Stephen Fry ‘won’t abandon’ JK Rowling despite author’s comments ‘deeply upsetting’ his trans friends

Stephen Fry has said that he doesn’t want to condemn JK Rowling for her views on transgender people, despite them making his friends being “deeply upset”.

Since criticising an article for using the term “people who menstruate” in 2020, Rowling has been repeatedly accused of transphobia. She has denied the accusations.

However, many stars of the Harry Potter films, including Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson, have spoken out in support of the trans community following her remarks.

Appearing on Roger Bolton’s Beeb Watch podcast on Friday (18 November), former QI host Fry was asked if he’d considered joining the “debate” about Rowling’s comments and the Harry Potter cast’s responses.

“I’m aware you’re talking about an issue where two sides are very sore and very anxious about their enemies,” he said. “I can’t bear it.”

Admitting that his response was “cowardly”, he continued: “[Rowling’s] a friend of mine, and I have trans friends and intersex friends who are deeply upset by her. That’s a circle I have to square personally. I’m not going to abandon my friends.”

Fry, who narrated the Harry Potter audiobooks, said that he would “love to see” an end to the argument, adding that he didn’t think there could be a “winner”.

“I know that JK Rowling doesn’t want to see trans people bullied, alienated, shut out of society, made to feel ashamed, guilty, laughed at, all those things,” he said. “It’s not an argument I want to get involved in, because it’s upsetting to both sides.

Rowling and Fry in 2003 (Getty Images)
Rowling and Fry in 2003 (Getty Images)

“I would wish them both to retreat and to consider that it is possible for trans people to live full, accepted lives, according to their terms, in society, and for women to have all the rights and dignities that they demand. But it isn’t possible if each side looks on the other as an enemy.”

Earlier this month, Radcliffe explained why he wrote his essay in 2020 supporting trans people, in which he apologised for “the pain” caused by Rowling’s comments.

“The reason I felt very, very much as though I needed to say something when I did was because, particularly since finishing [the Potter franchise], I’ve met so many queer and trans kids and young people who had a huge amount of identification with Potter on that,” Radcliffe said.

“And so seeing them hurt on that day I was like, I wanted them to know that not everybody in the franchise felt that way. And that was really important.”