JK Rowling 'struggling to support' Labour over Sir Keir's stance on transgender rights that's 'abandoning' women

22 June 2024, 13:42 | Updated: 22 June 2024, 14:10

Rowling criticises Sir Keir along with several members of his shadow cabinet
Rowling criticises Sir Keir along with several members of his shadow cabinet. Picture: Alamy

By Will Conroy

JK Rowling has said she will "struggle to support" Labour if Sir Keir Starmer doesn’t change his current stance on the rights of transgender people.

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Writing in The Times, the Harry Potter author, who has often been outspoken in her views on gender recognition, has expressed her dissatisfaction with the Labour party’s approach to the matter.

Rowling criticises Sir Keir along with several members of his shadow cabinet for ​“abandoning” women and being “dismissive and often offensive” approach to their concerns.

Labour said it was "the party of women’s equality, with a manifesto that puts women front and centre".

Rowling's comments come after a recent leaders debate in which Sir Keir appeared to shift his stance on transgender rights.

The Labour leader previously said "99.9% of women" do not have a penis and in 2021 said it was "not right" for Labour MP Rosie Duffield to say that "only women have a cervix".

Rowling's comments come after a recent leaders debate in which Sir Keir appeared to shift his stance
Rowling's comments come after a recent leaders debate in which Sir Keir appeared to shift his stance. Picture: Alamy

During the debate on Thursday, he said he agreed with former Labour leader Sir Tony Blair's stance on the issue, saying "biologically, a woman is with a vagina and a man is with a penis".

Asked about his previous comments on Ms Duffield, he said the debate at the time had become “very toxic, very divided, very hard line”.

Rowling said she thought she "misheard" Sir Keir in 2021 when he criticised Ms Duffield.

Read more: Trans people will be accommodated in 'side rooms' of single-sex wards, Sir Keir Starmer tells LBC

Read more: NHS ‘to review all transgender treatment’ after landmark report calls for ‘more cautious approach’ to transitioning

She added: "The impression given by Starmer at Thursday's debate was that there had been something unkind, something toxic, something hard line in Rosie's words, even though almost identical words had sounded perfectly reasonable when spoken by Tony Blair.

"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."

Rowling also criticised shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper for saying she was "not going to get into rabbit holes on this" as well as shadow equalities secretary Anneliese Dodds for saying what a woman is "depends on what the context is".

Rowling also criticised shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper
Rowling also criticised shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper. Picture: Alamy

The author said: "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.”

Rowling claims to "have been a Labour voter, a member (no longer), donor (not recently) and campaigner (ditto) all my adult life" - and she wants to see the end of the Conservative government.

According to Electoral Commission records, she gave £1m to the party in 2008, and £8,000 in 2015.

While on the campaign trail in South London, Sir Keir has responded saying: "I'm determined that one of the changes that we will bring about if we win the election is a reset of politics, to make sure that as we make progress, we do it in a context that brings people together, and all dialogue, all debate, is always done with respect for the views of everybody involved in those progress and in that discussion."

A Labour spokesperson had previously said: “Sex and gender are different, as Labour’s Equality Act makes clear.

"That’s why we have consistently said that we will not introduce self ID and that we will protect single sex spaces for biological women.

There have been questions whether Labour would protect single-sex spaces
There have been questions whether Labour would protect single-sex spaces. Picture: Alamy

“Keir was right to say that the discussion around these issues can become too polarised.

"After years of division under the Conservatives, Labour will bring the country together and ensure that everyone is treated with dignity and respect.”

Under the Equality Act 2010, it is illegal to discriminate against anyone because of "protected characteristics".

These are a set of identifying traits that are protected by law and include age, disability, religion, race, sex and sexual orientation among others.

The Conservatives have said they would alter the Equality Act to apply to biological sex while Labour and say single-sex spaces do not have to be open to those who are biologically male but identify as female.

Labour have said this change is not necessary as the act already protects single-sex spaces for biological women but the party says it would produce "clearer guidance" on the matter.

Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe previously criticised Rowling's position
Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe previously criticised Rowling's position. Picture: Alamy

Rowling has received significant criticism for her position on the matter that biological women should be able to have separate spaces that trans women should not be given access to.

She once claimed she would rather go to jail than refer to a trans person by their preferred pronouns.

Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe previously criticised her position and said the fallout with the author “makes me really sad”.

Transgender newsreader India Willoughby recently said she was "genuinely disgusted" by Rowling’s comments. .

She added: "Grotesque transphobia, which is upsetting. I am every bit as much a woman as JK Rowling."

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