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Why is #IStandAgainstJKRowling trending online?

Why is #IStandAgainstJKRowling trending online?
Why is #IStandAgainstJKRowling trending online? Copyright AP Photo/Christophe Ena - X
Copyright AP Photo/Christophe Ena - X
By David Mouriquand
Published on
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With next week’s general election looming, former Labour donor J.K. Rowling has accused the party of “abandoning” women and reignited passions online with regards to transgender issues. The hashtag #IStandAgainstJKRowling has been trending. Here’s the lowdown.

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Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling has criticised Labour this week for "abandoning" women over its stance on the rights of transgender people.

Writing in The Times, Rowling, a former Labour donor, said she would struggle to vote for Keir Starmer in the upcoming general elections. 

Rowling's comments refer to Labour’s pledge to “modernise” the process by which people can change gender. In its election manifesto, Labour has committed to making it easier for people to legally change gender, replacing the “outdated” necessity to present evidence showing that a person has lived as their new gender for two years with a “reflection period” lasting the same amount of time. Labour would also ditch a panel of doctors and lawyers that currently approves gender-recognition certificates.

Her comments also came after the Labour leader appeared to shift his position on transgender rights. In 2021, Starmer said it was “not right” for Rosie Duffield, a Labour MP who has stressed the importance of biological sex, to say that only women have a cervix. He has recently strengthened his position on transgender issues to agree with former Labour leader Tony Blair that a woman has a vagina and a man has a penis. 

Despite these recent comments, Rowling said she had a “poor opinion” of Starmer’s character, claiming he was “dismissive and often offensive” in respect of women’s concerns about their rights. 

Rowling wrote: "For left-leaning women like us this isn't, and never has been, about trans people enjoying the rights of every other citizen and being free to present and identify however they wish. This is about the right of women and girls to assert their boundaries. It's about freedom of speech and observable truth.” 

She added: "As long as Labour remains dismissive and often offensive towards women fighting to retain the rights their foremothers thought were won for all time, I'll struggle to support them.” 

J.K. Rowling
J.K. RowlingLefteris Pitarakis/AP

Now, Rowling has agreed to a meeting with Labour about gender transition policy, after Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves said the party would be “really happy” to “give her assurances” over its plans to change the process through which people can legally change gender. 

However, Rowling said the meeting was conditional on Labour first meeting a series of groups from across the UK that she supported.

Rowling responded to Reeves’s invitation on X: “I’ll be happy to meet after [the groups] Keep Prisons Single Sex, Lesbian Labour, Women’s Rights Network, Woman’s Place UK and LGB Alliance have been given in person meetings with the Labour leadership.” 

She added: “Asking on behalf of female survivors of domestic violence and gay people who don’t subscribe to gender identity ideology, I’d also like to know whether Angela Rayner still considers the last two organisations hate groups.” 

Rayner, the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, previously backed a charter calling Woman’s Place UK, which campaigns for women-only rape refuges, and the LGB Alliance, a British nonprofit advocacy group in opposition to the policies of LGBT rights charity Stonewall on transgender issues, 'trans-exclusionist hate groups".

Speaking to The Sun tabloid newspaper, Starmer echoed Reeves’s desire for the party to have a meeting with Rowling. 

“I respect her,” he said of the author. “She has made some really important points. I’d welcome that discussion because I do think we have made huge progress on women’s rights under Labour governments, and equality, massive progress. There’s more work to be done if we are privileged to come in to serve this country.” 

These recent events have sparked more online reactions against Rowling, who has attracted both criticism and support for her position on transgender issues.

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The hashtag #IStandAgainstJKRowling has been trending online, with numerous social media users slamming the author.  

Take a look at some of the reactions:  

Some have come to Rowling’s defense on the matter:  

Rowling has caused repeated controversy with her stance on trans rights, having shared numerous statements condemned as transphobic stemming back to 2020. She has been met with strong backlash in recent years over her claims that trans women “are not women” and her statemennt that she would rather go to jail than refer to a trans person by their preferred pronouns.

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Last month, she appeared in the publication "The Women Who Wouldn’t Wheesht", a collection of more than 30 essays and photographs from women in Scotland who claim to be on “the frontline of the battle for women’s rights”. It includes the views of women who are opposed to the Scottish government’s gender reform plans, who argue that the proposals infringe on women’s safety.

In the essay, Rowling hits out at the double standards of friends who have rushed to criticise her views on transgender rights, saying she had been surprised by colleagues who had condemned her views in public, only for them to email her privately to remain friends.

The UK general election will be held on 4 July 2024.  

Additional sources • The Times

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