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Why Author J.K. Rowling Is Facing Backlash From LGBTQ Activists


J.K. Rowling is beloved for her "Harry Potter" series, but the author finds herself as the object of intense criticism after she tweeted in support of a transphobic researcher. NPR's Andrew Limbong has more.

ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: Before Jackson Bird saw the J.K. Rowling tweet, he woke up to texts from friends.

JACKSON BIRD: Saying like, I'm so sorry. How are you? Like, oh, my gosh, I can't believe it.

LIMBONG: Bird is the author of the memoir "Sorted," about being a "Harry Potter" fan and coming out as trans.

BIRD: When I saw her tweet, it took me a second to kind of figure out what it meant.

LIMBONG: The tweet read, dress however you please, call yourself whatever you like, sleep with any consenting adult who will have you, live your best life in peace and security. But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real? #IStandWithMaya, #ThisIsNotADrill. The Maya she's standing with is a U.K.-based researcher named Maya Forstater who lost her job at a think tank after making a number of statements that essentially say trans people do not exist - girls grow up to be women, boys grow up to be men.

She went to court in London claiming she's being discriminated for her beliefs and her sex. On Wednesday, a London employment judge denied her case, calling her views absolutist and incompatible with human dignity and fundamental rights. That Rowling would have support Forstater wasn't necessarily a surprise to Jackson Bird.

BIRD: She's liked tweets with similar ideals, I guess you could say, in the past. And she follows a number of people who espouse these ideals as well. So it wasn't shocking to me, as someone who was aware that it's possible J.K. Rowling thinks these things. But it was pretty shocking to actually just see it there in black and white.

LIMBONG: We reached out to J.K. Rowling, whose publicist declined to comment. Lark Malakai Grey is the co-host of the queer "Harry Potter" podcast, "The Gayly Prophet." He separates the art from the artist, saying that, sure, J.K. Rowling might hold hurtful stances, but "Harry Potter" belongs to fans like him and his mostly queer listeners.

LARK MALAKAI GREY: It's a shared language that we can use to connect with one another and talk about things that are much bigger than Harry Potter.

LIMBONG: Katie Bowers is the managing director of the Harry Potter Alliance, a global group that rallies Potter fans for charities and causes, including supporting transgender rights. She also disagrees with Rowling's stance, but it hasn't broken her love of the books, either.

KATIE BOWERS: There is a lot of beauty and meaning and love in those original stories, and I think a lot of us will still find meaning in that original text.

LIMBONG: Andrew Limbong, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Andrew Limbong is a reporter for NPR's Arts Desk, where he does pieces on anything remotely related to arts or culture, from streamers looking for mental health on Twitch to Britney Spears' fight over her conservatorship. He's also covered the near collapse of the live music industry during the coronavirus pandemic. He's the host of NPR's Book of the Day podcast and a frequent host on Life Kit.