The tweets in question came after Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling angered members of the LGBTIQ+ community after publicly siding with Maya Forstater, a British researcher who lost her job following a series of transphobic statements arguing that members of the public cannot change their "biological sex".
“Speaking as a trans woman, the thought that I will no longer be welcome in a fictional school for wizards has destroyed me,” wrote satirical Twitter bot Jarvis Dupont.
To which Gervais replied: “Those awful biological women can never understand what it must be like for you becoming a lovely lady so late in life."
He added: “They take their girly privileges for granted. Winning at female sports and having their own toilets. Well, enough is enough.”
“We need to protect the rights of women,” Gervais went on to tweet. “Not erode them because some men have found a new cunning way to dominate and demonise an entire sex.”
He later clarified: “I think trans women are women. No, I’m not telling you I don’t believe people can be trans. Or that trans people shouldn’t be respected etc.”
However, speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Gervais insisted that he was just being funny.
“Jarvis Dupont is a spoof Twitter account, and the joke is that he’s so woke that he’s actually gone full circle and does terrible things,” Gervais said.
"And his latest [bit] is, 'I’m trans now.’ And he gets all that wrong. And I responded by playing along with him, saying, ’Oh, you’re so much better than biological women because they’ve had a lifetime to get used to it.’ Now, people saw my tweet and they thought he’s a real trans person, but I’m taking the piss out of Jarvis Dupont, who is actually a woman in real life.”
“And this is the problem,” Gervais continued. “You can say, 'Listen, I was joking. It’s a joke.' But that’s not always enough for people. They go, ’Well, why were you joking?’ Also, add to that the nature of Twitter - it’s so curt, there’s no nuance, it’s there forever out of context.”
Gervais insisted that he understood the sensitivity around trans issues.
"I can justify the jokes, but I get it," he told The Hollywood Reporter. "Some people, when you deal with contentious issues or taboo subjects, the very mention of them is the sacrilege. That’s why they stay taboo. People straight away, particularly with a comedian, if you’re joking about a subject, they think you’re anti it as opposed to pro it.”
“People like the idea of freedom of speech until they hear something they don’t like. So there’s still a pressure, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to water it down or back down and not say what I want.
“It’s a good thing to not be racist and sexist and homophobic. But it’s not a good thing to not be allowed to make jokes about those things, because you can tell a joke about race without being racist. I’m happy to play by the rules. It’s just that the 200 million people watching have different rules.”
Gervais has previously faced backlash for using transphobia in his comedy. While hosting the Golden Globes in 2016, the comedian deadnamed Caitlyn Jenner before joking about Jeffrey Tambor's role in Transparent and Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl.