J.K. Rowling is, by any metric, one of the most successful people on Earth. Her net worth is estimated at a billion dollars, her books have sold half a billion copies, and Harry Potter is one of the most profitable and well-known entertainment franchises in human history. You might ask, why, when Rowling has so much money and so many fans and so much cultural cachet, does she need us to defend her? Well, she doesn’t, but we’re gonna do it anyway because we are incapable of seeing a billionaire in pain, however self-inflicted.
For the past five years, Rowling has gone from dipping her toe in transphobic water by liking transphobic tweets and following blatantly transphobic accounts on Twitter to diving head-first into the anti-trans ocean in 2020 by penning a notorious concern-trolling essay in which she hits on many classic transphobic arguments – trans women represent a danger to cis women, too many people are transitioning too fast, detransitioning is a huge problem, etc. And as we know, bigots never rationalize their demonization of a minority as necessary to protect another vulnerable group or as being for that group’s own good, so her concerns must be genuine.
But Rowling’s also said “I respect every trans person’s right to live any way that feels authentic and comfortable to them,” and despite that statement being incompatible with her other statements and actions, we’re happy to assume that that’s how she really feels. Because she’s earned so much money, she’s also earned the benefit of the doubt.
We must remember that, as she has stated many times, she is fixated on curbing the rights of trans women because she cares about cis women’s safety, in much the same way that the best anti-poverty activists spend all their time talking about welfare fraud.
Despite lamenting in her 2020 essay that she’d been canceled four or five times, she’s still working with Warner Bros on the Harry Potter franchise, and the recently released Hogwart’s Legacy video game based on that franchise has become a smash hit. But that’s not enough for Rowling, or for us. It’s not enough that Rowling continues to be a massive success according to any metric by which humans measure success. She must also be encouraged to air her opinions, however TERFy they may be, not only without backlash, but with our unwavering support.
Lest we forget, J.K. Rowling has received death threats simply for stating her opinions. While some may point out that members of the trans community are murdered simply for being who they are and don’t have Rowling’s resources to keep themselves safe, that fact makes our defense of Rowling’s contributions towards anti-trans sentiment seem downright malicious given that actual human lives are at stake, so we’re just gonna ignore all of that and move on.
With wealth comes responsibility, the responsibility of having no real problems and therefore seeking out victimhood by picking on an at-risk and marginalized community and then claiming to be the injured party when the internet responds as anyone who’s been alive in the 21st century knows it will.
We applaud Rowling for provoking this fight and then lamenting that she’s the victim of a witch hunt. After all, if she won’t stand up for herself, who will? Other than us, and many other media outlets, and a movie studio, and several A-list actors, and the Republican lawmaker who quoted Rowling’s essay while blocking a vote on an American LGBTQ civil rights bill.