After Everything JKR Said, What Does It Mean to Be a Harry Potter Fan in 2020?

The controversy of J.K. Rowling’s transphobia is a long story. There were her transphobic tweets, her support for a vocal trans-exclusionist radical feminist (TERF), her 3700-word essay defending transphobic points, and even that time she deleted a tweet praising Stephen King just because he said, “Trans women are women.” 

So, in a time where we know that transphobia is 100% inexcusable, what does it mean to be a Harry Potter fan in 2020?

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Does this change what Harry Potter was about?

Many fans found solace in these books because of its takeaways that, ironically, seem to be lost on Rowling: That we should always stand against a discriminatory status quo and that love is more powerful than hate. 

Harry Potter is, after all, a narrative of the oppressed standing up to oppressors. A narrative of found families and communities. A narrative of love and acceptance. And J.K. Rowling can’t change that.

Daniel Radcliffe, when commenting on Rowling’s stance, said it best when he reminded fans, “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 that dogmatic ideas of pureness lead to the oppression of vulnerable groups; if you believe that a particular character is trans, nonbinary, or genderfluid, or that they are gay or bisexual; 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.”

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How do we navigate Harry Potter now?

With that being said, it’s crucial to be responsible about the relationship we have with art made by someone who consistently harms the trans community.

Don’t spend money on Harry Potter content (like the Fantastic Beasts movies or the new PS5 game) because the royalties she still gets will only strengthen the platform she uses to spread transphobic rhetoric. Be critical of aspects of the series itself that don’t align with the values that, in 2020, we now know to be vital. Listen to trans voices, support books with diverse characters written by trans authors, and amplify the platforms of those in the margins. 

You can keep your books while understanding that Rowling’s stance is a more-than-valid reason for others to throw away theirs. You can love what a book series meant to you without dismissing the fact that a part of its legacy is now being used to discredit trans people. You can hold progressive values that the series helped shape and still constantly work to learn more about how you can responsibly talk about and interact with the series as an ally.

Most importantly, you can still say that Harry Potter is important to you because of the role it played in your personal life while acknowledging that it will never be more important than the lives and rights of the trans community.

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