JK Rowling arriving for the World Premiere of “Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Pt 2 at Trafalgar Square in London on 07/07/2011Photo: Shutterstock
J.K. Rowling is a literary megastar. Her stories of boy wizard Harry Potter who, along with his cohorts Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, went on an expansive seven-book struggle against Lord Voldemort and begat blockbuster movies, a Broadway play, a theme park, and more money than Gringott the goblin could count.
For Rowling herself, she has turned the story she first plotted out on a coffeeshop napkin into a platform, allowing her voice to be heard worldwide. For the most part, she has used it well, speaking out on any number of issues via her Twitter account, tussling with Piers Morgan and President Donald Trump on the popular social media platform.
Her outspokenness has also taken some of the tarnish off her tales of wizard daring-do. In 2007, just as she wrapped up the book series with the publication of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Rowling revealed that Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore was a gay man.
She never, however, alluded to the wizard’s sexuality within the books, frustrating fans who only knew this detail thanks to the writer’s declaration.
This controversy became an even bigger one early last year, when a younger Dumbledore was slated for the Harry Potter sequel, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. Filmmakers chose to send Dumbledore into the closet, not presenting her orientation on the screen in even the slightest of ways.
But there is a potentially larger issue than this, and that is Rowling’s tendency to side with trans exclusionist commentators, a move that has alienated transgender and non-binary fans who identified strongly with the world she created, and were very supportive of her left-leaning platform.
In March of 2018, Rowling liked another Twitter user identified on the platform as @racybearhold. The Tweet in question spoke to the user’s issues with misogyny within the UK Labor Party, but included the line “Men in dresses get brocialist solidarity I never had.”
The Twitter user in question has posted quite a few anti-transgender screeds to Twitter before, and identifies herself as “gender critical,” a euphemism often used by those who are, at heart, anti-transgender.
In the wake of fan outrage over this incident, Rowling’s publicist claimed the like was accidental in nature, telling PinkNews that, “I’m afraid J.K. Rowling had a clumsy and middle-aged moment and this is not the first time she has favorited by holding her phone incorrectly.”
The like was removed from Rowling’s Twitter feed.
Yet this wasn’t the only time Rowling has liked anti-transgender content: In October of 2017, she liked a Tweet linking to an article on Medium that argued that transgender women should be kept out of women’s rooms due to rape fears.
JK Rowling hitting that like button on a “trans women are rapists” piece, if you were wondering whether to relax as a trans person in the UK pic.twitter.com/W5JvBmylPW
— Shin (predominantly inattentive) (@sistersinead) October 24, 2017
The issue didn’t end after Rowling’s “middle aged moment,” either, with the writer once again liking an anti-transgender tweet last September. One again, she approved of an anti-transgender pundit speaking out against transgender women in the media.
I know everyone is obsessed with wizard turds or whatever but jk r*wling is doing a lot more damaging, insidious shit and pretending no one cares pic.twitter.com/aJs2PXxjYS
— Goth Ms. Frizzle (@spookperson) January 6, 2019
While Rowling may have made Dumbledore a gay character after the fact, she has not seemingly had any changes of mind over the gender identity of any of the students or faculty at her school for wizards. That may be a good thing, too.
Rowling has written books beyond the Harry Potter series penning a crime fiction series under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith — and in one of the stories featuring detective Cormoran Strike, she introduces a transgender character.
In the 1997 story, revealed by Katelyn Burns, a trans woman named Pippa attempted to stab Strike. The detective traps Pippa, demanding identification. Her ID reveals her birth gender, leading to comments about Pippa’s Adam’s apple. Pippa, meanwhile, is trying to make a break from Strike out an office door.
“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 won’t be fun for you inside, Pippa,’ he added. ‘Not pre-op,’” says Strike to Pippa.
Neither Rowling nor her publicist have responded to this most recent incident on Twitter, including our own request for comment before completing this piece. Nor has she gone on record to make her views on transgender rights known publicly, preferring to remain quiet on the subject.
Until she does, we can only judge her by the company she keeps — and, for the moment, this looks very grim for transgender people in the world of Hogwarts.