JK Rowling and the Wonderful World of the Web

This article was written several months ago, before the new controversy regarding JK Rowling’s twitter habits. Trans exclusionary feminism is no feminism.

 

Hogwarts was my safe haven, and though I am slightly embarrassed to admit it now, Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, and many other of the Harry Potter characters, were my friends. I imagined myself walking through the halls of Hogwarts, through its many corridors, passing its many statues and talking paintings. I knew exactly how the owlery looked like, how it smelled, and have been inside of the great hall many a time. I don’t remember exactly how old I was when first I read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, but I know I was young. The night of my eleventh birthday -the day on which Harry receives his Hogwarts letter from the giant Hagrid- I lay awake all night, carefully listening for any strange noises, looking out of my window and hoping to spot a cat looking up, or an owl passing through the sky. The letter didn’t come. I convinced myself it was because I lived not in Great Britain, but in The Netherlands, where the age of going to secondary school is not eleven, but twelve. The night of my twelfth birthday I lay awake again all night.

 

The letter never came.

 

Fortunately, at least new books kept coming out. I remember one Christmas where I opened my first gift: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, I think I cried. I don’t think I even looked at the other gifts. Curled up on my chair I spent the night reading, my family was around me, happily celebrating, I was with Harry.

 

As a child, or at least this was the case for me, the name of the author was just that, a name. It happened to be printed across the cover, and I was excited when I found another book by the same person if I liked the first book, but I never knew who that person was. I didn’t google them, as I do now, and I certainly didn’t try and find their instagram. Now I do do all those things. I know the writers, I read opinion articles by them in The New Yorker, I read columns by them in the newspaper, I read about them, when other people write opinion articles or columns about them and their works. I read about them in scholarly articles and I discuss them, their writing styles, what they write about, and what they should write about, with friends and family, co-workers and classmates.

 

But for a long time, JK Rowling was just a name. Nine letters printed on the cover of my newest Harry Potter edition. I knew she wrote the Harry Potter novels, but I didn’t know who on earth she was. I liked her, after all, she wrote the Harry Potter novels, but I don’t think I could’ve picked her out of a line-up if you had forced me to. As time went on and I became older, Joanne Kathleen Rowling became a face I could recognise. I knew she had long, blonde hair, a kind smile and money to spare. A lot of this money has always been donated by her, I knew, to good causes. I knew she had children and that she used to read the Harry Potter stories to them, I knew she had been a single parent for a while.

 

As I entered my early teens the world of Harry Potter began to mean more to me than it just being an amazing fantasy story. The narrative of a young boy who didn’t fit in in his home, but found his true place resonated not just with me but with many other children who had been seen by others as different. We were the outcasts, those who were trans, or extreme tomboys, overtly shy, far too outspoken, those who had family lives that were far from ideal, those who later became an LGBTQ+ member, but were still figuring stuff out. We found solace in the world where, with the wave of a wand, most things could be fixed and where everything was possible.

 

From the start the queer community felt at home within the Harry Potter world. From the start the queer community made the Harry Potter world their own. We lived in it, we enhanced it with incredible amounts of fanfiction, and Jo was our, well, not God, but certainly a Very Important Person within our fan-made universe.

 

And then she revealed Dumbledore was gay after ending the Harry Potter series.

 

This is where the first discontent started. Yes, positive queer representation is still very much needed, and yes, generally, we’ll take anything we can get. But doing it in this way, seemingly making a sexuality that is not heterosexuality into a commodity, only to be announced once everyone has bought your books, seems cheap. There are so many characters within the Harry Potter world whose sexualities are never disclosed (mainly because they are either children or teachers, but oh well, we can fantasize about that which is not explicitly told), are we now to assume they are all straight? If she only tells us about Dumbledore, is he then the only not-straight person in the whole of the Harry Potter universe?

Responding to a tweet saying: “Thank you so much for writing Harry Potter. I wonder why you said that Dumbledore is gay because I can’t see him that way.” she said: “Maybe because gay people just look like… people?”[1] And yes, of course, that’s a nice thing to say, and obviously an opinion I share, but it doesn’t work like that. We need representation, and we need to not be used like a cheap marketing tool to get your works back into the limelight after a few years, because even though that was probably not the case, that’s what it felt like to me.

 

A few years later she again became involved with a controversy surrounding the LGBTQ+ community. This time she used twitter to defend a tweet from a woman who said:

 

“What I am so surprised at is that smart people who I admire, who are absolutely pro-science in other areas, and champion human rights & womens rights are tying themselves in knots to avoid saying the truth that men cannot change into women (because that might hurt mens feelings)”[2]

 

Jo tweeted:

 

“Dress however you please.

Call yourself whatever you like.

Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you.

Live your best life in peace and security.

But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real?”[3]

 

As author and reader, JK Rowling and I have a relationship. It’s a very one sided relationship, and incredibly two-dimensional. She will (most likely) never even know of my existence, I will only know the bits and pieces she puts out in the world through twitter and interviews, I will never really be able to know her, but I feel like I know her. When she revealed Dumbledore’s sexuality, and even more when she defended an incredibly transphobic tweet, it felt like a betrayal by a good friend, by someone I admire and look up to.

When I look on her twitter feed now she still seems like a very kind woman with long blonde hair, but she is so very different from the JK Rowling that I thought I used to know.

 

– Juul Kruse

 

[1] https://twitter.com/jk_rowling/status/580414479604822016. The tweet still exists. At the time of writing this profile it has been retweeted 19,4 thousand times.

[2] https://twitter.com/mforstater/status/1046450304986812416. Surprisingly, this tweet has also not been deleted. The author of said tweet lost her job over it.

[3] https://twitter.com/jk_rowling/status/1207646162813100033. JK Rowling’s reply to the tweet also still exists. After the controversy surrounding it she took a leave of absence from Twitter for several months.

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