Imagine sitting down to read your favorite book only to later discover the author's marginalization of the trans community. Many are familiar with the billionaire author, and the creator of the Harry Potter Universe, J.K. Rowling. In 2020, she garnered national media attention with her ignorant and transphobic tweets: “People who menstruate. I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?” You would think that someone with the gift of words would understand that this is pure mockery to the trans community. The context of this tweet were her comments on an article regarding healthcare inequality where they expressed “people who menstruate” in order to remain inclusive. As a response, she mocked the article’s headline, receiving backlash from fans and other celebrities who criticized her for denying the use of transgender and non-binary language.
Her perspective of the real world not only contributes to, but reflects her own work. Her latest novel, “Troubled Blood,” the fifth installment of the “Cormoran Strike” series, was published in September 2020. The mystery novel is centered around a man dressed as a woman, who is a serial killer. The book is being criticized for its stereotypes of characterizing trans individuals as criminals. Although there are no transgender characters in the novel, a cold-blooded serial killer takes a hit as the antagonist by dressing in women’s clothing to target female victims. In her own words, Rowling has described this character as the result of what happens when you “throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman.”
Since readers are familiar with her views, which happen to derive from her apparent transphobia in the mainstream media, you may be thinking, “Are we able to separate Rowling, a well-known author, from her work?”
I do not think so. Continuing to purchase Rowling's work while acknowledging her beliefs is, in this case, something that is very hurtful and furthers hatred in the trans community. As long as she is alive, the money you contribute allows her to maintain her platform and use it for her own harmful comments to the trans community.
As a generation of fans of the Harry Potter series comes of age, they can start to differentiate the author from their work. As a generation of mature readers, they have this responsibility to shape their own viewpoints today and make connections with authors and how they showcase these social stereotypes.
From our significant exposure to the media, we are able to grasp the underlying intentions of these authors and their works. As you are learning about the world, that is so accessible due to social media, it becomes more difficult to separate who you think a person is from the work that they create. After taking into consideration the harmful contributions the British author has disclosed toward the mainstream media, I have accepted the idea that someone as influential as her can not be separated from their work.
While her offensive rhetoric has sparked controversy, we should focus on authors who remain inclusive and deserving of more recognition. Supporting books written by trans and nonbinary authors is a way to acknowledge the creators who produce their works of inclusivity. Here are a few authors who are worthy of support: Nnedi Okorafor, Aiden Thomas, Mason Deaver and Victoria Lee.
As readers, we should seek to understand the true meanings and intentions of the authors and their work. J.K. Rowling has eternally damaged her image by using her platform as a way to mock transgendered individuals. Our first step should be to acknowledge her example, and make her responsible for her offensive rhetoric. By the way, the Mount Bookstore should remove Rowling’s copies of “Very Good Lives.” We should prioritize educating the future generation of readers. In these ways, we can better advocate for these marginalized communities.