This year, many of us have found our voices when it comes to activism, devoting our time and energy to important causes like dismantling systemic racism and getting out the vote. But everyone has different priorities and causes they’re passionate about, and for J.K. Rowling, this year has been all about spreading her message of transphobia. She’s repeatedly made her trans-exclusionary views on feminism known, and unfortunately, she’s at it again—but this time her words may be even more harmful.
Until now, Rowling’s problematic beliefs about trans women have mostly lived on her Twitter feed. In June, she came under fire for a series of tweets that questioned the legitimacy of trans women as women, suggesting that they don’t experience discrimination based on their identity, and spreading false ideas about the trans community wanting to “erase the concept of sex.” She claimed, basically, that she doesn’t hate trans women, she just doesn’t think they’re “real” women. Gross. Last year, Rowling also caused controversy when she came to the defense of a British woman who was fired from her government job for criticizing a UK policy allowing employees to self-identify their gender.
So J.K. Rowling’s troubling views on gender identity are nothing new, but now, they’ve made their way into one of her books, and we need to talk about it. Troubled Blood, the fifth entry in her Cormoran Strike mystery series, debuts this week, and early reviews have identified a plot point that’s already drawing widespread ire. One of the main storylines in the novel is the investigation into a cold case murder from 1974—a murder carried out by a “cis male serial killer whose modus operandi is dressing as a woman.” In their review of the new book, The Telegraph wrote that it is a “book whose moral seems to be: never trust a man in a dress.”
While Rowling is not the first writer to use the concept of a cross-dressing killer (The Silence of the Lambs, anyone?), it’s a trope that is inherently problematic when you consider that trans people, and particularly trans women, are already so much more likely to experience violence in their everyday lives. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, trans women accounted for 72% of hate violence homicide victims in 2013, and trans women are nearly twice as likely to experience sexual violence than any other group. With statistics like these, it’s upsetting that a writer with such a wide platform is still relying on an outdated, problematic trope. Though Rowling’s books and the characters in them are fictional, the consequences can be extremely real for trans and non-binary people who are just trying to live. But considering we’re talking about JK Rowling, it’s probably not that surprising.
A few years ago, the second book in the Cormoran Strike series was also criticized for Rowling’s depiction of a trans woman character. In the book, the woman, Pippa, attacks the title character, and when he ultimately gets her under control and her trans identity is revealed, he tells her that prison “won’t be fun for you… Not pre-op.” Unbalanced depictions like these spread false narratives that trans people are aggressive and deceitful, and trans journalist Katelyn Burns wrote that Rowling’s character showed “an entirely common though insulting trope about trans women—that they are aggressive and unable to overcome their masculine nature, not to mention villainous.”
If I made a billion dollars with a combination of ripping people off and racism, I would just buy a cool island and fill it with dogs and grow an unbelievable garden but then again, I’m not brain poisoned like JK Rowling
— Listen to @onbeliefpod & @ongriefpodcast Li’l 🌳 (@karengeier) September 14, 2020
This latest anti-trans nonsense from Joanne Kathleen (the K really should be for Karen) was the final straw for thousands of people on Twitter, who made the hashtag #RIPJKRowling trend on Monday morning. While you could debate whether it’s right to tweet “RIP” about someone who’s still alive, it’s understandable why so many people have decided they can’t put up with their former favorite author’s bullsh*t anymore. No matter how much you love Harry Potter, it’s clear that J.K. Rowling just isn’t it in 2020, and it’s probably time we all moved on.
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Images: Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com; karengeier / Twitter