On Thursday, Maya Forstater took to Twitter to make an important announcement. Noting that a journalist had said “JK Rowling is her woman of the year,” Forstater added: “Mine too. #IStandWithJKRowling.”
As Rowling prepares for the 20th anniversary of the movies based on her seminal book series, she is facing a wave of criticism — along with praise from feminists who see her as a folk hero crusading for their rights.
Forstater’s post was a callback to a December 2019 tweet in which the “Harry Potter” creator put her reputation and esteemed career on the line to defend Forstater, who had been let go from her job because of comments she made that a person cannot choose to change their biological sex.
“Dress however you please. Call yourself whatever you like. Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll 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,” Rowling tweeted to her then-14.5 million followers.
“I didn’t know that she was going to, it came out of the blue,” Forstater told The Post. “At first, I didn’t believe it was true. Somebody messaged a screenshot to me, but I thought they had made it to cheer me up.”
The day before Rowling’s tweet, a judge in the UK had decided that Forstater’s employer had the legal right to not renew her contract over the comments and that it was not a matter of discrimination against her.
“I was gutted. I was the lowest I could be. But the tweet was so amazing …. It went completely all over the world.” Forstater said.
“And then the lies started spreading — saying I had harassed a colleague or misgendered a colleague. The truth is I didn’t have any trans colleagues,” Forstater said. “People just wanted to discredit what J.K. had said.”
Rowling was accused of being transphobic and a TERF — a scathing acronym that stands for “trans-exclusionary radical feminist.” Actors from the “Harry Potter” and “Fantastic Beasts” movies spoke out against her. Former fans took to social media to declare she had ruined their childhoods and that they were having “Potter” tattoos removed.
Through it all, though, Rowling — real name, Joanne Kathleen Rowling — has never backed down.
Last month, the author retaliated when comedian Holly Stars, actor Georgia Frost and drag star Richard Energy staged a demonstration in front of her home near Edinburgh, Scotland, and posted a now-deleted photo on Twitter with her home address visible in the background.
“I have to assume that [they] thought doxxing me would intimidate me out of speaking up for women’s sex-based rights,” Rowling tweeted. “They should have reflected on the fact that I’ve now received so many death threats I could paper the house with them, and I haven’t stopped speaking out.
“Perhaps — and I’m just throwing this out there — the best way to prove your movement isn’t a threat to women, is to stop stalking, harassing and threatening us.”
This all comes as HBO Max has just filmed a reunion special, airing Jan. 1, for the 20th anniversary of the first “Harry Potter” film. The main stars — whom Rowling helped cast — have spoken out against her comments.
In June 2020, Emma Watson tweeted: “Trans people are who they say they are and deserve to live their lives without being constantly questioned or told they aren’t who they say they are.” Daniel Radcliffe has written, “Transgender women are women,” adding, “Any statement to the contrary … goes against all advice given by professional health care associations who have far more expertise on this subject matter than either Jo [Rowling] or I.” And Rupert Grint told Esquire: “I think also you can have huge respect for someone and still disagree with things like that.”
Multiple sources told The Post that Rowling will appear in the reunion show – albeit in archive footage – despite rumors to the contrary.
While the author’s name was prominently featured near the beginning of the trailers for the first two films from her “Fantastic Beasts” book series, she’s been relegated to a very small production credit at the end of the new trailer for 2022’s “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore.” Still, a source pooh-poohed the idea of it being a sign of backlash.
“Jo wasn’t scrapped from the reunion — she will feature,” said the well-placed insider. “There are no issues between her and Warner Brothers or HBO. Zero.”
“For 20 years, Warner Bros., J.K. Rowling and her team have worked together to delight fans around the world with spectacular storytelling and the magic of the Wizarding World. That relationship continues today and is more collaborative than ever,” Neil Blair, founding partner of The Blair Partnership and Ann Sarnoff, Chair and CEO, WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group said in a joint statement to the post.
“News reports to the contrary are completely untrue, and we are disappointed that these inaccurate stories only serve to hurt the Harry Potter fans we hope to entertain.”
Rowling was back in the headlines this week for another reason, too, as she responded to a move by the Scottish police force — which said it would record rapes as being carried out by a woman if the accused insists on this gender assignment, even if it has not been legally changed. The author used a twist on George Orwell’s “Newspeak” to tweet: “War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength. The penised individual who raped you is a woman.”
And while a Twitter army continues to drum up anti-Rowling sentiment, it hasn’t affected holiday sales.
Her new children’s book, “The Christmas Pig,” debuted at No. 1 and remains at the top of the New York Times bestseller list nine weeks later.
Said the insider: “I’m delighted to tell you that sales have actually gone up during this crazy period and interest in all things Jo has never been greater.”
For the past two years, Forstater has been embroiled in a fight against her former employer, the Center for Global Development, a think tank in the UK. The 47-year-old mother of two — who is herself the daughter of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” producer Mark Forstater — lost her job after expressing her views that a person’s biological sex cannot be changed and that transgender women are “not women” and sex is “not to be conflated with gender identity.”
Forstater’s 2018 tweets were in opposition to proposed reform of the UK’s Gender Recognition Act (GRA), which would allow trans people to self-identify without a medical confirmation.
“I was concerned and I thought I should be able to tweet about it. I wanted to be part of the public debate,” she told The Post. “Quite quickly, I got an email from [Center for Global Development] HR in DC saying they had concerns.”
Roughly six months later, she lost her job after her employers carried out an investigation.
If not for Rowling, we may not know Forstater’s name. But once the author got involved, she was all in.
As for why, Rowling has explained in an essay that she was, at the time, writing a new series about a female detective — but hasn’t revealed how or if biological sex might come into play for the story.
And, as a survivor of domestic abuse and sexual assault, she said: “I want trans women to be safe. At the same time, I do not want to make natal girls and women less safe.”
Rowling was born to middle-class parents in Gloucestershire, England, but, after a brief marriage — her first husband told The Sun that he had once slapped her — that led to the birth of her daughter Jessica, now 28, found herself depressed and living in Scotland.
“An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless … By every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew,” she said during a 2008 Harvard commencement speech.
Forstater said this makes Rowling’s willingness to speak out all the more remarkable. “Although financially she’s made for life, she has so much to lose in terms of the industry and business. She has a charity and the Harry Potter industry, so it’s huge that she did this.”
That said, Rowling wishes more people would join her — but understands how hard it is.
“Accusations of TERFery have been sufficient to intimidate many people, institutions and organizations I once admired, who’re cowering before the tactics of the playground. ‘They’ll call us transphobic!’ ‘They’ll say I hate trans people!’ What next, they’ll say you’ve got fleas?” she wrote.
The term “TERF” is “typically used as a misogynistic slur, and is often accompanied by threats to murder and rape women who speak out about the material reality of biological sex,” said attorney Kara Dansky, the Chair of the Committee on Law and Legislation for the Women’s Human Rights Campaign.
“It also reveals how empty ‘gender identity’ ideology is. Our opponents never provide coherent arguments as to why they think we are wrong,” she added. “It is common for feminists to say something like, ‘A woman is an adult human female,’ and for someone to respond with something like ‘Shut up, TERF!’
“Once you’re smeared with the label, it’s hard to defend yourself against it.”
And that, activists say, is why it’s so important and remarkable that Rowling — one of the most beloved pop-culture icons of the past quarter century — is willing to stand up for what she believes in.
“The significance of what she has done cannot be understated,” said Dansky, who is also the president of the US chapter of WHRC. “Feminists demand the rights, privacy and safety of women and girls. We cannot do that if we cannot define that category coherently.”
Forstater agreed. “When I read JK’s essay, I thought, ‘She’s a national treasure. She’s written this essay that sets out everything so clearly and articulately.’ And the next day they called her a witch and wanted to burn her,” she told The Post. “I think she knew she would get this reaction and she kept doing it.”
Another reason for wading into the debate, Rowling wrote, was her concern about the “huge explosion” in young women experimenting with transitioning — as well as the growing number of those “detransitioning” back to their biological sex: “They regret taking steps that have, in some cases, altered their bodies irrevocably, and taken away their fertility.”
In June, The Post reported that The Human Rights Campaign listed more than 40 “clinical care programs for transgender and gender-expansive youth” on its Web site. Only one such institution existed in America in 2007.
In her controversial 2020 book “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters,” Abigail K. Shrier wrote how, as of 2018, Britain had seen a 4,400 percent rise from the previous decade in teen girls seeking treatments.
Like Rowling, Shrier found herself shouted down on social media, and her book was removed from Target.
In October, Dr. Marci Bowers and Erica Anderson, a clinical psychologist at the University of California, San Francisco’s Child and Adolescent Gender Clinic — both of whom are transgender — discussed the risks that come with gender reassignment surgery for children.
“I think there was naivete on the part of pediatric endocrinologists who were proponents of early [puberty] blockage, thinking that just this magic can happen, that surgeons can do anything,” said Bowers, who operated on transgender reality star Jazz Jennings.
“I don’t believe anyone who calls Jo out as transphobic actually read her long essay. I haven’t seen anyone quote from it to justify their accusations,” said the well-placed insider.
“I don’t believe anyone who calls Jo out as transphobic actually read her long essay. I haven’t seen anyone quote from it to justify their accusations. The most I’ve read is a line about bathrooms (Rowling stated that she had “concerns” around “single-sex spaces”) which again is something I suspect that the vast vast majority of woman feel too.
“This is important as I suspect that the hate she receives comes from the unfair criticisms that came initially from the three lead Harry Potter actors (who commented before her essay was published),”
In June, Forstater won her appeal against the original ruling, as a judge said the original tribunal had “erred in law,” adding that Forstater’s views “must be tolerated in a pluralist society.”
Now running her own organization, Sex Matters, Forstater will head back to court in March for the next hearing on her dismissal.
Rowling, she said, has “been so brave. Almost no one has spoken up for her … She must feel so betrayed. I think we all do — people who you know agree with you, but won’t speak up because it’s too dangerous and scary.
“I think people will turn around in years to come and say ‘Why didn’t we speak up?’ and J.K. Rowling will be vindicated.”