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”.
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.