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We’ve read JK Rowling’s new ‘cross-dressing serial killer book’ and yes, it’s just as problematic as it sounds

Nick Duffy September 16, 2020
The JK Rowling book has now been published - and it includes some extremely problematic elements

JK Rowling. (Walter McBride/WireImage)

Cis straight male allies of JK Rowling have mobilised to dispute allegations of “transphobia” against her new novel Troubled Blood — which depicts a serial killer who steals women’s underwear and masturbates in them.

After a Telegraph review described Troubled Blood as a “book whose moral seems to be: never trust a man in a dress” – triggering a widespread backlash – supporters have attempted to play down the depiction of cross-dressing serial killer Dennis Creed in the novel, penned by the embattled author under her male pseudonym Robert Galbraith.

Among them was The Spectator‘s Nick Cohen, who claimed of an advance copy: “[Cross-dressing] barely features. When it does, nothing is made of the fact that the killer wears a wig and a woman’s coat (not a dress) as a disguise when approaching one of his victims.”

While Cohen correctly notes that Creed is not the primary villain of the book, his suggestion that the character’s cross-dressing was a “tiny detail” included to explain how Creed got close to one victim was proved incorrect as the book — unsurprisingly not supplied to PinkNews in advance — was released publicly on Tuesday (September 15).

Troubled Blood serial killer preys on women, masturbates into stolen underwear.

In fact, the killer Dennis Creed — who imprisoned, tortured and beheaded seven women — is explicitly portrayed as a cross-dresser who derives sexual satisfaction from wearing women’s clothes, and steals jewellery from his murder victims.

He is depicted by Rowling as using a “convivial, sexually ambiguous persona” to get close to women and ply them with drugs, confessing: “In a wig, bit of lipstick, they think you’re harmless, odd… maybe queer. Talked to her for a minute or two, little dark corner. You act concerned… bit of Nembutal in her drink… tiny amount, tiny.”

Creed also uses gender expression as an attempt to cover up his crimes when a stash of jewellery belonging to his victims is discovered, with the killer claiming to have bought it “because he liked to cross-dress.”

A fictional biography of Creed, read early on by detective Cormoran Strike, recounts of the killer: “By the age of twelve, Dennis had discovered the pleasures of voyeurism. ‘It excited me,’ he wrote, after our third interview, ‘to watch a woman who didn’t know she was being observed. I’d do it to my sisters, but I’d creep up to lit windows as well. If I got lucky, I’d see women or girls undressing, adjusting themselves or even a glimpse of nudity. I was aroused not only by the obviously sensual aspects, but by the sense of power. I felt I stole something of their essence from them, taking that which they thought private and hidden.’

“He soon progressed to stealing women’s underwear from neighbours’ washing lines and even from his grandmother, Ena. These he enjoying wearing in secret, and masturbating in.”

Troubled Blood author JK Rowling
Harry Potter author JK Rowling (Getty/Andrew Matthews)

The book also references an occasion on which Creed “donned the coat of a female co-worker to imitate singer Kay Starr”.

Of his crimes, Troubled Blood adds: “Dennis Creed had been a meticulous planner, a genius of misdirection in his neat little white van, dressed in the pink coat he’d stolen from Vi Cooper, and sometimes wearing a wig that, from a distance, to a drunk victim, gave his hazy form a feminine appearance just long enough for his large hands to close over a gasping mouth.”

Despite attempts by Rowling’s defenders to assert otherwise, the book never backs away from its depiction of Creed weaponising cross-dressing to exploit women.

Instead, when the eventual villain is revealed, Strike notes that they hid in plain sight “just as Creed had camouflaged himself behind an apparently fey and gentle façade”.

As critics of Rowling have noted, a previous novel in the detective series, The Silkworm, featured a transgender woman who is threatened with the prospect of being raped in a men’s prison after attacking private detective Cormoran Strike.

Attempting to force her compliance, Strike tells her: “If you go for that door one more 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 Pippa. Not pre-op.”

JK Rowling is yet to comment on backlash.

Despite the hackneyed attempts to defend JK Rowling being put forward by cis white male conservatives, the author has so far remained entirely silent amid the backlash against Troubled Blood.

Rowling has been widely challenged, not least by the creators of Netflix documentary Disclosure, who shared a clip highlighting the long-standing depiction of trans and gender non-conforming people as psychopaths.

In the clip from the documentary, Nick Adams of GLAAD notes of the trope: “For decades, Hollywood has taught audiences how to react to trans people, and sometimes they’re being taught that the way to react to us is fear.

“That we’re dangerous, that we’re psychopaths, that we’re serial killers, that we must be deviants or perverts. Why else would you wear a dress if you’re a man?”

More: Dennis Creed, JK Rowling, transphobia

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