JK Rowling’s recent anti-transgender comments have led to a “rebellion” among staff at the publisher of her new children’s book.
The Harry Potter author has been criticized for tweets containing language that has been characterized as transphobic, including claiming that sex was being replaced with gender identity.
After backlash over the tweets, the author later published a blog post titled “TERF wars,” in which she made unsourced claims about gender identity and detransitioning, drawing further ire from LGBTQ people and allies.
Her comments even led stars of the Harry Potter film franchise to publicly support trans people, including lead actor Daniel Radcliffe, who published an essay affirming that “transgender women are women.”
Rowling’s comments have seemingly now sparked a backlash at publisher Hachette UK, which is set to release her new children’s book The Ickabog.
According to the Daily Mail, the publisher is facing an “internal war” after staff opposed to Rowling’s comments “staged a rebellion” during a meeting.
One source told the Mail that staff in the children’s department at Hachette “announced they were no longer prepared to work on the book.”
“They said they were opposed to her comments and wanted to show support for the trans lobby,” the source said.
A second source said the rebellion came from a “handful of staff” and said that they are “entitled to their views,” but suggested that their anger was misplaced.
“If they were being asked to edit a book on domestic abuse, and they were a survivor of domestic abuse, of course they would never be forced to work on it,” the source said. “But this is a children’s fairy tale. It is not the end of the world. They will all be having chats with their managers.”
Hachette UK issued a statement to the Daily Mail saying that it supported staff exercising their freedom of speech, but it stood behind Rowling’s book and would continue to publish it.
“We are proud to publish JK Rowling’s children’s fairy tale The Ickabog,” the statement read. “Freedom of speech is the cornerstone of publishing. We fundamentally believe that everyone has the right to express their own thoughts and beliefs. That’s why we never comment on our authors’ personal views and we respect our employees’ right to hold a different view.”
Hachette continued: “We will never make our employees work on a book whose content they find upsetting for personal reasons, but we draw a distinction between that and refusing to work on a book because they disagree with an author’s views outside their writing, which runs contrary to our belief in free speech.”
Rowling previously caused controversy over the release of The Ickabog after she tweeted profane and transphobic language in response to a drawing from a nine-year-old child.
The author had asked children to submit drawings for the book’s titular character, with Rowling tweeted out her favorites to her 14.5 million followers.
However, one tweet in late May not only included a child’s drawing and Rowling’s praise, but also an excerpt from an anti-transgender article on Feminist Current which misgendered a trans woman.
“I love this truly fabulous Ickabog, with its bat ears, mismatched eyes, and terrifying bloodstained teeth!” Rowling wrote. “In court, Wolf claimed the Facebook post in which he’s said he wanted to ‘fuck up some TERFs’ was just ‘bravado.'”
The language in the second half of the tweet is a reference to Tara Wolf, a transgender activist who was convicted of hitting trans-exclusionary radical feminist (TERF) Maria MacLachlan during a protest.
Rowling deleted the tweet and issued an explanation shortly afterwards.
“I’m going to say this once, and I’m going to say it calmly and politely,” she tweeted. “I certainly didn’t mean to paste a quotation from a message about the assault of Maria Maclaughlin [sic] into a tweet to a child, especially given the language used by the person convicted of the crime.”
Rowling added: “However, I am not — as many of the people now swarming into my mentions seem to think — ashamed of reading about the assault. You should know by now that accusations of thought crime leave me cold. Take your censorship and authoritarianism elsewhere. They don’t work on me.”
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