The Monster Book of Monsters: J.K. Rowling and Her Transphobia


Art creds to Varsha Bhargava!

Varsha Bhargava '23

TW: mentions of transphobia, transphobic comments


Potterheads around the world may be considering the use of a couple Unforgivable Curses right now.


J.K. Rowling recently released offensive remarks regarding transgender individuals, revealing her transphobic views and shocking Harry Potter readers everywhere. Although it was not the first time she displayed her true colors– everything other than pink, white, and blue– this moment shook lovers of the Chosen One to the core.


Rowling dropped the bomb on June 6, 2020. In response to an article’s headline, which read, “Opinion: Creating a more equal post-COVID-19 world for people who menstruate”, Rowling infamously tweeted “‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”, hinting at the word “women” to describe these individuals [1]. Rowling receives backlash for this tweet because of her implication that women are the only people who menstruate, which is incorrect. She crucially excludes transgender individuals that still experience menstruation, but do not identify as women.


The fact that Rowling commented on an article which discussed rights in people’s menstruation, only to publicize her discriminatory beliefs, angered fans around the globe. Devex published the original article, aiming to advocate for equality for those who menstruate– especially in the post-Covid era [2]. And while Rowling could have used her platform to promote and advertise this cause, she instead chose to express her transphobic ideology to the world.


After this backlash, on June 10, 2020, Rowling released a 3,700 word essay, titled “J.K. Rowling Writes about Her Reasons for Speaking out on Sex and Gender Issues”, which some have dubbed the “Transphobic Manifesto” [4]. Throughout the essay, Rowling tackles many controversial topics regarding sex and gender.


First, she writes on what biological sex means to her. She has spoken on these beliefs before via Twitter, stating, “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,” once again causing much hate and backlash in response to her words [9]. In her essay, she elaborates on the topic, speaking on the causes she supports and how they primraily focus on women and children; she mentions how she worries about the transition from ruling based on gender versus sex in legal dealings and how that could relate to her causes.


Rowling then addresses her interactions with Maya Forstater, a woman that released transphobic tweets and consequently was removed from her job [11]. In response to this event, on December 19, 2019, Rowling jumped to Twitter and Tweeted, “… Live your best life in peace and security. But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real? #IStandWithMaya #ThisIsNotADrill” [10]. In doing this, Rowling once again emphasized her blurred division between sex and gender, supporting another transphobe in the media.


Moreover, a big part of her essay deals around her experiences with domestic abuse and sexual assault, speaking on how she does not want others to go through that at the hands of, as she puts it, “any man who believes or feels he’s a woman”, referring to women who happen to be transgender [4]. Regarding the topic, she states, “I do not want to make natal girls and women less safe. When you throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman… then you open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside,” expressing her apparent discomfort at the idea of transgender women entering restrooms aligning with their gender identities [4].


Throughout her essay, Rowling mentions many other topics, such as her concern over the physical transition of transgender individuals, her given title of being a TERF (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist), her freedom of speech as a “much-banned author”, and much, much, much more.


Overall, her essay highlighted much more of her transphobic ideology and although she attempted to make statements supporting the transgender community, her overall treatment of the topic and contrary language towards transgender women eliminated that effect.


In recent news, Rowling released a book with a particularly controversial topic, considering it was her that wrote it. On September 15, under her pseudonym, Robert Galbraith, Rowling published a novel called “Troubled Blood”. This book centers around a serial killer that… crossdresses. Through this novel and the depiction of her main character, Rowling continues “the demonization of a small group of people, [who are] simply hoping to live their lives with dignity”, as a spokesperson for CNN so eloquently puts [3]. And readers find it incredibly surprising that she would go as far as to write a character that does not dress as those of their biological sex typically would, after all the controversy and hate she spread. But what is not-so-surprising is that she depicted them to be a killer villain.


This is not the first time Rowling has published a book expressing transphobic beliefs. She published a book called “The Silkworm”, again under her pen name, Robert Galbraith, in 2014. Here, a transgender character, Pippa, is under interrogation for attempted murder, which by itself is just a plot point, but readers have delved deeper into the way Rowling describes this character and how the scene went down. Critic Kaitlyn Burns of “Them.” writes, “In the scene, a trans woman, Pippa, follows and tries to stab the protagonist, Cormoran Strike, before getting trapped in Strike’s office. After demanding Pippa’s ID, her trans status is revealed and her visible Adam’s apple is noted, while it’s noted that her hands were jammed in her pockets. Pippa tries several times to escape the office before Strike finally says, “‘If you go for that door one more time I’m calling the police and I’ll testify and be glad to watch you go down for attempted murder. And it won’t be fun for you Pippa,’ he added. ‘Not pre-op.’” highlighting the ways Rowling viciously mocked the transgender character [14].


Also in 2014, Rowling made headlines after “liking” various anti-trans tweets, once calling transgender women “men in dresses” [14]. Although Rowling passed this off as a misclick, her pattern of doing it said otherwise.


And again, on September 23, 2020, even after all the backlash she has faced in response to her public opposition to the transgender community, she supported and promoted an antitrans business, called “Wild Womyn Workshop” [12]. This store sells clothes/ pins reading, “Transwomen are men”, “Transmen are my sisters”, “Transition = conversion therapy”, “Women is Not a Costume”, and other remarks invalidating transgender woman in the name of “feminism” [13].


So… has the magic been sucked out of the Harry Potter series? For some fans of the books, yes, but others have chosen to take a lighter approach to the subject. They revel in the fact that they can take the series for their own, now that they know the author is morally incorrect, making the series a separate entity from its author. Some have even taken to saying characters such as Hermione Granger or Harry Potter wrote the series, or their actors, Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe. 


In regards to the Harry Potter cast– they have firmly established that they are not fans of Rowling’s sentiments. Here are some notable quotes from the actresses and actors on the topic:


“Trans people are who they say they are and deserve to live their lives without being constantly questioned or told they aren’t who they say they are.” – Emma Watson (AKA Hermione Granger) [5]


“Transgender women are women. Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people.” – Daniel Radcliffe (AKA Harry Potter) [6]


“Trans women are women. Trans men are men. We should all be entitled to live with love and without judgment.” – Rupert Grint (AKA Ron Weasley) [7]


“I imagine that being trans and learning to accept and love yourself is challenging enough, and we as a society should not be adding to that pain.” – Evanna Lynch (AKA Luna Lovegood) [8]


Many other members of the cast also added their support for the transgender community, showing a united front against Rowling’s transphobic comments.


Summarily, Rowling’s history of transphobic comments and demonization is extensive. Her comments not only marginalize the whole transgender community, but have hurt fans all around the world. In short, The Monster Book of Monsters seems to be incomplete.


Timeline of events mentioned in this article:

September 23, 2020- Rowling promotes the anti-trans store, “Wild Womyn Workshop” 

September 15, 2020- Rowling’s novel “Troubled Blood”, starring a cross-dressing serial killer, is released

June 10, 2020- Rowling releases a statement justifying her beliefs and responding to backlash

June 8-10, 2020- the Harry Potter Cast responds to Rowling’s comments

June 6, 2020- Rowling tweets about Devex’s menstruation article

December 19, 2019- Rowling Tweets her support of Maya Forstater’s transphobic comments

June 19, 2014- Rowling’s novel “The Silkworm” is published

March 21, 2014- Rowling “likes” transphobic tweets

















(The Monster Book of Monsters: J.K. Rowling and Her Transphobia Art- Art by Varsha Bhargava ’23)