John Cleese causes 'transphobic' controversy for joking he identifies as 'Cambodian police woman'

Legendary English comedian John Cleese is facing an online backlash over comments he made about transgender people and JK Rowling.

The 81-year-old Fawlty Towers star has been labelled "transphobic" after saying he's focussed on issues like the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and global conflict rather than "trans folks".

A joke Cleese made on Twitter while defending his standing alongside Rowling has caused particular controversy.

"Deep down, I want to be a Cambodian police woman. Is that allowed, or am I being unrealistic?" he tweeted.

In another tweet, Cleese conceded his understanding of transgender people is "superficial", before claiming trans women are generally "bigger and stronger" than other women.

"Yes, my understanding is superficial. One thing: 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. Does that prove phobia?"

Harry Potter author Rowling has frequently been labelled transphobic over comments she has made on gender.

In September, Cleese said he was "proud" to be one of 50 prominent British writers who signed a letter in solidarity with Rowling.

His being criticised about that again recently triggered this latest series of tweets. 

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

"Right now I'm more focussed on threats to democracy in America, the rampant corruption in the UK, the appalling British Press, the revelations about police brutality, COVID-19, the incompetence of the British government, China's complete disregard for the necessity to abandon fossil fuels, the developments in France between Macron and Islamicists, diabetes and the recent deaths of several of my close friends. 

"Does than sound hard-hearted?"

Among those criticising Cleese for his comments is transgender author Lilah Sturges.

"It makes me doubly sad to see John Cleese, whose comedy I absolutely idolized as a young person, not just be transphobic but be transphobic in a way that attempts and fails to be funny. This is an ex-comedian," she tweeted.

"It's so disheartening to see John Cleese being a complete transphobic twit on Twitter," added children's TV creator Pedro Eboli. 

"Years ago, I got a 'silly walk' tattoo because Python was such a comedic milestone in my young life. I guess I know now how Potter fans feel."

The latest Twitter controversy also includes Cleese condemning "wokes", which he frequently does.