An Oxfam worker claims she was forced out of the charity after defending JK Rowling. The Harry Potter author has faced accusations of transphobia amid openly supporting single-sex spaces, which gave her the label ‘TERF’, an acronym for ‘trans-exclusionary radical feminist’.
In an interview with Unherd, the former employee shared details of an incident which unfolded following a debate on an internal message board, where Oxfam staff were asked "What is your opinion on selling JK Rowling books?", leading to a discussion around whether the author’s work should continue to be sold in the charity’s shops.
The message was put on the chat by a fellow employee who was concerned that ‘Troubled Blood’, a book written by Rowling under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, would be ‘highly transphobic’ and unsuitable for sale.
The former-Oxfam employee, who worked as a women’s rights team coordinator, reportedly defended Rowling on the message board saying the author is ‘one of the most important woman writers in the UK’.
Accordig to Unherd, she also said: “Actually, we are selling books from paedophiles and rapists. We are selling religious books. Stopping selling something we don’t like is called censorship and is the opposite of freedom of speech.”
As a result, this employee was subject to a petition from 70 colleagues and deemed transphobic, eventually being placed under investigation and being given a warning six weeks later.
This led to the worker suffering with depression and anxiety, leaving the company and opening a constructive dismissal and belief discrimination claim against Oxfam, which was settled in July 2020. Since, Oxfam apologised to its ex-worker for ‘procedural mistakes’ during the handling of her case.
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A spokesperson said: “We are sorry for the procedural mistakes we made in the handling of this case and we have apologised to the individual concerned. We fully support both an individual’s right to hold religious and philosophical beliefs and a person’s right to have their identity respected, regardless of their gender identity and expression, sex, or sexuality. We believe LGBTQIA+ rights are human rights.”
This story came to light following a more recent episode of controversy with Oxfam and JK Rowling. The international charity has also been criticised for supposedly depicting JK Rowling as a ‘TERF' in an animated video released for Pride Month.
The video, aimed at celebrating the LGBTQ+ community, shows a middle-aged woman with demonic eyes and the badge ‘TERF’ on her chest. Oxfam claims the resemblance of the woman to Rowling was unintentional and said it had 'made a mistake'. Oxfam has removed the section of the video that shows the character which resembles Rowling.