Stephen Fry has urged calm in the debate over transgender issues, but said he has many trans and intersex friends who are “deeply upset” by JK Rowling.
The 65-year-old actor and comedian, who narrated the Harry Potter audiobooks, said he would like to see both sides stop fighting because “there is no winner”.
Rowling has attracted criticism from some groups for her views on gender identity, previously tweeting she has received “so many death threats I could paper the house with them”.
Speaking on Roger Bolton’s Beeb Watch podcast, Fry was asked whether he would want to take part in the debate.
He said: “I wouldn’t. I definitely wouldn’t because I am aware that you are talking about an issue where two sides are very sore and anxious about their enemies.”
Fry added: “She is a friend of mine and I have trans friends and intersex friends who are deeply upset by her.
“That is a circle I have to square personally”, before adding he was not going to “abandon” friendships.
Asked if he would like to see the two sides stop fighting, he replied: “I would love to see that because I don’t think there is a winner.
“I know that JK Rowling doesn’t want to see trans people bullied, alienated, shut out of society, made to feel ashamed, guilty, laughed at, all those things.
“But I also know that there are people who believe that safe feminine spaces and the idea of difference between sex and gender is very important, and that they repudiate with all their strength the Judith Butler – the idea of created gender and so on.
“It is not an argument I want to get involved in because it is upsetting to both sides and I would wish them both to retreat and to consider that is possible for trans people to live full, accepted lives according to their terms in society, and for women to have all the rights and dignities they demand.
“But it isn’t possible if each side looks on the other as an enemy and the trans people just shout ‘terf’ (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) and the feminists seem to, as it were, undermine the dignity and rights of the trans community, if I can use the word community – it is a bit of a greasy word, but there you go.”
The stars of the Harry Potter films – Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint – are amongst those who have spoken in opposition to Rowling’s views on gender.
Rowling has said she was partly motivated to speak out about transgender issues because of her experience of domestic abuse and sexual assault.
She has strongly denied accusations of transphobia.
Representatives of the author have been contacted for comment.