On January 25 2020, Twitter user @iknownaama tweeted the following image, a purported screenshot of JK Rowling reacting to a pro-LGBT tattoo (“no one should live in a closet”) by saying “yes they should”:
In the tweet, @iknownaama wrote:
so did the simulation glitch or does JK Rowling genuinely never think twice about what comes out of her mouth
An image with the tweet showed a pride rainbow-colored set of eyeglasses, and the words “no one should live in a closet.” The tattoo’s text was rendered in a font associated with the Harry Potter series known as “Lumos.”
“No one should live in a closet” had a double meaning in the context of the tattoo. In Harry Potter books and films, the titular character lives with “Muggle” family members, but instead of a bedroom, is confined to a closet — the “cupboard under the stairs”:
The Cupboard Under the Stairs was Harry Potter’s room in the Dursley household until he was given Dudley Dursley’s old room, at 4 Privet Drive in Little Whinging, Surrey. The cupboard was described as small and dusty, with lots of spiders.
To be “in the closet” or be “closeted” is also a widely-used metaphor for LGBTQ people forced not to identify as such:
A person who is hiding the fact that they [sic] are gay has been described as in the closet, or as a closet homosexual, since the late 1960s. To out someone, meaning to reveal that they [sic] are gay, is a shortened way of saying “to force them out of the closet”. Closet comes from close, which both in the sense “near” and “shut” goes back to Latin claudere “to shut,” also the source of recluse, someone who shuts themselves [sic] away.
As such, the tattoo referenced Potter’s “closeted” nature as a wizard with his non-magical relatives, likening it to scenarios wherein a LGBT person is “closeted.” Rainbows are sometimes a symbol for gay pride, and the imagery together decries “closeting” of one’s nature.
Roughly a month prior to the January 25 2020 tweet above, Rowling caused international controversy with the following tweet:
Dress however you please.
Call yourself whatever you like.
Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you.
Live your best life in peace and security.
But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real? #IStandWithMaya #ThisIsNotADrill
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) December 19, 2019
On December 19 2019, Rowling expressed her support for an anti-transgender position, using a popular anti-trans hashtag — #ThisIsNotADrill. Rowling’s full-throated embrace of those viewpoints upset and disappointed many of her fans, particularly LGBTQ adults who grew up reading the series of books and watching the film adaptations.
Even the first tweet initially caused some confusion about whether it was real and what it meant, matters that we addressed on our page about the tweet and controversy. Based on the abnormally high share count on the “no one should live in a closet/yes they should” tweet, users were similarly confused about whether Rowling made the comment shown.
Typing “@jk_rowling” (her Twitter handle) into the search bar immediately populated “yes they should” afterwards, indicating users were searching for evidence of the tweet with frequency. Rowling had a high follower count and tweeted infrequently; one of her most recent tweets caused a frenzy of news articles worldwide.
Ok but Harry only lived in a closet bc of his abusive family. So it’s still not good to say “yes they should”
— Nic (@thatARTSYb1tch) January 26, 2020
@jk_rowling literally means "yes they should" live in closet like Harry Potter. Not metaphorically "don't go out of the closet" or "don't come out". I don't know what worse, JKRowling not realizing the metaphor or these people that didn't get the joke and quickly attack JK. 🤦🏻♀️
— Z (@khaleesizelle) January 27, 2020
In the end, the tweet was clearly fake for a number of reasons:
- Interest in Rowling’s positions on LGBTQ issues escalated after her controversial December 2019 statements; statements appearing to extend to other portions of the LGBTQ community would certainly generate another spate of articles;
- Only one screenshot of the tweet seemed to exist; if it were authentic, it was likely many people would have captured proof before it was presumably “deleted”;
- We found no residue on Twitter of anyone manually retweeting the tweet nor of anyone engaging in significant discourse away from the viral screenshot on Twitter.
A “yes they should” tweet attributed to JK Rowling (@jk_rowling) in response to a “nobody should have to live in a closet” tattoo was fabricated, but the intent behind that fake screenshot was unclear. Although it was possible someone sought to attribute the commentary to Rowling, it was just as likely a satirization of her actual, admitted opinions about transgender women. Nevertheless, Rowling did not tweet “yes they should” as depicted in the image.