J.K. Rowling Returns a Human Rights Award After Criticism from Kennedy Organization

Published on August 28, 2020

Author J.K. Rowling keeps digging herself a bigger and bigger hole. During a time of intense hate, discrimination, and ignorance, Rowling appears to be, intentional or not, fanning the flames. The Harry Potter creator did, after all, come out in support of a trans-exclusionary radical feminist (TERF). Following Rowling’s tone def comments, she is returning a human rights award. 

The Award

The Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organization awarded Rowling the Ripple of Hope Award in 2019. The once-beloved author decided to return the award after the organization’s president and Robert F. Kennedy’s daughter, Kerry Kennedy, wrote a statement calling out Rowling’s distasteful views on gender as “deeply troubling transphobic tweets and statements”:

“I have spoken with J.K. Rowling to express my profound disappointment that she has chosen to use her remarkable gifts to create a narrative that diminishes the identity of trans and nonbinary people, undermining the validity and integrity of the entire transgender community—one that disproportionately suffers from violence, discrimination, harassment, and exclusion and, as a result, experiences high rates of suicide, suicide attempts, homelessness, and mental and bodily harm. Black trans women and trans youth in particular are targeted.

Part Two of Statement

From her own words, I take Rowling’s position to be that the sex one is assigned at birth is the primary and determinative factor of one’s gender, regardless of one’s gender identity—a position that I categorically reject. The science is clear and conclusive: Sex is not binary. 

Trans rights are human rights. J.K. Rowling’s attacks upon the transgender community are inconsistent with the fundamental beliefs and values of RFK Human Rights and represent a repudiation of my father’s vision. As well, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states in Article 1: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights…” Women’s rights are not degraded by the recognition of trans rights. On the contrary: A commitment to human rights demands a commitment to combat discrimination in all its forms.”

Rowling’s Response

Rowling wasn’t happy about Kennedy’s statement. According to Rowling, Kennedy “incorrectly implied that I was transphobic, and that I am responsible for harm to trans people.” It’s sad to think Rowling, whose beautiful writing once defined her, is now defined by tweets and opinions that have hurt a lot of people’s feelings. Rowling continues to standby her positions, writing in response to Kerry Kennedy:

Kerry Kennedy, President of Robert F Kennedy Human Rights, recently felt it necessary to publish a statement denouncing my views on RFKHR’s website.  The statement incorrectly implied that I was transphobic, and that I am responsible for harm to trans people.  As a longstanding donor to LGBT charities and a supporter of trans people’s right to live free of persecution, I absolutely refute the accusation that I hate trans people or wish them ill, or that standing up for the rights of women is wrong, discriminatory, or incites harm or violence to the trans community.

The opening of that statement is full of shade. Saying Kerry Kennedy “recently felt it necessary to publish a statement denouncing my views” is pure shade. It is necessary. Like Rowling finds it necessary to speak her mind on the trans community, so does Kennedy. If you unleash an opinion on the Internet, people will respond, like Kennedy.

The New J.K. Rowling

Rowling is a privileged artist. She’s worth over a reported $650 million. She lives a far cushier life than the trans community her words are affecting. When people are talking about Black Lives Matter, Rowling felt it necessary to turn her sights towards the trans community and speak her mind. Rowling is a brilliant author, but she does not know how to read the room. If you want to read Rowling’s full statement on returning the award, here’s the link

Jack Giroux is a Staff Writer at Grit Daily. Based in Los Angeles, he is an entertainment journalist who's previously written for Thrillist, Slash Film, Film School Rejects, and The Film Stage.

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