Understanding J.K. Rowling

Update: Partway through writing this, I realized the length was getting out of hand. So this will be split into (at least three posts.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

I have spent the last two weeks watching the world come together denouncing J.K. Rowling for transphobia. My first impression was that this made no sense. If you just read the Harry Potter series, you would think that her progressive bonafides would be in order. They’re opposed to the Voldemort who runs an authoritarian cult with a “pureblood” master race. They advocate equality for people who are different and other races (think of the house elves). The most powerful adult wizard, Dumbledore, is a gay man and nobody cares. The most competent young wizard is a girl. And the whole growing-up-other-then-realizing-there’s-a-group-of-people-just-like-you-and-actually-you’re-special-and-accepted thing, much like the X-Men reads fairly plainly as an allegory for the LGBT+ experience.

So what gives?

It was actually hard to figure out what was going on. The online news site I follow, PinkNews, had basically made this their central mission with multiple posts about it daily. Essentially anyone who condemned her got a post encouraging them, anyone who supported her, or at least her right to free speech, got denigrated. Now I knew from reading their coverage that Rowling had written a lengthy piece explaining the tweets and remarks in question. But I couldn’t find it on their site. Every time they mentioned it in a sentence with a hyperlink just linked to one of their earlier articles. After about six rounds of this inception, I gave up and went to the Google-machine and found this.

Now it’s long; running thousands of words. But it’s calm, thoughtful and at the minimum I should hold back my tar and feathers until I read it. I know that essays don’t make for scintillating clickbait the way screen captures of tweets do, but given that the “news” outlet reporting on it didn’t make it easy to find, Rowling is coming into this conversation with a strong benefit of the doubt on her side. We will see how long that lasts.

An Ally?

Things start out great. And there’s a lot there I agree with. Rowling appears to be accepting of trans individuals and an advocate for their rights. Things that I would agree with, like ensuring their physical safety — making sure people aren’t trying to beat them up or otherwise abuse them. Not being discriminated against — for education, employment, housing, military service. Being cared for and respected — not having your parents tell you there’s something wrong with you, or threatening to kick you out of the house, access to medical and mental health support. I’m on the older end of “millennial” and I find those positions firmly in the Well-Duh category.

This is not Ben Shapiro or Pat Robertson who finds trans people icky and frightening. So credit where credit is due. And also the fact that none of the coverage mentioned that as part of her position raised my eyebrows. So benefit of doubt… rising…

And then what?

Then into the subject of her tweets, which cover the two areas. The first is questioning the statement “trans women are women.” And the second has to with something she referred to as single-sex spaces. (Something I had not heard of before and had to look up. Not sure if that’s just a British phrase.) And that was when the length of this post started to balloon out of control and I decided to split this into multiple posts. So when ready, they will be linked below.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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