Dear JK Rowling: Ouch
Updated: Oct 25, 2020
By Bren Bartol
Disclaimer: This post discusses transphobia and abuse.
Photo via Consequence of Sound
In JK Rowling’s recent essay, her response to people calling out her transphobia, she reveals that she has been in an abusive relationship. Voices of Gen Z does not discredit or invalidate her experience with abuse, as it is a very real, very serious issue. If you are in an abusive relationship, please consider reaching out for help. Resources are linked below.
Abuse and abusive relationships are a real, serious issue. However, it has little relevance to the main point of Rowling’s essay, in which she claims that she is not transphobic - not to mention the fact that she even has to write this essay is problematic in the first place. After reading this article, I highly suggest you take the time to watch Jamie’s, a trans man, and his fiancé, Shabba’s, response video: Responding to JK Rowling's Essay | Is It Anti-Trans?. It addresses and explains Rowling’s essay, which is not what this article is about.
But let’s take a step back. JK Rowling is a British author best known for a movie and book series that is popular around the world: Harry Potter. As someone who idealized the books and absolutely adored them growing up, the recent events revolving around JK Rowling and her transphobia have been truly heartbreaking. Very few were a fan of Rowling adding to the Harry Potter canon through Twitter, myself included, and saw it as a little annoying and pointless. It seems Rowling wanted to point out diversity in her book, to get kudos, but Harry Potter isn’t a diverse series. In all honesty, it would have been better for Rowling to acknowledge the fact that she wrote a book that wasn’t diverse, and move on to be better and to write pieces with more diversity, as she is still writing and producing content.
I could tolerate Rowling’s Twitter presence and paid it little mind, but all that changed when Rowling came out supporting Maya Fostater, a woman who was fired from her job after some transphobic tweets last December. Fostater, who has been described by others as transphobic, sued her employer, but ultimately lost because she was being exclusive and transphobic. Even after the ruling where Fostater lost her job, Rowling has continued to tweet using transphobic language, promoting half-truths and hence, the normality of transphobia.
Rowling has experienced lots of backlash due to her words, including from the cast of Harry Potter. Daniel Radcliffe wrote an article in partnership with the Trevor Project, a 24-hour suicide line for LGBTQ+ youth, responding to Rowling. Radcliffe explains at the beginning of his article that he is thankful for the opportunity that Rowling provided him with, and does not wish for media outlets to focus on the idea of “infighting” between him and Rowling, instead wishing to focus on the response and validation of trans people.
Rowling has gotten a lot of responses to her blatant transphobia, some of which were hateful and wished death or harm to befall her. While Rowling’s actions are not condonable, neither is harassing someone, as a portion of Rowling’s fan base has done. However, it is likely Rowling has gotten some responses from trans people. Here’s mine.
Dear JK Rowling,
Growing up, I adored Harry Potter. I’ve read the series so many times, I’ve lost count, and once when I was sick, I watched Harry Potter: The Sorcerer’s Stone so many times that I could recite the entire movie. One time, I challenged myself to read the entire series in a week; I did it in five days. I have been fortunate enough to have had the means to visit the Harry Potter faction of Universal Studios, where I rode the Hogwarts Express, got my own wand, and ate way too many chocolate frogs. I declared in 5th grade that my family’s copy of the books was to live in my room, on my bookshelf, and no one else’s. Those books now sit behind Percy Jackson and Old Man’s War, collecting dust.
Being trans is only part of who I am, but in recent years, that part has been especially large. It was only two years ago I came out. Since then, I am constantly reminded I am trans, whether positively or not, as I am misgendered often, even by my own family.
Harry Potter was one of my favorite series growing up. It taught me to believe in myself, and in magic. To stand up for what is right, even if the whole world is against you. That friendships are lifelong and your family does not define you. It taught me hope and love and kindness.
I want to take the books off my shelf, open them up, and live in their world one more time. I want to turn one more time into a million. But I can’t.
While many feel anger and animosity, I simply feel disappointed. Someone I looked up to, like many others I have previously idolized, has let me down. I am so used to the rejection of who I am that I am tired of it. I am tired of the normalcy of it. This has led to my expectation that people will reject me before considering the possibility of acceptance.
Ultimately what it comes down to is Rowling’s unwillingness to change. Everyone makes mistakes, but when someone is continuously called out for the same mistake and makes no moves to change, it is no longer a mistake, it is purposeful ignorance.
I thought someone as creative and intelligent as you would understand that words hurt. I wish I could support you in your future endeavors but unfortunately, I cannot. Those who choose to support the oppressor, however they are remembered in history, are not people I will extend a hand to. History will move on. The world will move on. I've moved on. I suggest you do too.
Thank you for what you have done for me, JK Rowling. But it is time to say goodbye.
Written by writer Bren Bartol
Resources for abuse victims and survivors:
National US Hotline for Abuse: 1-800-799-7233
National US Hotline for Child Abuse: 1-800-4-A-CHILD (422-4453)