Harry Potter Defeated Voldemort, but can he Rise Above Transphobia?

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Gracie Westphal, Brimstone Editor and Reporter

The Harry Potter books and movie adaptations have captured the hearts of people of all ages since their publications. There are Harry Potter fan clubs, websites, personality tests, merchandise, and even it’s own part of Universal Studios in Florida.

 

It can’t be denied; The stories are absolutely amazing. The plot is incredible, especially in the books. The author’s writing style makes the characters and places feel spectacularly real. As a child, I watched the movies at least 20 times each. They enchanted me, made my imagination soar. There’s something magical about the way the films were created, I feel nostalgic every time I watch them. Harry, Ron, and Hermione have always made me feel a little less alone. They’re my friends.

 

I read the books for the first time in 2020 and they were incredible. I felt incredibly happy every time I picked up the books and read during every spare minute I could manage. In fact, I’m re-reading the books right now. I plan to purchase my own copies soon so I can read them whenever I want.

 

But here’s the hard part of it all- I don’t want to further support a person that promotes transphobic ideals.

 

I’m sure most of us are aware by now of the tweets from Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling, for which she has been dubbed a “TERF”, or Trans-Exclusionary Radiacal Feminist. With a scroll through her twitter page, you’ll find tons of retweets of various transphobic posts and articles.

 

Benjamin Cohen, a British web developer and founder of LGBT news website, Pink News, tweeted about Rowling, saying, “Why is the public debate on trans rights and access to healthcare being dominated by someone who is a) not trans b) not an expert on the subject but instead a billionaire fiction author?”

 

Rowling then replied by saying, “I’m a world expert on being talked over, lied about and defined by misogynists, on being instructed to centre everyone but my own demographic in my activism and on being denied credit for my own achievements by envious men. In other words, I’m a woman.”

 

In my eyes, she is attempting to use feminism to justify the fact that she is being transphobic. I would also like to say that trans people are often talked over, lied about, and defied by transphobic people like her as well, and I don’t see how her being a cis-woman makes her qualified to make statements about trans-ness at all.

 

The bottom line is that J.K. Rowling is transphobic and I do not support her or her standpoint, but I still love the Harry Potter series! I’ve grown up with these stories, and they feel almost a part of me. I would probably cry if I was told I could never read the books or watch the movies again.

 

But how do we indulge in our favorite series without putting more money into Rowling’s pocket? Or rather, her bejeweled handbag. According to businessinsider.com, “as of 2016, the New York Times estimated [Rowling’s] net worth at $1.2 billion after taxes”. She certainly isn’t struggling to pay the bills. Her works are obviously magnificent, but again, after hearing J.K.’s standpoint on trans-rights issues, I can’t say I feel bad at all for the scrutiny she’s received as well.

 

I think the only thing we can really do to make sure our money isn’t going to the wrong cause is trying to purchase any books, movies, or other Harry Potter-Related merchandise second-hand. Try to look in used book stores or ask friends and family members if they have some old copies that you could have or borrow. Check them out from the libraries. Make your own Hufflepuff scarf and wizard hat for your halloween costume. Other than that, there isn’t much we can do besides voicing our opinions on social media.

 

Don’t lose all hope though! Even though the author of the series has let us down, many people involved in the movie franchise have spoken out against Rowling and transphobia in general.

 

In an article for The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for young LGBTQ+ people, Daniel Radcliffe, the actor who portrayed Harry Potter in the movie series, spoke up about his own beliefs.

 

“Transgender women are women. Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional health care associations who have far more expertise on this subject matter than either [Rowling] or I,” he wrote. “According to The Trevor Project, 78% of transgender and nonbinary youth reported being the subject of discrimination due to their gender identity. It’s clear that we need to do more to support transgender and nonbinary people, not invalidate their identities, and not cause further harm.”

 

Radcliffe ended his article by apologizing for Rowling’s comments and reminding fans that the stories are about what they mean to you and the powerful lessons they can teach you. He has also contributed to The Trevor Project for a decade, so we at least know that this icon is not just pretending to be a trans ally. But, Radcliffe isn’t the only one that’s been speaking out against Rowling’s tweets. 

 

Emma Watson, AKA Hermione Granger, tweeted, “Trans people are who they say they are and deserve to live their lives without being constantly questioned or told they aren’t who they say they are.”

 

Evanna Lynch, the actor who portrayed Luna Lovegood, also spoke up about the issue, although she did also say that while she thought Rowling was on the wrong side of the fight, “that doesn’t mean she has completely lost her humanity,” and such a “delicate” topic as transgender rights shouldn’t be discussed on Twitter. However, some others that took a stance against Rowling are Eddie Redmayne (Newt Scamander), Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley), Chris Rankin (Percy Weasley), and Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley).

 

So I suppose what I, and the rest of the supportive actors from above, are trying to say is that you shouldn’t let Rowling’s transphobia get in the way of your love for the Harry Potter Universe. There are still so many influential actors from the series who support transgender, genderqueer, and nonbinary people. Knowing that such amazing people were a part of the creation of the movie franchise definitely makes me feel better.

 

But just like Daniel Radcliffe said, the story is about what it means to you. It’s about how you interpret it. You could take away something completely different from the books or movies than the person next to you, but that doesn’t take away any of the power from your experience. After all, the silly, loving characters I know would never uphold the same transphobic ideals as their creator, so why should I be mad at them for it?

 

 

Click here to read the entirety of Radcliffe’s beautiful piece on The Trevor Project website:

https://www.thetrevorproject.org/blog/daniel-radcliffe-responds-to-j-k-rowlings-tweets-on-gender-identity/

Here’s another link to the website that lists other supportive Harry Potter actors:
https://ew.com/movies/every-harry-potter-actor-whos-spoken-out-against-j-k-rowlings-controversial-transgender-comments/