John Cleese Accused of Transphobia After Saying He Wants to 'Be a Cambodian Police Woman'

Actor and comedian John Cleese sparked a backlash on Twitter after posting tweets that were perceived as transphobic.

It started on Sunday after a Twitter user shared a screenshot of a September 30 tweet from Cleese, where he said he had signed a letter "in solidarity" with J.K. Rowling.

The letter was published in The Sunday Times earlier this year after the Harry Potter author was accused of transphobia over comments she made about transgender people.

Cleese's reply to the user prompted another person to question his support for Rowling and ask if he really believes "there is some deep conspiracy to turn people 'against their genders.'"

"Deep down, I want to be a Cambodian police woman," Cleese, who is best known for Monty Python and Fawlty Towers, responded in a quote-tweet. "Is that allowed, or am I being unrealistic?"

The tweet prompted many to call out Cleese for suggesting that transgender people choose their identity.

"John wants to pretend he cares about science and logic, but he doesn't give a flying f** k about scientific expertise on this," activist and writer Charlotte Clymer wrote in a reply. "It's all about discomfort with the existence of trans and non-binary people."

In another tweet, she added there was "overwhelming evidence that medical and other scientific experts affirm trans and non-binary people."

She wrote: "We have pointed to leading gender theorists and sociologists and feminist leaders who support trans folks. Why does he ignore all that?"

Tim Ireland added: "It is not about what people want as if rainbow wishes & magic unicorns were involved, and to portray their futures as 'unrealistic' with a facile argument like this denies them their humanity."

Cleese was trending on Twitter Sunday morning as many accused him of transphobia, saying his comments were alienating and offensive.

"Damn. Really wasn't expecting someone as talented and amazing as John Cleese to be anti-trans," author Adam Tierney wrote.

"I've been a fan of Monty Python & some of your other work for years and it's so disappointing to see you take such a hurtful stance on this issue," author A. E. Dooland added. "Trans people are being attacked & invalidated from every angle, & instead of being supportive & uplifting? You say this."

When another Twitter user asked Cleese to "be upfront and tell us your thoughts on JKR's position on trans folks," he replied that he was "not that interested" in the issue.

"I'm afraid I'm not that interested in trans folks," he wrote. "I just hope they're happy and that people treat them kindly."

He added that he was more focussed on other matters, citing the coronavirus pandemic, the "threats to democracy" in America and police brutality among them.

"Do you realise that regimes threatening democracy (e.g. Hungary, the US) and "the appalling British press" all share a hatred of trans people?" Freddy McConnnell responded to that tweet.

"We can't be happy while they legislate or report against us. There is no kindness. You may not be interested but our interests align."

A spokesman for Cleese has been contacted for comment.

John Cleese
John Cleese during a book signing at Waterstones Piccadilly to promote his book "Creativity: A Short and Cheerful Guide" on September 10, in London. Dave J Hogan/Getty