I have never read a Harry Potter book or seen the films upon which they were based, but as a young fledgling writer, I was inspired the story of J.K. Rowling, herself. I remember having that fire burning within me to create using the written word and Rowling’s story was a powerful motivator for me. In what might have been ripped from one of her own fairytales, a down-on-her-luck woman trapped in the cycle of poverty scribbled her story on a napkin at the diner she frequented. She had no delusions of grandeur or expectation of the success she would see manifest, simply an idea of a little boy wizard who would wage war against the forces of oppression and win… just as Rowling had, against all odds.
JK Rowling had represented something very different to me than she did most Potterheads. Her audience loved her because of Harry Potter. I loved JK Rowling because she inspired me to keep writing.
If you had asked me then if one day I would be writing about the blatant transphobia of a beloved social icon, I would have laughed and dismissed it as ludicrous. Alas, here I am, writing about JK Rowling’s transphobic politics for the fourth- and the last time.
Indeed, in early 2018, I investigated and collected the instances of Rowling’s awkward yet subtle transphobic gestures. Sure, they were just a bizarre “Like” on a tweet that shouted some typical anti-trans venom now and then. It seemed slight, certainly not enough to be directly incriminating without risking errant conclusion on her personal beliefs. My first article outlining the social media practices that appeared to demonstrate her alignment with gender critical ideologies by virtue of the statuses she liked seemed speculative at best. Her management declared them as a “Middle aged moment,” and a sigh of relief was heard around the world.
And then she did it again- and began following some of the most aggressive, scathing anti-trans antagonists, more often described as “Radical feminists” on twitter. Magdalen Berns, the vile, abusive tormentor of many-a-transperson on Twitter was one of the first notable figures that gave me pause… followed by other, similar peddlers of hateful propaganda deliberately intended to malign transgender women- Julie Bindel, Graham Linehan, Janice Turner, all of who are notorious figures that devote their twitter streams exclusively to vitriolic misinformation campaigns launched on transgender people daily from their platforms.
My second article, “Oops, She did it again.” explored Rowling’s descent into the territory typically reserved for the most radicalized voices borne from pure hatred of a minority. Again, Rowling was populating her public social media and news feeds with information curated explicitly to embolden her own intolerance. She was consuming lies and putting her stamp of approval on the target placed on the backs of those in the transgender community- many of whom held her on a high pedestal, blissfully unaware that she was a enemy in the making. To Rowling’s benefit, she stood quietly behind her likes and retweets without ever saying a word that was her own. She simply sat silently and granted space on her timeline, which reaches an audience of over 14 million users, to those espousing raw hatred for transgender people- especially trans women.
My third article came after the author finally came out and took a vocal stance in defense of Maya Forstater; A British woman who had been fired for launching a tirade, unprovoked and without merit, against the transgender community. Forstater’s firing was challenged in court by her attorneys who hoped a Judge would accept that her enthusiastically expressed intolerance and bigotry was protected from recourse. It was not. Rowling furiously tweeted her support for Forstater, which lead me to the conclusion that Rowling was, finally, confirming her stance against transgender women and her opposition to them.
I received a lot of resistance back then. I published “JK Rowling Confirms Stance against Transgender Women” a year ago this month. People asked how I could say she confirmed her stance when she had not spoken directly regarding her personal beliefs on transgender people. Snopes wrote an article (Since altered) calling my article “False.”
A stance, according to its definition is as follows:
“The way in which someone stands, especially when deliberately adopted (as in baseball, golf, and other sports); a person’s posture.”
I did not need a vocal confession to feel that my headline was accurate. For three years I had watched her take an offensive stance against transgender people without using her own words. Instead, she used the words of others, often malignant and incorrect, and amplified them using her platform. She appeared to take a very safe- and PR friendly tactic- of letting others express her sentiments for her. I no longer needed to hear it directly from the horse’s mouth. She had made it clear, indisputably and repeatedly, which ideology she had aligned herself with.
That article went viral and I received a plethora of hate mail from Potter loyalists claiming that I had lied and insisting she was an ally to all minority communities, especially the LGBTQ+ community. At the same time, Rowling’s cohorts in the gender critical movement piled on, calling me a “Trans Radical Activist” along with the predictable “Man-In-A-Dress” and “Woman Wannabe” remarks which, to be fair, are just a daily routine by virtue of simply being openly transgender on any social media platform.
Bizarrely, some of my most ardent attackers, I watched as Rowling started to follow. In what could quite possibly be cosmic coincidence, it felt as though she was literally aggregating an army of like-minded abusers from my mentions- people like Fred Sargeant, a man who claims to be a survivor of the Stonewall Riots who attempted to bait me into battling him and to justify my identity and presence in society. When I realized he was simply enjoying the cruelty- as many of his kind do- I disengaged, politely. Shortly after, he made a donation to the anti-transgender organization “LGB Alliance” in my name and announced it via twitter. Shortly after that, Rowling followed him and raised his visibility from run-of-the-mill internet bully to full on TERF celebrity.
Now here we are, during pride month, in the midst of a global pandemic and civil unrest, and the horse’s mouth has finally opened. For the first time, Rowling stepped from behind the firewall of her cohorts and the excuses of “Middle Aged Moments” to unleash a ghastly attack on transgender women, our rights, our intentions and dignities. Attempting to leverage junk science and the radicalism she had been swallowing in large doses for years up to this point, Rowling exploded from her own proverbial closet and exposed herself as a transgender exclusionary radical feminist. Ugly, misshapen opinions instead of pursued facts peppered her wildly anti-trans manifesto published to her own website. It was a 45 paragraph rant intended to demoralize and delegitimize transgender women as threatening men dwelling on the darkest, shadowy fringes of society waiting to hurl ourselves at innocent, unexpecting women, steal their sovereignty, their rights and erase their identities, replacing theirs with our own. We are dissected down to chromosomes and basic anatomy (At one point referring to “Real woman” as “Mestruators.”) with complete disregard of the human condition we inhabit independently across an infinite spectrum.
There is no question that Rowling appeared from her lofty tower in Evita-like fashion to address the army of bigots she had amassed in one place beneath her and attempted to weaponize them against transgender women; Ironically, using debunked arguments and caustic vernacular she learned herself from the very militants that she began populating her timeline with years prior. Even still, her words are not her own, just adopted from other bigots with lesser reach.
We’ve heard before most of what Rowling had to say with the same snarky self-righteousness thrust down the throats of trans women who dare exist in public thus making it strikingly unoriginal. She summoned up the fake argument that trans women wish to deem lesbians transphobic if they do not allow us to penetrate them with- as mumsnet refers to it- our “Bepenised bodies.” She portrays us a men brimming with excessive testosterone seeking out vulnerable women to take advantage of in private “Women’s only” spaces. She urges women to protest and organize against us as a result of our existence and to essentially erase us and our place within the human condition that she seems to find so utterly reprehensible.
And to those who rebuke the hatred and narrow world view, she used more familiar words from the anti trans propaganda sheet wherein self-victimizers claim they are crucified for being called out by the greater public for their relentless pursuit and ruthless attacks on transgender women. They say they are accused of “Wrong think” and being silenced.
The rest of us call this gas lighting and projection.
I’d wager at my own risk that Rowling doesn’t know or love any trans person not riddled with self hatred, usually explicitly to earn the approval of those of her social caliber. Sure, some trans women might agree with her, but they’re not entirely dissimilar to powerful, secretly gay politicians that vote for antigay legislation as a form of personal penance for their sin or shame. Does she know and love any proud transgender people? Does she know or love anyone trans who is regularly subject to the throngs of insults and abuse hurled at them on the very platform she has utilized to embolden it from?
Also, and quite matter-of-factly, Rowling is not empathetic to the plight of the transgender community. As Professor Brené Brown once said:
“In order to empathize with someone’s experience, you must believe them as they see it and not how you imagine their experience to be.”
Instead, Rowling approaches the topic of Transgender women as if, somehow, she’s already convinced herself she has personally been victimized by us. And while she claims she would “March with you if you were discriminated against on the basis of being trans,” this, too, I believe is a lie. How does one claim they would raise their voice in defense of us when, historically, Rowling has only inspired the ire of those who wish to discriminate against us instead? Why has she used her platform to elevate hostility toward this specific community?
In truth, the once beloved author is within her rights to contest our place in society, how we function, how we thrive or do not. Her approval of trans lives is not required, thus her stance is- albeit disheartening and for many disappointing- inconsequential in the greater scheme of things. Rowling’s Pride Month confession is neither shocking, nor does it exceed her reach. She’s allowed to disagree, dispute, protest and disavow anyone she likes.
What concerns me is not the Author’s opinion of me, or those like me, but her reach. The minds it will twist and distort and the malformed opinions that will develop, having been seeded by her festering animus toward millions of innocent people just trying to have a good day. Just a good day. She does, to put it simply, have a massive influence on those both young and old; Grandparents, parents and children alike who will by directly consume her ignorance and project that swelling, intentionally instigated rage onto other human beings, persecuting them, alienating them, abusing them behind screen names on social media, targeting them for being transgender.
Now that you no longer feel compelled to operate with any measure of discretion or manufacture lies to cover for those likes and retweets, we, also, reserve the right to react.
As you have outed yourself with such glaring confidence, you will undoubtedly feed your masses more junk science (Undoubtedly sourced from The Times.) conspiracy theories about some trans agenda and fear mongering stories of child mutilation to further persecute and perpetuate violence against an already threatened minority.
History will shelve your books.
This is your legacy now.