J.K. Rowling under Fire for Transphobic Remarks


J.K. Rowling at a film premiere in London in 2018. Joel C Ryan / AP file

Rowan Copes, Staff Writer

For fans across the world, the Harry Potter books have acted as a source of comfort, a constant to look back at when times get tough, an escape from the sometimes sobering reality. The characters of Ron, Harry, and Hermione have provided a safe space for children and adults alike since their release beginning in 1997. Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry isn’t just a scene out of a children’s book. For many people, it is a second home.

However, for many, the famous books no longer hold the same meaning they used to. This comes after a series of events this past summer revealing author J.K. Rowling’s transphobic views. Rowling’s work has evolved into one of the largest franchises in the world, including seven main books, eight movies, a Broadway play, and several theme parks. Rowling’s success despite her troubled childhood has been seen as an inspiration for many years. However, this past summer Rowling expressed negative trans-rights views over the social media platform Twitter and is now facing backlash because of the release of her new book. Troubled Blood, which she published under her often-used pseudonym Robert Galbraith, has sparked debate over her view of transgender rights, and longtime fans of the Harry Potter series have been affected by her words.

The first of Rowling’s anti-trans comments began in June of this year when Rowling participated in a series of tweets that were taken as a direct insult to trans people. The tweets had to do with providing help for “people who menstruate,” to which Rowling replied, “I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?” Critics were quick to take this as a direct attack on the trans community, and in a later essay she released on her website, Rowling defended her previous statement.

This ignited responses from some of Harry Potter’s finest, including Daniel Radcliffe, who played Harry Potter in the films, and Emma Watson, who played the beloved Hermione Granger. “It’s clear that we need to do more to support transgender and nonbinary people, not invalidate their identities, and not cause further harm,” Radcliffe said in response to Rowling’s comments. “To all the people who now feel that their experience of the books has been tarnished or diminished, I am deeply sorry for the pain these comments have caused you.” 

Watson, who is a known supporter and activist of trans and women’s rights, also replied, “Trans people are who they say they are and deserve to live their lives without being constantly questioned or told they aren’t who they say they are.”

Now, once again, Rowling has come under fire. Her new book, Troubled Blood, follows the story of a serial killer who dresses in women’s clothes when murdering his victims. The book portrays trans women as violent and perpetuates the idea that they are dangerous. Critics and longtime fans have been appalled at her words. “I think that’s pretty clearly an attack on the trans community,” Laura Ziessler (’23) said. 

With Rowling’s transphobic views now revealed, how are longtime Harry Potter fans handling her opinions? For many it has forever changed the way they view Rowling and the books. “As a little kid she was one of my idols as she had created my favorite world,” Claire Fox, a freshman in Hawaii, said. “I understand how important it is that we no longer buy her things as a way of standing with the trans community and showing that you support their rights.” Many fans have taken to boycotting direct purchases from the franchise as a way of showing support for the trans community. “We cannot separate the art from the artist, and have to stop buying anything from her altogether,” Ziessler said. Others, like user lisak41581d6e9 on Buzzfeed, have decided that what works best for them is to “to make a donation to a trans charity each time I read the books.”

For many, it has become a challenge to enjoy Rowling’s work when they strongly disagree with her views. “Harry Potter was the one thing in my life that always brought me joy, but I can’t read them anymore, and it honestly feels like losing a friend,” BuzzFeed user wilburcgraham said. 

Rowling’s transphobic comments have had a great impact on the Harry Potter community. Perhaps the magic of the stories that have captivated audiences for so long, has lost its potency.