, he reminded those readers of a simple fact: Rowling may have written the books, but she can’t dictate what her readers take away from them.
“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.”
Radcliffe also took issue with the substance of Rowling’s claims.
“Transgender women are women,” he wrote unequivocally. “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.”
He’s not wrong on that count. The American Association of Pediatrics advocates a “gender-affirming, nonjudgmental approach that helps children feel safe in a society that too often marginalizes or stigmatizes those seen as different.” The British Psychology Society similarly recommends its members use “language which is inclusive of diversity” and “the preferred language of gender, sexuality, and relationship diverse people.”
After her initial tweet, Rowling protested that she has been “empathetic to trans people for decades” and that she respects “every trans person’s right to live any way that feels authentic and comfortable to them” are undercut by the fact that her statements on the subject, according to these and other experts, hurt those very people by being disrespectful to them.
And that will be enough to disappoint lots of Potter fans, but Radcliffe’s advice can help them. Keeping the message while ditching the messenger is consistent, an intellectually honest and guilt-free way to treasure your own Harry Potter memories and pass the stories on to your kids.