Trans writer Jennifer Boylan distances herself from free speech letter

Trans writer Jennifer Finney Boylan distances herself from free speech letter she signed calling out cancel culture after realizing JK Rowling had also endorsed it – but is immediately called out by the Harry Potter author

  • Jennifer Finney Boylan has now distanced herself from an open letter she signed alongside 150 authors calling out cancel culture
  • The trans author claimed that she didn’t known who had signed the letter 
  • While Finney Boylan did not specifically mention who prompted her to backtrack, she did confirm to some on Twitter she was referring to Rowling
  • Rowling, who has faced backlash after being accused of transphobia following her comments on biological sex, was a co-signatory on the letter 
  • Following her move to dissociate herself from the letter, Rowling publicly slammed her on Twitter 
  • Among the others to sign the open letter were Margaret Atwood, Gloria Steinem and Noam Chomsky 

Trans writer Jennifer Finney Boylan has distanced herself from a free speech letter she signed calling out cancel culture after realizing that JK Rowling had also endorsed it.

The American author’s move to dissociated herself from the letter, which was published in Harper’s Bazaar and signed by 150 authors, academics and journalists, prompted the Harry Potter author to publicly slam her on Twitter.   

The letter published on Tuesday slammed ‘cancel culture’ and warned of an ‘intolerant climate’ for free speech. 

Rowling, who has faced backlash in recent weeks after being accused of transphobia following her comments on biological sex, was a co-signatory on the letter.

The letter, which comes amid a debate over so-called cancel culture where public figures face criticism for perceived acts of offence, quickly sparked debate online. 


Trans writer Jennifer Finney Boylan (left) has distanced herself from a free speech letter she signed calling out cancel culture after realizing that JK Rowling (right) had also endorsed it

Finney Boylan has since claimed she didn’t know who else had signed it before putting her name to it

Finney Boylan has since attempted to distance herself from the letter, claiming she didn’t know who else had signed it before putting her name to it.

‘I did not know who else had signed that letter. I thought I was endorsing a well meaning, if vague, message against internet shaming. I did know Chomsky, Steinem, and Atwood were in, and I thought, good company,’ Finney Boylan tweeted. 

‘The consequences are mine to bear. I am so sorry.’ 

While Finney Boylan did not specifically mention who prompted her to backtrack, she did confirm to some on Twitter that she didn’t know Rowling had signed the letter. 

Her tweet prompted an immediate reaction from Rowling who tweeted that Finney Boylan was still following her on Twitter. 

‘You’re still following me, Jennifer. Be sure to publicly repent of your association with Goody Rowling before unfollowing and volunteer to operate the ducking stool next time, as penance,’ Rowling wrote as she retweeted the author’s post.

Rowling’s tweet referenced Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible, which is about witch hunts in the 17th century. 

Finney Boylan, who is a transgender activist, is the author of 15 books. 

The American author’s move to dissociate herself from the letter prompted the Harry Potter author to publicly slam her on Twitter

While Finney Boylan did not specifically mention who prompted her to backtrack, she did confirm to some on Twitter that she didn’t know Rowling had signed the letter

Among the others to sign the open letter were Margaret Atwood, Gloria Steinem and Noam Chomsky. 

The letter argued: ‘The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted.

‘While we have come to expect this on the radical right, censoriousness is also spreading more widely in our culture: an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty.’

The letter criticized the current state of public debate and the ‘swift and severe retribution’ dealt out to any perceived wrongs.

It said: ‘We uphold the value of robust and even caustic counter-speech from all quarters. But it is now all too common to hear calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought.

‘More troubling still, institutional leaders, in a spirit of panicked damage control, are delivering hasty and disproportionate punishments instead of considered reforms.’

It adds: ‘Whatever the arguments around each particular incident, the result has been to steadily narrow the boundaries of what can be said without the threat of reprisal.

‘We are already paying the price in greater risk aversion among writers, artists, and journalists who fear for their livelihoods if they depart from the consensus, or even lack sufficient zeal in agreement.’ 

The controversy surrounding Rowling first started after she clashed with gender activists after appearing to ‘like’ a post on Twitter saying that trans women are ‘men in dresses’, which she said was an accident. 

Last year, she faced the huge backlash after defending a female researcher who was fired for claiming that ‘men cannot change into women’.

This month, she made a jibe at an article titled ‘Creating a more equal post-Covid-19 world for people who menstruate’.

She tweeted: ‘I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?’

Emma Watson joined Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe in his criticism of Rowling, who was accused of being anti-trans after implying only women can menstruate. 

Radcliffe apologized to those who ‘feel their experience of the [Harry Potter] books has been tarnished’ and said he was ‘deeply sorry for the pain’.

Eddie Redmayne became the latest actor to condemn Rowling’s views on trans people – saying he wants to make ‘absolutely clear’ he does not agree with her.

The actor, who starred in the Harry Potter spin-off films Fantastic Beasts, said trans people should be allowed to ‘live their lives peacefully’.

Redmayne, who was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of a trans woman in The Danish Girl, said in a statement: ‘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.

‘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 non-binary identities are valid. I would never want to speak on behalf of the community but I 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.’   

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