Why I can’t support J.K. R*wling

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If you’ve seen Twitter lately, you’ll have noticed the inescapable uproar surrounding a figure I used to respect and admire, She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

For those blissfully ignorant, the notoriously queerbait-y author of Harry Potter came out of the closet herself – as a transphobe.

Let’s break it down from the beginning.

First of all, if you happen to think that specifying pronouns is political correctness gone mad, or that deadnaming a trans person is acceptable, or approve of any other practice that denies trans, non-binary, and other gender-nonconforming people of basic human dignities and recognition then take a hard look at yourself.

Like most people of our generation, I idolised You-Know-Who for years. I bought countless Harry Potter books, films, and merch, but it was her Twitter presence that made me question my role in making her several hundred pounds richer.

It was two years ago when I unfollowed her. I’d noticed her unconstructive manner of engaging with people online: if someone had an interpretation of her books she disagreed with she would shut them down and insist they were 100% wrong, if someone pointed out ret-cons in her works she would refuse to admit it, and if anyone was especially critical of her work they would find she had blocked them. It was a harbinger of things to come and convinced me of her defensive approach of responding to any criticism.

Her prior relationship with the LGBTQ+ community has been always been misguided at best and exploitative at worst. For over a decade now she has reaped the benefits of queerbaiting by claiming some of the Harry Potter characters are gay but never in the actual texts, gaining social praise for inclusivity without having to depict queer characters in her work.

And when she wrote Professor Dumbledore and his ex-lover Grindelwald into her latest Fantastic Beasts film, their relationship was scarcely even alluded to. Is it really representation if it’s retroactive and missing from the text itself? Many suspected this queerbaiting was a way of gaining the queer dollar without scaring off the homophobic dollar, but who knows.

And then came what her spokesperson described as a “clumsy and middle-aged moment” when she liked a tweet calling trans women, “men in dresses.”

JK Rowling reps blame 'middle-aged moment' for liking tweet calling trans  women 'men in dresses'
Image courtesy of Pink News

Many were keen to give her the benefit of the doubt but earlier this year she doubled down on the trans-exclusionary rhetoric, and every voice condemning her actions seemed to fuel her vitriol. It started when she tweeted in response to an article using the term ‘people who menstruate’, insisting that the proper term is women, even though there are trans men who still menstruate and countless women (post-menopausal, pregnant, pre-pubescent, and many others) who don’t menstruate.

Many then began to ask a simple question: does she recognise trans women as women, yes or no?

In her characteristic refusal to listen to criticism, she dove headfirst further into trans-exclusionary rhetoric, writing half-baked essays attempting to portray her beliefs as rooted in reality and to conflate all the criticism with abuse.

Her arguments that she is a ‘victim’ of cancel culture and censorship are both laughable and insulting. Firstly, she is not being silenced. No one disputes that she cannot say these things, she has a right to free speech and is, disappointingly, using it and her influence to further normalise abuse against an already-persecuted demographic.

Secondly, people condemning her statements and subsequently refusing to support her verbally or financially is not ‘cancel culture.’ It’s people putting their money where their mouths are and refusing to endorse anyone who would deny basic rights and recognition to another human being.

Like most celebrities with a large following, she has received threats of violence online. These threats are a fringe group claiming to speak for the mainstream, they do not represent the trans rights movement (just as R*wling does not speak on behalf of feminism). Threatening anyone with violence is not okay but claiming that these threats are representative of all criticism she has received is untrue. She’s not a free-speech martyr. She used her platform to spread hate and misinformation and others are using their platforms to condemn it.

The problem with the discourse around You-Know-Who is that it mostly concerns the problems she has faced as an individual and not the detrimental effects on the trans community caused by people of immense influence normalising prejudicial stereotypes.

Judith Butler said it best in an interview I heartily recommend you read: “[I]f we are going to object to harassment and threats, as we surely should, we should also make sure we have a large picture of where that is happening, who is most profoundly affected, and whether it is tolerated by those who should be opposing it. It won’t do to say that threats against some people are tolerable but against others are intolerable.”

But the most baseless stereotype she has perpetuated is the dressed-to-kill type, the harmful belief that some trans women and cis men may use access to gender reassignment or gender-neutral spaces to infiltrate cis women’s toilets and changing rooms for sexual pleasure.

In her most recent book, R*wling employed the trope of the perverted serial killer who dresses as a woman to stalk and kill cis women. This trope, popularised by films such as Dressed to Kill and The Silence of the Lambs, has no basis in reality and actively harms public perception of the trans community. And let’s not forget the irony of her publishing this book under a male pseudonym, Robert Galbraith, also the name of a notable conversion therapist.

In truth, trans people are more likely to be assaulted in changing rooms rather than the other way around because laws preventing them from accessing the space for the gender they present as marks them out and endangers them.

You-Know-Who can say what she likes and still be a multi-millionaire, she can enter any toilet or changing room without realistic fear of being assaulted, she can go to any country her passport will allow and be given legal recognition as a woman and face no fear of being called insane or dangerous or even be at risk of execution.

She will never face people refusing to acknowledge her as a woman, and she will never understand the physical and mental strain of gender dysphoria and transitioning, or the normalised abuse that she is participating in.

So, think about that the next time you want to spend £32 on a licensed Potter wand.

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