Author J.K. Rowling has returned an award given to her last December by the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights group. Last August the group announced it would be giving “Ripple of Hope” awards to four people for their commitment to human rights. J.K. Rowling was the best known of the four (Nancy Pelosi was another).
“We are proud to honor these extraordinary laureates who have sent forth countless ripples of hope to millions of people inspired by their example,” said Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights President Kerry Kennedy.
At the time, Rowling said she was “delighted and honoured” to receive the award. But earlier this month Kerry Kennedy, the group’s president, published a statement on the group’s website describing her “dismay” at Rowling’s comments about trans people. Here’s a portion of it:
I have spoken with J.K. Rowling to express my profound disappointment that she has chosen to use her remarkable gifts to create a narrative that diminishes the identity of trans and nonbinary people, undermining the validity and integrity of the entire transgender community—one that disproportionately suffers from violence, discrimination, harassment, and exclusion and, as a result, experiences high rates of suicide, suicide attempts, homelessness, and mental and bodily harm. Black trans women and trans youth in particular are targeted…
Trans rights are human rights. J.K. Rowling’s attacks upon the transgender community are inconsistent with the fundamental beliefs and values of RFK Human Rights and represent a repudiation of my father’s vision.
That was published on August 3. Yesterday, Rowling announced she was returning the award:
Since I first joined the public debate on gender identity and women’s rights, I’ve been overwhelmed by the thousands of private emails of support I’ve received from people affected by these issues, both within and without the trans community, many of whom feel vulnerable and afraid because of the toxicity surrounding this discussion.
Clinicians, academics, therapists, teachers, social workers, and staff at prisons and women’s refuges have also contacted me. These professionals, some at the very top of their organisations, have expressed serious concerns about the impact of gender identity theory on vulnerable adolescents and on women’s rights, and of the dismantling of safeguarding norms which protect the most vulnerable women. None of them hate trans people. On the contrary, many work with and are personally deeply sympathetic towards trans individuals.
Kerry Kennedy, President of Robert F Kennedy Human Rights, recently felt it necessary to publish a statement denouncing my views on RFKHR’s website. The statement incorrectly implied that I was transphobic, and that I am responsible for harm to trans people. 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…
RFKHR has stated that there is no conflict between the current radical trans rights movement and the rights of women. The thousands of women who’ve got in touch with me disagree, and, like me, believe this clash of rights can only be resolved if more nuance is permitted in the debate.
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.
The heat that radiates from the so-called “TERF wars” is unlike any other debate. Rowling doesn’t strike me as a “hater” in any sense but clearly she has become so radioactive for her stance on this issue that even groups who have given her awards recently would rather pick a fight with her than let it be thought they support her right to hold a different opinion.