You-know-who – How J.K. Rowling became the villain she demonized

Harry Potter – almost everyone has either seen or read about the adventures of the famous young wizard, and I guess it is valid to say that many of us, including myself, wished to be part of the magical world that influenced us so much. This fictional world created some sense of belonging for so many “Potterheads” world wide – a place were everyone was welcome to experience their very own bit of magic.

Of course, one could argue that the Harry Potter series actually did not really include everyone, since for example queer characters were underrepresented or people of different ethnicities were portrayed in a very stereotypical manner. Nevertheless, the Harry Potter series are not the topic of this article, but the transphobic statements and actions of its creator, Joanne K. Rowling. 

Now, the sense of welcoming mentioned above is not present anymore. Fans consider JKR as dead to them and some even burn her books. Why is that so?

The creator of the magical world made clear that in her opinion not everyone is welcome or equally valid. The whole debate around the author started in December 2019, when JKR took sides with Maya Forstater, a woman that was refused a job due to her blatant transphobia. The issue became even more problematic in June 2020 when JKR published various transphobic tweets. Amongst them was one where she was making fun of the term “people who menstruate”, saying that the expression for that used to be “woman”. Thereby, she is disrespecting transgender individuals.

J.K. Rowling's Transphobia Could Obliviate Our Love For Harry Potter
Rowling’s tweet
(Credits: Shrey Sawant – The Hauterfly)

Following that, the author published a transphobic essay defending herself and her position.  In there she stated that she wants trans women to be safe, but on the other hand she does “not want to make natal girls and women less safe.” She explains this by saying that if women bath- or changing rooms were also opened to “any man who believes or feels he’s a woman”, then doors would be opened for all men, taking away women’s safe spaces.  By arguing in this way, Rowling makes clear that she does not regard trans women as women, but as men that are a danger to all women. [1]

In August, the author gave back a human rights award because she had a fallout with the organization’s chair due to her transphobic statements and the organization’s support of transgender rights.

The peak of the conflict was reached in September when Rowling (alias Robert Galbraith) published a new book called “Troubled Blood” which deals with a cis-male murderer (cis meaning that one’s gender identity matches the sex assigned at birth) who is wearing dresses and is killing women. The issue is now highly discussed again, because where should one draw the line between an author’s freedom and validity of one’s gender, sex or life?

A reviewer summarized the story by saying “Never trust a man in a dress”, by that agreeing with what Rowling pointed out in her essay how in her eyes, trans women are no real women, but men pretending to be women, in order to harm them.

Of course, one could argue that Rowling is not the only one portraying transgender people in a negative way – but this no justification. Concerning the negative depiction of transgender individuals, I can only warmly recommend you to watch the Netflix documentation “Disclosure”, which shows how they were and are portrayed in movies or series. This demonstrates that negative representation of transgender individuals is actually a thing – and something that has unfavourable effects on how they are seen in society. Therefore, and particularly considering Rowling’s position towards those identifying as transgender, it is valid to say that her representation of a murderer wearing dresses is indeed intended to portray them in a derogatory way: as a danger to women. Considering her reach and large community of fans, this is highly unacceptable and contributes, again, negatively to the representation of this sexual minority.

Now the final question is: What should we do about this now? Are we still allowed to read and love Harry Potter? First of all, burning books is not necessary. The best way to show that one is not agreeing with J.K. Rowling’s statements is obviously not to support her anymore, financially speaking.

This means that one should not buy any new books written by her (or her pseudonym Robert Galbraith), nor visit any Harry Potter theme parks, or see the musical. Of course, you can still buy second hand books or get them in a library etc. – as long as she does not earn money with that. Same goes for her Twitter: I would advise you to do the same thing as I did, namely unfollow her. She will most likely not be publishing any new information about Harry Potter and by unfollowing her, you will take her most dangerous weapon, her outreach and ability to influence other people.

In conclusion, this means that you should not stop loving Harry Potter, but rather separate author and story. And now some good news for all that own one of the newer gaming consoles: The new Harry Potter game “Hogwarts Legacy” will be published without JKR’s influence nor her earning money through that – so you can experience magic without the influence of negative connotations Rowling’s work is now burdened with.