If made to identify J.K. Rowling, one would probably define her as the author of one of the most well-loved children’s books of all time. The “Harry Potter” series’s many books and movie adaptions inspired an entire generation of kids who are now strong-willed, young adults today. These adults heeded important lessons from reading Rowling’s words, the biggest being that love is the strongest power in the world, and it is those who are without love in their hearts that will always lose.
Rowling is a well-known author and women’s rights advocate, but it now seems that the list of descriptors for the British writer can now include the term “TERF,” or trans-exclusive radical feminist.
On June 6, Rowling retweeted an article from devex.com titled, “Creating a more equal post-COVID-19 world for people who menstruate.” She quoted the article and added her own commentary, which read, “‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”
The tweet sparked outrage, as did many other tweets Rowling posted and liked following it. The 54-year-old author continued to defend her stance that can be summarized as: Trans women cannot ever fully be women, sex is real and saying otherwise erases the identities and struggles of cis-gendered women.
When many fans demanded that Rowling apologize for her tweets, she released a lengthy statement explaining her viewpoint on gender issues. Rowling explored the topic of trans identity and how she has come to understand it over the years.
However, her understanding could not be as well-meaning as she expressed if she was able to seriously write, “The more of their accounts of gender dysphoria I’ve read… the more I’ve wondered whether, if I’d been born 30 years later, I too might have tried to transition. The allure of escaping womanhood would have been huge.”
This comment drastically undermines the amount of ridicule and prejudice trans men face. It expresses the idea that a woman’s life could be easier if she just randomly decided to transition to being male. It adds the brand of “white feminism” that Rowling usually chooses to represent, which excludes struggles of minority women by solely focusing on how the world responds to the “baseline” of women — white women.
This is not the first time Rowling has spoken about the legitimacy of trans people and, more specifically, the legitimacy of trans women. Rowling has sided with and supported anti-transgender rhetoric on her social media previously.
In 2019, Rowling tweeted her support for a researcher who was fired from the Center for Global Development for tweeting that “men cannot change into women.”
With Rowling’s past in consideration, why is it that only now her indiscretions against the transgender community are being considered enough for fans to cut ties with her?
I see it as a response to all the catastrophic events that have been happening to the world over the last few months. With the grueling effects of the pandemic, the resurgence of attention to the Black Lives Matter movement and the political battle between mistreated populations and the government, it seems that the world is done with taking blows at the expense of marginalized groups.
It seems that young people everywhere have decided to scrub away any and all toxicity from society for the betterment of the future, as this is a generation that recognizes that the world cannot continue to go on this way — not at the expense of trans people, Black people and poor people.
As Rowling is now “canceled,” that means that the author will no longer be supported, will be unfollowed on social media platforms and will no longer be considered a role model to her former fans.
But what does canceling Rowling mean for fans that still love and cherish the books and movies? What does it mean for people who rely on these works as comforting and inspiring pieces of art?
These questions are answered by Daniel Radcliffe, who took on the iconic role of Harry Potter in the movie franchise. The 30-year-old actor posted an essay of his support of transgender rights on the Trevor Project website, a nonprofit that supports LGBTQ+ youth.
Radcliffe stated, “Transgender women are women. Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional health care associations who have far more expertise on this subject matter than either Jo or I.
“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.”
Countless Potter fans expressed gratitude for Radcliffe’s remarks and took his sentiments to heart. Many eagerly accepted the invitation to keep their love for the franchise and celebrate the more positive aspects.
Examples include the story’s climax, the war against a fascist regime intent on wiping out non-pure bloodlines and how much bravery and righteousness that entails. It could include the character of Harry, a neglected and unloved orphaned boy who finally finds a place he belongs. It includes the friendship between Harry, Ron and Hermione, or the character development of Neville or even the security of unbridled love portrayed by the Weasley family. Any of these aspects could be a personal part of someone else’s story.
In fact, fans have been inviting themselves into the world of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for years. The number of fan fiction stories based off “Harry Potter” is astronomical. Fans write beautiful tales about subjects or characters that Rowling never even dared to explore, such as love stories between Sirius and Remus, or entirely new characters inserted by the fan fiction writers themselves.
Fans even create entire productions to further immerse themselves in the works. “A Very Potter Musical” is a popular fan-made play that satirizes the story of “Harry Potter” while paying homage to the material. The musical is loved by many fans, and is even responsible for inserting its own canon into the Potter universe, particularly the new detail that Hufflepuffs are good “finders.”
“Harry Potter” fans are already well-versed in amplifying what they love most from Rowling’s work.
Despite the author’s transphobic views, people still find a home in Hogwarts. People who connect with the abuse that Harry experiences find hope in the acceptance he finally receives in the wizarding world.
We have the power to make this world our own now. No one can ever take away what “Harry Potter” gave us — not even Rowling.