J.K. Rowling created the Wizarding World, the magical land started by the Harry Potter book series. It later inspired eight movies, multiple Universal Studios Theme Park lands, a Broadway/West End play, spinoff books, the Fantastic Beasts film series, video games like Hogwarts Legacy, and millions of fans worldwide.
Despite her runaway success, the once-beloved fiction author has damaged her charitable reputation in recent years. Initially claiming she accidentally liked a transphobic tweet, Rowling dived head-first into a rampant campaign of transphobia, Trans-Exclustionary Radical Feminism (TERF), and anti-gender-affirming care. Fans who were once inspired by Harry’s story of literally coming out of the closet boycotted Hogwarts Legacy and vowed never to give the author another penny. Harry Potter stars Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson have also spoken out against Rowling’s anti-trans views.
Former Westboro Baptist Church member and political activist Megan Phelps-Roper recently released a podcast including several interviews with Rowling and her critics: The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling. In the most recent episode, Rowling recalled the moment she decided to speak publicly about transgender rights.
“When I first became interested in, and then deeply troubled by, what I saw as a cultural movement that was illiberal in its methods and questionable in its ideas, I absolutely knew that if I spoke out, many people who love my books would be deeply unhappy with me,” Rowling said.
“I knew that because I could see that they believed that they were living the values I had espoused in those books. I could tell that they believed that they were fighting for underdogs and difference and fairness. And I thought it would be easier not to,” she continued. “I knew that this could be really bad, and it has been bad personally; it has not been fun, and I have been scared at times for my safety and, overwhelmingly, for my family’s safety.”
The author also anticipated pushback from her management team and warned them of the coming storm. “I was considerate enough to phone my management team and say you cannot argue me out of this,” she told Phelps-Roper, “and I read out what I was going to say because I felt they needed warning.”
Shocking many fans, Rowling also compared transgender activists to Harry Potter Death Eaters, an evil, radical group that follows Lord Voldemort and aims to eliminate all witches and wizards born to non-magical parents.
“Some of you have not understood the books,” she argued. “The Death Eaters claimed, ‘We have been made to live in secret, and now is our time, and any who stand in our way must be destroyed. If you disagree with us, you must die.’ They demonized and dehumanized those who were not like them. I am fighting what I see as a powerful, insidious, misogynistic movement that has gained huge purchase in very influential areas of society. I do not see this particular movement as either benign or powerless, so I’m afraid I stand with the women who are fighting to be heard against threats of loss of livelihood and threats to their safety.”
Despite the controversy, Rowling claimed that “a ton of Potter fans were grateful I’d said what I’d said.”
She could be right – Hogwarts Legacy performed so well that Warner Bros. promised fans that more Harry Potter is coming. But it’s impossible to fully articulate her words’ impact on her once-admirers. Phelps-Roper spoke to a former fan, a trans person, on her podcast.
“I just hope [Rowling] can try to see why so many trans people are angry and hurt by this… and understand why people who are being constantly rejected and humiliated by our families and governments, who are losing our access to healthcare or being threatened with it, who are fighting for our basic ability to participate in society, why we might feel hurt and betrayed by her contributing to fear about us,” the fan said.
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