JK Rowling says loved ones ‘begged’ her to keep trans views to herself

JK Rowling has revealed in a new book of essays that family members urged her to keep her views about the trans community to herself.

The best-selling author has courted controversy in recent years with her polarising views on trans rights. She has mocked gender-neutral language, misgendered trans people and criticised trans individuals in front of a large social media audience.

In the new book of 30 essays, The Women Who Wouldn’t Wheesht, which is published tomorrow (30 May), Rowling writes that she initially did not share her views “because people around me, including some I love, were begging me not to speak”.

In an extract printed in The Times, she adds: “So, I watched from the sidelines as women with everything to lose rallied, in Scotland and across the UK, to defend their rights. My guilt that I wasn’t standing with them was with me daily, like a chronic pain.

“I believe we’re witnessing the greatest assault of my lifetime on the rights our foremothers thought they’d guaranteed for all women. Ultimately, I spoke up because I’d have felt ashamed for the rest of my days if I hadn’t. If I feel any regret at all, it’s that I didn’t speak far sooner.”

The book also includes essays from anti-trans politicians MP Joanna Cherry and MSP Ash Regan and is described as a work which tells the stories of “women who risked their job, reputation, even the bonds of family and friendship, to make their voices heard”.

JK Rowling has made a number of controversial comments about trans people. (Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images)

Rowling first courted controversy for her views in 2019 when she wrote on social media in support of Maya Forstater, who was engaged in a legal battle with a former employer over her “gender-critical” views.

Six months later, Rowling posted a series of tweets criticising inclusive language used in an article about period care for “people who menstruate”.

In June 2020, she published a lengthy post on her website, sharing it on Twitter with the caption “TERF wars”. 

The Harry Potter author laid out the reasons why she was “worried about the new trans activism”, such as saying transgender rights have an impact on education and safeguarding, and expressing concerned at “the huge explosion in young women wishing to transition”.

In October 2023, Rowling took to X, formerly Twitter, to suggest she’d rather do jail time than use a trans person’s correct pronouns

In the post, Rowling shared an image which showed the words “repeat after us: trans women are women” and captioned the response, “No.” 

In a reply to her original post on the social media site, Rowling wrote: “I’ll happily do two years if the alternative is compelled speech and forced denial of the reality and importance of sex.”

More recently, she has engaged in intense social media rows with trans people and their allies.

In one example earlier this year, Rowling misgendered trans journalist India Willoughby, accusing her of “cosplaying a misogynistic male fantasy of what a woman is”.

 Willoughby described the post as “grotesque”.

JK Rowling has also voiced her opposition to Scotland’s new hate crime legislation. In one spat on X, lawyer Rajan Barot warned her that she would be “best-advised” to “start deleting” posts after the law came into force.

Rowling responded: “If you genuinely imagine I’d delete posts calling a man a man, so as not to be prosecuted under this ludicrous law, stand by for the mother of all April Fools’ jokes.”

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