A billboard in support of anti-transgender children’s author J.K. Rowling didn’t last long before vandals ruined it and it had to be taken down.
The billboard in Vancouver said, “I ❤️ J.K. Rowling” in white letters over a black background. People understood the message to be in support of the author’s transphobia because it didn’t even mention any of Rowling’s books.
“It’s just one of those things where you see it and get that feeling in the pit of your stomach,” Vancouver city councilor Sarah Kirby-Yung told CTV News, saying she felt “discouraged” to see the billboard go up in the city.
“I’m condemning this clear, intentional messaging meant to stoke hate, exclusion & division,” she later said on Twitter. “This kind of hateful expression sets us all back not moves us forward.”
Hi @pattisonoutdoor. I’m condemning this clear, intentional messaging meant to stoke hate, exclusion & division. This kind of hateful expression sets us all back not moves us forward. Hope we see an outpouring of love solidarity that drowns out the hate. #lovenothate #takeitdown https://t.co/T5k0d8MVLO
— Sarah Kirby-Yung 楊瑞蘭 (@sarahkirby_yung) September 12, 2020
On Friday, pictures of the billboard were posted to social media and don’t show any signs of vandalism. By Saturday, the billboard had already been splattered with blue paint.
That same day, the billboard was covered up completely.
We still ❤️ you JK Rowling. pic.twitter.com/Wypix0JWnn
— chris elston 🇨🇦 (@christophelston) September 12, 2020
Kirby-Yung said that whether the billboard may have technically been legal under Canada’s laws against inciting hate is beside the point – the billboard was sending a clear message that was “clearly targeted… towards the trans community.”
“I think it’s intentionally intended to incite hate without officially contravening… guidelines of hate speech. But the clear intent is to stoke division and be exclusive of people in our city.”
On Twitter, insurance broker Chris Elston claimed responsibility for the billboard and agreed that the message was about Rowling’s statements on transgender people.
He wrote that he has “issues with self-ID laws, ever-evolving gender ideology, child protection, and women’s rights,” implying that transgender people are a danger to children and cisgender women.
While Rowling has occasionally liked – and written – anti-transgender tweets over the past few years, her transphobia took center stage this past May when she liked an extreme tweet making fun of a transgender woman, tweeted an obscene and transphobic message at a nine-year-old fan, and finally in early June published a rambling, 3700-word essay about why she doesn’t like transgender women.
Since then, she has spent the year defending her views on Twitter and getting condemned by celebrities who worked on the Harry Potter films while fansites cut ties with her, authors flee her literary agency, and writer Stephen King denounced her.