Thursday, June 11, 2020

Autistic, Trans, and Betrayed By J.K. Rowling

pride flags zagreb
Photo © Chris Bentley | Flickr / Creative Commons
[image: Bisexual Pride, Trans Pride, and Gay Pride flags billowing against a blue sky.] 

Content note: transphobia, transmisogyny, and ableism.

Kris Guin
twitter.com/The_Kris_Guin

I was in elementary school when the Harry Potter books were first published. My parents bought each new book as soon as it came out, and I remember anxiously waiting to read the copies I shared with my two siblings. Our family would also go see every movie, and, as an adult, I loved getting nostalgic and doing Harry Potter movie marathons. I related so much to each Harry Potter character, in different ways. Most notably, I, as a queer, autistic trans man, relate to Harry growing up not knowing who he is, and why he’s so different from the other kids. 

Professionally, I also have a connection with J.K. Rowling. In the summer of 2014, I interned at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN). During that internship, my ASAN colleagues and I met with representatives the charity Rowling started, Lumos, which advocates for the deinstitutionalization of children worldwide. This is a beautiful mission. All children deserve to grow up safe, supported, and loved in the community and with their families. It was so exciting to learn that Lumos, and by association, Rowling, wanted to include children with disabilities in their work. 

Recently, some of the magic around Harry Potter and its author was dispelled when Rowling posted and supported hateful content targeting trans people, particularly trans women. And then, in an attempt to defend herself from critics, she wrote

“Most people probably aren’t aware—I certainly wasn’t, until I started researching this issue properly—that ten years ago, the majority of people wanting to transition to the opposite sex were male. That ratio has now reversed. The UK has experienced a 4400% increase in girls being referred for transitioning treatment. Autistic girls are hugely overrepresented in their numbers.”

This statement is ableist, transphobic, and transmisogynistic. Autistic people are frequently (and hurtfully) presumed incompentent in making our own decisions and in our abilities to understand who we are. Being LGBTQ, like being autistic, is not a choice, plus research indicates autistic people are more likely to be LGBTQ than the general population. Autistic LGBTQ people deserve the same rights, opportunities, love, and support as those who are not autistic or LGBTQ. 

In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Albus Dumbledore said, “Words are, in my not so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.” I wish I could wave a magic wand and remove the words Rowling has posted, but, I am, sadly, a Muggle—so I cannot. All I can hope is that Rowling will listen to trans people and autistic people and the words we say about being LGBTQ and autistic, and write words of meaningful apology and commitment to supporting the LGBTQ and autistic communities. 

I do want to add that, as of this writing, Daniel Radcliffe (who plays Harry Potter) and Emma Watson (who plays Hermione Granger) have, in contrast, voiced their support of trans people, and I am so thankful for that. 

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Please follow #WeAreNotConfused for some excellent community pushback on Rowling's ableist transphobia.

If you or a trans loved one need support, please visit The Trevor Project or Trans Lifeline.