A few months ago, in one single, incredibly disappointing tweet, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling outed herself as a TERF.
The acronym TERF stands for "Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist" and is reserved for people who seem to stand for liberal feminist ideologies in regards to women's rights while simultaneously espousing transphobic sentiments.
Rowling's Tweet under the hashtag #IStandWithMaya is in reference to the case of Maya Forstater, a London-based tax expert who sued the charitable organization she worked for after they decided not to renew her contract over transphobic tweets. The case hinged on whether or not Forstater's Tweets, which included trans-exclusionary and absolutist sentiments like "men cannot change into women," were protected under the 2010 Equality Act.
Ultimately, the employment judge, Judge James Taylor, ruled against Forstater, stating:
"I conclude from...the totality of the evidence, that [Forstater] is absolutist in her view of sex and it is a core component of her belief that she will refer to a person by the sex she considered appropriate even if it violates their dignity and/or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. The approach is not worthy of respect in a democratic society."
Forstater, in turn, doubled down, saying:
"My belief...is that sex is a biological fact, and is immutable. There are two sexes, male and female. Men and boys are male. Women and girls are female. It is impossible to change sex. These were until very recently understood as basic facts of life by almost everyone."
Now, in the midst of a global pandemic and massive political and cultural unrest, Rowling is at it again.
If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased… https://t.co/1NlkCzXfnB— J.K. Rowling (@J.K. Rowling)1591480967.0
The tweets went on.
I respect every trans person’s right to live any way that feels authentic and comfortable to them. I’d march with y… https://t.co/43bx3H433Q— J.K. Rowling (@J.K. Rowling)1591485393.0
Putting aside the science, which is far more complex than just "male genitalia=male, female genitalia=female," the notion that Forstater was fired simply because she stated "a biological fact" is a dishonest premise that should be rejected outright. Forstater wasn't fired for her beliefs, but rather for her inability to treat trans people with the basest level of human decency.
Refusing to address someone by their preferred pronouns/gender identity, and choosing to only refer to them by their biological sex organs, is discrimination. Discriminating against trans people should not be, and increasingly is not, an acceptable form of behavior. For someone who works with other people, especially for a charitable organization based around rectifying inequality, transphobic behavior creates a hostile work environment, and no employer is obligated to condone that.
It's not exactly surprising to see some random boomer being transphobic and then having a temper tantrum when the consequences of their transphobia are backed up by the legal system. It is, however, extremely saddening and somewhat ironic to see J.K. Rowling jumping on that bandwagon.
The Harry Potter universe has always been predicated on inclusion and acceptance. Voldemort's entirely ideology was based around pureblood supremacy, meaning that the entire thrust of the series revolved around defeating a man hellbent on oppressing others. Harry Potter, by contrast, experienced abuse and stigmatization throughout much of childhood.
It's no wonder, then, that the series appealed to so many young LGBTQ+ people trying to make sense of their own identities. In fact, some even used Harry Potter fanfiction as a form of exploring their sexuality and gender identity in a proverbial safe space. And while Rowling drew some degree of criticism for what many fans viewed as a half-assed attempt at LGBTQ+ inclusion with her "Dumbledore was actually gay!" Tweet, nobody ever doubted that she championed acceptance—at least until now.
Some of the comments on Rowling's post are absolutely heartbreaking, with the betrayal felt by transgender fans and their loved ones on full display.
@jk_rowling I grew up as a trans child reading your books as an escape. I would often pick out names from character… https://t.co/V3lrt9LNX1— Lily! says ACAB (@Lily! says ACAB)1576760977.0
@jk_rowling In fact, the World Health Organization--among countless other medical authorities--validate trans peopl… https://t.co/vtaKorI9Yx— Charlotte Clymer 🏳️🌈 (@Charlotte Clymer 🏳️🌈)1576764102.0
Now that Rowling has aligned herself with the TERFs, people are dredging up the "Hatsune Miku created Minecraft" meme to declare that Hatsune Miku, the virtual Japanese singer, also wrote the Harry Potter books. The meme began as an LGBTQ+ response to Minecraft's creator, Notch, outing himself as a transphobe (and also a racist), essentially joking that rather than giving up something they loved because it was created by a prejudiced person, they would instead pretend it was created by a cute anime hologram who could never betray them.
The real creator of Harry PotterCrypton Future Media
But while Rowling has certainly hurt a lot of fans with her Tweet, the goal shouldn't be to cancel her, so much as to implore her to reassess her beliefs. Why would Rowling want to defend someone who refuses to refer to transgender people by their stated identity? Why would she want to hurt her fans, many of whom spent their entire lives looking up to her, like this? Why would she want to promote discrimination? J.K. Rowling should know better than anyone that no good can come from aligning with the Dark Lord.
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