JK Rowling, the famous British author of the Harry Potter series is embroiled in another social media storm after the release of her latest book, Troubled Blood.
In JK Rowling’s latest book, Troubled Blood, protagonist, Cormoran Strike, a private detective, investigates a cis male serial killer who dresses as a muslim woman to kill his cis female victims, according to the latest review from The Telegraph. As a result, the author, who goes by the male pseudonym “Robert Galbraith”, has received severe backlash. This is, in no doubt, at least partly a result of the transphobic comments made by the author on previous occasions.
Rowling first received backlash from online users as well as LGBT+ activist groups, such as GLAAD, when she wrote in support of Maya Forester. Forester was a researcher and self-proclaimed “gender critical” feminist and had filed a lawsuit against employer when her contract was not renewed after they discovered her involvement in online campaigns opposing government proposals to reform the Gender Recognition Act. Forester had already incited a complex debate in the UK, but following Rowling’s tweet it gained international attention.
On June 7, Rowling responded to an article from Devex titled: “Opinion: Creating a more equal post-COVID-19 world for people who menstruate.”
‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?
Opinion: Creating a more equal post-COVID-19 world for people who menstruate https://t.co/cVpZxG7gaA
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) June 6, 2020
Rowling’s attempt at sarcasm was quickly picked up by members of the LGBT+ community and allies, leading to large-scale backlash, and Rowling was deemed a “terf” (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist) by many. Some took issue with Rowling apparently defining women as “people who menstruate”, potentially excluding AFAB (Assigned Female at Birth) transpeople’s access to medical rights as well as cis women who don’t menstruate. Others praised her for speaking out on what some trans-exclusionary feminists refer to as “transgenderism.”
In a series of tweets, Rowling went on to write that “If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction. 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.” She doubled down on the same in an extremely personal essay about her own abusive past, where she also wrote of her concerns regarding the increasing number of young people transitioning. In the essay she also stated that she gained the support of many lesbians in the process, who wrote to her that they had been afraid to speak on the matter.
However, some users have critiqued Rowling for, as a cisgender and heterosexual white woman, using lesbians as a shield for her own views of transwomen, especially considering of the lack of representation of queer persons in her books for children or adults. Her books have also been criticised for often having cisgender male leads or protagonists.
Her most recent book, Troubled Blood received criticism because of an early review from the Telegraph which describes the main investigation in which a cis male character dresses up as a muslim woman to murder. Such depictions have been the inspiration of many movies in the past, such as the horror film Silence of the Lambs, and trans activists such as Laverne Cox have argued that such depictions of gender non conforming people as a threat to cisgender women’s safety as well as “liars” in media have led to the greater number of attacks on trans women, especially from cis men.
On 14th September, #RIPJKROWLING trended internationally, though some came to the defence of Rowling, including actor James Dreyfus. Dreyfus wrote “The fact the disgusting hashtag #RIPJKRowling is trending on this mess of a platform, tells you everything you need to know about the mindset of these TRAs. Read the comments. Don’t ever ask me to justify my position on this again. It’s sick. Just sick. #IStandWithJKRowling.”
While many younger Harry Potter stars had since criticised Rowling’s views, after the renewed backlash for the Strike series, Robbie Coltrane, who played Hagrid in her series, came to her defense. On 15th September, Coltrane told Radio Times, “I don’t think what she said was offensive really. I don’t know why but there’s a whole Twitter generation of people who hang around waiting to be offended.”