John Cleese 'baffled' by debate over JK Rowling tweet

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 07:  John Cleese at BFI Southbank introducing two newly rediscovered episodes of comedy classic, At Last the 1948 Show (1967) at BFI Southbank on December 7, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Danny E. Martindale/Getty Images)

John Cleese has admitted he is "baffled" by all the controversy around JK Rowling's recent tweet.

The Harry Potter author was accused of being transphobic after she posted a message on Twitter objecting to the use of the word "people" to describe those who menstruate, instead of the word "women".

She has denied she is transphobic and released a lengthy blog post defending her position, but has still been hit by a backlash.

Cleese has now waded into the debate, asking his fans why Rowling's words were considered to be so offensive.

"I'm baffled by the debate over JKR," said the 80-year-old actor.

"Am I right in thinking that if I tomorrow declare myself to be a woman, then anyone who doesn't accept that must hate me?

"This is a genuine request for information, even if the question itself seems odd to many older people?"

One follower replied to say it was "more the lack of empathy towards trans people".

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Prince Harry talks to John Cleese backstage at the Wimbledon Theatre, London, after a charity performance in aid of the Prince's Trust charity, one of a number of events to celebrate the Prince's 60th birthday on November 14.
Monty Python stars (L-R) Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, John Cleese and Michael Palin at a photocall in London's Leicester Square, where they reunited to celebrate their 30th anniversary by attending a charity screening of their film Life Of Brian. * ...to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Relief as a tribute to their late partner Graham Chapman who died a decade ago. Eric Idle was notable by his absence following an apparent fall-out.
Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown is joined by comedian John Cleese for a live election call, in London. Mr Ashdown and Mr Cleese spoke to poeple from around the country who sent in their ideas on a postcard to party following questions from Mr Cleese's in a Liberal Democrat broadcast from February. 20/1/99: Mr Ashdown is to stand down as leader of the Liberal Democrats after the European elections in June and as MP for Yeovil at the next general election.
Monty Python stars (L-R) Michael Palin, Terry Jones, John Cleese and Terry Gilliam at a photocall in London's Leicester Square, where they reunited to celebrate their 30th anniversary by attending a charity screening of their film Life Of Brian. * ...to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Relief as a tribute to their late partner Graham Chapman who died a decade ago. Eric Idle was notable by his absence following an apparent fall-out.
Madonna shares a joke with John Cleese as they wait in line to meet Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh at the premiere of "Die Another Day", at the Royal Albert Hall.
Comedian John Cleese with Irish actor Pierce Brosnan after presenting him with the Outstanding Irish Contribution to Cinema, arriving at the Irish Film & Television Awards, at the Burlington Hotel, Dublin.
Monty Python star John Cleese feeds grapes to Colin the red ruffed lemur, during a visit to Bristol Zoo Gardens.
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(Left-right) Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Carol Cleveland, Terry Gilliam and John Cleese announce their new plans for Monty Python at the Corinthia Hotel in London.
John Cleese, Terry Jones, Eric Idle, Graham Norton, Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam during the filming of the New Year's Eve Graham Norton Show, at The London Studios, south London, to be aired on BBC One on Tuesday evening.
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Actor and comedian John Cleese speaks to members of the press on College Green outside the Houses of Parliament after he joined the group 'Hacked Off'.
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The Monty Python star shared the post and wrote: "I really do want people to do what makes them happy, and I despise people who try to stop them.

"I just believe that if one asks genuine questions about gender, it does not mean that you hate anybody."

Cleese also referred to the debate surrounding athletes.

"Talking to women athletes - that is, women who have been women all their lives - I learn that they do not feel it's fair that they should compete against women who at some point had men's bodies, since men are usually bigger and stronger that women. Is this hatred?" he asked.

Another person told the star: "It's a debate over whether the struggles and experience of being a woman are inextricably linked to having the biology of a woman. JKR and many feminists think it is. Many trans activists think it is not, and consider the notion transphobic."

However, the actor replied: "Transphobic in the sense that anyone who doesn't agree with them, must hate them?

"Because -phobic implies hate and disgust, doesn't it?"

Rowling's original tweet was posted earlier this month.

Linking to an article entitled Opinion: Creating a more equal post-COVID-19 world for people who menstruate, she wrote: "I'm sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?"

Harry Potter stars Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson were among those to express their support for trans people in the wake of the controversy.

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The stars from left to right; Rupert Grint, Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson with the author J K Rowling arrive for world premiere of 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone at the Odeon Leicester Square in London.
Harry Potter author J.K Rowling signs a fans shirt at the Waterstone`s book shop in Edinburgh as she launches her new book Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
Author, Joanne Kathleen Rowling, 34, (J K Rowling) at Kings Cross Station London at the launch of her new Harry Potter book, 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire'. The fourth book, in series of seven which have now combined sold more than 35 million copies. * The Goblet of Fire has achieved advanced sales of two million. 25/11/2000: JK Rowling's latest Harry Potter offering has been pipped to a children's book prize by a re-telling of the classic A Pilgrim's Progress. Geraldine McCaughrean's version of John Bunyan's work scooped the first ever Blue Peter Book Of The Year Award. * 16/02/2001 dated 8/7/00 of Harry Potter author Joanne Kathleen Rowling. Teenage wizard Harry Potter has enchanted library users by sweeping to the top of the lending league for children's books, figures showed Friday February 16, 2001. JK Rowling's best-selling creation took the first three places for kids' books in the annual round-up of reads with Harry Potter and The Philospher's Stone at number one.
Author JK Rowling (2nd right) with director alfonso Cuaron and the stars from left to right, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe at the UK premiere of Harry Potter And The Prisoner of Azkaban at the Odeon Leicester Square in Central London, the third film from author JK Rowling's series of books on the boy wizard.
Whitney Stanbra, 6, from Basingstoke poses with a 'Platform 9 and 3/4' sign beside a special WAGN Harry Potter train arrives on Platform 9 at King's Cross station in London before beginning its first ever passenger journey from London King's Cross to Cambridge. * King's Cross station plays a leading role in the film 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone' which is released at cinemas across the country.
A special WAGN Harry Potter train arrives on Platform 9 at King's Cross station in London before beginning its first ever passenger journey from London King's Cross to Cambridge. King's Cross station plays a leading role in the film 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone'. * ... which is released at cinemas across the country.
Actors Robbie Coltrane (rear), and (from left) Rupert Grint Emma Watson and Warwick Davis at Kingscross Station, central London, for the Harry Potter & The Philosopher's Stone - DVD & video launch party.
Stars from the latest Harry Potter film 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets' (from left) Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint, during a photocall at the Guildhall, London, to promote the new film.
Daniel Radcliffe, who plays Harry Potter (left) with the characters creator JK Rowling (centre) and co-star Emma Watson as they arrive for the celebrity film premiere of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets at the Odeon Leicester Square, London.
The cast, crew and author arrive for the celebrity film premiere of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets at the Odeon Leicester Square in London's West End.
The stars of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, from left to right; Rupert Grint, Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson during the worldwide launch of the DVD/VHS at Leavesden Studios in north London.
The cast and crew of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets during the worldwide launch of the DVD/VHS at Leavesden Studios in north London.
Five girls head the queue outside Waterstones in Piccadilly, London for the eagerly awaited fifth installment of Harry Potter. The girls (from left) Suzanna Dickson, Stevie Finegan, Savannah Mazda, Vienna Francis-Mullins and Sinead Miller, * .. all from London, have been waiting for nearly eight hours to ensure they get a copy of Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix. harrypottergal
The stars, from left to right; Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint pose for photographers during a photocall to promote the new Harry Potter movie 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban' at The Gladstone Library in central London.
MTV presenter Dave Berry (left) with Harry Potter stars Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson during their guest appearance on MTV TRL UK at the MTV Studios's in Camden.
Star of the film Daniel Radcliffe arrives for the UK premiere of Harry Potter And The Prisoner of Azkaban at the Odeon Leicester Square in Central London, the third film from author JK Rowling's series of books on the boy wizard.
Emma Watson, J.K Rowling, Rupert Grint and Daniel Radcliffe arriving at the premiere of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Leicester Square, London ©Doug Peters/allactiondigital.
Author JK Rowling (centre right) and stars of the film Daniel Radcliffe (left), Rupert Grint and Emma Watson arrive for the UK premiere of Harry Potter And The Prisoner of Azkaban at the Odeon Leicester Square in Central London, the third film from author JK Rowling's series of books on the boy wizard.
(From left to right) Rupert Grint (Ron), Emma Watson (Hermione), and Daniel Radcliffe (Harry) arrive for the Global DVD & VHS Launch party of Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, at Middle Temple in central London
JK Rowling arrives at Edinburgh Castle for the Launch party for her latest Harry Potter Book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
Jennifer Ellison, Hagrid and Professor Dumbledore during a visit to hand out copies of the new Harry Potter book, which was released at midnight.
Fans brave the rain outside the Odeon cinema in London's Leicester Square in anticipation of the arrivals for the world premiere of the new film 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire', Sunday November 6, 2005. See PA story SHOWBIZ Potter. PRESS ASSOCIATION photo. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA.
The Harry Potter films win the Empire Outstanding Contribution Award at the Sony Ericsson Empire Film Awards 2006, from the Hilton London Metropole, central London, Monday 13 March 2006. See PA story SHOWBIZ Empire. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Photo credit should read: Ian West/PA
The cast of Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix, (left to right) Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, and Daniel Radcliffe, on the Thames Terrace of County Hall in south London, ahead of the European premiere of the film next week.
Emma Watson arrives for the UK Premiere of Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix at the Odeon Leicester Square, central London.
Emma Watson arriving at the European Premiere of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Odeon Cinema, Leicester Square, London.
JK Rowling at the launch of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows at The Natural History Museum in London
The cast of Harry Potter receive the award for Best Family Film for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix during The National Movie Awards at the Royal Festival Hall, central London.
(from left to right) Tom Felton, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Daniel Radcliffe, Bonnie Wright and Jessie Cave are seen at a photocall to launch the new film, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, at Claridges Hotel in central London.
Rupert Grint (left), Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe (right) arriving for the world premiere of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince at the Odeon Leicester Square, London.
Rupert Grint, Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe arrive for the world premiere of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince at the Odeon Leicester Square, London.
(left to right) Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, JK Rowling and Rupert Grint arriving for the World Premiere of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows : Part One, at the Odeon West End, Leicester Square, London.
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