The controversy surrounding famed author Joanne Kathleen Rowling is steeped in complex gender debate and nuanced political correctness. But one thing is crystal clear: essentially, what Rowling has said has undermined everything that the trans community fights for.
It began with her insistence that the concept of biological sex cannot be forgone in favour of gender. She claimed that erasing sex would mean erasing the experiences of an entire gender, and that she as a woman would feel completely sidelined by such an action (read the tweets here).
Before this, in December 2019, Rowling also tweeted in support of Maya Forstater and her problematic views (for which Maya eventually got fired from her job). Forstater had tried to rally the public in opposition of government plans to provide gender certificates for people who wanted to affirm their gender identity. It was Forstater’s belief that people should not be allowed the liberty to identify as whichever gender they prefer.
Transgender people and avid Harry Potter fans have been expressing their extreme disappointment in Rowling. With her tweets, it seems she is attempting to alienate trans women from other women and refusing to acknowledge that trans women are in fact women. She is also advocating for same-sex spaces, saying that any man can come up with a gender certificate confirming he is a woman in order to enter female spaces and hurt women. While this is not an invalid argument, it also unfairly stereotypes an entire gender. Trans people have fought for decades to escape these harmful stereotypes.
Rowling, in the Harry Potter books, created a world full of characters who suffered discrimination – the adorable but marginalised half-giant Hagrid, Dobby the oppressed house elf, Hermione the “inferior” Muggle-born, Remus Lupin the misunderstood werewolf. For fans, these are all real people worthy of love, respect, and freedom. Transgender people fall in the same category as all the beloved characters in the books who fought to be recognised and understood.
All people really want from Joanne Rowling is for her to apologise, and at least affirm that trans people do indeed have a right to their own identity. It is the only way to give some validation back to characters like dear Hagrid, so his suffering real-life counterparts can also begin to feel like that magical world was not just a sham.