By: Nicole Wagoner
The name JK Rowling most likely rings a bell for you. For years she has been an iconic figure and inspiration in the lives of children and adults alike. Many young people grew up reading her world-renowned series Harry Potter, finding solace in the relatable characters and the thrilling story. Her books were an escape from the world’s chaos for children going through significant changes in their lives, and they grew into adults dealing with political burnout who continued to find peace in the story.
But JK Rowling herself does not seem to advocate for the serenity we find in the books. Recently, Rowling has posted on her Twitter account hateful statements about the trans community.
On June 6, 2020, Rowling replied to an opinion article from Devex titled, “Opinion: Creating a more equal post-COVID-19 world for people who menstruate,” mocking the article’s headline for saying “People who Menstruate” rather than saying women. This title is not something to be made fun of; the piece was attempting to be inclusive.
Rowling responded to the backlash from this tweet by stating on Twitter, “If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives. It isn’t hate to speak the truth. The idea that women like me, who’ve been empathetic to trans people for decades, feeling kinship because they’re vulnerable in the same way as women – ie, to male violence – ‘hate’ trans people because they think sex is real and has lived consequences – is a nonsense. I respect every trans person’s right to live any way that feels authentic and comfortable to them. I’d march with you if you were discriminated against on the basis of being trans. At the same time, my life has been shaped by being female. I do not believe it’s hateful to say so.”
It is clear that JK Rowling is only trying to defend her offensive words. Still, she has only made herself sound more transphobic. Rowling completely disregards the difference between sex and gender and ignores why people feel the need to socially transition while not medically transitioning. She is undermining trans existence and uplifting herself as a cis woman.
Rowling’s most recent transphobic act was a tweet she made promoting Wild Womyn Workshop, which is actively transphobic and sells transphobic products. The store sells pins saying, “Trans women are men,” “F*ck your pronouns,” and “Sorry about your d*ck, dude.” This promotion is an action she has not attempted to defend.
Rowling continues to act like a victim, which is a disgrace to the trans community’s struggles. She wrote a post on her blog talking about her “Reasons for Speaking Out on Gender and Sex issues” where she said, “Immediately, activists who clearly believe themselves to be good, kind and progressive people swarmed back into my timeline, assuming a right to police my speech, accuse me of hatred, call me misogynistic slurs and, above all – as every woman involved in this debate will know – TERF.” TERF stands for trans-exclusionary radical feminist, which, if you have paid attention to this article, you know JK Rowling is. But she is clearly very hurt by this accusation, which I remind you, is true, so she victimizes herself.
JK Rowling claims she is not a trans exclusionist because of all the research she claims to have done on trans issues and all the other feminists she has spoken to about her opinions. She says in her blog post while talking about the support she has received, “They’re worried about the dangers to young people, gay people and about the erosion of women’s and girl’s rights. Above all, they’re worried about a climate of fear that serves nobody – least of all trans youth – well.” May I remind you, JK Rowling is not a trans person and therefore does not hold the right to say what affects trans youth. The ignorance in her blog post truly makes one wonder if she has ever even spoken to a trans person. An example of this is from the same blog post where she says, “Ironically, radical feminists aren’t even trans-exclusionary – they include trans men in their feminism, because they were born women.” What am I even supposed to say to that? Do I need to explain why that makes zero sense?
The bottom line is Rowling doesn’t have a point, she goes in circles and ends up making herself look more clueless every time she speaks out.
Despite the fact that everyone with sense knows how naive she is, Rowling’s comments have still hit the trans and queer community where it hurts. Harry Potter is the story of a misfit kid who wants to be “normal.” He gets harassed daily by adults and peers alike. He goes straight from being painfully invisible to unbearably visible in almost a day. His family is unaccepting of his true wizard identity. Does any of this sound familiar? It is an almost universal experience for people in the LGBTQIA+ community. Queer and trans kids grew up relating to Harry Potter. They felt understood, even if it was just for a minute.
Not only that, Harry Potter’s main storyline follows the fight against an unjust and oppressive government. The villains of the story, which continuously work to overtake the government, carry hatred for “muggles” and try to take away their rights. Historically, it is a global norm that the government actively fights against LGBTQIA+ rights. Queer and trans people everywhere are actively trying to get or keep the same rights straight and cisgender people get. With Amy Coney Barret getting put into the supreme court, LGBTQIA+ kids are more scared than ever.
JK Rowling has become the villain of her story. She is supporting the oppressive government that her characters would die trying to fight. She wrote a way for LGBTQIA+ kids to escape and is now bringing more into the world they feel the need to escape. JK Rowling has hurt her fanbase in a way that will not damage them permanently but will damage her permanently.
Harry Potter’s fans that are gay, trans, or allies, are taking back the franchise. As Daniel Radcliffe, the star of the Harry Potter, said himself, “… if you found anything in these stories that resonated with you and helped you at any time in your life — then that is between you and the book that you read, and it is sacred. And in my opinion nobody can touch that. It means to you what it means to you and I hope that these comments will not taint that too much.” Radcliffe also apologized for the hurt JK Rowling has caused. His comments reminded the fans that JK Rowling may have written Harry Potter, but the fans brought it to life. The franchise belongs to the fans.”
The fans have done things such as blackout Rowling’s name on the covers of the books. Some of them also replace the name with famous feminists who have worked to make a better world for the trans community. They also commonly replace her name with other people involved with the Harry Potter franchise, such as Daniel Radcliffe.
People on social media such as TikTok, Twitter, and Instagram have also picked up a joke that “Harry Potter has no author.” This joke is a popular way people are separating Rowling’s books from her name. This is normally hard to do and has proved infeasible for some people, but for others, this simple phrase signifies the larger goal of reclaiming the franchise as something for the misfits, just like Potter himself was.
One of the biggest takeaways from this situation is that the queer and trans community fought back. Specifically, Generation Z and Millenials are tired of people throwing slander and hatred their way. So they sent the same energy JK Rowling gave to them back to her. The trans community will not stay silent, and neither will their allies. As Marsha P. Johnson said, “History isn’t something you look back at and say it was inevitable, it happens because people make decisions that are sometimes very impulsive and of the moment, but those moments are cumulative realities.” We are fighting for and moving towards a future where trans people are accepted and loved. The reality is, JK Rowling will be left behind with only her hatred and bigotry to comfort her.