Story at a glance

  • Maya Forstater was not rehired as a fellow after comments expressing the belief that “male people are not women.”
  • She lost a case against her former employer claiming discrimination against her beliefs.
  • Author J.K. Rowling tweeted in support of her and was criticized by many on Twitter.

"Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling is under fire for a tweet supporting a woman who was not rehired for a fellowship following transphobic comments stating that “male people are not women.”

The author tweeted the hashtag “I Stand With Maya” in support of Maya Forstater, a U.K.-based tax expert and former visiting fellow at the Center for Global Development. Forstater’s fellowship ended at the end of 2018 and was not renewed, a decision she claims was due to comments she made on Twitter and shared in an online article

In her tweet, Rowling echoed Forstater’s claims that sex cannot be changed, a belief considered to erase the existence of both intersex and transgender people. 

Forstater lost a case on Dec. 18 against her former employer claiming belief and sex discrimination. 

The judge said in the ruling, "I consider that [Forstater's] view, in its absolutist nature, is incompatible with human dignity and fundamental rights of others," citing her refusal to acknowledge gender recognition certificates, which legally recognize a person’s “acquired” gender after transition.

The ruling also cited a disagreement Forstater had with Gregor Murray, councillor of a city in Scotland who left their party over its "institutional transphobia." Forstater misgendered Murray, who is the only elected transgender official in Scotland. 

“I conclude from this, and the totality of the evidence, that [Forstater] is absolutist in her view of sex and it is a core component of her belief that she will refer to a person by the sex she considered appropriate even if it violates their dignity and/or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. The approach is not worthy of respect in a democratic society,” the judge said in the ruling. 

In a statement on Twitter after the ruling, Forstater doubled down on her statements.

Rowling’s tweet was soon trending worldwide, with more than 123,000 related tweets as of the morning of Dec. 19, along with the acronym "TERF,” which stands for trans-exclusionary radical feminist. Multiple celebrities and organizations criticized the author’s statement as transphobic.

Correction: This story has been edited to clarify that Gregor Murray remains a councillor for Dundee City and their pronouns. 

Published on Dec 19, 2019