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J.K. Rowling hints Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson can ‘save their apologies’ for defending trans people

J.K. Rowling hints Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson can ‘save their apologies’ for defending trans people

The Harry Potter author is being criticized for comments she made about the trans community. 

Harry Potter series author J.K. Rowling came under fire in early June 2020 for controversial tweets she posted about the transgender community. Her stance has caused fans and stars of the wizarding world like Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, and Eddie Redmayne to speak out against the author. Here’s everything you need to know:

What did J.K. Rowling say, exactly?

On June 6, 2020, Rowling retweeted an op-ed piece that discussed “people who menstruate,” apparently taking issue with the fact that the story did not use the word women. “‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?” she wrote.

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That initial tweet garnered a lot of backlash, but the Harry Potter author did not relent and wrote about her views in more detail. “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,” she 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—i.e., to male violence—‘hate’ trans people because they think sex is real and has lived consequences—is a nonsense.”

She continued, “I respect every trans person’s right to live any way that feels authentic and comfortable to them. I’d march with you if you were discriminated against on the basis of being trans. At the same time, my life has been shaped by being female. I do not believe it’s hateful to say so.”

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Then, on June 10, 2020, Rowling published a lengthy post on her website and sent out a tweet that read “TERF Wars.” (TERF is an acronym that stands for trans-exclusionary radical feminist.)

“This isn’t an easy piece to write, for reasons that will shortly become clear, but I know it’s time to explain myself on an issue surrounded by toxicity. I write this without any desire to add to that toxicity,” she wrote. “For people who don’t know: last December I tweeted my support for Maya Forstater, a tax specialist who’d lost her job for what were deemed ‘transphobic’ tweets. She took her case to an employment tribunal, asking the judge to rule on whether a philosophical belief that sex is determined by biology is protected in law. Judge Tayler ruled that it wasn’t.”

Rowling explains that she became interested in trans issues while researching a character she’s writing. Rowling also outlined “five reasons for being worried about the new trans activism.”

The fan backlash:

Rowling’s initial tweets and her subsequent doubling down have drawn a lot of ire from trans activists and Harry Potter fans, many of whom had found comfort in the story of an outsider finding a place where he belonged.

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The celebrity and industry's initial response:

Radcliffe, Harry Potter himself, was the first star from the franchise to release a statement (via The Trevor Project) about Rowling’s comments.

“I realise that certain press outlets will probably want to paint this as in-fighting between J.K. Rowling and myself,” he said, “but that is really not what this is about, nor is it what’s important right now. While Jo is unquestionably responsible for the course my life has taken, as someone who has been honoured to work with and continues to contribute to The Trevor Project for the last decade, and just as a human being, I feel compelled to say something at this moment. Transgender women are women. 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 Jo or I. According to The Trevor Project, 78% of transgender and nonbinary youth reported being the subject of discrimination due to their gender identity. It’s clear that we need to do more to support transgender and nonbinary people, not invalidate their identities, and not cause further harm."

He continued, “To all the people who now feel that their experience of the books has been tarnished or diminished. I am deeply sorry for the pain these comments have caused you. I really hope that you don’t entirely lose what was valuable in these stories to you…. And in my opinion, nobody can touch that. It means to you what it means to you and I hope that these comments will not taint that too much.”

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Watson, who played Hermione Granger, also spoke out in support of the trans community. “Trans people are who they say they are and deserve to live their lives without being constantly questioned or told they aren’t who they say they are. I want my trans followers to know that I and so many other people around the world see you, respect you, and love you for who you are,” she wrote in a series of tweets. “I donate to @Mermaids_Gender and @mamacash. If you can, perhaps you’ll feel inclined to do the same. Happy #PRIDE2020 Sending love x.”

(Watson has not been without controversy lately, either. She was criticised by some for originally just posting black squares on Instagram in early June 2020 in support of Black Lives Matter but failing to provide any information about the cause.)

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Grint, who portrayed Ron Wesley, issued a statement in response to Rowling’s essay as well.

“I firmly stand with the trans community and echo the sentiments expressed by many of my peers. Trans women are women. Trans men are men,” Grint said, according to the Sunday Times on Friday, June 12, 2020. “We should all be entitled to live with love and without judgment.”

Also, Bonnie Wright, the actor who played the onscreen sister of Grint’s Ron, Ginny Weasley, spoke out via Twitter. “If Harry Potter was a source of love and belonging for you, that love is infinite and there to take without judgment or question. Transwomen are Women. I see and love you, Bonnie x,” she wrote.

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Redmayne, who appeared in Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts franchise and played a transgender woman in The Danish Girl, released a lengthy statement to Variety.

“Respect for transgender people remains a cultural imperative, and over the years I have been trying to constantly educate myself. This is an ongoing process,” he said. “As someone who has worked with both JK Rowling and members of the trans community, I wanted to make it absolutely clear where I stand. I disagree with Jo’s comments. Trans women are women, trans men are men, and nonbinary identities are valid. I would never want to speak on behalf of the community but I do know that my dear transgender friends and colleagues are tired of this constant questioning of their identities, which all too often results in violence and abuse. They simply want to live their lives peacefully, and it’s time to let them do so.”

Warner Bros., which produced the Harry Potter films, released this statement about Rowling’s comments:

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Wait, how is Stephen King involved?

J.K. Rowling reportedly deleted a gushing tweet about Stephen King after the renowned horror writer tweeted in support of trans women.

Here’s what apparently went down: King retweeted a message from Rowling’s account. “Andrea Dworkin wrote: ‘Men often react to women’s words—speaking and writing—as if they were acts of violence; sometimes men react to women’s words with violence,’” Rowling tweeted on June 28, 2020. “It isn’t hateful for women [to] speak about their own experiences, nor do they deserve shaming for doing so.”

In response, Rowling sent a now-deleted tweet praising the best-selling author. “I’ve always revered @StephenKing, but today my love reached—maybe not Annie Wilkes levels—but new heights,” she reportedly tweeted, according to Us Weekly. “It’s so much easier for men to ignore women’s concerns, or to belittle them, but I won’t ever forget the men who stood up when they didn’t need to. Thank you, Stephen.”

However, when a fan asked King to respond to Rowling’s transgender statements, the author replied that, “Trans women are women.”

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According to Hogwarts fans on Twitter as well as to Us Weekly, Rowling deleted her tweet about King shortly after.

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Almost one year later, King spoke about what went down, adding that Rowling also blocked the famous author on Twitter after his tweet. “Jo canceled me,” the 73-year-old told The Daily Beast in an interview published on May 20, 2021. “She sorta blocked me and all that.

“Here’s the thing: She is welcome to her opinion,” King added, specifically referencing Rowling’s statements on transgender women. “I just felt that her belief was, in my opinion, wrong. We have differing opinions, but that’s life.”

What about the rant in July 2020?

On July 5, 2020, Rowling went on another social media rant after a Twitter user called her out for liking a tweet that compared hormone therapy to antidepressants.

“I’ve ignored fake tweets attributed to me and RTed widely. I’ve ignored porn tweeted at children on a thread about their art. I’ve ignored death and rape threats. I’m not going to ignore this,” Rowling wrote. “When you lie about what I believe about mental health medication and when you misrepresent the views of a trans woman for whom I feel nothing but admiration and solidarity, you cross a line.”

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She continued, “Many health professionals are concerned that young people struggling with their mental health are being shunted towards hormones and surgery when this may not be in their best interests. Many, myself included, believe we are watching a new kind of conversion therapy for young gay people, who are being set on a lifelong path of medicalisation that may result in the loss of their fertility and/or full sexual function.”

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She once again seemingly called into question the use of hormones. “The long-term health risks of cross-sex hormones have been now been tracked over a lengthy period,” she tweeted. “These side-effects are often minimised or denied by trans activists…. None of that may trouble you or disturb your belief in your own righteousness. But if so, I can’t pretend I care much about your bad opinion of me.”

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Her new books aren’t helping: Part one.

On September 14, 2020, her book Trouble Blood sparked another round of outrage after an early review began making the rounds. The book reportedly follows a detective on the hunt for a cis male serial killer who dresses as a woman in order to hunt and murder cis women. The Telegraph’s review describes it as a “book whose moral seems to be: never trust a man in a dress,” per Pink News.

Of course, people had thoughts. In fact, #RIPJKRowling quickly began trending. “She’s convinced she’s a martyr and this is her suicide mission,” one user wrote.

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Robbie Coltrane defended J.K. Rowling.

The man who played Hagrid was one of the few actors from the Harry Potter–verse to defend Rowling. “I don’t think what she said was offensive, really. I don’t know why but there’s a whole Twitter generation of people who hang around waiting to be offended,” he told Radio Times, per the Standard. “They wouldn’t have won the war, would they? That’s me talking like a grumpy old man, but you just think, Oh, get over yourself. Wise up, stand up straight, and carry on.”

He continued, “I don’t want to get involved in all of that because of all the hate mail and all that shit, which I don’t need at my time of life.”

Pete Davidson had the perfect response to the whole thing on Saturday Night Live.

Davidson, who has a Harry Potter tattoo he now seems to regret, joined SNL’s “Weekend Update” on October 10, 2020, to discuss that summer’s controversy.

“I long for a few young years ago when the worst things she did were those Fantastic Beasts movies,” he joked. “No discrimination there—those films harmed us all equally.”

Watch his full remarks, below:

Eddie Izzard comes to Rowling’s defense.

The comedian, who announced in December 2020 she’s gender-fluid and identifies with she/her pronouns, said in an interview with The Telegraph, “I don’t think J.K. Rowling is transphobic. I think we need to look at the things she has written about in her blog. Women have been through such hell over history. Trans people have been invisible too. I hate the idea we are fighting between ourselves, but it’s not going to be sorted with the wave of a wand. I don’t have all the answers. If people disagree with me, fine, but why are we going through hell on this?”

A new Harry Potter TV show might be happening—and some fans aren’t happy.

In January 2021, rumors started swirling that a Harry Potter TV show was in “early development” at HBO Max. The streaming platform and Warner Bros. shot this down in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, but still fans are chattering. And not all of them are happy about the idea of Rowling profiting off a hypothetical show.

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Rowling says she has received death threats.

In response to one person who said, “I wish you a very nice pipebomb in mailbox,” she said, “To be fair, when you can’t get a woman sacked, arrested or dropped by her publisher, and cancelling her only made her book sales go up, there’s really only one place to go.”

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“Hundreds of trans activists have threatened to beat, rape, assassinate and bomb me I’ve realised that this movement poses no risk to women whatsoever.”

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Dave Chappelle came under fire for defending Rowling.

In Dave Chappelle’s Netflix special, which premiered on October 5, 2021, the comedian declared he was a TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) like Rowling. “Gender is a fact,” he said. “Every human being in this room, every human being on Earth, had to pass through the legs of a woman to be on Earth. This is a fact.” He continued on to make several jokes at trans people’s expense, which we will not repeat here. Following the special’s release, many Netflix users are calling for its removal from the streaming platform while creators—like Jaclyn Moore, a writer and co-showrunner on Dear White People—declared they will no longer work with the company.

She did not return for the HP films’ 20th anniversary special on HBO Max.

Though J.K. Rowling only appeared in Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts through archival footage, she denies being left out by Warner Bros.

In an interview with Graham Norton for Virgin Radio UK in August 2022, she corrected the host when he mentioned she was “excluded” from the special. “I wasn’t, actually—I was asked to be on that, and I decided I didn’t want to do it,” she said, per Vanity Fair. “I thought it was about the films more than the books, you know? Quite rightly, as that is what the anniversary was about, so no one said, ‘Don’t come.’”

When asked if she’s still in touch with any of the “young” Harry Potter actors, she replied, “Yes, I do, some more than others, but that was always the case. Some I knew better than others.”

The new books aren’t helping: Part two.

In August 2022, Rowling began promoting her new novel, The Ink Black Heart, published under her pen name Robert Galbraith. In the book, which is over a thousand pages long, a YouTube-based cartoonist’s work is accused of being racist, transphobic, and ableist; she’s then doxxed, threatened with rape and death, and is ultimately stabbed to death in a cemetery. According to one reviewer’s take, the book “takes aim” at “social justice warriors.”

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But the book is not based on Rowling’s own controversies…says Rowling. “I should make it really clear after some of the things that have happened the last year that this is not depicting [that],” Rowling said to Graham Norton in an interview. “I had written the book before certain things happened to me online. I said to my husband, ‘I think everyone is going to see this as a response to what happened to me,’ but it genuinely wasn’t. The first draft of the book was finished at the point certain things happened.”

Tom Felton dismissed her involvement in the films.

In an interview with The Independent about his memoir, the Draco Malfoy actor said he is “pro-human-rights across the board” and suggested Rowling “wasn’t part of the filmmaking process as much as some people might think.”

“First of all, I don’t know enough about the specifics of what anyone said,” he said of Rowling’s infamous statements, per Variety. “My dog takes up far too much time for me to go into such matters. I mean, the obvious things to say are that I’m pro-choice, pro-discussion, pro-human-rights across the board, and pro-love. And anything that is not those things, I don’t really have much time for.”

The actor continued, “It is also a reminder that as much as Jo is the founder of [these] stories, she wasn’t part of the filmmaking process as much as some people might think. I think I only recall seeing her once or twice on set.”

Helena Bonham Carter came to her defense.

Bonham Carter, who played Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter films, defended Rowling in a November 2022 interview with The Sunday Times Magazine.

“It’s horrendous, a load of bollocks,” she said of the Rowling backlash. “I think she has been hounded. It’s been taken to the extreme, the judgmentalism of people. She’s allowed her opinion, particularly if she’s suffered abuse,” Bonham Carter continued. “Everybody carries their own history of trauma and forms their opinions from that trauma, and you have to respect where people come from and their pain. You don’t all have to agree on everything—that would be insane and boring. She’s not meaning it aggressively, she’s just saying something out of her own experience.”

A trans artist resells Harry Potter books with new covers that omit Rowling’s name.

Canadian printmaker and book artist Laur Flom, who is trans, garnered major attention when they began a project of buying secondhand Harry Potter books and replacing the covers with redesigned versions that don't have J.K. Rowling's name. Flom then resells the books for £140, according to Yahoo! News. In a TikTok from February 2022, Flom said, “My aim with this project is to engage critically and give an option to people who do still want to enjoy Harry Potter without supporting J.K. Rowling.”

Hogwarts Legacy, a video game based on the franchise, seemingly introduces a trans character.

Per Entertainment Weekly, the hotly anticipated Hogwarts Legacy, a video game set in the Harry Potter universe, introduces a new character, Sirona Ryan, who is seemingly trans. Though Sirona, a barkeep at Three Broomsticks, is not explicitly labeled as transgender, a line of her dialogue is highly suggestive. Referring to her friendship with a goblin, she says, “Hadn't seen him in years when he came in a few months ago. But he recognized me instantly. Which is more than I can say for some of my own classmates. Took them a second to realize I was actually a witch, not a wizard.”

Warner Bros. Games has already faced criticism over Hogwarts Legacy, which creates a new revenue stream for Rowling. When asked about the concerns by IGN, game director Alan Tew said, “We know our fans fell in love with the Wizarding World, and we believe they fell in love with it for the right reasons. We know that's a diverse audience. For us, it's making sure that the audience, who always dreamed of having this game, had the opportunity to feel welcomed back. That they have a home here and that it's a good place to tell their story.”

Rowling compares the trans rights movement to Death Eaters….

Yeah, you read that right. In episode five of the podcast The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling, the author describes the trans rights movement as “dangerous.” Here's an excerpt of her statement from March 2023, per Vox:

[S]ome of you have not understood the books. The Death Eaters claimed, “We have been made to live in secret, and now is our time, and any who stand in our way must be destroyed. If you disagree with us, you must die.” They demonised and dehumanised those who were not like them.

I am fighting what I see as a powerful, insidious, misogynistic movement, that has gained huge purchase in very influential areas of society. I do not see this particular movement as either benign or powerless, so I’m afraid I stand with the women who are fighting to be heard against threats of loss of livelihood and threats to their safety.

Daniel Radcliffe lays down the gauntlet.

In late March 2023, the Harry Potter star moderated the first episode of Sharing Space, “a new video series from the nonprofit The Trevor Project that features roundtable conversations with LGBTQ youth moderated by adult allies.” Per The Hollywood Reporter, Radcliffe spoke to six transgender and nonbinary youth for the premiere episode, which is set to air on The Trevor Project's YouTube page on March 31, the Transgender Day of Visibility.

“We listen to so many people talk about trans youth and hear them talked about so often in the news, but very rarely do we actually hear from these youth directly,” Radcliffe said in a statement. “It was an absolute privilege to get to meet and listen to this incredible group of young people. At the end of the day, if you’re going to talk about trans kids, it might be useful to actually listen to trans kids.”

Fans on Twitter and TikTok widely praise Radcliffe for his allyship in the wake of Rowling's consistent transphobia.

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She’s developing a Harry Potter TV series with HBO Max.

In April, news broke via Bloomberg that HBO Max was reportedly in talks with Rowling to produce a multiseason TV series wherein each of the seven Harry Potter books would have its own season. Despite her offensive, transphobic remarks, Rowling would be directly involved in the series to keep the storyline faithful to her books. However, the outlet noted that she would not hold a major production role.

David Zaslav, the CEO of HBO parent company Warner Bros Discovery, “has met multiple times with Rowling and has spoken up in support of the author” amid her ongoing controversies, per Deadline.

It was then confirmed by Variety that a series is in the works at Max, the combined streaming home of HBO Max and Discovery+ due to launch in the spring. The series will feature an entirely new cast and Rowling as an executive producer. “Max’s commitment to preserving the integrity of my books is important to me, and I’m looking forward to being part of this new adaptation, which will allow for a degree of depth and detail only afforded by a long-form television series,” said the author.

ContraPoints calls Rowling a “useful idiot” for the patriarchy.

Natalie Wynn, a popular trans YouTuber and political commentator who posts under the username ContraPoints, started trending on Twitter on April 17, when she dropped her explanation of why there is no “witch hunt” against Rowling. It’s worth taking the time to watch Wynn’s two-hour analysis in full, which she concludes with two important points. The first: “Is the backlash against J.K. Rowling a witch hunt? Unequivocally no,” Wynn says.

But she also adds that Rowling is still “not the final boss of transphobia.” Wynn explains, “A movement can’t get along without a devil. And across the whole political spectrum, there’s a misogynistic tendency to choose a female devil. Whether it’s Anita Bryant, Hillary Clinton, Marie Antoinette, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or J.K. Rowling.” The real threat to trans people, Wynn says, is the Republican party. Rowling and other TERFs are “useful idiots who put a concerned female face on the patriarchal violence against trans people that will ultimately be enacted by right-wing men.”

Rowling mocks TV show boycotters.

With news of the HBO Max reboot, all eyes are on J.K. Rowling—and she keeps giving her critics something to talk about. The author responded to fans’ calls to boycott the show on Twitter on April 21: “Dreadful news, which I feel duty bound to share,” she wrote. “Activists in my mentions are trying to organize yet another boycott of my work, this time of the Harry Potter TV show.” The sarcasm speaks volumes.

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To add insult to injury, she remarked that she would stock up on champagne to celebrate, then admitted in the replies that she doesn’t even really like champagne.

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Professor Slughorn, played by Jim Broadbent, weighs in.

The original cast members are divided in their response to Rowling’s TERF rhetoric. Jim Broadbent, who played Professor Slughorn, revealed where he stands in an April 23 interview with The Telegraph.

“It’s really sad,” the actor said. “I think J.K. Rowling is amazing. I haven’t had to confront [the criticism] myself, but I would support her in that, I think, if it came to it.” Broadbent is among Rowling’s supporters, who include Ralph Fiennes and Helena Bonham Carter.

Rowling insists she’d take prison time rather than correctly use a trans person’s pronouns.

Yes, you read that correctly. Per Deadline, the author appeared to respond to an October 14 report in the Daily Mail which suggested that Britain’s Labour movement is working to make gender identity attacks criminal offences. Such offences, critics insisted in the report, would carry a two-year sentence.

“I’ll happily do two years if the alternative is compelled speech and forced denial of the reality and importance of sex,” Rowling wrote on X (formerly Twitter). Her comment was in response to a follower who said she could receive jail time for her views. “Bring on the court case, I say,” she added. “It’ll be more fun than I’ve ever had on a red carpet.”

In the replies, Rowling joked with her followers about which prison duties she’d undertake.

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Rowling doubles down on her offer to go to prison, with a thread targeting individual trans women.

Scotland's new Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act, which criminalizes threatening or abusive transphobic behavior (among other forms of targeted harassment), went into effect on April 1. Rowling repeated her willingness to go to prison over the law in a lengthy screed on X, per USA Today.

“It is impossible to accurately describe or tackle the reality of violence and sexual violence committed against women and girls, or address the current assault on women’s and girls’ rights, unless we are allowed to call a man a man,” said Rowling, nonsensically, near the end of her treatise. She concluded, “I'm currently out of the country, but if what I've written here qualifies as an offense under the terms of the new act, I look forward to being arrested when I return to the birthplace of the Scottish Enlightenment.”

Rowling's thread also named several individual trans women, arguably marking these people for targeted harassment from her followers. (We will not be linking to her posts.)

In terms of what constitutes an actionable criminal offence under this new law, First Minister Humza Yousaf said, per Associated Press, “The threshold of criminality in terms of the new offences is very, very high indeed. Your behaviour has to be threatening or abusive and intended to stir up hatred.”

Rowling implies she will not “forgive” Harry Potter stars Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson for their support of trans rights.

Following the April 10 release of a four-year study commissioned by the NHS regarding care for transgender youth, Rowling went on yet another lengthy screed against the trans community and their supporters.

When a follower brought up Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson, allies of the trans community who have publicly expressed their support for trans rights, Rowling implied that she would not “forgive” the actors with whom she was once close. Though neither actor has publicly derided Rowling, both Radcliffe and Watson shared their support for the trans community shortly after Rowling first went public with her TERF views.

J.K. Rowling hints Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson can ‘save their apologies’ for defending trans people

Daniel Radcliffe, J.K. Rowling, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint at the 2011 premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2.

Jon Furniss

“Just waiting for Dan and Emma to give you a very public apology,” the follower wrote on X, “safe in the knowledge that you will forgive them.”

Rowling replied, “Not safe, I’m afraid. Celebs who cosied up to a movement intent on eroding women’s hard-won rights and who used their platforms to cheer on the transitioning of minors can save their apologies for traumatised detransitioners and vulnerable women reliant on single sex spaces.”

This article will be updated as new information is available.

This feature originally appeared on Glamour US.