From sniggering at memes of her antics twisted by LGBTQ activists to seeing this fabrication float across my news feed, it had become fact. In my mind, not only was she actively anti-trans, but she was outright spreading hate and likely homophobic, too! How disappointing.
I packed my Potter books away and said goodbye to my childhood friends as Harry, Ron and Hermione were locked down. JK’s books had changed me for the better and it felt like a break-up! I wasn’t sad, I was angry.
“How could she?” thought I. How could Rowling have gone from the maestro of my childhood to a monster? The answer is she didn’t. The monster is a myth and here’s how I came back home.
I can’t remember the first time I saw the “JK is transphobic!” narrative but in PR there is ‘the Rule of Seven’ which says that once you have seen a brand name, TV show or whatever seven times you remember it. This is how the Rowling myth was implanted into my head.
Largely, LGBTQ media have determined this false narrative to be a ‘top seller’ and have long stopped caring if it is true. I am ashamed to say that I denounced Rowling and even said I would burn my childhood copy of Harry Potter, so wrongfully banished to the cupboard under my stairs. In 2020, after I saw yet another “JK’s at it again!” article, Rowling had been cemented in my mind as a hateful, transphobic bigot. Then someone came along and changed that. Rowling herself.
She didn’t knock on my door or bump into me on the street, it was her words that changed me for the better. To begin with, though, I wasn’t reading them of my own accord.
I had been tasked with writing a clickbait article entitled “20 transphobic JK Rowling quotes we’re done with”, which I had enthusiastically accepted. However, while collecting my list of quotes, it felt like they must be wearing an invisibility cloak. I couldn’t find a single one!
For example, in July, Rowling tweeted a thread detailing her concerns about the medicalisation of trans children. It was branded “transphobic” because it asked the-question-that-must-not-be-asked about the reality of medical care, still in its infancy, being applied to children. On second look, I saw that Rowling simply concurs with professionals that lifelong medicalisation and loss of fertility is not in the best interests of children. That is actually care for trans people, not condemnation of them.
She was saying “there are downsides that I feel should be discussed” not “I hate trans people”. She had taken the time to research the matter, understood what could be holding back progression for trans healthcare and raised awareness for its betterment. That, I would say, is pro-trans, not anti-trans.
It dawned on me: JK wasn’t transphobic, she was standing up for women’s rights in a real and meaningful way. I was surprised anew as I found that, when I approached her words in an unbiased way, I agreed with every point she made.
But hang on, wasn’t this woman a raging bigot? I checked my social media and yes, there I was band-wagoning about book-burning and burying her reputation. I wanted to support the trans community, having been a proud ally and advocate for years (even considering coming out as non-binary), and it’s the number-one rule of ally-ship that if a trans person says so, it is so. My head started to hurt as two completely opposing truths collided. What in the faulty bludger was I to do next?!
With no sorting hat handy to tell me where I belonged, I started with my friends, mainly LGBTQ people with emphasis on T, who all made the same claim: Rowling is transphobic. I asked for proof. The excuses I was given in lieu of actual evidence were ridiculous and hilarious in equal measure. I poured back over JK’s tweets, essays, books and interviews, scouring for every scrap I could find. I reached out to trans people, begging them to educate me about JK’s perceived crimes. But in the end, I had to admit defeat.
To claim Rowling is transphobic because her time and focus are so often spent on women’s rights is like telling off a teapot for not giving you coffee. She is being judged by the book-cover someone else has put on her, and that sin has been committed largely by LGBTQ media, of which I am part.
It’s a lucrative business but Rowling is a billionaire, right? She’s deemed ‘fair game’ because at least she could go cry into her reported fortune. But then, just as I was about to write the article anyway (I have a cat to feed), something stopped me.
There it was, niggling at me: my conscience. I realised how wrong this all was! This whole “Rowling is transphobic” narrative has been a hack job of monumental proportions and we in the LGBTQ community are the fools who missed out most. We cursed one of our biggest allies, denounced and defamed her.
Having stalled for weeks, the final call came from my boss: “EJ, you either write this up or we give the title away.” Rather than letting my title go to another content creator who’d happily write it up, I decided to own it. I composed a Twitter thread about refusing to submit the article, then instead of the usual email to my editor with five articles for that week, there were only four. The final one read, “and as for the ‘JK 20 quotes’ I cannot write it, as detailed here” with the link.
Safe to say, I am very, very fired. Having refused to write the article, I lost my job. What I do have back, though, are the books I loved as a child, torn and worn from years of being read and reread, replaced to pride of place on my shelves again, a reminder of what journalistic integrity means.
As for JK’s response, she retweeted my words and thanked me. It struck me how incredibly gracious she was, after what me and my kind have done to her. A class act as always.
It is important to admit when you were wrong. Hard and humiliating? That too. Saving the best Potter line for last, I’ll end with this: journalists and content creators have been told we will be guaranteed a byline if we can come up with a good ‘JK Rowling is anti-trans!” article, but we would do well to remember: We Must Not Tell Lies.