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John Cleese defends signing letter of support for JK Rowling in transphobia row

Julia Hunt
·Contributor
·3-min read
Actor and comedian John Cleese speaks to members of the press on College Green outside the Houses of Parliament after he joined the group 'Hacked Off'.
John Cleese (PA)

Fawlty Towers star John Cleese has defended his support of JK Rowling after a backlash on social media.

Harry Potter author Rowling has been accused of being transphobic after she posted a message on Twitter objecting to the use of the word "people” to describe those who menstruate, instead of the word "women".

Despite denying she is transphobic and releasing a lengthy blog post defending her position, the writer has faced a lot of criticism for her comments.

Read more: JK Rowling hands back award as her views on trans issues are criticised

However, other people have sided with Rowling and have spoken out about the way she is being treated.

And Monty Python star Cleese – who played Nearly Headless Nick in the wizarding film franchise – is the latest to sign a letter of support.

The 80-year-old wrote on Twitter: “Dear Twits, I have added my name to the signatories of the letter in solidarity with JK Rowling.

Watch: Harry Potter’s Robbie Coltrane Defends J.K. Rowling’s Anti-Trans Comments

“Proud to be in the distinguished company of Ian McEwan, Andrew Davies, Frances Welch, Lionel Shriver, Ben Miller, Tom Stoppard, Frances Barber, Griff Rhys-Jones and Matthew d'Ancona.”

The actor’s news was met with a mixed response and some questioned the move.

One person suggested Cleese was transphobic and he replied: “No. Try again.”

Another tweeted that Cleese signing the letter was “a huge step backwards”, adding: “Your support helps JKR to continue hurting others. Sad to see.”

But he responded: “I suspect that the signatories I am proud to be associated are far more balanced and intelligent than the people whose slogans you chant. Sad.”

Rowling came under fire in June for her comments on social media.

Linking to an article entitled Opinion: Creating a more equal post-COVID-19 world for people who menstruate, she wrote: “I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”

She went on to defend her comments saying: “If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives. It isn’t hate to speak the truth.”

However, she was criticised for her remarks by many, including Harry Potter stars including Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson.

The transphobia row was recently reignited by the revelation that the author’s latest detective novel Troubled Blood features a cross-dressing serial killer.

File photo dated 26/09/11 of JK Rowling, as Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said it was "absolutely right" for shadow environment minister Lloyd Russell-Moyle to apologise for the comments he made about JK Rowling in a row about trans rights.
JK Rowling (PA)

According to The Sunday Times, the letter of support refers to the backlash Rowling has faced, calling her a victim of “an insidious, authoritarian and misogynistic trend in social media”.

Read more: John Cleese 'baffled' by debate over JK Rowling tweet

It said her treatment was “just the latest example of hate speech directed against her and other women that Twitter and other platforms enable and implicitly endorse”.

Watch: Lost your creativity? John Cleese has some great tips