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There’s Nothing Magical About Transphobia: A Disappointing Look At J.K. Rowling’s “Advocacy”

J.K. Rowling is hunting for clout in the LGBTQ+ community and here’s why she definitely doesn’t deserve it.

J.K. Rowling’s profile photo on Facebook

If you’ve living under a rock since 1999, you may have missed the fanfare over the sensational book series Harry Potter. However, if you’ve been living in society with the rest of us, you may have noticed the author of said series making some claims about her character’s sexualities. Now, I’m all for representation, and as a queer person, I was delighted to learn of Albus Dumbledore’s gayness, even if it felt a little pander-y, seeing as Rowling took no risks in actually saying or implying that Dumbledore was gay in the book series. Recently, however, J.K. Rowling took this “representation,” to the next level by expanding upon the intricacies of the relationship between Albus and Grindlewald (from the recent movie series, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them).

On the DVD and Blu-ray editions of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald, Rowling claims that, “Their relationship was incredibly intense. It was passionate, and it was a love relationship… I am less interested in the sexual side- though I believe there is a sexual dimension to this relationship- than I am in the sense of the emotions they felt for each other.” There are multiple things that irk me about this quote, but the two that mainly bother me are that Rowling specifies that this gay relationship is a “love relationship” and that she specifies the sexual side at all! Not only does saying “love relationship,” imply that gay relationships are not classically about love, but also she brings up this sexual aspect of Dumbledore and Grindlewald’s relationship, which is as baseless as the assertion that Dumbledore is gay at all. However, it can be argued that J.K Rowling, being the creator of this world, knows it’s intricacies and secrets best, and the books and movies only show us a snippet of all of the narratives in the Wizarding Word, but to me, this seems like a great excuse to not include the narrative at all, and therefore not rick the fall-out that could come from either including any amount of PDA between two men, or including a gay character at all.

After reading many of the comments on Twitter about Rowling’s pseudo representation, I found one that left me in awe. Twitter user @ellieisalright sites transphobia written into Rowling’s book, The Silkworm, written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith in 2014. This is the second book in a series of crime dramas featuring the soldier protagonist, Cormoran Strike (whatta name). In this scene, Strike is attacked by a trans woman named Pippa. Pippa follows Strike and attempts to stab him, and subsequently become trapped in Stike’s office. After Pippa is forced to hand over her license, her trans status is brought to light and her visible adams apple is as well, along with the mention of her hands being jammed in her pockets. Pippa tries to escape several times, prompting Cormoran to say, “If you go for that door one more fucking time I’m calling the police and I’ll testify and be glad to watch you go down for attempted murder and it wont be fun for you inside, Pippa … Not pre-op.”

The book’s cover, assumedly featuring brooding, and prejudice protagonist walking down an ally way.

This is a very blatant example of transphobia, and J.K Rowling was the one to put it into writing under the guise of Robert Galbraith. Now it could be argued that Rowling wrote an imperfect protaganist, one that was transphobic, and that doesn’t mean that she herself is transphobic. However I would like to offer some other evidence to support my claim that the author is in fact herself, transphobic.

Firstly, when discussing her protagonist Strike on her alter egos website (link), Rowling explains, ” I know a number of soldiers and I’m close to two people in particular who were incredibly generous as I researched my hero’s background.” So, this character is at least loosely based on those soldiers Rowling has as friends. Which leads me to the question: are they transphobic or is it her? And if they are transphobic, why does Rowling want to include that narrative in her story, let alone hang out with them? However, this bigoted road leads directly to Rowling herself.

As an attempt to see if this was in fact a sentiment Rowling shared with her protagonist Strike, I google searched “Rowling transphobia,” expecting to see more of the same information about Cormoran and Pippa, but instead I found an article written by Phaylen Fairchild for Medium. In the article, Fairchild cites two tweets that Rowling had liked in the past. The first was a tweet by a woman claiming that “Men in dressed get brocialist solidarity I never had! Thats misogyny!” After receiving backlash a representative for Rowling claimed that she was having a “middle-aged moment” and that this wasn’t first time she had liked a tweet by “holding her phone incorrectly.” I don’t know how familiar ya’ll are withe mobile version of Twitter, but that ‘like’ button is damn small. You’d have to be holding your phone pretty weirdly to accidentally tap that little heart, but her representative was right. This wasn’t the first time Rowling had liked transphobic content via Twitter.

The second tweet that Rowling gave a good ol’ thumbs up for featured an article discussing the changing bathroom laws. That article, also featured on Medium, claims that biological women have a right to their “sex-based rights” being protected. “Tell us again how we should willingly get changed next to a stranger with a penis while focusing on ensuring our fearful body language doesn’t make them feel uncomfortable” writer of the article, Harvey Jeni demands, and since she asked me to, I’ll explain. You have. The option. To change. At home. No one is stopping you. Not to mention, I can almost guarantee that the trans woman changing next to you feels uncomfortable and on edge just as you do, but her risk of being assaulted is far higher if you force her to go into the men’s room. But it doesn’t stop there. Rowling has continued to like and favorite more and more transphobic tweets.

Another tweet featured in Fairchild’s follow up article about Rowling’s Transphobia

To bring this back to the woman at hand, J.K. Rowling has yet to comment on these liked tweets herself, and while painting a picture of a queer advocate, she completely disregards actual representation in her books. She uses LBTQ+ identities in a exploitive way, making sure that in the end her profit margins are unaffected. Basically, here’s the tea: J.K. Rowling doesn’t believe the T in LGBTQ+ is valid, and it’s gross. She isn’t an advocate for anyone other than herself. Period.

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