Warner Bros. Responds to J.K. Rowling Controversy: ‘A Diverse and Inclusive Culture Has Never Been More Important’

Adam B. Vary
·4-min read

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Warner Bros. has responded to the ongoing controversy surrounding J.K. Rowling’s statements about transgender identity.

“The events in the last several weeks have firmed our resolve as a company to confront difficult societal issues,” the company said in a statement to Variety. “Warner Bros.’ position on inclusiveness is well established, and fostering a diverse and inclusive culture has never been more important to our company and to our audiences around the world. We deeply value the work of our storytellers who give so much of themselves in sharing their creations with us all. We recognize our responsibility to foster empathy and advocate understanding of all communities and all people, particularly those we work with and those we reach through our content.”

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The statement comes after days of outcry over Rowling’s public assertions about how transgender people define their identity. First, on June 6, Rowling posted a thread of tweets in which made clear she believes women are defined by their biological sex and not their gender identity.

“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,” Rowling tweeted. “The idea that women like me, who’ve been empathetic to trans people for decades, feeling kinship because they’re vulnerable in the same way as women — ie, to male violence – ‘hate’ trans people because they think sex is real and has lived consequences — is a nonsense.”

The tweets came under immediate criticism for in essence denying that transgender women are women, a stance that for many “Harry Potter” fans flies directly in the face of the books’ manifest lessons on inclusion and empathy.

The furor became so intense that “Harry Potter” star Daniel Radcliffe posted a lengthy statement in support of trans identity and trans rights, and directly repudiated Rowling’s position.

“Transgender women are women,” Radcliffe said. “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 [Rowling] or I.”

In the following days, more actors joined Radcliffe, including Emma Watson and “Fantastic Beasts” star Eddie Redmayne.

“As someone who has worked with both J.K. Rowling and members of the trans community, I wanted to make it absolutely clear where I stand,” Redmayne said in an exclusive statement to Variety on Wednesday. “I disagree with Jo’s comments. Trans women are women, trans men are men and non-binary identities are valid.”

That same day, Rowling posted an extensive essay to her website staunchly defending her decision to weigh in on trans identity and further detailing her views. While Rowling said that she does believe that “trans rights are human rights,” that “trans lives matter,” and that she wants “trans women to be safe,” she doubled down on her belief that sex identity is immutable, and that the efforts of trans activists to define womanhood by gender identity would corrode the rights of cisgender women.

“When you throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman … then you open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside. That is the simple truth,” Rowling wrote. “Endlessly unpleasant as its constant targeting of me has been, I refuse to bow down to a movement that I believe is doing demonstrable harm in seeking to erode ‘woman’ as a political and biological class and offering cover to predators like few before it.”

In her essay, Rowling also referred to a sexual assault she experienced in her 20s, which she said she’s never discussed publicly before. Rowling said that she was “triggered” by news that Scotland was moving forward what what she characterized as “controversial gender recognition plans,” and she chose to send her tweets on trans identity while in “a very dark place” in which memories of her assault kept playing in her head.

“I couldn’t shut out those memories and I was finding it hard to contain my anger and disappointment about the way I believe my government is playing fast and loose with womens and girls’ safety,” Rowling wrote.

“I’m mentioning these things now not in an attempt to garner sympathy,” she added, “but out of solidarity with the huge numbers of women who have histories like mine, who’ve been slurred as bigots for having concerns around single-sex spaces.”

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