Transphobia concerns prompt East Vancouver billboard supporting J.K. Rowling to be covered up

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      Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling’s opinions about gender identities continue to spark further controversies, including here in the Lower Mainland.

      Over the past year, Rowling has come under fire for supporting individuals who have been deemed transphobic and for her views about gender identity.

      On June 6, Rowling criticized the use of the phrase “people who menstruate” instead of “women” in an article. Among those who criticized her, actors who have portrayed Rowling’s characters on screen, including Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson, have spoken out, either denouncing her views or supporting trans rights. Then on June 10, Rowling had published a response to the backlash to explain her perspective.

      Yesterday (September 11), a billboard at East Hastings Street and Glen Drive in Vancouver began sporting a sign declaring “I [heart] JK Rowling”.

      Chris Elston, of Surrey, and Amy Eileen Hamm, of New Westminster, had paid for the sign to appear on a Pattison Outdoor billboard.

      An online petition was launched to have it removed, and it was reportedly splattered with paint overnight.

      Vancouver Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung expressed her opposition to the sign.

      “I’m condemning this clear, intentional messaging meant to stoke hate, exclusion & division,” she tweeted to Pattison Outdoor. “This kind of hateful expression sets us all back not moves us forward.” 

      Elston and Hamm had submitted a letter to Pattison Outdoor explaining that they put up the sign because they think Rowling is not transphobic and is defending the rights of women and children.

      They added that they “believe most Canadians recognize that ‘woman’ is a biological reality, rather than a feeling” and they asked Pattinson Outdoor to stand with them, women, and the right to free expression.   

      However, today (September 12), a crew began covering up the sign in the afternoon.

      Back in May, Rowling had threatened legal action against local LGBT activist and former Green Party candidate Nicola Spurling from Coquitlam.

      Spurling had tweeted an article from the Guardian and stated that Rowling “can no longer be trusted around children”.

      During an exchange between the two, Spurling called Rowling transphobic while Rowling deemed Spurling’s comments to be defamatory.

      Based on advice from her lawyer, Spurling deleted the original tweet but continued to express support for the intent of the tweet, which was to focus on the dangers of transphobia.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook. You can also follow the Straight's LGBT coverage on Twitter at @StraightLGBT or on Facebook.