JK Rowling is returning a human rights award - here’s why

By Stephanie Rendall
Friday, 28th August 2020, 5:10 pm
Updated Friday, 28th August 2020, 5:10 pm
J.K. Rowling accepted the award during the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Ripple Of Hope Gala & Auction In New York City in December 2019.
J.K. Rowling accepted the award during the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Ripple Of Hope Gala & Auction In New York City in December 2019.

JK Rowling is handing back her award from Robert F Kennedy Human Rights group in the US, after claiming its president “incorrectly implied” that the author is “transphobic”.

In the past few months the Harry Potter creator has been the focus of a heated row over trans rights, after a series of controversial tweets.

Kerry Kennedy - the daughter of the late senator Robert Kennedy and the president of Robert F Kennedy Human Rights group, which had previously given the best-selling author an award - was among those who criticised the views.

Why did JK Rowling give the award back?

Rowling declared her decision to return the award in a post on her website, explaining that the organisation’s president had “felt it necessary to publish a statement denouncing [her] views” on the group’s website.

“The statement incorrectly implied that I was transphobic, and that I am responsible for harm to trans people,” said Rowling.

“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.”

She continued, “In solidarity with those who have contacted me but who are struggling to make their voices heard, and because of the very serious conflict of views between myself and RFKHR, I feel I have no option but to return the Ripple of Hope Award bestowed upon me last year.

“I am deeply saddened that RFKHR has felt compelled to adopt this stance, but no award or honour, no matter my admiration for the person for whom it was named, means so much to me that I would forfeit the right to follow the dictates of my own conscience.”

An ‘ethical and medical scandal’

In her latest statement Rowling wrote, “I’ve been particularly struck by the stories of brave detransitioned young women who’ve risked the opprobrium of activists by speaking up about a movement they say has harmed them.

“After hearing personally from some of these women, and from such a wide range of professionals, I’ve been forced to the unhappy conclusion that an ethical and medical scandal is brewing.”

Who else responded to Rowling’s earlier comments?

Rowlings tweets and subsequent blog post published on her website last month resulted in several Harry Potter actors criticising the author. Daniel Radcliffe, along with Eddie Redmayne and Emma Watson, took to social media to distance themselves from her comments.

Radcliffe wrote, “While Jo is unquestionably responsible for the course my life has taken, as someone who has been honoured to work with and continues to contribute to The Trevor Project for the last decade, and just as a human being, I feel compelled to say something at this moment.

“Transgender women are women. Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional health care associations who have far more expertise on this subject matter than either Jo or I.”

The actor added, “It's clear that we need to do more to support transgender and nonbinary people, not invalidate their identities, and not cause further harm.”

Additionally, four authors from Rowling’s literary agency resigned after alleging that the agency had declined to publish a statement in support of transgender rights.