'Harry Potter' fan sites distance themselves from J.K. Rowling over transphobic comments

Two of the most popular Harry Potter fan websites are now publicly distancing themselves from J.K. Rowling, who became the subject of widespread controversy after repeatedly making transphobic remarks via Twitter last month.

MuggleNet and the Leaky Cauldron issued a joint statement on Wednesday denouncing the author while also “rejecting” her public conflation of sex and gender. They described Rowling’s words as “out of step with the message of acceptance and empowerment” found in the Harry Potter books.

The sites also detailed some of the changes they’ll be implementing on their sites in wake of Rowling’s decision to go public with her “harmful and disproven beliefs” about transgender people.

In unison, MuggleNet and the Leaky Cauldron vowed to no longer report on the 54-year-old’s “personal endeavours” — excluding her children’s charity Lumos Foundation — and said they will no longer use her name or photos of her, or even quote her, in the future.

From now on, the sites will focus strictly on news relevant to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Rowling’s other works.

“Although it is difficult to speak out against someone whose work we have so long admired, it would be wrong not to use our platforms to counteract the harm she has caused,” the statement reads.

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Initially, Rowling was subject to major backlash on June 6 after firing off a tweet in which she bristled at the headline of an opinion piece published by Devex, which reads: “Creating a more equal post-COVID-19 world for people who menstruate.”

“’People who menstruate,’” the Gloucestershire-born novelist tweeted in response. “I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”

Rowling has made repeated comments in the past conflating sex and gender.

However, according to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, sex is based on biological attributes such as physical and physiological features, including chromosomes and reproductive organs, while gender “refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, expressions and identities of girls, women, boys, men and gender-diverse people.”

As a result of her comments, outraged fans — especially those from the LGBTQ2 community — took aim at Rowling via social media.

“Ah yes, J.K. Rowling proving once again that she is transphobic and dismissive of trans people,” tweeted one user in response.

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Following the widespread criticism, Rowling tried to explain to her fans that she never intended to offend the trans community. In followup Twitter posts, however, she continued to repeat that biological “sex is real.”

“If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction,” she wrote shortly after her initial tweet. “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.

“My life has been shaped by being female. I do not believe it’s hateful to say so,” she concluded in another tweet.

British author J.K. Rowling attempting to defend herself from the trans community on Twitter after facing major backlash by making "transphobic" comments. June 6, 2020.

British author J.K. Rowling attempting to defend herself from the trans community on Twitter after facing major backlash by making "transphobic" comments. June 6, 2020.

J.K. Rowling / Twitter

In response, many people continued to point out to Rowling that people aren’t required to menstruate in order to be considered a woman, or vice versa.

“Sex and gender are not the same thing,” replied one Twitter user. “Trans women face misogyny. The only erasure I see here is trans fem erasure.”

“Sex isn’t the same as gender, it’s not hard to understand,” tweeted another.

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It wasn’t only angered social media users and fans who commented on Rowling’s contentious tweets, however. Harry Potter film stars Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) and Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) had something to say, as well as Fantastic Beasts star Eddie Redmayne (Newt Scamander).

Much like MuggleNet and the Leaky Cauldron did on Wednesday, the trio individually echoed the sentiment that “transgender women are women.”

“Our stance is firm: Transgender women are women. Transgender men are men. Non-binary people are non-binary. Intersex people exist and should not be forced to live in the binary,” the sites’ statement reads.

“We stand with Harry Potter fans in these communities, and while we don’t condone the mistreatment (Rowling) has received for airing her opinions about transgender people, we must reject her beliefs.”

British author J.K. Rowling poses for photographers at the Southbank Centre in London, England, on Sept. 27, 2012.

British author J.K. Rowling poses for photographers at the Southbank Centre in London, England, on Sept. 27, 2012.

AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis, File

The sites both expressed “distaste” that Rowling’s choice words came during not only Pride Month, but amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing anti-racism and anti-police brutality protests triggered by the death of George Floyd in May, too.

Floyd, a Black man, was killed after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds during an arrest in Minneapolis. He was 46.

His death, along with those of Black individuals, including Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, has helped renew calls to fight systemic racism and put an end to police brutality across the world.

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Following the initial controversy, Rowling took to her personal website on June 10, sharing a 3,800-word blog post in defence of her remarks.

Though she tried to explain the “offensive” and “dismissive” comments again, Rowling refused to “bow down” to criticism of them. She instead doubled down and expanded on them by sharing her concerns about “new trans activism.”

“I refuse to bow down to a movement that I believe is doing demonstrable harm in seeking to erode ‘woman’ as a political and biological class and offering cover to predators like few before it,” Rowling wrote in the lengthy statement.

The Harry Potter mastermind also revealed that for more than 25 years, she’s been a domestic abuse and sexual assault survivor — which many people believed she was disclosing to turn the public eye away from her transphobic comments.

“Sexual assault is not an excuse to be transphobic,” tweeted one user in response. “F—k J.K. Rowling. She couldn’t even come out and apologize. (She’s) just trying to garner sympathy.”

adam.wallis@globalnews.ca

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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