I never imagined that as a transgender woman attempting to take her place in the world with love and dignity, my most regretted tattoo would be the Harry Potter one on my left wrist.
By
Joan Westenberg

20 Dec 2019 - 12:38 PM  UPDATED 20 Dec 2019 - 12:57 PM

OPINION

I love Harry Potter. I have always loved Harry Potter. The books have given me hope and courage through some of my darkest hours when  I truly needed to believe that life could change for the better with one piece of mail, and that magic is real.

For a kid who grew up confused and frightened by who she was and scared of what it meant to feel different and not know why, Harry Potter became my own spell of protection. As an adult, I even had a classic Harry Potter symbol tattooed on my arm, as a tribute to how much the books had shaped who I was. 

As an adult, I found the courage to accept that the reason I was different, the reason so many things didn’t make sense, was that I was a transgender woman. I still relied on a few re-readings of the Harry Potter series, as I entered an entirely new world and found a magic of my own. 

This makes J.K. Rowling’s continued overtures to TERF (trans eradicating radical feminist) ideologies that reject transgender people all the more heartbreaking. 

Earlier today J.K Rowling tweeted public support of a radical activist Maya Forstater, a researcher who lost her job after tweeting that a person cannot change their biological sex.

She says that trans people can dress up however they want. And call themselves what they want. And sleep with who they want. A framing that presents us as people making choices that must be tolerated, not as individual people in our own rights - and as people who make those choices as if our identities and existence as transgender people are based on or centred around sexual preferences, a trope that has plagued and limited us for decades. 

We first started to see Rowling’s leanings towards an extremist and non-mainstream antipathy towards trans people when she was caught out liking tweets with messages about trans women being men dressed up as women. At the time, her actions were spun away by her publicist.

This is not only an affront to trans people. This is about all queer people. Trans people are a foundational part of the modern queer community. Let’s not forget that Stonewall, the spark that lit the flame of today’s victories for gay rights, was a riot started by trans women who stood up and fought for the right to be different and be themselves. The stood for the right that we do not and will not see as being separate to the rights of any LGBTQA+ individuals and groups.

You cannot, as some movements have attempted to, remove the T from the LGB and still make any pretence of equality. We stand together, or we fall alone, if we allow ourselves to be split. 

The heart of Rowling’s story, about an abused child in a cupboard under the stairs who comes out and finds acceptance and family and a new life resonates keenly with anyone who is queer

It’s hard not to feel betrayed by a woman who wrote stories about children who were able to fight against prejudice and do the right thing in the face of darkness. Why has she  turned around and chosen to follow the path of her own fictional villains, into prejudice and exclusionary gatekeeping? 

I find it difficult to accept that a woman as talented, imaginative and gifted as Rowling,  who can conjure a world of magic and wands, of spells and love and healing, of good versus evil and the  enduring power of acceptance, can find gender fluidity to be an impossibility. 

The heart of Rowling’s story, about an abused child in a cupboard under the stairs who comes out and finds acceptance and family and a new life resonates keenly with anyone who is queer. I cannot comprehend how she can insist on forcing myself and my people into an awfully similar cupboard under a slightly different set of stairs. 

Ultimately, I am left feeling a sense of loss and desolation. As a former alcoholic, I had always thought that my most regrettable tattoo were the words “Gin & Tonic” on my right wrist. I never imagined that as a transgender woman attempting to take her place in the world with love and dignity, it would be the Harry Potter tattoo on my left. 

Joan Westenberg is a freelance writer. You can follow Joan on Twitter @joanwestenberg. 

Love helped me survive transitioning
"I was in shock. I didn’t know how to process it. I didn’t know how to respond to actually and truthfully being loved."