We need to talk about J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter, and why it’s time to say goodbye to both

J. K. Rowling, best known as the author of the popular Harry Potter books, is a Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist (abbreviated to TERF). This isn’t the first time she’s been problematic and likely won’t be the last, but it is the one that has seen her escalating the most.

You can read more about the TERF rise in Katelyn Burns’ article on Vox. In it she describes TERF groups thus: “They alternate among several theories that all claim that trans women are really men, who are the ultimate oppressors of women. […] Above all else, their ideology doesn’t allow for trans people to have self-definition or any autonomy over their gender expression.”

Rowling also writes adult mysteries under the pen name Robert Galbraith–a pen name that is coincidentally shared by the man who helped create conversion therapy in the 1950s. Transphobia has shown up in Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike series before. It goes even further in the latest book where Rowling/Galbraith frames the entire case around a male killer who dresses as a woman to kill his victims. Rowling doubling down in this way has led to a lot of justified backlash on Twitter as fans continue to try to reconcile these hateful ideas coming from the author of a beloved series.

Before going further, we have to all be very clear on something: Trans women are women. Trans men are men. This is not negotiable. It is not a multi-sided issue. Arguing anything else is hurtful, harmful, and unacceptable.

At a certain point it is no longer possible to separate a creative work from its creator. When a creator actively uses their platform and reach to make the world a worse place, we have to say enough is enough. There has to be a line after which point we cut ties with both the creator and the creative work from which the creator is benefiting while hurting people.

Which is why it’s time to stop supporting J. K. Rowling. It’s time to stop supporting Robert Galbraith. It’s time to say goodbye to Harry Potter.

I know this is hard ask for people who consider Harry Potter a formative series, but it’s time to let it go. I’m coming from a place of privilege here as I have already moved past the series and never considered Hogwarts my home, but if you want to support trans people and trans rights, you cannot continue supporting an author who does not.

Here’s everything I’m doing as a reader, an influencer/content creator, and a librarian to do just that (including some steps you can take yourself):

As a Reader:

Few things are as intrinsically tied to pop culture and the zeitgeist now in the way Harry Potter is, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t find alternatives and decide collectively to use them instead. No more asking about Hogwarts houses, no more guessing a person’s patronus.

  • I will no longer read or buy any book Rowling puts out under any pen name.
  • I will not watch anything Rowling has been involved with including adaptations of her books under any pen name.
  • I will not engage with any Harry Potter related media including licensed online sites, games, or stories.
  • I will not buy licensed merchandise. (Many independent sellers are reckoning with this themselves as they decide if they will fill the hole in the fandom by selling unlicensed merch that will not line Rowling’s pockets.)

As an Influencer/Content Creator:

Blogs and social media are interesting things because they are living documents. In the past I have, like so many others, read and recommended Harry Potter. I will not be doing that moving forward.

  • I will not include Harry Potter merchandise in my photo posts.
  • I will not cite any of Rowling’s books as read-a-likes.
  • While I support and respect the fandom trying to come to terms with this turn of events, I will no longer participate in it on any level.

As a Librarian:

It’s important to remember that librarians provide access to information, they do not gatekeep or restrict access to information. It would be unethical and against everything libraries stand for to restrict access to any of Rowling’s books. But that does not mean I have to give them extra space in my work as a librarian–something that Rowling has never needed given the meteoric popularity of her books and something she decidedly no longer deserves.

  • I will, like all librarians, keep Rowling’s books on shelves for patrons who need or want them. I will make sure copies are in good, readable condition.
  • I will not actively recommend any of her books to patrons who ask me for reading suggestions.
  • I will not include any of Rowling’s books in book displays or book lists I create.
  • I will not cite her books as read-a-likes for anything instead giving space to other titles.
  • I will not participate in any programming tied to or related to J. K. Rowling or Harry Potter.

The Book Blogosphere, Book Twitter, Bookstagram, and library communities are all filled with so many passionate, creative people. I urge all of you to channel that creativity elsewhere. It’s time to say goodbye to Hogwarts and let Harry celebrate his birthday alone while we, as a community, embrace other creators than J. K. Rowling. Ones who are so much more deserving of our love now and creators who continue to deserve our support and respect so much more.

2 thoughts on “We need to talk about J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter, and why it’s time to say goodbye to both

  1. Very brave of you. My youngest daughter has just fallen in love with the Harry Potter books. And it breaks my heart that I am not as supportive of her love of them as I was for my other kids. The books are magical. But I have been so disappointed by JKR’s comments. It’s heartbreaking.

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    • It’s definitely hard! Especially when I’m sure the books would find an audience even if JKR lost her entire platform tomorrow and still resonate with a lot of readers. If you haven’t tried Jessica Townsend’s Nevermoor series yet, that might be a good series for you and the fam to discover and appreciate together without having to also have a discourse on toxic creators.

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