J.K. Rowling’s Tumble into Transphobia

Eva Ponos, Editor-in-Chief

J.K. Rowling is known all over the world for her best-selling Harry Potter series. The seven-book collection has taken on a world of its own with dedicated fans (Potterheads), theme parks, conventions and magic that is kept alive in all sorts of wizarding ways. However, fans were not too happy with Rowling after a very public Twitter scandal. On June 6, Rowling retweeted an article that discussed “people who menstruate,” and added her own opinion to this by writing, “‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?” This statement created a frenzy of backlash against Rowling as her words completely disregard the transgender, non-binary and gender fluid communities. Although it’s easy to separate the artist and their work, when the artist continues to speak out in controversial ways that are offensive to others, where do we draw the line?

In addition to her first response, Rowling spewed out a stream of tweets in an attempt to explain her words after a stream of negative replies. “If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives. It isn’t hate to speak the truth.” Rowling tweeted, along with publishing essays and open letters that not only speak on her views of sex and gender but also cancel culture and the dangers of it. 

In addition to many fans that were outraged by her expressed views, various Harry Potter actors and actresses also spoke up against Rowling, including Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint and Eddie Redmayne, from the spinoff movie series, “Fantastic Beasts And Where to Find Them.” Watson, Grint and Redmayne put out statements showing their support for the trans community, and Radcliffe published a long message highlighting his disagreement with Rowling and expressing sympathy for those who have had their Harry Potter experience has been “tarnished or diminished.” 

Besides franchise actors, other celebrities have shown their support of the trans community in the wake of Rowling’s tweets. On Oct. 10, Saturday Night Live (SNL)’s Pete Davidson commented about Rowling’s Twitter tumble during the Weekend Update segment of the show. Davidson expressed he was, “very disappointed,” in Rowling and went on to bring up how she writes, “about all types of mythical creatures living in harmony with wizards and elves,” yet can’t show support for the trans community. 

As for the Potterheads, one way that many fans have been dealing with the disappointing actions of Rowling is by finding ways to enjoy the series without benefitting Rowling herself, like not attending the theme park at Universal Studios, not renting the movies and not purchasing tickets for “The Cursed Child” play. Another way fans have been distancing the Harry Potter name from Rowling is by not referring or crediting her as the author. This method has been more popular on social media platforms such as TikTok. Fans will post videos discussing how crazy it is that their favorite series was written by a mysterious nobody. This type of humor could be a coping mechanism for those affected by Rowling’s hateful words, and it has gained popularity over the past few months. Fan sites such as The Leaky Cauldron and Mugglenet have also distanced themselves from any associations or mentions of Rowling as they want Harry Potter to stay an inclusive magical world for everyone. 

In response to all of the criticism and backlash, Rowling published a lengthy essay explaining her past support for the trans community along with her reasons for the original tweet. She does not regret what she originally stated, yet she goes into some highly personal details and expresses her concern for the safety of trans women and men. Rowling also delves into the term “TERF,” which she explains stands for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist. She explains her side of the story through 3,600+ words, and all I got from it was, I’m not sorry for what I said, but let me distract you from what I said by talking about the dangers of cancel culture. Though Rowling’s response was well-written and illustrated her point of view, it simply seemed too long and too cluttered to truly make up for her hateful words. Celebrities and fans are continuing to speak out against Rowling and her views, but one thing is for sure, she can’t take the magic away from the world her fans have created.