Writer, Maggie Johnson
The Harry Potter franchise is deeply rooted in our society, being one of friendship and magic; however, it is tainted by weeds of harmful stereotypes of all people not respected by the writer: J.K. Rowling. J.K. Rowling’s stance on transgender existence is dangerous and easily debunked. Her bigotry has been shown in most, if not all of her writing. Regardless of personal opinions and morals, we cannot ignore the toll it’s taking on transgender individuals therefore Rowling needs to be de-platformed. Media has power over laws, which is prevalent in the UK as seen by the rise in transphobia. Like in Consultation on the 2004 Gender Recognition Act and the BBC’s article “We’re being pressured into sex by some trans women” by Caroline Lowbridge the words used are decisive. To understand this essay we must first define and understand: transgender, TERF, and gender-critical. Transgender, trans for short, is an umbrella term for anyone whose gender doesn’t align with their assigned gender at birth. Gender is different from sex and neither is binary as there is male, female and intersex — which makes up 1.7% of the population of the world — however, TERFs would have you believe something different from that. The acronym, TERF stands for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists, they are “feminists” who see trans women as enemies of women’s liberation. TERFs reject that gender and sex are different, Well they’re called trans-exclusionary radical feminists, the group largely targets transfem: people who were assigned male at birth and have a gender identity, that is predominantly feminine. TERF and gender-critical are often used interchangeably, while gender-critical is defined as people believing that sex is what matters, not gender. These identities are increasing in the media, which impacts the laws and regulations. As a result of this, the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) released the article “We’re being pressured into sex by some trans women” causing controversy and broadcasting a rise in transphobia all over the UK. Before, transphobia in the government was in decline; Now anti-trans hate crimes increased by 16% between 2019 and 2020.
In 2019, the 2004 Gender Recognition Act was going to be updated, this act allows people who have gender dysphoria to change their legal gender. The update would make it so a diagnosis was no longer needed, however, gender-critical groups claimed it would “be open to abuse by men who could falsely declare a change in gender.” These groups are challenging transgender people’s livelihood and one of the most prominent British authors J.K. Rowling — writer of the Harry Potter series — is a loud supporter of these beliefs.
“Many, myself included, believe we are watching a new kind of conversion therapy for young gay people, who are being set on a lifelong path of medicalization” A tweet from J.K. Rowling on July 4th, 2020. Since late 2019, Rowling has been vocal about her beliefs even involving herself in politics. On international women’s day, she targeted the Labour party, the centre-left party of the UK, for their definition of a woman. On the BBC a representative of the Labour party stated “there are different definitions legally around what a woman actually is.” A common belief in the Labour party, targeting their beliefs harms the LGBTQ+ party when they’re known for policies that are pro-LGBTQ+ being the first ones to add it to the party manifesto; They protect LGBTQ+ people best. As seen previously, the Labour party is the ones wanting to redefine the Gender Recognition Act, they deny the belief that someone’s identity needs to be medically diagnosed, just the life authentically. Why should trans people, especially low-income ones have to wait years just to get hormones or surgery if they desire? When any cis person could get cosmetic surgery whenever they please. Tangent aside, Rowling still sees not putting women into a box as an attack. Including trans people must mean “real women” are ignored. She tweeted “Apparently, under a Labour government, today will become We Who Must Not Be Named Day.” A reference to her book, specifically the villain Voldemort who couldn’t be named as it gave him power. This comparison is inaccurate when her very group got pro-trans laws postponed. The group she is a part of is prominently on Twitter. She works hard to conceal her views as a genuine concern for the wellbeing of all women but true colours shine through in her opinion piece ‘J.K. Rowling Writes about Her Reasons for Speaking out on Sex and Gender Issues’ In this she claims to have been researching transgender identities for at least two years, however many professionals in the field disagree with her. Gaining support from known transphobes and sending “big love” back to them.
J.K. Rowling is friends with Caroline Farrow — director of CitizenGo, an organization, which houses petitions against abortion rights, trans rights, and same-sex marriage — the two interact on the Twitter timeline with support. Despite Rowling inferring her only problem with the LGBTQ+ in the T in it, she defends someone who says “My children will be taught that homosexual acts are sinful.” Rowling’s nonchalant attitude proves she is okay enough with homophobes to be friends with them. Acts like this are unacceptable when her tweets get thousands of likes. By platforming other problematic people she increases their impact. Likewise, Dennis Noel Kavanagh a gay man who claims to ‘prefer AIDs’ as it [did not] ‘castrate gay boys’ refers to gender-affirming surgeries. (Rowling) Rowling sent him “Welcome back 👏👏👏.” This act discredits her virtue signalling, saying she `know and [loves] trans people’ (Rowling) only to turn her back and refuse to perform life-changing surgeries as mutilation. Her twitter platform is dangerous and helps to promote the idea that women are no more than their reproductive organs. Her tweet of ‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?” She sent this in response to an article about period poverty. it is demeaning to many, not just the trans women she hopes to insult; There is cis woman who can not have children; she erases their women experiences. Her Twitter is a big enough problem with her wide reach but this is not where her problematic opinions started; Let’s look at her books.
After her many controversies, people started looking back at Harry Potter — Rowling’s celebrated writings — finding thinly veiled stereotypes. Starting with the goblins, in the Harry Potter universe: they run the banks, have big hooked noses, and have a star of David in the middle of their bank. If you did not know the “greedy Jewish caricatures” have been a staple of antisemitism since the Middle Ages.
Playing into an ages-old stereotype of conflating Jewishness with greediness is wrong. Her books accidentally show her personal biases, including toward the Irish. Seamus Finnigan — an Irish boy whose only character trait is blowing things up — keep in mind the troubles were from the 1960s to 1998 and the book was released in 1997. His character must have been written at the peak of the Irish-anglo troubles over land and religion. Basing his whole character on the Irish Republican Army — IRA for short who sought the establishment of a republic, the end of British rule in Northern Ireland, and the reunification of Ireland — known for violent bombings. It is hard to remember when these books came out as they ruled a generation. However, things being old doesn’t excuse offensive and lazy writing like Cho Chang. Cho Chang was an Asian character with two Korean surnames. As well Chang plays into a stereotype type, putting her into Ravenclaw, the smart house, to reduce her to the geeky Asian girl stock character. Rowling did not care enough to properly write diversity, normally it was an afterthought, like Dumbledore. The act of making Dumbledore gay post canon is just a need for kudos and when the opportunity to represent it properly comes along, Rowling ignores it. The Fantastic Beasts movies allowed real gay representation, and it was claimed as “not important.” To add representation in a post is not a true representation. It easily could’ve been in the books, As in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows a large part of it focuses on Dumbledore’s past.
Moreover, another afterthought that was harmful to the LGBTQ+ community is claiming werewolves are symbols of HIV/AIDS. The AIDS crisis is synonymous with the LGBTQ+ community, as when it happened it primarily was seen in gay men and was ignored by politicians. Many still see it as “god’s will” or just a gay problem. So when one of the werewolves, Fenrir Greyback, is known for purposely infecting children it plays into gay stereotypes of “turning children.” People who are living with AIDs spoke out and mentioned Remus Lupin, the main werewolf of the series. Remus Lupin — a Defence Against the Dark Arts professor who died in the fight against Voldemort — is a character many fans thought was queercoded. Queercoding is when a character’s sexual identity is not said and subtext could imply to an audience using traits and stereotypes that said character could be queer. The traits implied in Lupin’s case are: hiding a big secret that could’ve led his peers to shun him, parents not liking that he was a teacher, is described as self-loathing, having an intensely close relationship with Sirius black his best friend, and when he did marry a female he was withdrawn and unhappy also only did so after his Sirius Black died (Allen). But Rowling says Lupin isn’t gay. The coding was accidental and existed to relate to the werewolves are symbolism for HIV/AIDS. While anyone can have HIV, it is strongly linked to gay men. It is almost impossible to explore the stigma without having gay characters. It erases the very history of who is most affected by the stigma she wanted to write about. With Harry potter having no written gay characters the motif was offensive. It left people who have HIV related to monsters who want to infect children and it ignores where the very stigma comes from.
So what do we do concerning J.K. Rowling’s values and how they affect her writing? Well, La mort de l’auteur. In English, it translates to “death to the author.” It is a simple concept that no matter what the author intended, the reader gets to decide the final meaning. In J.K. Rowling’s terms it means, everything she says outside of the books, fans can decide whether to ignore or not; Is that enough though? We’ve seen all of her problematic ideas shoved in 6 books and now a well-known TERF, does she deserve our money? Simply, No she doesn’t. Consumers have control over whatever they see fit; Don’t buy her books and unfollow her on social media. If you care about the future of trans people we need to deplatform her so she cannot influence people anymore. Kick Rowling out of her dynasty.