I wrote this a while back, a letter written for the purpose of processing my own feelings about JK Rowling’s tweet in December 2019 in which she used her mighty platform – her previously LGBQ-affirming platform – to express transphobic beliefs. I share it now as I process Dave Chappelle’s decision to do the same in his Netflix special, The Closer.
Dear Ms Rowling,
I’ve thought about you a fair bit in recent months, ever since you inadvertently introduced me to the existence of TERF, trans-exclusionary radical feminists. Oh, how my heart sank.
Make no mistake: I’ve witnessed how feminism can be and often has been co-opted as a movement of and for white, cis-gender, straight women. That feminists exist who believe that they can advocate for women without any perspective of intersectionality is a long and unfortunate fact in the women’s rights movement; it takes some effort to avoid the fact that early suffragist and political campaigns by women actively played into racism, using a shared disdain for Black people as the hook to convince the white men in power to let white women into the game.
But you, who randomly pronounced Dumbledore gay shortly after the final book was published, who created a magical space where so many children, teens, and, yes, adults found a welcoming acceptance – you have drawn a line in the sand between your prodigious spotlight and some of our world’s most vulnerable citizens: trans people.
My disappointment was quickly surpassed by my anger and my heartbreak for all of the trans Harry Potter fans who were suddenly stranded on platform 9 ¾ with no way to pass through the invisible gate.
And then I watched trans musician Lucas Silveira’s response. I hope you’ve watched it; it’s beautiful, thoughtful, and compassionate. He ends by saying:
I want to let you know this: though I have no plans of continuing to support your work if you fail to learn from and apologize for your actions, you will never ever take away what the Harry Potter books meant to me. See, they’re mine. They belong to me now. They belong to us.
The tattoos I have all over my beautiful trans body were inspired by stories that came from your heart and mind. They shall remain as a symbol of my continued fight against inequality, fascism and anybody who tries to render me invisible as a result of my identity. As an act of resistance, to anyone who tries to erase me and those like me, I reclaim Harry Potter in the form of the tattoos on my skin. I am, and will forever be, a mudblood.
I had resigned my Harry Potter hoodie to the back of my closet after reading the words you release that further endanger trans lives. After hearing Silveira’s words, I took it back out, ironed on a patch in the colors of the trans flag that reads “Protect Trans Lives,” and resumed wearing it.
Up until this point, I hadn’t learned that you’re a survivor of a sexual assault. I grieve for your trauma, Ms Rowling, as I grieve for all of us who have experienced personal violence, as I grieve for everyone who has had their bodies violated by a malicious other.
I grieve most of all for how that still-raw trauma has led you to a reactive place where you are not only willing but proactive in endorsing laws that are correlated with increased experience of sexual assault by transgender people in general, and transgender youth in particular.
Having been assaulted is tragic, but it is not shameful. Utilizing available resources – resources that your incredible wealth avails you to in any way you want, from any practitioner you prefer – is not shameful; it is wise, healing, even critical.
Endangering others while you struggle with your lingering wounds, however, is. May you heal, Ms Rowling. May you find the courage to do what you can to amend the damage you’ve done.
With love and hope,
Coaching is not therapy. In the wake of trauma like sexual assault, therapy is often a better modality for healing. Exploring identity – whether sexual, gender, or who we are in the wake of trauma – can be a wonderful use of coaching. If you’re curious about how, I’m eager to talk with you.