(TW: transphobia, rape)
I’m trying to figure out what’s motivating J.K. Rowling to defecate on her trans and queer fans from a great height, and I’m failing miserably.
I’m also at a loss to figure out why the U.K. and Ireland seem to be a nexus for trans-exclusionary bullshit. I have some theories centering around a couple of media personalities whose names I’m not going to mention, lest they Google search themselves and unleash their flying monkeys on me.
There’s not a whole lot I can write about J.K. Rowling that you don’t already know. She’s one of the best-selling authors of all time. Her “Harry Potter” books have sold more than 500 million copies. Her amazing — empowering — real-life story includes going through a terrible divorce, winding up on the U.K.’s equivalent of public assistance, considering suicide — and then writing her first “Harry Potter” book to widespread sales and acclaim.
J.K. Rowling reads to children during the White House Easter Egg roll in 2010. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
But in recent years, she’s been accused of being transphobic. In 2018, journalist Katelyn Burns reported that although Rowling “has … consistently positioned herself as an LGBTQ+ ally,” her depiction of a transgender character in one of her non-“Harry Potter” novels was problematic, depending on a number of stereotypes.
This past June, Vivian Kane, writing at the Mary Sue blog, examined Rowling’s Twitter feed and found that she was following and “liking” tweets by a number of activists who have accused trans women of invading cisgender spaces, or appropriating lesbian identities.
In general, I’m not a fan of Twitter or Facebook mobs descending on someone because they’ve said something about LGBTQ issues that was problematic.
Our modern “cancel culture” often feels counterproductive to me. Sometimes, someone says or writes something stupid, and sometimes, they can be educated through rational discourse. But it’s hard to have a nuanced conversation when 40,000 people are in your social media mentions, calling you a bigot or threatening your life.
So I was willing to side with the Snopes fact-checking website, which concluded there was no proof Rowling was transphobic — but also carefully noted Rowling and her spokespeople would not comment one way or the other.
I’m less likely to give her the benefit of the doubt today.
Rowling has a huge following on Twitter. She has 14.7 million followers.
Until today, she hadn’t tweeted for more than a month. When she did tweet something this morning, it was to leap to the defense of Maya Forstater, a tax expert who was fired by an anti-poverty think tank for repeatedly making hostile comments about — and toward — trans and gender-queer people, including deliberately using the wrong pronouns.
Forstater challenged her dismissal. This week, a judge ruled Forstater’s bosses had the right to terminate her.
“It is a core component of her belief that she will refer to a person by the sex she considered appropriate even if it violates their dignity and/or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment,” the judge wrote, upholding Forstater’s termination. “The approach is not worthy of respect in a democratic society.”
Rowling chose to break her Twitter silence to announce, “Dress however you please. / Call yourself whatever you like. / Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you. / Live your best life in peace and security. / But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real? #IStandWithMaya #ThisIsNotADrill”
I’ve never read any of Rowling’s “Harry Potter” books, but I know lots and lots and lots of people who love them.
And why not? Is it any wonder so many LGBTQ people identify with Harry Potter, a orphan being raised by an abusive family who learns just before puberty that he’s actually a powerful wizard, and who must then fight for his rightful place against people who want to harm him?
Many LGBTQ people feel out of place, or like we’re outcasts, and puberty is an especially hard time to deal with our gender orientation and sexual identity. We are Harry (and Harriet) Potters!
(I also know more than a few trans and gender-fluid people who wish they could use magic to change their external appearance.)
So now I’m back to my original question: Why does Rowling choose to ignore the voices of what must be millions of queer and trans Harry Potter fans — people to whom she gave a voice with her books?
Why does she want to shit on them? Is it simply a power move? I mean, is she just doing it because she can?
I assume she has a deep conviction that gender is assigned at birth and matches biological sex.
Well, then: Does she think all of her millions of queer and trans Harry Potter fans are delusional? If so, are they also delusional for enjoying her work?
Or are her deeply held beliefs so immutable that the opinions of her queer and trans fans simply don’t count?
I may not be a Harry Potter fan, but as a child of the ’80s, I remember how sad — and later, angry — I was when rumors began to circulate about Bill Cosby drugging and raping women.
Cosby was a big cultural touchstone for me — kids in our neighborhood used to race home on Thursday nights to see “The Cosby Show” — and it felt like a deeply personal betrayal.
I felt like I’d been tricked. And then I was mad at myself for falling for Cosby’s “I’m a nice dad” act.
I don’t think Rowling’s misdeeds come close to Cosby’s. But a lot of her fans must be feeling the same kind of sadness and anger.
If you’re one of them, and you feel tricked — you were. Just, please, don’t turn the anger on yourself. Rowling is being wantonly and knowingly cruel to you. Level the anger at her, where it belongs.
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