J.K. Rowling billboard condemned as transphobic and removed as advocates speak out
VANCOUVER -- A billboard in East Vancouver championing author J.K. Rowling, who has been widely accused of transphobia, was removed Saturday after drawing outrage and condemnation.
The billboard, which was visible from busy Hastings Street, was black with white text that read, "I (heart) JK Rowling."
Vancouver city councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung said she was discouraged to see the billboard put up in her city, given Rowling's controversial statements criticizing the trans rights movement.
“It’s just one of those things where you see it and get that feeling in the pit of your stomach,” said Kirby-Yung before the sign was taken down.
“My first thought was ‘Oh no, really?’”
Photos of the untarnished billboard were shared on social media on Sep. 11. But when CTV News Vancouver visited the billboard on Sep. 12, it had been marked up with blue paint splatter. About an hour later, a Twitter user posted a video of a person hoisted up in a cherry picker and covering over the billboard.
Nicola Spurling, a trans YouTube personality and LGBTQ2+ advocate in Metro Vancouver, tweeted out her disapproval of the billboard before it was covered up. She asked for it to be taken down and questioned why the billboard company allowed it in the first place.
"Why did you allow a billboard that targets trans people?" reads her tweet.
The billboard was coded transphobia, said Kirby-Yung.
“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.”
“It's clearly targeted, in my opinion, towards the trans community,” she said.
Trans people are protected from discrimination based on their gender under Canadian and B.C. human rights laws.
The people claiming responsibility for the billboard issued a statement on Twitter Saturday insisting they aren't transphobic, while also openly denying the identities of trans women. They described womanhood as "a biological reality, not a feeling," which is a common refrain among opponents of transgender rights.
CTV News Vancouver has reached out to the billboard company, Pattison Outdoor Advertising, for comment.
Before the billboard was removed, Kirby-Yung, who is cisgender, said she would like the billboard to come down and to see allies speak out about it.
“I'd love to see it come down. Ultimately, I would love to see a really strong condemnation from the community, and I mean our collective community not just within the trans community. But, you know, people who are allies and supporters (of trans rights).”