John Cleese 'baffled' by criticism of JK Rowling's comments on trans people
John Cleese has claimed he is ‘baffled’ by the criticism of JK Rowling’s comments on transgender people.
Earlier this month, the Harry Potter author sparked outrage on social media after she mocked the phrase ‘people who menstruate’.
Rowling tweeted: ‘If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased.
‘I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives. It isn’t hate to speak the truth.
‘The idea that women like me, who’ve been empathetic to trans people for decades, feeling kinship because they’re vulnerable in the same way as women – ie, to male violence – “hate” trans people because they think sex is real and has lived consequences – is a nonsense.
‘I respect every trans person’s right to live any way that feels authentic and comfortable to them. I’d march with you if you were discriminated against on the basis of being trans.
‘At the same time, my life has been shaped by being female. I do not believe it’s hateful to say so.’
Cleese, 80, took to Twitter to ask his followers what was so offensive about Rowling’s comments.
The Monty Python legend wrote: ‘I’m baffled by the debate over JKR.
‘Am I right in thinking that if I tomorrow declare myself to be a woman, then anyone who doesn’t accept that must hate me ?
‘This is a genuine request for information, even if the question itself seems odd to many older people?’
Mermaids, a charity which helps transgender youth, replied: ‘Hello John. A point to bear in mind is that you wouldn’t do that, because (unless we are mistaken) you are not transgender. Much of this is based on the myth that men spuriously self-identify as women. It doesn’t happen.’
The organisation’s Twitter account then shared a link to their open letter to Rowling, which urged the writer to speak to trans children.
Another reply from Jordan Raskopoulos read: ‘Are you actually a woman though John? Or would you be lying? If you are lying then the issue we’d be facing is ‘a man who lies’ which is a different issue to ‘the needs of transgender women’. Men lying is an issue but why attack trans people to protect against men who might lie?
‘Distinguishing between a man who is lying and some transgender women might be a difficult task but I reckon our society can find solutions that don’t hurt and dehumanise the latter.’
One follower replied: ‘It’s more the lack of empathy towards trans people. They aren’t just randomly deciding to change genders on a whim. It’s likely they have felt that way for many many years. Why else would they go through the social challenges and danger of being trans unless it was genuine?’
Cleese quote-tweeted the post and wrote: ‘I really do want people to do what makes them happy, and I despise people who try to stop them
‘I just believe that if one asks genuine questions about gender, it does not mean that you hate anybody.’
The Fawlty Towers actor then shared a tweet reading: ‘According to the screed, you are who you say you are. And under legal self-id, you’d be free to wander in and out of women’s change rooms as you pleased and any woman objecting to it could be guilty of hate crime’, and asked: ‘Can this be true?’
There are currently plans to scrap measures drawn up under Theresa May’s government to enable trans people to change their legal gender via self-identification, with Amnesty saying the move would ‘send a chilling message that the UK is a hostile place for trans people’.
Another reply to Cleese read: ‘JKR would accept and fight for your right to express yourself like that (she says that) – but will simultaneously fight for women and for some things to remain spaces just for those born as women – eg prisons/sport for safety and fairness.’
The comedian responded: ‘Helpful. Talking to women athletes – that is, women who have been women all their lives – I learn that they do not feel it’s fair that they should compete against women who at some point had men’s bodies, since men are usually bigger and stronger that women. Is this hatred?’
And after a reply said: ‘It’s a debate over whether the struggles and experience of being a woman are inextricably linked to having the biology of a woman. JKR and many feminists think it is. Many trans activists think it is not, and consider the notion transphobic’, Cleese struggled with the definition of transphobia.
The star tweeted: ‘Transphobic in the sense that anyone who doesn’t agree with them, must hate them?
‘Because -phobic implies hate and disgust, doesn’t it?’
Rowling stood by her tweets in a blog post and insisted she was not a TERF – trans-exclusionary radical feminist – writing: ‘I’ve met trans people, and read sundry books, blogs and articles by trans people, gender specialists, intersex people, psychologists, safeguarding experts, social workers and doctors, and followed the discourse online and in traditional media.’
However, Harry Potter stars Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint all publicly denounced her comments and shared their support for the trans community, as well as Eddie Redmayne, who plays the lead role in the Fantastic Beasts series.
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