J.K. Rowling, the acclaimed author of the best-selling book series in history, Harry Potter, has come under fire for a recent tweet in support of researcher Maya Forstater, who was fired over her anti-trans social media posts.
Rowling, who is officially richer than the Queen of England and who has more than 14 million Twitter followers, is a huge influencer. She has sold more than 500 million books in more than 60 languages around the world. Her words depicting a fantasy world filled with magic and intrigue have helped shape millions of developing minds.
Now, she has shattered the fantasy that her work and her persona are inclusive.
Rowling’s comments and similar rhetoric echoed by TERFs — trans-exclusionary radical feminists — like her, are dangerous for more than transgender people. Trans and gender non-binary people are most impacted and disadvantaged by our rigid and limited understanding of sex and gender, but by reinforcing the notion that sex is locked in for life at the time of birth and that it can be only one of two things — male or female — is harmful to us all.
That narrow-minded outlook is damaging to any boy who has ever been teased for doing something deemed “feminine” — for choosing ballet over baseball, hugs over fists, dolls over trucks. It is damaging to any girl who has blazed a path where only males have stepped before her.
It is what constricts us in a web of inequality and limits our vast human potential.
Perhaps most ironically, those very same binary boxes to which Rowling prescribes all identity and expression have even cost her. There is a reason she goes by J.K. Rowling, rather than her legal name, Joanne: She was told by publishers that boys might not have wanted to read a book if they knew it was written by a woman.
Rowling even publishes mystery and crime novels under the seemingly male pen name Robert Galbraith, which she only confirmed after a computer algorithm outed her.
For many who grew up with Harry Potter, the wildly popular fantasy series grew alongside us as we learned who we are and how we fit into the world around us. Harry Potter, and by proxy, the woman who dreamed him up, became part of the fabric of our own identities.
That’s why so many were shattered this week as they learned that their role model stands in stark opposition to who they are.
Harry Potter is an outcast, the black sheep in his aunt and uncle’s home after his parents are killed. But he is also the “chosen one,” eventually taken in and accepted by a community of others like him who are different. He found friends and love. The life of the protagonist that has become a household name parallels in many ways to that of transgender and queer people. We are the pariahs, the ones who don’t fit in, who are turned away by our families, our peers, shunned by society for being different.
To us, Harry Potter story is more than just a myth. It is the ultimate metaphor for overcoming the barriers society puts up for us.
Science hypothesizes that sex and gender are intrinsically connected to our biological makeup, but the evidence also points to a natural diversity that our assigned labels inadequately address. We look only to an innocent baby’s genitals on an ultrasound before they’re even born and we imprison them for life — what clothes they will wear, what toys they must play with, how they will be treated, how much they will earn, who they must love and have sex with, how they must act.
Our failure to get this right continues to leave victims in its wake.
Someone we all looked up to let has us down. It isn’t the first time and it won’t be the last. But it doesn’t change the truth. We can no longer harbor any fantasies about Rowling and the magical worlds of her creation.
We must live in the reality, which is much more sobering.