J.K. Rowling organizes boozy TERF lunch amidst protest and march for transgender rights

The author, who complains of being a victim of "cancellation," is also experiencing an all-time high in business

By Joy Saha

Published April 12, 2022 7:45PM (EDT)

J.K. Rowling arrives at the "Fantastic Beasts: The Secret of Dumbledore" world premiere at The Royal Festival Hall on March 29, 2022 in London, England. (Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images)
J.K. Rowling arrives at the "Fantastic Beasts: The Secret of Dumbledore" world premiere at The Royal Festival Hall on March 29, 2022 in London, England. (Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images)

A boozy lunch at London's prestigious River Café — an exclusive Michelin-star restaurant — soon became the talk of the town on social media. Why? Because the Sunday morning affair was essentially a trans-exclusionary fest attended by writer J.K. Rowling and a slew of gender-critical women's rights campaigners.  

The private event, which was broadcast on Twitter, celebrated the launch of "Respect My Sex If You Want My 'X,'" a women's rights campaign that "encourages voters to ask politicians for their views on sex and gender identity," per The Times.

"In corporations and councils, from parliament to playgrounds, the two sexes — man and woman, male and female — are being sidelined in language, law, policy and public spaces," the campaign's official webpage states. "Biological sex is a fact of life. It is simple and straightforward, and central to how we organise our world. But now the concept of sex is being undermined."

RELATED: What makes some people hold transphobic views?

The lunch reportedly took place at the same time as a trans-rights protest urging Prime Minister Boris Johnson to include transgender people in a U.K. conversion therapy ban. According to Pink News — which first broke the news — the legislation was recently reinstated but only covers "gay conversion therapy," making it completely legal for trans people to be subjected to such atrocities.

Rowling previously tweeted that she would march with her trans followers if they "were discriminated against on the basis of being trans." She was, of course, nowhere to be seen during the demonstration and instead, mingling with her to further diminish trans-rights.  

Alongside Rowling was journalist Helen Joyce, who penned the 2021 book "Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality," and radical feminist writer Julie Bindel, who is also the co-founder of the campaigning organization Justice for Women. Rosie Duffield, the Labour MP for Canterbury, who has been criticized by trans activists for her discriminatory beliefs, was also in attendance. And so were feminist philosopher Kathleen Stock, who resigned from the University of Sussex over her controversial views on transgender rights, and researcher Maya Forstater, who notably lost her job in 2019 for the same reasons.

Rowling's own transphobic rhetoric first came to light in June 2020, when she called out a Devex op-ed for using the term "people who menstruate" instead of "women." The "Harry Potter" author continued to voice her harmful beliefs in blog posts and even a 3,500-word essay, asserting that trans-rights essentially threatens the women's rights movement. Last month, Rowling also openly opposed Scotland's Gender Recognition Reform Bill, which would improve the process by which trans people can legally change their gender.

In recent years, Rowling has emerged as a contentious, radical figure. And her opinions, which are available to view on Twitter, garnered backlash from fans and co-workers alike, prompting Rowling to label herself as a "victim of cancellation." But according to a recent report from IndieWire's Chris Lindahl, that is simply not true. Rowling's own business is booming — U.S. sales of her books are increasing, Universal's Harry Potter theme parks are flourishing and the "Harry Potter" spin-off "Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore" releases Friday. Rowling also touts approximately 14 million Twitter followers and flaunts an impressive net worth of around $1 billion.   


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"That Rowling is able to maintain such strong opinions often viewed as unfavorable — especially in the liberal Hollywood community — while continuing to rake in many millions of dollars likely speaks to the ability of the Harry Potter brand to stand on its own," writes Lindahl.

"Another test for Rowling's popularity will come in August, when she releases the sixth book in her Cormoran Strike series, published under the pen name Robert Galbraith," he concludes. Rowling allegedly chose a male pseudonym "to take my writing persona as far away as possible for me."

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Joy Saha

Joy Saha is an editorial fellow at Salon, covering Culture. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park.

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