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Married lesbian Olympic champions call out J.K. Rowling’s views on the trans community

British gold medalists Kate and Helen Richardson-Walsh express disappointment with one of their country’s most well-known authors.

Olympics & Paralympics Team GB - Rio 2016 Victory Parade
Kate and Helen Richardson-Walsh won gold in 2016 and just showed that they’re still champions.
Photo by Lynne Cameron/Getty Images

As you’re most likely aware, J.K. Rowling recently disappointed untold thousands of people in her LGBTQ fanbase with a tweet expressing support for British researcher Maya Forstater’s views that the government cannot recognize transgender women as women.

While Rowling found support among TERFs and other anti-trans activists, many members of the LGBTQ community and their allies condemned Rowling, with several media outlets concluding that this was the most public display of what appeared to be a pattern of anti-trans views from the Harry Potter author.

Now, two of Great Britain’s LGBTQ sports trailblazers are taking a public stand to counter Rowling and Forstater’s view of the trans community. British Olympic field hockey teammates and married couple Kate and Helen Richardson-Walsh are two of the most recent members of the community to publicly express disappointment with one of their country’s most beloved authors.

In a discussion with Lily Wakefield of PinkNews this past week, Kate Richardson-Walsh explained the problem underlying Forstater and Rowling’s perspective:

“The conversation recently around Maya Forstater, who J.K. Rowling came out in support of, I just feel there’s no sense of ‘I’m going to sit down and talk with some people, I’m going to talk to some trans men and trans women, I’m going to try and listen to their experience and try to understand where they’re coming from.’”

Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester United - Premier League
It’s safe to say that the Richardson-Walshes won’t be displaying a Hogwarts scarf anytime soon.
Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

Throughout all of this controversy, as Richardson-Walsh indicates, it appears that Rowling has spent very little time meeting with members of the trans community and listening to their life experiences. And even if she has met with trans people, it appears from her tweet that she hasn’t approached them with an open mind.

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Part of the reason why the Richardson-Walshes are speaking up is because they both realize that they have a public forum to challenge attacks on the LGBTQ community. As Kate Richardson-Walsh related to PinkNews, she still experiences regret from not confronting a homophobic taxi driver during the 2016 Rio games, stating that “I kicked myself afterwards and I vowed from then on, as much as possible and where I can, to challenge homophobia.”

Both partners also know that an attack on any LGBTQ person is an attack on the entire community, which further explains why they’re speaking up about Rowling’s tweet. Helen Richardson-Walsh summed it up: “It’s the little things that are said. When you’re in this community, or any group that is discriminated against, you pick up on it and you see it everywhere.”

The couple views it as part of their mission to call out those little things as much as they can in the hopes of making a difference. Both Helen and Kate Richardson-Walsh have already made history as the first same sex couple to win Olympic gold medals as teammates in 2016.

Now they want to continue having an impact on the world by doing what they can to make it better for LGBTQ people everywhere. One more way they’ll be doing that, is as moms.

They announced in September Helen is expecting their first child, any day now.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story used the word “challenge” instead of “call out” and a tweet of this story used the words “take on” in relation to J.K. Rowling. Kate Richardson-Walsh responded via Twitter, “Just to clarify, we’re not ‘taking on’ anyone. In my opinion, it’s that type of language that proves unhelpful and gets in the way of any meaningful dialogue. More conversation and less accusation please. Thank you”

We’ve edited our headline and story as a result.