In September, the “Monty Python” actor and comedian signed an open letter in solidarity with Rowling, who has repeatedly made headlines this year after implying on social media ― and in a lengthy essay ― that the idea of gender identity invalidates her experience as a cisgender woman.
Cleese, who played Nearly Headless Nick in “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” and “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” was asked about his support for the author on Twitter Sunday. He responded, “I’m afraid I’m not that interested in trans folks,” before adding glibly, “I just hope they’re happy and that people treat them kindly.”
He went on to list a series of other topics he was “more [focused] on.”
“Deep down, I want to be a Cambodian police woman,” he noted elsewhere in the exchange. “Is that allowed, or am I being unrealistic?”
And later, he added, “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.”
Needless to say, Cleese’s comments received a blistering response on Twitter. Among those to chime in was “Queer Eye” grooming guru Jonathan Van Ness, who is nonbinary and who noted that “trans & non binary people aren’t being treated kindly” and told him to “worry about the staggering inequality your country faces.”
LGBTQ author and activist Charlotte Clymer shared similar sentiments.
“Well, John, we are not being treated kindly,” she wrote. “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.”
As of Monday evening, Cleese had not responded publicly to the controversy. HuffPost reached out to the actor for comment and did not immediately hear back.