Will J.K. Rowling Ever Overcome Her Transphobia?
Good evening, Dear Readers. As some of you know, I just got back from Dragon Con, the largest science fiction convention in the country. I’ll be honest. I expected to go, do my panels, and leave — no emotional attachment. Instead, I was replenished by the countless fans dressed as various fantasy and science fiction characters. My favorites? Princess Peach, Ahsoka Tano from Star Wars: The Clone Wars (I saw multiple interpretations, and they were all spot-on), and the Joker. I also saw quite a few shirtless men walking around. Couldn’t quite figure out who they were dressed as, but I wasn’t complaining.
For those of you who don’t know, I went to Dragon Con as a visiting author to discuss the recent backlash over J.K. Rowling’s transphobic comments in the last year. If you’re unaware, she basically said that if trans women gain the rights they deserve, it will place other women at a disadvantage. If you want to read about it more in-depth, you can check it out at this link: A Complete Breakdown of the J.K. Rowling Transgender-Comments Controversy | Glamour .
As someone in the LGBTQIA+ community who found solace in the Harry Potter series, I was surprised by her comments. I was also blown away by how disconnected she seemed to be from the LGBTQIA+ perspective. In her books, she writes about outsiders. In fact, the main characters are outsiders themselves (all straight, but outsiders nonetheless). The depth with which she conveys Hermione’s pain at being labeled a Mudblood, in addition to how she shows Harry’s inner turmoil over being the savior of the wizarding world, would lead one to believe that she has the insight to understand the legitimacy of the LGBT community’s struggle for basic human rights. Instead, she exhibits not a minor blind spot but a very real and concerning ignorance around the experiences of many in her fan base.
Thankfully, many who attended the panel voiced their feelings around Ms. Rowling, some even shedding tears over what they perceive as pure and utter betrayal. One person even referred to her as “the real-life Dolores Umbridge”. The one question we couldn’t seem to find an answer for was, How do we move past this? Many relayed that they loved the fandom, but they didn’t want to financially give to the franchise if it could in any way benefit Ms. Rowling. In response, others suggested that we could give to fans who have created their own off-shoot series and merchandise. They also suggested we could buy books from independent bookstores or rent them from our local public libraries. All great suggestions!
As for Ms. Rowling herself, we discussed whether she would ever be capable of growth. Before the panel, I was skeptical, only because she had made the following statement:
“I refuse to bow down to a movement that I believe is doing demonstrable harm in seeking to erode ‘woman’ as a political and biological class and offering cover to predators like few before it.”
What changed it for me was one of the other panelists, who was trans. She said that she couldn’t give up on her, because she believed JKR might possibly see her side one day. The panelist relayed that so many times throughout her life, she has taken the time to have conversations with those who were skeptical of her experience as a trans person, and as a result, people actually came to understand — and even appreciate — her story. So many times, the people she spoke with knew no other openly trans people, but since she took the time (and exercised a lot of grace, even for those who probably asked transphobic questions to begin with), she was able to change perspectives.
Maybe that’s what JKR needs — one person to sit down with her and truly have a heart-to-heart about what it’s like to be LGBTQIA+. Maybe she has, but she’s impervious to any kind of change. After hearing that one panelist’s view, and reading all the books, and seeing all the movies, I can’t help but have hope for Ms. Rowling. It’s hard for me to believe that someone whose series has spoken to countless outsiders is incapable of changing her thinking around LGBTQIA+ rights.
Maybe she’ll come around. Maybe she won’t. But if there’s one thing the Harry Potter series has taught me, its’s that I can’t lose hope — and I won’t.
Until next time.