Worldwide bestselling author J.K. Rowling published the fifth book in her “Cormoran Strike” series on Sept. 15, titled “Troubled Blood,” much to the dismay of her critics. The ire of her detractors is focused on the fact that the book’s main antagonist is a cisgender man who poses as a woman in order to get closer to his female victims before killing them.
At face value, this might not seem problematic. However, earlier this year she came out on Twitter as someone who openly supports Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist (TERF) ideology.
TERF ideology encompasses arguments in favor of preventing transgender women from entering women’s spaces, excluding them from feminist discussions and cutting off health care for transition related procedures. They’ll often use pseudo-feminist arguments to cloak their beliefs such as, “abolish gender.”
Recently, they’ve come to adopt the term, “Gender Critical,” which, according to video essayist Natalie Wynn, is a euphemism to make bigoted beliefs palatable to a wider audience.
Rowling has expressed eerily TERF-esque beliefs on Twitter, arguing that, “If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased...,” per her tweet.
She later spoke out against trans activists in a follow up essay from June 10, stating, “It’s been clear to me for a while that the new trans activism is having (or is likely to have, if all its demands are met) a significant impact on many of the causes I support, because it’s pushing to erode the legal definition of sex and replace it with gender.”
Considering these recent revelations, many people, myself included, have taken this recent release to be another attack on the trans community. TERFs have helped pioneer this stock character of a creepy man pretending to be a woman to invade women’s spaces and prey on them, and this book is reinforcing this belief.
Because she has such a large range of influence, Rowling has a responsibility to uphold positive values. Rowling should not use her platform to dehumanize others, knowing that her readers could follow her in the extreme.
It’s terrifying to know that her readers could take this antagonist as the mascot of trans women. They could inherit these notions that trans women are merely men who want to harm or prey on women.
Ironically, Rowling claimed in that same essay, “...I have a complex backstory, which shapes my fears, my interests and my opinions. I never forget that inner complexity when I’m creating a fictional character and I certainly never forget it when it comes to trans people.”
Not three months later, she’s weaponizing a stereotype that undermines the nuance of trans experience and casts them in a deeper shade of negativity.
I feel despondent for my trans sisters across the world. I feel even sadder for those of them who grew up on “Harry Potter” and now struggle with comparing Rowling’s ideology with the series’ themes of acceptance and love.
They don’t deserve this. And when people like Rowling step up to the soapbox and proclaim fire and brimstone, her readers will listen; her people may very well adopt her beliefs.
That is the real danger here. It will make society more hostile to them. It will reduce the possibilities of trans people gaining full equality.
J.K. Rowling may never change her mind on these issues. We can’t stop her from publishing books, we can’t stop her from having wrong opinions. We certainly can’t stop her from tweeting.
What we can do is show her the error in her ways. The arguments she puts forth contribute to the stigmatization of trans women. Often, this stigmatization leads to physical harm.
According to the Human Rights Campaign’s 2018 “Dismantling a Culture of Violence” report, over 2,300 transgender individuals have been killed across the world in the past decade. That’s just a facet of the discrimination they face. This is in part because people like Rowling have created a false, negative perception of trans individuals.
The best way to combat this is education and empathy. We must have conversations about trans issues. We must uplift trans voices. Show her why her beliefs are wrong. This is the proper defense against the dark arts of transphobia.