FOR anyone paying attention, Vladimir Putin’s latest comments on the nature of so-called cancel culture – or for that matter, his claims to have found an ally in author JK Rowling in the fight against woke politics and transgender rights – won’t be a surprise.

The Russian leader’s statement that Rowling had been cancelled “just because she didn’t satisfy the demands of gender rights” is a talking point ripped directly from the headlines of the British press itself, in its attacks on progressive politics and the advancement of the rights of the transgender community in the UK.

Her writing has been repeatedly cited, not just by Putin, but by other far-right activists and politicians to justify increasingly vitriolic behaviour and restrictive legislation aimed at the LGBTQ+ community. One example under Trump’s regime: Republican senator James Lankford quoted Rowling back in 2020 as justification to block consideration of the Equality Act, an LGBTQ civil rights bill that would have added “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to a list of protected classes.

I’m left wondering about at what point, as a supposed liberal, do you start to question why far-right regimes, Britain’s infamously reactionary press and the supporters of violent anti-LGBT bills around the world keep using your words as justification, while the majority of the LGBTQ+ community have condemned you? That moment of introspection does not appear to be forthcoming.

Only a few weeks ago Rowling sent “big love” on Twitter to activist Caroline Farrow. Farrow is the UK and Ireland director of CitizenGo, an ultra-conservative activist group that in 2013 actually backed Russia’s “gay propaganda” laws which sought to ‘protect’ children from homosexuals.

I have little sympathy for the position that Rowling has put herself in now.

The frustrating aspect of this is that cancel culture does actually exist – just not in the way that our press and the political right have bastardised it.

There are legitimate criticisms to be made of well-intentioned but overzealous activists who fail to put restorative justice at the heart of their work despite paying lip service to it, or straight-up bad actors who use it for their own purposes. But millionaire authors with seemingly limitless access to the press are certainly not the ones having to deal with it.

Instead what opponents of transgender liberation often refer to as “cancel culture” could better be described as simple criticism, or in other cases, the consequences of their own actions. Graham Linehan is an all too relevant example of this.

Linehan appeared this week on the BBC in tears, claiming that trans activists “took everything from me. They took my family.” As someone who Linehan previously tweeted out photos of to encourage social media users to mock my appearance, alongside many other comments that ultimately got his account banned from Twitter, I can safely say that trans people did not take his wife from him.

And in that sense, Putin framing himself as “cancelled” rather than facing the consequences of being an invading, imperialist war criminal feels oddly familiar.

His comments are not, as some have claimed, some clever ploy to sow division in the West. Frankly, it’s remarkable to think that people care enough about JK Rowling’s opinions on the trans community that a nation could be destabilised over them.

No, his statement is entirely in line with his consistent posturing on LGBT rights for years, from his anti-gay propaganda laws backed by Rowling’s “big love” allies in 2013 to his contemporary comments on the West’s alleged moral decline, through the acceptance of trans identities.

And Rowling’s name and words being used by right-wing and anti-LGBT+ politicians is nothing outwith the normal for those fuelling the global backlash to equality that we have witnessed over the past five or six years.

The reality is that in nations that have implemented self-declaration policies for transgender people, none of the warned of consequences have ever come to pass. Statistically, trans people remain more likely to be attacked and face violence than to instigate it.

As long as Rowling’s writing, in my opinion, continues to misrepresent an entire minority group with cherry-picked data and disinformation, her words will continue to be used to call for the restricting and rolling back of the rights and protections of the LGBTQ+ community by those who have only empty rhetoric to justify themselves – and distancing herself from it will never be an option.