John Cleese adds name to list of cultural figures supporting JK Rowling

John Cleese has added his name to a list of signatories of a letter supporting JK Rowling, amid a row over her stance on transgender issues.

Some 58 figures – including Sir Tom Stoppard, actress Frances Barber, author Ian McEwan and actor and writer Griff Rhys Jones – originally backed the letter, published in the Sunday Times.

Harry Potter author Rowling, 55, has attracted strong criticism for comments on gender identity, but vehemently denies she is transphobic.

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Writing on Twitter on Wednesday, Cleese said: “Dear Twits, I have added my name to the signatories of the letter in solidarity with JKRowling.

“Proud to be in the distinguished company of Ian McEwan, Andrew Davies, Frances Welch, Lionel Shriver, Ben Miller, Tom Stoppard, Frances Barber, Griff Rhys-Jones and Matthew d’Ancona.”

Replying to a critical comment from one follower, the actor and comic added: “I suspect that the signatories I am proud to be associated are far more balanced and intelligent than the people whose slogans you chant.”

The original letter said: “We are signing this letter in the hope that, if more people stand up against the targeting of women online, we might at least make it less acceptable to engage in it or profit from it.”

The group said abuse directed at Rowling was “the latest example of hate speech directed against her and other women that Twitter and other platforms enable and implicitly endorse”.

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Rowling has expressed her gratitude to the group for “showing solidarity with all the women who’re currently speaking up for their own rights and facing threats of violence and even death in return”.

After reviews of Troubled Blood, Rowling’s latest Cormoran Strike detective novel which she writes under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, revealed it featured a male murderer with a fetish for women’s clothing, #RIPJKRowling trended on Twitter.

Rowling was also accused of being transphobic after responding to an article headlined “Creating a more equal post-Covid-19 world for people who menstruate”.

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

Rowling defended her comments and said: “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 was criticised at the time by Harry Potter stars including Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint.