There are a lot of great writing real trans people and Harry Potter movie star Daniel Radcliffe Explaining why Rowling is wrong and why it is so dangerous — and factually incorrect — to write about sex and gender as it does.
But no matter how wrong she is, her manifesto is still there. And many Harry Potter fans are left to count on whether they can still ethically or morally love books written by someone with these views. For many, it is a change in seismic perspective—a hero of childhood and life that has fallen from grace.
If you paid attention, Rowling was gushing transphobic nonsense for years. She follows a dozen anti-trans accounts on Twitter, and sometimes their messaging has made its way onto her feed.
I spent a lot of time this week thinking about my own relationship with the series and fandom, and the trans and other queer people I know and love.
Write and read thousands of words of gay fanfiction — original stories based on the world and character of an existing property — based on the Harry Potter series helped me find my queer identity as a teenager. I got dressed for the premieres of the midnight movie. I know that in my heart I am a Hufflepuff – obviously the strangest house.
This week I went back and reread a piece of fanfiction that I wrote when I was 15, a loose story where I inserted versions of my friends and I into the world of Harry Potter, Work through petty intrapersonal quarrels through the lens of a sorting hat and houses and magic.
J.K. Rowling is wrong. Trans women are women. Trans men are men.
A group of friends and I ran a YouTube channel for a summer vaguely connected by our love of the series. While we were almost all locked up in high school, of this group, there are all seven of us and queer in one way or another now. Something about the property brought us together.
All these experiences were essential to train who I am, and I would not trade them for anything. The same goes for less queer but equally vital memories of curling up with my mother in bed to spend the sixth book in the series back and forth between us after picking it up at midnight release, eager to know what’s going on and panting out loud when a beloved character is dead.
J.K. Rowling and her crappy transphobic rant don’t have to be part of those memories for me.
VIDEO: How to enjoy Harry Potter without J.K. Rowling. The story continues below.
The thing about art is that its lens self doesn’t change. The letters, spaces and line breaks that make up the Harry Potter books are exactly the same as they were before Rowling started spitting out this garbage. The music of R. Kelly or Michael Jackson is always the same combination of notes as they were before we knew Allegations sexual abuse. In theory, our enjoyment of them should not change just because we learn new information about the person who did it.
But that is the case. Even though Kelly “Ignition (Remix)” was once one of my karaoke clips, I don’t listen to it anymore. I can’t bring myself to listen to his sex-driven music, know the person behind them is accused of sexual abuse and exploitation of minors.
The letters, spaces and line breaks that make up the Harry Potter books are exactly the same as they were before Rowling started spitting out this rubbish.
“You can despise the individual and appreciate art, fine, but you have to be aware that you are making a conscious decision to ignore some very, very bad behavior. Either you don’t know what he’s been accused of, or you’ve thought it over and said, “Everything matters less to me than his cool grooves.” What I want is for people to at least think about it,” said Jim DeRogatis, a Chicago-trained journalist who covers the allegations against Kelly, in a 2015. interview with Vulture.
Many people have also left behind Louis C.K.’s specials, or Woody Allen’s films.
In “Death of the Author” in 1967, Roland Barthes wrote about the differentiation between the author and a text, and how the “birth” of the reader should come to the death of the author.
“The unity of a text is not its origin, but its destination,” Barthes writes.
That is, the meaning of a work of art comes from the way it is interpreted, not who did it. And many Potter fans have taken this approach at Rowling and the Harry Potter Books.
Queer and trans fans identified with the Harry Potter books since their first outing. The idea of a secret school where people have understood you, where you have magical powers and friends from different walks of life, is part of an easy allegory for the closet. The books had a wide appeal, but attracted a devoted fandom through generations and perspectives.
Harry Potter Fans were re-writing their own progressive stories about the series long before Rowling began to make her transphobic comments. Through fanfiction, fanart and other spin-offs directly made by people like me and my friends, the fandom took a life clean beyond the actual Books Rowling put pen on paper for.
Between the sites fanfiction.net and Archive of Our Own, there are more than one million Harry Potter fanfiction there. Many push queer pairings as “Drarry” — referring to the romantic pairing of Harry Potter and Nemesis Draco Malfoy – or have trans people and non-compliant genders. Go to Tumblr and you’ll find thousands of queer towers on the series.
The authors of Fanfiction collect huge online follow-ups building new, more progressive worlds of Rowling. The “Very Potter Musical,” a parody of the series produced by a University of Michigan theater group, features a queer love story between Voldemort and Professor Quirrell and the drag woman like Draco Malfoy, and has garnered more than 16 million views on YouTube.
And yes, Lauren Lopez in the trail as Draco Malfoy was a training moment for 14 year old gay me.
All these works, while using Rowling’s characters, exist in a life of their own. They often move away from some of the some of the less tasty elements of the books-including the anti-Semitic depictions of goblin bankers or the fact that the only Asian character is literally named “Cho Chang.”
Fans are also happy to write Rowling out of Harry Potter History. After Radcliffe’s passionate rejection of Rowling’s views, many people joked that he was now the author of the books.
In the days following the publication of Rowling’s cap, many others were lying about reading and loving the original books.
“I’m still a fan, and I’ll tell you why: because these books and their messages still exist, and whatever views Rowling personally has can’t take us that. No one can take that away from us, and this world really belongs to the fans now. No one can change if it helps you get out. It’s yours,” trans actor and activist Nicole Maines written for Variety this week.
But for other fans, it’s just too painful. Many people with Harry Potter tattoos — and especially trans people — seek to cover them.
Comic artist and animation author Molly Ostertag has offered to design free blankets for trans fans, and cover-ups for a donation to a nonprofit organization supporting trans women of color for cis fans.
Others advocate fans jump ship’s Harry Potter to the works of young, less problematic adult fantasy writers, such as Tamora Pierce and Rick Riordan, both of whom explicitly denounced Rowling and repeatedly supported progressive movements such as Black Lives Matter.
I have not been deeply involved in Harry Potter several years from now. For some reason, he did not follow me as an adult in the same way he did for others. I went to college, leaving my homemade balsa wooden wand and Hufflepuff scarf to pick up dust from my parents’ locker.
But I recently returned to fandom in the purely adolescent sense during the binge-watching pandemic in the new netflix adaptation of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. Even as a children’s show, it’s fun, action-packed and deliciously queer.
There are several same-sex characters in relationships with each other, including the titular character, and there is even a non-binary shapeshifting character who uses them/them pronouns. I fell in love with the show, and I found myself regressing to 15 years myself, browsing the fanfiction forums for my favorite “ships” and scrolling through “Catradora” fanart on Twitter late at night.
The new “She-Ra” is created by the French comic Noelle Stevenson, a vocal queer woman who, among many other good things, raised more than $40,000 through a livestream of fans earlier this week in support of black LGBTQ organizations. When I watch the show, my experience is actually improved knowing that the person behind it is someone who explicitly supports people like me and the people I love.
Reading on how Hard Stevenson struggled to have a same-sex kiss in the finale of the show, and hearing Stevenson speak openly about forcing the “gay agenda” in a Netflix kids show made me realize maybe the author didn’t die after all.
But this other author with transphobic opinions? She really died for me.
Your heroes will disappoint you. I’m not going to burn my Harry Potter books or anything, and I’ll go back and engage with my favorite spin-offs and fan creations, I’m sure. But in 15 or 20 years, when I talk to the children of my children or friends Harry Potter, it will come with a heavy asterisk and unpacking from which J.K. Rowling is.
I’m working on new heroes that reflect my values. Harry Potter served this role in my life for a while. Now it’s time for something new.
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