What JK Rowling’s New Book Means for the Transgender Community

By Sofia Pham

Troubled Blood – it’s been in headlines since its release on Sep. 15, although the attention has been anything but positive. JK Rowling’s new novel is the fifth installment of the Cormoran Strike series published under her pseudonym Robert Galbraith. Recently it’s triggered an onslaught of criticism from both fans and activists after a review in The Telegraph described its villain as a “transvestite serial killer,” remarking that “one wonders what critics of Rowling’s stance on trans issues will make of a book whose moral seems to be: never trust a man in a dress.” 

The character, a suspect in a case investigated by detectives Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott, lures his victims by dressing as a woman and, according to Rowling, is “loosely based on real-life killers Jerry Brudos and Russell Williams.” 

Brudos, who murdered four women in the 1960s, had a fascination with women’s footwear and undergarments, while Williams was a colonel in the Canadian forces who stole women’s underwear and was convicted on counts of first-degree murder, sexual assault, and breaking and entering.

Swiftly following the release of the book, Twitter users spawned the hashtag #RIPJKRowling, referring to the end of her career after her mounting opposition to transgender rights. This comes in light of an essay posted in June detailing her reasons for speaking out against trans activism, as well as her support in 2019 for Maya Forstater, a woman who lost her job for her criticism of UK plans to allow self-identification of one’s own gender. In August, Rowling also returned the Ripple of Hope award, an honor from the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organization that she received in 2019, after organization president Kerry Kennedy criticized her views on gender.

Coming to Rowling’s defense, however, were protests from National Review and The Spectator. The book, according to British journalist Nick Cohen, barely features transvestism, and “no honest person who takes the trouble to read it can see the novel as transphobic.” In an article defending Troubled Blood, Cohen slammed critics for twisting minor details without actually reading it.

Either way, the backlash is enough to spark new conversations on the impact of Rowling’s remarks. Whether the book takes a transphobic stance or not, the personal opinions of its author are clear, and that only serves to further isolate the transgender community. On Tiktok, videos have spread of users burning their Harry Potter books, and fans across the world are struggling to grapple with both a love for the world Rowling created and the harsh reality that it’s a world that wouldn’t include them — or, at least, the real them.

Although support for the trans community has been vocalized by several cast members from the movies, including Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe, Rowling’s influence is enough to strengthen opposition to trans rights. Her opinion is one that’s ruined the magic of the Harry Potter world for too many fans, and it looks like the situation will only worsen as she continues to make headlines for the wrong reasons. 

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