Content warning: this article mentions violence towards transgender individuals and discusses transphobia.
J.K. Rowling is back at it again with more transphobia. While the rest of us have been doing our best to manage our mental health, abolish cops and regrow spring onions, the Harry Potter author has written another book which critics are denouncing as transphobic.
ICYMI, as well as constantly retconning her own YA fantasy series on Twitter, Rowling also writes private detective novels under her pen name Robert Galbraith. Her newly released fifth effort in the series is called Troubled Blood and features, per the blurb, a “psychopathic serial killer” villain… who turns out to be a man who dresses as a woman. Once again, she couldn’t just stop at “wizards shit on the floor and magic it away.”
It’s a tired trope that we’re almost too tired to unpack. It hinges on the idea that ulterior motives are always at play when men dress as women—and assumes that you’re still putting certain clothes in a ‘womens’ clothing category… in 2020. That deviation from (outdated) gender binaries is somehow pathological or perverse, and ultimately proposes that transgender people are dangerous—again, wrong and incredibly harmful.
“J.K. Rowling is single-mindedly obsessed with trans people and actively frames them as predators in her novels,” wrote culture critic Elle Dawson. Yeah, novels, plural. Dawson is also referring to the second Galbraith book, The Silkworm. That one was denounced for portraying a transgender character as aggressive.
The unnecessary sub-plot aligns with Rowling’s previous pseudo-righteous comments she’s made previously. They’ve ranged from classic trans-exclusionary radical feminism—like hinging women’s identity on menstruation—to outright painting trans people as nefarious villains. Quick fact check here: nope. The number of transgender people murdered in 2020 already surpassed the 2019 total after just seven months—and those are just the instances that we know about. As evidenced by the deaths of Black transwomen and transmen throughout the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement, transgender people are often misgendered and dead-named by police and media.
Since Rowling seems pretty wedded to harmful views and spouting them in various public formats, we’d suggest a healthy Twitter muting spree. Even better, if you’re not trans yourself, arming yourself with a better understanding of trans people and nonbinary people’s lived experience is the simplest first step toward becoming a better ally. Syrup has written a number of guides on transgender identities and pronouns, and if you’re looking for trans and gender non-conforming excellence to add to your IG feed, chuck these angels a follow.
Rowling’s ongoing transphobia has been widely condemned by critics, mental health organisations, LGBTQI+ media and advocacy groups and anyone with a working sense of empathy and reason. Back in June, multiple Harry Potter alums also spoke out. In an essay published on The Trevor Project’s blog, your boy Daniel Radcliffe took a clear stance in advocating for transgender people and asked people to join him using The Trevor Project’s guide to being an ally to trans and nonbinary youth.
We’ll just leave this, from absolute angel Daniel Radcliffe here:
To all the people who now feel that their experience of the books has been tarnished or diminished, I am deeply sorry for the pain these comments have caused you. I really hope that you don’t entirely lose what was valuable in these stories to you. If these books taught you that love is the strongest force in the universe, capable of overcoming anything; if they taught you that strength is found in diversity, and that dogmatic ideas of pureness lead to the oppression of vulnerable groups; if you believe that a particular character is trans, nonbinary, or gender fluid, or that they are gay or bisexual; 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.