We can celebrate the Boy Who Lived while still advocating for transgender rights.
Today, July 31, 2020, is Harry Potter's 40th birthday.
Harry Potter might be one of the most successful franchises of all time, but Harry's birthday this year comes coded with some recent statements made by J.K. Rowling. The author's xenophobic tweets have made her, arguably, one of the most powerful TERFs—or trans-exclusionary radical feminists—in pop culture today.
Rowling has been known to make some unusual remarks before—remember that time she said Dumbledore was gay, despite having never depicted his sexuality in the books?—but her TERF shenanigans are by far her most infuriating. Last December, Rowling received a wave of backlash after tweeting in support of Maya Forstater, an English woman who lost her job after posting a series of tweets questioning government plans to let people declare their own gender.
"Dress however you please," Rowling tweeted. "Call yourself whatever you like. Sleep with any consenting adult who'll have you. Live your best life in peace and security. But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real? #IStandWithMaya #ThisIsNotADrill"
Dress however you please. Call yourself whatever you like. Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you. Live y… https://t.co/z8FKHmPOnV— J.K. Rowling (@J.K. Rowling)1576760256.0
As if that wasn't enough, Rowling didn't back down. She went on another Twitter rant in June, after dismissing an article's use of the phrase "people who menstruate."
"If sex isn't real, there's no same-sex attraction," she wrote. "If sex isn't real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives. It isn't hate to speak the truth. The idea that women like me, who've been empathetic to trans people for decades, feeling kinship because they're vulnerable in the same way as women - ie, to male violence - 'hate' trans people because they think sex is real and has lived consequences - is a nonsense."
She continued: "I respect every trans person's right to live any way that feels authentic and comfortable to them. I'd march with you if you were discriminated against on the basis of being trans. At the same time, my life has been shaped by being female. I do not believe it's hateful to say so."
Understandably, many Potterheads—at least those in their right minds—have been furious with Rowling, making our love for the series painful: How do we reckon with a story and characters that have shaped us while their creator is so adamantly against human rights for 0.58 percent of the United States population?
Thankfully, the stars of the Harry Potter films have spoken in support of transgender rights. Daniel Radcliffe, the Boy Who Lived himself, penned a heartfelt essay for the Trevor Project stating his beliefs; "While Jo is unquestionably responsible for the course my life has taken, as someone who has been honored to work with and continues to contribute to The Trevor Project for the last decade, and just as a human being, I feel compelled to say something at this moment."
He continued: "To all the people who now feel that their experience of the books has been tarnished or diminished, I am deeply sorry for the pain these comments have caused you. I really hope that you don't entirely lose what was valuable in these stories to you...If you found anything in these stories that resonated with you and helped you at any time in your life—then that is between you and the book that you read, and it is sacred."
Both the real-life Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger voiced their support, as well as many other of the franchise's stars. "I firmly stand with the trans community and echo the sentiments expressed by many of my peers. Trans women are women.Trans men are men. We should all be entitled to live with love and without judgment," Rupert Grint said in a statement. Meanwhile, Emma Watson shared a donation link to Black transgender women on her social media, seemingly in response to Rowling.
It's possible to be a fan of Harry Potter and still be an advocate for trans rights. If wizards feel real to J.K. Rowling, then so should transgender people. After all, Harry Potter did spend his entire seven years at Hogwarts trying to defeat a noseless, racist villain; even if its author isn't so keen on equality for all, Harry and his friends definitely would be.
As one wise half-giant once said: "Happee Birthdae, Harry!"