Harry Potter raised a generation by encouraging its worldwide audience to be brave and embrace everyone around them, regardless of arbitrary differences like race, gender, sexual orientation and religion. This week, that generation rejected the views of its creator, J.K Rowling, after a series of tweets that were transphobic.
Growing up, Hermione Granger was my idol. At ten years old, I had decided that I would try my hardest to get as close to being her as possible. I invested in a quill set, journals and books, consuming any information in my reach. My teachers used to chuckle when I submitted my work, affectionately calling me their “little Hermione.” I’ve never truly grown out of my Hermione Granger idolisation. I have key rings, little figurines and posters to decorate my life. Most days, I engage in encounters with the mantra “what would Hermione Granger do?” Being an overachiever like Granger has characterised my whole life, and will very likely do so for the rest of it.
When Emma Watson proudly addressed the UN about Feminism and started the HeForShe movement, everyone knew that she had become the embodiment of fictional Hermione. She has since pioneered as an activist for feminism, LGBTQI persons and the Black community. By using her voice to raise awareness and educate people about how they can best support these minority groups, Watson has become the icon of our dreams.
For the HP fandom, it’s been a privilege to watch the people who shaped our generation become such brilliant people in society. The Golden Trio: Watson for her activism, Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) for supporting her activism, his role in theatre and independent films as well as saving a man from being mugged, Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) for welcoming a baby and just being himself. Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley) and Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood) have also been activists in their own right for climate change, the Black Lives Matter movement and feminism. It’s also imperative to mention that Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy) and Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom) have never forgotten their Harry Potter roots, frequently posting reminders and dedications. The best part? They’re all still friends, and have supported each other in everything they do.
Most of us thought we would always love its creator, J.K Rowling, and tried to make her proud by becoming the accepting, tolerant and welcoming people Harry Potter encouraged us to be. Personally, I wanted to be a writer like her. Harry Potter fanfiction has populated the internet, encouraging people to engage with the text and use their creativity to unlock their imagination. There are a multitude of Harry Potter dedicated fan pages on every media platform you can imagine. However, in the last year, the Harry Potter fandom has removed itself from any affiliation with J.K Rowling. It’s extended its universe to encourage and welcome everyone, rejecting anyone who has sought to divide people on arbitrary differences, just as Harry Potter taught us to do.
This week, Rowling proved how out of touch she had become with the Harry Potter realm when she posted these anti-transgender tweets:
‘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
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.
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) June 6, 2020
The backlash was insurmountable, with many declaring that it was simply impossible Rowling could write a series about how “it matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be” and perpetuate such harmful beliefs. Her assertion that sex mandates gender, and that transgender people ‘erase’ the “lived reality of women globally” detrimentally reinforces the dangerous theory that there is a right way to be a woman. Her argument that gender and sexuality are pre-determined by genitals and chromosomes fails to realise that humanity is diverse and complex, and that identity and gender cannot be reducible to biological differences.
The Harry Potter fandom started to tweet about how they wished they could thank the ‘anonymous author of the Harry Potter series.’ The rejection of her public crusade’s oppression of an already marginalised group who likely looked to the books as a safety net in their intolerant world has resulted in Harry Potter becoming an entity unaffiliated with Rowling. You may exclaim that it’s impossible for a creator’s world to exist without the creator itself, but the saturation of Harry Potter groups, fanfictions, pages and fanbases has allowed it to evolve amongst the generation it raised.
Daniel Radcliffe, the actor who portrayed the series’ namesake Harry Potter released a statement that declared that: “Transgender women are women. Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional health care associations who have far more expertise on this subject matter than either Jo or I.”
He continued by addressing all the people who grew up with Harry Potter and who “now feel that the experience of the books has been tarnished or diminished” by explaining:
“If these books taught you that love is the strongest force in the universe, capable of overcoming anything; if they taught you that strength is found in diversity, and…if you believe that a particular character is [LGBTQI]; if you found anything in these stories that resonated with you and helped you at any time in your life — then that is between you and the book that you read, and it is sacred.”
The fandom has also found itself looking to Emma Watson, whose activism for the LGBTQI community has been endless. Bonnie Wright, Evanna Lynch and Katie Leung (Cho Chang) have continued to loudly and proudly declare their support for transgender people.
Ironically, the series’ message to thwart those who reject progress or marginalised groups has caused the Harry Potter universe to evolve in a way that continues to spread this message-even if it results in turning its back on the creator herself. Just like Albus Dumbledore said, “Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.”
Hopefully everyone takes him up on his offer by finding refuge in a fandom that will always be there for the marginalised.
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