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Judy Blume clarifies support for trans people after J.K. Rowling comments

Blume had told the Sunday Times of London that she was ‘100 percent’ behind Rowling. She later said her comments were ‘taken out of context.’

(Illustration by María Alconada Brooks/The Washington Post; Tolga Akmen/Getty; Chris Pizzello/AP)
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Judy Blume says her words were “taken out of context” in an interview that went viral this past weekend, in which the children’s book author said she stands “behind” J.K. Rowling “100 percent.”

The article, in the Sunday Times of London, said Blume was referring to the criticism Rowling has received “for speaking up in defence of women’s sex-based rights.” Many took that to mean Blume supported Rowling’s stances on sex and gender, which have been criticized for being transphobic, thus prompting the 85-year-old author to release a statement on social media clarifying her views.

“I wholly support the trans community,” Blume posted to Twitter late Sunday afternoon. “My point, which was taken out of context, is that I can empathize with a writer — or person — who has been harassed online.

“I stand with the trans community and vehemently disagree with anyone who does not fully support equality and acceptance for LGBTQIA+ people,” she continued. “Anything to the contrary is bulls---.”

In recent years, Rowling has become a fixture in these public debates. The Harry Potter author has shared incendiary posts and lengthy missives on trans issues. Rowling recently told a podcast that she believes that “there is something dangerous about this movement and that it must be challenged.” Rowling also appeared to compare trans advocates to the villainous “Death Eaters” of her books.

“I am fighting what I see as a powerful, insidious, misogynistic movement that has gained huge purchase in very influential areas of society,” she said on “The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling” in March.

Rowling’s comments have provoked backlash against her books and the works based off them, including the “Hogwarts Legacy” video game released this year.

Why the new game ‘Hogwarts Legacy’ is roiling the LGBTQ community

Some accused Blume of bowing to public pressure with her apology. “Judy Blume caved in about 12 hours and put out a struggle session statement,” one person wrote on Twitter. Others thanked Blume for pushing back against the Times article and voicing support for the trans community.

A few turned their ire toward Hadley Freeman, who wrote the Times piece, accusing her story of being “misleading” and “insulting.” The piece was pegged to the upcoming release of a movie adaptation of Blume’s seminal novel, “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.”

But the article’s headline zeroed in on Blume’s comments about Rowling, in a line of questioning that appeared to be spurred by Freeman, who has also been accused of transphobia. Last year, a terse exchange between Freeman and writer Margaret Atwood was featured in a lengthy profile of “The Handmaid’s Tale” author.

“It is not true that there are no trans people, so then a lot of questions come into that, and we’re not going to get into those, although they seem to be your obsession of the day,” Atwood told Freeman.

Responding on Monday morning to Blume’s comments on Twitter, Freeman stood by her story, saying her quotes are “accurate and not disputed.”

“I did not ask Blume about the criticisms against JK Rowling — she brought them up herself,” Freeman wrote. (Freeman did not respond to a request for comment.)

Recently, Blume stood up for LGBTQ authors targeted for bans by conservative lawmakers and parents, who say their work is inappropriate for children, because they discuss gender and sexuality.

Several of Blume’s books have also been banned, for featuring adolescent encounters with menstruation, masturbation and sex, including “Blubber,” “Deenie” and “It’s Me, Margaret.”

“I believe that censorship grows out of fear, and because fear is contagious, some parents are easily swayed. Book banning satisfies their need to feel in control of their children’s lives,” Blume writes on her website. “This fear is often disguised as moral outrage.”

But her experiences are no match for this current wave of book bans, Blume told Variety last month.

“It was bad in the ’80s, but it wasn’t coming from the government,” Blume said. “Today, there are laws being enacted where a librarian can go to prison if she or he is found guilty of having pornography on their shelves.

“Try and define pornography today and you’ll find that it’s everything.”

In Variety, Blume also pushed back against attempts to rewrite Roald Dahl’s books on account of offensive, outdated language. But on the subject of bans, she highlighted the works of LGBTQ authors, such as Jessica Love’s “Julián Is a Mermaid,” Lesléa Newman’s “Heather Has Two Mommies” and Maia Kobabe’s “Gender Queer.”

In response to Freeman’s article, Blume shared a screenshot in which she praised Kobabe’s memoir.

“It’s probably the No. 1 banned book in America right now. And I thought, ‘This young person is telling me how they came to be what they are today.’ And I learned a lot, and became even more empathetic,” she said. “That’s what books are all about.”