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J.K. Rowling's new book raises more allegations of transphobia

#RIPJKRowling trends as critics take issue with her new novel's serial-killer character, a cisgender man who dresses as a woman to stalk his victims.
British author J. K. Rowling in 2017.
British author J. K. Rowling in 2017.Justin Tallis / AFP - Getty Images file

"Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling was hit Monday with renewed criticism calling her views transphobic as she releases her latest book, a mystery novel about a serial killer who dresses as a woman to prey on his victims.

The novel, “Troubled Blood,” is to be published Tuesday as the fifth installment in the "Cormoran Strike" detective series, written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. Strike’s latest mystery revolves around a cisgender man who dresses as a woman, according to a review from The Telegraph.

The theme is being called out by those who have highlighted Rowling’s history of sharing transphobic opinions online, causing #RIPJKRowling to trend trend on Twitter Monday. Some tweeted that although Rowling is still alive, her career is most likely dead, while others imagined Rowling gone so they could enjoy the "Harry Potter" series without associating the novels and films with her.

“in memory of jk rowling,” one user tweeted. “she ain’t dead, but she killed her own career by proudly hating trans people & no one would really miss her that much anyway #ripjkrowling”

Actress Cynthia Nixon spoke about the impact of Rowling’s comments on her transgender son, Samuel, in an interview with The Independent posted Monday. Nixon said the author’s comments were “really painful” for her 23-year-old, who has loved the “Harry Potter” series throughout his childhood.

“The books seem to be about championing people who are different, so for her to select this one group of people who are obviously different and sort of deny their existence, it’s just… it’s really baffling,” Nixon said. “I know she feels like she’s standing up for feminism, but I don’t get it.”

Rowling has been regularly criticized over the past few years for her public comments regarding transgender men and women, including a tweet she posted in June mocking a headline for using gender-inclusive language in regard to menstruation.

“‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?” Rowling tweeted.

The tweet referred to an opinion article about creating equality for “people who menstruate” following the coronavirus pandemic from Devex, a website that describes itself as a media platform for the global development community. There are many transgender men who menstruate as well as cisgender women who do not have periods.

Days later Rowling published a nearly 4,000-word blog post in which she stated she has "five reasons for being worried about the new trans activism, and deciding I need to speak up." Among these reasons, she mentions her charity for women and children, being an ex-teacher, her interest in free speech, a concern about "the huge explosion in young women wishing to transition" and her experience as a victim of sexual and domestic abuse.

"So I want trans women to be safe. At the same time, I do not want to make natal girls and women less safe," Rowling wrote. "When you throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman — and, as I’ve said, gender confirmation certificates may now be granted without any need for surgery or hormones — then you open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside. That is the simple truth."

She then tweeted in July, comparing young people who are advised toward hormone therapy to "conversion therapy,” a practice outlawed in many U.S. states where “counselors” shame LGBTQ individuals to “convert” them to cisgender and heteronormative identities.

Rowling has been referred to as a “TERF,” or a trans-exclusionary radical feminist, by her critics. In 2017, Rowling was spotlighted for liking a tweet that linked to a transphobic Medium article. She was later accused of transphobia after liking a tweet that referred to trans women as "men in dresses," although her spokesperson claimed at the time that Rowling had swiped the "like" button by accident.

In December, Rowling tweeted her support of Maya Forstater, a British researcher who lost her job at a nonprofit think tank following a series of tweets that were criticized as transphobic. A judge ruled against a complaint filed by Forstater against her former employer, stating that Forstater's speech violated the "dignity" of transgender people and was not protected under U.K. law.

"Dress however you please. Call yourself whatever you like. Sleep with any consenting adult who'll have you," Rowling tweeted with the #IStandWithMaya. "Live your best life in peace and security. But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real?"

Critics, citing facts, personal experience, and documented discrimination against transgender people around the world, have taken issue with Rowling’s comments and her defense of her views.

A 2018 study from Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, for instance, found no relation between bathroom safety and allowing transgender people to use bathrooms that align with their identity.

Rowling has claimed more than once, citing debunked reports, that she fears “detransitioning,” or stopping the process of gender transition, has become an increasing phenomenon.

In a 2015 survey of nearly 28,000 people conducted by the U.S.-based National Center for Transgender Equality, 8 percent of respondents reported detransitioning, and 62 percent of those people said they detransitioned only temporarily. The most common reason for detransitioning, according to the survey, was pressure from a parent, while only 0.4 percent of respondents said they detransitioned after realizing transitioning wasn’t right for them. And the results of a 50-year survey published in 2010 of a cohort of 767 transgender people in Sweden found that about 2 percent of participants expressed regret after undergoing gender-affirming surgery.

Transgender people regularly face job and healthcare discrimination. President Donald Trump’s administration filed a brief last year with the Supreme Court arguing that transgender workers are not protected by federal civil rights law and can be fired because of their gender identity.

The Supreme Court ruled against the administration in June and declared existing federal law forbids job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender status, a landmark decision for LGBTQ advocates.

Transgender Day of Remembrance was founded in 1999 to honor the deaths of transgender and gender nonconforming individuals who are murdered in increasing numbers.