JK Rowling: Essex school drops Harry Potter author's house name over 'viewpoints surrounding trans people'

5 January 2022, 10:48 | Updated: 5 January 2022, 13:35

JK Rowling's name has been dropped by a secondary school as a title for one of its houses over her "comments and viewpoints surrounding trans people".

The Boswells School in Chelmsford, Essex, has six houses "represented by British citizens who have excelled", with its red house previously named Rowling after the Harry Potter author.

However, the house was re-titled Holmes - honouring Olympic gold medallist Dame Kelly Holmes - in 2021.

Rowling, 56, has become a controversial figure and repeatedly made headlines for her comments on sex and gender issues, but vehemently denies allegations of transphobia.

In a recently emerged newsletter sent in July last year, the Boswells School said: "Following numerous requests by students and staff we are reviewing the name of our red house 'Rowling' and in light of JK Rowling's comments and viewpoints surrounding trans people.

"Her views on this issue do not align with our school policy and school beliefs - a place where people are free to be.

"Staff have been invited to put forward suggestions of names for the house.

"Once shortlisted, a vote will go out to the whole school to select a new house name."

The newsletter featured an image of the red house logo with Rowling's name erased, and Holmes' name was later revealed.

Sir David Attenborough, Charlotte Bronte, John Travers Cornwell VC, Stephen Hawking and Florence Nightingale make up the titles for the school's other five houses.

JK Rowling's 'people who menstruate' tweet

The controversy surrounding Rowling began in June 2020, when she responded 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?"

The author defended her comments, saying: "If sex isn't real, there's no same-sex attraction."

A few days after posting the tweet, she shared a lengthy essay about the issue on her website, detailing her reasons for speaking out on sex and gender issues - saying she was partly motivated because of her experience of domestic abuse and sexual assault.

"Trans rights are human rights and of course trans lives matter," she said in the post.

Harry Potter actors speak out

Stars of the Harry Potter films including Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint all issued statements in the following days, with Radcliffe saying in a blog post for the LGBT suicide prevention charity The Trevor Project that while Rowling "is unquestionably responsible for the course my life has taken", he felt "compelled" to speak out.

"Transgender women are women," he wrote.

Addressing trans followers on Twitter, Watson said: "Trans people are who they say they are and deserve to live their lives without being constantly questioned or told they aren't who they say they are.

"I want my trans followers to know that I and so many other people around the world see you, respect you and love you for who you are."

In November 2021, Rowling said activists had made her address public on social media, and that she had received "so many death threats I could paper the house with them, and I haven't stopped speaking out".

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Speaking about The Boswell School's decision, headteacher Stephen Mansell said: "At The Boswells School we foster a vibrant, inclusive and democratic school community, where we encourage students to develop into independent, confident citizens.

"In autumn 2021, we reviewed and renamed one of our school houses following numerous requests from students and staff, as well as a whole school vote.

"The house, which represents the 'self-discipline' area of the Boswells Learning Bridge, is now named Holmes, after Dame Kelly Holmes."

Sky News has contacted representatives for Rowling for comment.