In the leadup to Judy Blume Forever debuting on Prime Video this week and the theatrical release of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, Judy Blume is everywhere right now. But on Sunday, one of Blume’s interviews went viral for appearing to support J.K. Rowling’s anti-trans rhetoric, quotes that Blume says were taken out of context.
Blume spoke to Hadley Freeman at The Times, a U.K.-based publication, to promote both projects and discuss her decades-long career as an author (including her other books being adapted). At one point, Freeman mentions the Harry Potter books as a contrast to Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret because the latter movie is about children and doesn’t involve magic.
Blume then appears to show support for Rowling, who she briefly met years ago; according to Blume, Rowling told Blume that she and her sister “used to read all your books.”
“And I love her,” Blume told The Times. “I am behind her 100 per cent as I watch from afar.”
Freeman frames Blume’s quote to illustrate that she supports Rowling’s views on trans women, directly drawing a comparison between the pushback Rowling has received for making transphobic remarks and the attempts to ban Blume’s books in the ’80s for how she wrote about puberty and sex.
“I haven’t been in touch with her during this tough time,” Blume added. “Probably I should.”
The Times article is behind a paywall, but snippets of the piece went around Twitter after it was published. Blume is widely beloved online, and her books have influenced several generations of readers. The remarks made concerned some fans that Blume, who is 85, was transphobic.
But others suggested the possibility that Freeman attempted to catch Blume in a gotcha moment, such as getting Blume to say she supports Rowling against online harassment and then making it seem like Blume agrees with Rowling’s views on trans women. Some pointed to an interview Freeman did with Margaret Atwood for the Guardian last year, where she tried to get her to debate about trans people as another example; eventually, Atwood ended the discussion on gender and wanted to talk about the book she had written instead.
Hours later, Blume pushed back against Freeman’s framing of the conversation, suggesting that her comments had been taken out of context. She also affirmed several times that she fully supports the trans community.
“I wholly support the trans community,” Blume wrote. “My point, which was taken out of context, is that I can empathize with a writer—or person—who has been harassed online. I stand with the trans community and vehemently disagree with anyone who does not fully support equality and acceptance for LGBTQIA+ people. Anything to the contrary is total bullshit.”
In reply to her first tweet, Blume posted a screenshot of her recent interview with Variety in which she discussed the rise in book bannings in the U.S., which include Blume’s books and many books discussing racism or featuring LGBTQ+ characters. She also brought up Maia Kobabe’s graphic memoir Gender Queer and what it taught her.
“I just read a book that was wonderfully enlightening to me,” she told Variety. “It’s called ‘Gender Queer’ [a memoir by Maia Kobabe]. It’s probably the No. 1 banned book in America right now. And I thought, ‘This young person is telling me how they came to be what they are today.’ And I learned a lot, and became even more empathetic. That’s what books are all about.”
The statement was largely met with relief, while others called out the spectacle of framing Blume’s quotes this way in the first place.
“Imagine interviewing Judy Blume — a dream — and misrepresenting her so throughly on your hobby horse topic that she has to issue a statement calling what you did “bullshit”,” @brokenbottleboy tweeted. “That would be a VERY bad day at the office in my book.
On Monday, Freeman responded to Blume’s claim that she took her quote about supporting Rowling out of context.
“I don’t normally respond to nonsense like this because it’s absurd,” Freeman tweeted. “But here are screenshots of Judy Blume’s and my conversation. For the record, my quotes are accurate and not disputed. I did not ask Blume about the criticisms against JK Rowling – she brought them up herself.”
Freeman also posted what she believes is the relevant part of the conversation, which includes Freeman bringing up Harry Potter first—at least in these two screenshots—and that Blume’s first quote about Rowling was edited from two different sentences.