Trans Harry Potter fans plead with JK Rowling to read her own books and learn a thing or two about unconditional love
Trans Harry Potter fans have told PinkNews how “tired” they are after JK Rowling made recent comments on trans people – but they refuse to have the community they’ve built sullied by her “hate”.
Jackson Bird first started reading Rowling’s books when he was nine years old, shortly after Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was released in the United States.
Now 30, he says the series has been an integral part of his life – but Rowling’s comments about the trans community have left him feeling “tired”, “perplexed” and “disappointed”.
“She wrote a series that taught an entire generation about unconditional love, acceptance, and fighting supremacy,” Jackson tells PinkNews.
“Maybe she should try reading the books again? She might learn something.”
Rowling has been widely criticised after posting a series of tweets ridiculing trans-inclusive language around periods, and claiming “if sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased”.
These comments did not come as a surprise to many within the LGBT+ community – late last year, she came out in support of Maya Forstater, who fought to make anti-trans views a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 in the UK.
Although Rowling had made her views on trans rights known before, Jackson was surprised that she chose now, amid a global pandemic and an anti-racism uprising, to double down on her stance.
“I know she holds these beliefs, but I was surprised she thought this moment was the right time to air a controversial opinion when so much of the world is fighting in solidarity together,” Jackson says.
JK Rowling was a ‘childhood hero’ for many trans and non-binary people – but that is no longer the case.
Many trans and non-binary people grew up reading the Harry Potter books, watching the films and idolising Rowling, Jackson says.
“To see her so adamantly deny the realities of our existence is really upsetting.
“Many of us have experienced rejection from our families and friends. Having that replicated by a childhood hero is gut-wrenching.”
Jackson says the author has “aligned herself with a dangerous ideology” that has become increasingly strong in recent years.
“She’s adding considerable influence and, in some people’s minds, validity to a movement that actively threatens trans lives.”
Jackson adds: “They are a dangerous movement and have won the enthusiastic support of one of the most influential people in the world.
“While I might individually be bored by JK Rowling’s antics, I cannot become complacent about the very real consequences of her actions and the very real pain she is causing millions of Harry Potter fans.”
Acknowledging this isn’t easy for Jackson – he is a Harry Potter mega-fan. He went to every midnight book release as a child and every midnight screening. He and his friends once made hand-made Hogwarts robes and carved wands from an oak tree.
When he started university, Jackson volunteered for the Harry Potter Alliance (HPA), a global non-profit that enables fans to become community leaders and take social action.
He went on to work for that organisation when he finished university, and from then on, his personal and professional life was filled with all things Harry Potter.
Last year, he published a memoir called Sorted: Growing Up, Coming Out, and Finding My Place. Harry Potter fans will spot the reference to Rowling’s book series in the title alone – and the memoir is full of stories relating to the books.
The Harry Potter fandom is ‘so much bigger’ than the author of the books.
“To say that Harry Potter has meant a lot to me throughout my life would be an incredible understatement,” Jackson says.
“JK Rowling’s views are disappointing. But I didn’t do all of that work and feel so passionately about Harry Potter because of JK Rowling.
“I cared about Harry Potter because of other fans. We created something so much bigger than JK Rowling and, frankly, people with such short-sighted discriminatory views, who are unwilling to listen and grow, are not welcome in the Harry Potter fan community.”
Jackson won’t allow himself to be pushed out of the Harry Potter fan community by Rowling’s views on the trans community.
“Anytime JK Rowling tweets some nonsense, I’m reminded of the power, the beauty, the creativity, the community spirit, and the strong values of the Harry Potter fandom,” he says.
Queer enby Harry Potter fan Avery Velez echoed these words in an an open letter addressed to Rowling.
“I read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for the first time when I was five years old,” Velez writes in the emotional letter.
“Hogwarts has been the home that never changed, even when everything else did. As a child, when the other kids were unkind, Hogwarts was there to welcome me home.
“As a teenager, when the world stopped making sense, Hogwarts was there to welcome me home. When I started struggling with insomnia, Hogwarts was there to welcome me home. Through depression and anxiety, Hogwarts was there to welcome me home.
To say that Harry Potter has meant a lot to me throughout my life would be an incredible understatement.
“When I came out as trans and couldn’t go back to my family and the place I grew up, Hogwarts was there, warm and constant, beautiful and magical, to welcome me home.”
Velez says Rowling’s comments have “tarnished the halls of Hogwarts”, but insists that “love is more powerful than hate”.
“The love in my beautiful, diverse family of queer, trans, and two spirit people persists,” they write.
“Our love is more powerful than your hate and the walls of Hogwarts are not yours to tarnish anymore. Those doors are not yours to close. Because you may have created the wizarding world, but it has grown far beyond you.”
Velez adds: “Whether you like it or not, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome us home.”
The world’s biggest fan websites and Daniel Radcliffe have come out in support of trans rights.
The Harry Potter fan community has in recent days rallied around its trans and non-binary members. The books taught a generation about the power of love, friendship, and the need to stand up against oppression – and those lessons are not easily forgotten.
The Leaky Cauldron, which is one of the biggest Harry Potter fan websites in the world, told PinkNews that they have a “really clear” view on Rowling’s comments.
“Trans women are women, trans men are men, non-binary people are non-binary, and intersex people are real and valid,” a spokesperson said.
“These positions are also vital to supporting Black lives, especially Black trans lives, which are in a great deal of danger on a daily basis.
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“The Harry Potter community is more than the views of any one person, the books’ author included, and we will continue to work with our community to find ways to lift each other up and use the words we love to inspire a commitment to anti-racism and true equality for all.”
So, while JK Rowling might have forgotten the message of love and inclusion in her own books, others have certainly not.
PinkNews has contacted JK Rowling for comment.