Our Statement on J.K. Rowling and Transphobia

The Journal of Fantasy and Fan Cultures selected Harry Potter and its fandom as the focus of our inaugural issue for its phenomenal influence over popular culture and for the abiding devotion of its fan-base in the decades since its release. The novels, films, and theatrical productions that comprise this franchise have been a powerful touchstone in the emotional lives and emerging identities of countless children and young adults who looked to them for an uncommon representation of their most aspirational selves. It is for these reasons that it is immeasurably sad to learn that J.K. Rowling herself, the author of this mythology of self-acceptance and actualization, has publicly and repeatedly repudiated and denounced the very selfhood and identity of trans women and men both within her fandom and without. Rowling’s vocal transphobia is not the only example of her cultural chauvinism, as the centering of white characters under unnamed signifiers, antisemitic caricatures, and gender-essentialized family units also permeate her work, but it is the most explicitly exclusionary aspect of her public discourse as both an individual and an author. Hypocritically, Rowling herself has bent genders when it was expedient and profitable for her to do so, even as her work has furthered gendered stereotypes and offensive characterizations of trans women. Recently she has used the pseudonym “Robert Galbraith,” a namesake taken from an early advocate of conversion therapy, a torturous violation of the human rights of LGBTQIA+ people. It is clear from Rowling’s own statements and written apologia that she is emphatically against the expression of trans identity and the sanctity of trans rights.

This bigotry and contempt on the part of J.K. Rowling does not, however, reflect the resounding opinions of the fandom which has arisen around Harry Potter. The spirit in which millions of fans read, view, and interact with Harry Potter has been shaped by their own experiences with the material, and by those with which they have shared it. The lived experience of decades of fans cannot be undermined by the indefensible positions and statements of the original creator, however hurtful those may be. The Journal of Fantasy and Fan Cultures is as centered in this lived experience within the Harry Potter fandom as we are in the primary sources which gave rise to that community, and it is because of the values of that very community that no materials espousing transphobia or any other exclusionary view of the world and its people will ever be published by this journal. Fans and scholars of Harry Potter and genre fiction in general have the responsibility and the privilege to establish a higher standard of how to engage with the opinions of franchise creators, and to preserve within their communities a mutual respect and regard for human rights. Whatever the positions of the authors, fan cultures belong to fans, and their values are theirs to direct and uphold. The Journal of Fantasy and Fan Cultures maintains that trans women are women, trans men are men, and the lives and rights of LGBTQIA+ people must never be impugned, diminished, or erased in our academic pursuits, social institutions, or lived experiences.

We encourage submissions that deal with LGBTQIA+ issues as related to the books, films, other media, and fandoms.