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Monday, May 17, 2021 : By Isa Ryan
J.K. Rowling is one of the world’s most successful authors — not just of her generation and not just of the children’s literature genre. She is one of the most successful authors of all time, period.
Her instant-classic Harry Potter series, written between the years 1997 and 2007, has been loved by millions of readers around the world, young and old. Every single book in the series can be found on the top 20 best-selling children’s books of all time and six out of seven are among the top 20 best-selling books ever.
The characters, stories, and world borne entirely within Rowling’s mind have gone on to rake in legendary revenue, making her just one out of five self-made female billionaires — and the first billionaire author, male or female.
Hers is an incredible success story, made all the more so by the fact that she began writing the Harry Potter series when she was a single, desperately poor mother who had recently escaped an abusive marriage and was raising her young daughter on her own.
By feminist standards, she is a true hero whose rags-to-riches story is as universally appealing as her beloved series. And while a few years ago, it was only her more politically conservative readers who may have taken issue with her freely expressed progressive views, she has suddenly earned the fierce ire of those within whose ranks you’d think she’d find a happy home.
Why? Rowling has consistently, articulately, and unapologetically offered an alternative viewpoint to the gender theory that has been legalistically — and in many cases, blindly — accepted by mainstream progressive circles, which these days means the cultural and establishment elite of Western nations like the United States and Rowling’s own United Kingdom.
More to the point: She has been labeled “transphobic.”
This is not a liberal zeitgeist but rather an immensely illiberal cultural orthodoxy whose fickle, hateful judgment is impossible to escape. The outrage mob, as we more commonly refer to it, has ironically thrown this legendary author under the bus for daring to step outside the parameters of what it considers “tolerant” — and has displayed immense intolerance by doing so.
Earlier this month, a Harry Potter-themed book festival in New Zealand was canceled over Rowling’s “transphobia.” The reason? Concern that the event could have caused “distress to particular members of the community.”
“We always thought Booktown should be an inclusive, welcoming place for everyone, so we took the decision not to go with Harry Potter,” the festival board chairman said.
And while rumors of a Harry Potter-themed television series have also been swirling, Warner Brothers and HBO Max recently and firmly denied any plans, causing the New York Post to speculate if this could be in part due to the controversy surrounding Rowling’s views on transgenderism.
Indeed, upon learning that a flagship merchandise store dedicated to the series is set to open in New York City, a disgruntled (and rather foul-mouthed) writer at the feminist website Jezebel griped that “all Harry Potter fans wanted” was for a television series and “for JK Rowling to denounce her transphobia.”
She wrote: “As if a beloved book series, a popular decade-long film franchise, a couple of theme parks, and a s**ty film franchise weren’t enough, there’s another Harry Potter project in the cards. A massive flagship Harry Potter store in New York City, dedicated to Harry Potter merch, interactive activities, and wizarding world themed food. You know, fun stuff to try to make you forget that the series’s author, JK Rowling, is a TERF [trans-exclusionary radical feminist] who has lost the confidence of fans worldwide.”
This backlash all began in 2019 when Rowling tweeted out her support for an English tax specialist, Maya Forstater, who was fired from her job over tweets expressing a belief in the biological definition of gender.
Given the response, she may as well have told the 17th century Catholic church that the earth revolved around the sun.
After the initial tweet in support of Forstater, Rowling herself would be so attacked that she would be compelled to write a lengthy essay to try to defend herself the following year. By this time, she was already on her “fourth or fifth cancellation” for having cast doubt on one of the golden calves of today’s pop progressivism, i.e. gender theory’s assertions about what makes a person a man or a woman.
Rowling wrote that she had already spent a lengthy amount of time following and researching varying views on gender ideology and even gone as far to begin to present more nuanced views on the topic on Twitter.
The author confessed to have “expected the threats of violence,” and “to be told I was literally killing trans people with my hate, to be called c*nt and b*tch and, of course, for my books to be burned, although one particularly abusive man told me he’d composted them” when she made the one verboten choice to question the rigid constructs of the claim that “gender is a social construct.”
Several of the little-known actors transformed into major Hollywood stars by the Harry Potter film series, including Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson, also issued statements denouncing Rowling’s views and expressing support for the trans community.
But Rowling is not intolerant and has even emphatically expressed support for trans individuals — though she won’t back down from reciting biological reality.
In a firestorm-igniting Twitter thread she wrote ahead of her 2020 essay, she stated:
“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. The idea that women like me, who’ve been empathetic to trans people for decades, feeling kinship because they’re vulnerable in the same way as women — i.e., to male violence — ‘hate’ trans people because they think sex is real and has lived consequences is a nonsense.”
You see, Rowling and Forstater are part of a growing group of feminists and others who have raised concerns about the implications of the large-scale, social acceptance of the radical notion that gender is determined by identity or feelings and is somehow fluid. As a result, they have inspired, ironically, quite a bit of hate and intolerance from their ideological opponents, who smear them with this TERF slur and other slanderous insults.
As Rowling explained, the term TERF — which again stands for “trans-exclusionary radical feminist” — includes “a huge and diverse cross-section” of women, the vast majority of whom “have never been radical feminists.”
She pointed to the parents of homosexual children who do not want their child to transition to “escape homophobic bullying” or the older “totally unfeminist” woman who simply doesn’t want the changing room at her favorite department store to be open for anyone who claims to identify as a woman.
These people, like Rowling, represent just a few examples of those who share a wide range of concerns with the notion that, as Harry Potter actor Radcliffe put it, “transgender women are women.”
He further declared in an essay he penned for The Trevor Project, “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.”
It doesn’t appear to have mattered much that Rowling is not disinterested in the dignity of transgender people, but rather that she wants only to ensure that it is not gained at the cost of the dignity of biological women like herself who have, as she explained in her own essay, survived sexual assault and feel trauma-induced anxiety at the prospect of having these spaces invaded by biological men.
Rowling also discussed an aspect of recent trends in treating gender dysphoria that includes treating young children, including girls, who may be struggling with other issues. The wildly successful author even pointed to her own fraught childhood being raised by a father who wished she had been a boy and having learned, through much struggle and angst, that womanhood was far more than superficial femininity or a “costume,” as she put it.
Nonetheless, for all her well-founded concerns — which are rooted in secular, classically liberal thought that gave a very wide berth to a great many opposing viewpoints — she has been cast out of the inner circle of socially accepted liberality.
It might be interesting to hear differing viewpoints on, say, why a sexual assault victim should feel comfortable sharing gender-specific facilities with individuals who are not biological women or the risks of treating young children with cross-sex hormones (something which one of Sweden’s top hospitals just stopped permitting for safety reasons).
It would be entirely possible for those who feel differently than Rowling to accept her deep concern for the safety of both biological women and gender dysphoric women as truly compassionate, well-thought-out, and simply different from their own views on the topic.
Unfortunately, it is no longer considered acceptable to tolerate opposing views in the cultural climate in which Rowling has decided to take her stand — and it is all done, infuriatingly, in the name of tolerance and acceptance.
“It would be so much easier to tweet the approved hashtags — because of course trans rights are human rights and of course trans lives matter — scoop up the woke cookies and bask in a virtue-signalling afterglow. There’s joy, relief and safety in conformity,” Rowling wrote.
But, in fact, it is no brave act in this day and age to stand behind the gender theory movement. Its advocates, who claim to promote inclusivity and tolerance, have created a climate in which even the most progressive, financially successful author of all time takes a grave risk by simply being honest about her views.
Rowling is not forsaking tolerance, and yet she is the victim of a chilling degree of intolerance so pervasive that it doesn’t accept dissent in even the most nuanced forms. Her story should be a wakeup call for anyone who quaintly believes that the outrage mob will ever allow even its most progressive allies to question its orthodoxy and not be made to pay dearly.