Monty Python star John Cleese has come under fire online today after sharing a number of posts on Twitter that are being called transphobic.
The iconic British comedian was one of several influential people who signed a letter defending Harry Potter author JK Rowling’s comments against on transgender people, after she criticised the community for “erasing the concept of sex” earlier this year.
Read more: Piers Morgan defends JK Rowling as ‘woke’
Now he has taken to Twitter to respond to critics with a series of jabs about transgender people that have been called transphobic by critics online.
In one, the star jokes that he would like to identify as a Cambodian policewoman, in another he wrote he simply wasn’t interested in trans folks.
“I’m afraid I’m not that interested in trans folks I just hope they’re happy and that people treat them kindly,” he wrote in response to critics who wondered in response to a fan asking him to speak plainly on his stance on transgender rights and JK Rowling’s approach.
“Right now I’m more focussed on threats to democracy in America, the rampant corruption in the UK, the appalling British Press, the revelations about police brutality…”
Later he wrote: “Deep down, I want to be a Cambodian police woman. Is that allowed, or am I being unrealistic?”
The crack was in response to a user asking why he needed to comment on the situation, and why he couldn’t let people be who they wanted.
He later added his understanding of transgender experience was ‘superficial’ and questioned the inclusion of trans women or men in sporting gender categories, wondering if that proved his ‘phobia’.
Watch: J.K. Rowling under fire for ‘transphobic’ plot of new book
“Yes, my understanding is superficial,” he wrote.
“One thing: When a woman who was once a man is competing against women who have always been women, I think she has an advantage because she inherited a man’s body, which is usually bigger and stronger than a woman’s. Does that prove phobia?”
The comedian’s comments were criticised by thousands online.
“It’s not true John,” one person responded to his sports comment. “Firstly, no-one transitions to compete against women, they transition to become women…”
“Well, John, we are not being treated kindly,” activist Charlotte Clymer wrote in response to his initial Tweet. “And I’m not talking about cordiality. I’m talking about discrimination in employment, housing, health care and other areas of living, all of which is exacerbated when public figures speak from ignorance and bigotry on trans rights.”
Perhaps the most vocal, and high profile opponent was Queer Eye star Jonathon Van Ness, who responded to Cleese’s comment in a scathing tweet.
“Dear @JohnCleese you’ve made several transphobic comments here,” Van Ness writes.
“You do seem to not only be interested in trans folks, but also adding to transphobia at a time when trans people are being murdered worldwide. Trans & non-binary people aren’t being treated kindly.”
It comes after JK Rowling defended her views on transgender issues, even as many people on the internet, including actor Daniel Radcliffe and others who starred in the film adaptations of her Harry Potter books, continue to criticise her.
The author angered many on June 6 when she commented on an article headlined, Opinion: Creating a more equal post-COVID-19 world for people who menstruate, saying, “‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”
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