I came into Harry Potter in about 2010 or so, late to the party as usual. It was still a book series that had a huge impact on me. JK Rowling created an environment where I felt accepted, not just because I was LGBTQ but also because I am pagan. I was resistant to the draw for a long time, feeling it was more of a tween book and that I wouldn’t find anything in it and like so many others I feel in love. Characters who are going through things that I had experienced and are still going through. So, like so many others I was completely shocked to hear some of the things that have been said by the author of a series that resonates with me.
From the Depths of Darkness
As mentioned, so many of us fell into the world of Harry Potter because it gave us a sense of belonging. We read and interpreted that characters matched us and may even have experienced some of them being LGBTQ, in our own minds. When Rowling announced that Dumbledore was gay, some of us were excited to finally feel that it was even deeper connected to us. Then there were many that felt this announcement was more of the social handjob to keep her readers engaged and feeling that sense of connection to her works. Either way, it was progress in a good direction and we also felt that the author really had her thumb on the pulse of issues and cared. This may have only been skin deep.
In June of this year, Rowling made a tweet in support of a researcher who lost their job for being anti trans. This prompted her to further go and tweet her on feelings.
“‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people, Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”
In this tweet, Rowling was making a statement about how it is not right for trans women to be called women, as this term was reserved for women who only “menstruate.” It is a scientific fact that not all cis women actually have periods, so how does Rowling feel about these women? Are they only half women and further demote trans women down the line because of that?
The Terms They Are A Changing
When we further go on to read tweets from Rowling, what we see is that she has an issue with understanding the terms that actually define gender expression. She was tweeted saying,
“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. The idea that women like me, who’ve been empathetic to trans people for decades, feeling kinship because they’re vulnerable in the same way as women – ie, to male violence – ‘hate’ trans people because they think sex is real and has lived consequences – is a nonsense.”
This simple statement is key in many arguments. People seem to fail to understand that gender and sex are different. Just for the simpleness of stating, sex refers to the primary and secondary sexual characteristics one has. Where gender is about behaviors, expressions, and identities of a person. Gender is actually the very core of this fight and Rowling needs to understand the difference. Yes, with regards to sex, that is where the thought of menstruation comes into the argument.
The Battle Begins
Since that fateful tweet in June, Rowling has spent a lot of time backpedaling and trying to defend her statements as not anti trans. She claims to have respect and wants to stand behind all trans people. At the same time she throws comments like every man who wants to prey on women simply has to go and apply to have their gender reassigned and be given a new document that says they are women. This will give them the ability to prey on women in restrooms where they are most vulnerable. Not sure how different the processes are when she lives, but it usually takes a bit more than just walking into some office and demanding to be called a woman. Ask the many trans women in the world how easy it is to be accepted as their true gender. I am sure she will find that it is quire more difficult than her uninformed tweets show.
Since her many tweets that have been borderline hate speech, we have seen many of the stars for Potterdom come out in support of trans rights. Standing up to make statements in how they do not agree with the posts she has been making and cannot condone the intent she seems to be spreading. But has the damage been done and too late to save the world we once felt so at home in?
“JK Rowling is not a scientist. She is not a doctor. She is not an expert on gender. She is not a supporter of our community. She is a billionaire, cisgender, heterosexual, white woman who has decided that she knows what is best for us and our bodies. This is not her fight,” Munroe Bergdorf, model and trans activist tweeted.
I am torn over this debate. On the one hand I absolutely do not want to support someone who cannot understand the basic rights of every person on this planet. This is a person who has received millions of dollars from the LGBTQ community from her books, movies, and merchandise. It also makes us feel that any of the characters she has shown to possibly be or came out and stated were LGBTQ was simply done to placate her readers and hope they continue to spend more money. This is typically where I would stop spending money on this brand. The difference comes in when you already own the books and movies, these things no longer giver her residual profits, I say this because it is hard to walk away from a world that has made us feel safe and welcomed.
It can be hard to divest yourself from her words and your feelings and continue to read her works, That being said. If her books gave you a sense of comfort, it is okay to still derive that comfort from them and no longer support her in her coming works. Her books did not seem to show us any of the feelings she has shown us on her Twitter account. It is a hard choice to make when you have felt so connected. All we should be asking ourselves is how our favorite character from the books would handle this situation. Each of them confronted adversity differently and with equal strength, should we ask any less of ourselves?