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JK Rowling Turned Me Trans

Like many a “zillenial,” I grew up obsessed with Harry Potter. I inhaled the books by torchlight past my bedtime. I clapped in the cinema as the credits of Deathly Hallows rolled. I went to Watford for the studio tour, then Florida to visit Hogsmeade. Been there, done that, bought the movie-accurate replica wand. I collected the stickers, played the video games and tie-in edition Cluedo, contested my sorting hat decision on Pottermore (I wanted Ravenclaw, it said Hufflepuff.) I was a menace at pub quizzes; I could remember Ernie MacMillan’s patronus form off the top of my head (you probably don’t even know who that is.) Basically, I was a Dumbledore quote tattoo away from a Tumblr starter pack bingo.

But unlike most boys my age, I didn’t see myself in brave Harry, funny Ron, or handsome Cedric. I was more interested in intelligent Hermione, fiery Ginny, and elegant Fleur. But the characters I gravitated towards the most were Luna Lovegood and Nymphadora Tonks.

Luna was undeniably quirky. She wore eccentric clothes, radish earrings, winged blue and pink lensed “spectrespecs” that allowed her to see “wrackspurts” - invisible creatures that “float in through your eyes and make your brain go fuzzy.” She was described as having a dazed, dreamy look on her face, with “silvery,” “misty” eyes. She didn’t care about anyone’s opinions. Her father was a political dissenter who she supported wholeheartedly. She expressed herself how she wanted, fully immersed in her interests, facing ridicule from students who nicknamed her “Loony Lovegood.” She was whimsical but robust in her support of her friends, fighting bravely alongside them during several intense battles. Now, when I leave the house presenting as feminine, I often think of Luna, and try to embody her carefree, fairy-like wonder. Luna reminds me of many transfeminine people I know, with her unique manifestation of femininity and resistance to mockery.

Tonks was stubborn and cheeky. An important member of the second Order of the Phoenix, she was a strong and capable witch. Aesthetically, she was known for her bubble-gum-pink hair. She was a “metamorphmagus,” meaning she could transform her physical attributes at will. Experimenting frequently with her hair, she made it short violet spikes, waist-long tomato-red locks, or white-blonde curls. She could turn her nose to resemble other peoples’ or mimic animals’ anatomy, like pigs or ducks. She could change her height and appear elderly. At no point in the books does it say whether Tonks could change her genitalia or gender, but I like to imagine that she could, and would enjoy transforming into a man whenever she felt like it.

I still have a fantasy of being able to shapeshift like Tonks. In a sense, many trans people are shape shifters, with hormones redistributing fat and changing muscle mass levels, breast tissue growing, clitorises engorging, penises and testicles shrinking. And that doesn’t even include any surgeries one may want, if they can afford it.

It is worth mentioning that when Tonks is depressed after the death of her cousin Sirius Black and the rejection of her romantic advances by Remus Lupin, her metamorphmagus abilities are stinted. Her hair reverts to its natural mousey-brown colour, and she struggles to transform her facial features. When I’m down, I find it hard to muster the energy to shave, do my makeup, choose a nice outfit, and above all face the bigotry of strangers on the street. During my most mentally unstable period, when even the thought of leaving my bedroom overwhelmed me, I spent weeks on end wearing the same black T-shirt and grey jogging bottoms. I suppose the troubles of the world have a way of sucking the magic out of all of us.


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Could JK Rowling be trans?


Consider the evidence: she used her initials for the Harry Potter books. She writes adult detective books under a male pen name, Robert Galbraith. Harry Potter is dominated by male characters and charts the experience of a boy becoming a man. In her 2020 essay defending her beliefs on trans rights, she admitted that “if I’d been born 30 years later, I too might have tried to transition. The allure of escaping womanhood would have been huge.” (1)


These are not thoughts that cis people have. No one can be “turned” trans – it is something inside you, waiting to be recognised. There’s no point psychoanalysing what “causes” someone to be that way, but JK tried nonetheless: “I believe I could have been persuaded to turn myself into the son my father had openly said he’d have preferred.”


In her essay, she frequently makes clear that (in her opinion) young people’s transness is born out of insecurity and alienation. In her perfect world, trans people wouldn’t exist, because everyone would be confident and happy in their own skin. She’s also obsessed with biology and bodies, terrified that “we are watching a new kind of conversion therapy for young gay people, who are being set on a lifelong path of medicalisation that may result in the loss of their fertility and/or full sexual function.”


In her mind, the thought of fewer people getting pregnant, and fewer people using their sexual organs as biology intended, is disastrous, apocalyptic. To her, the only thing worse than a trans person in general is a trans woman who chooses not to medically transition. “The current explosion of trans activism is urging a removal of almost all the robust systems through which candidates for sex reassignment were once required to pass,” she writes. “A man who intends to have no surgery and take no hormones may now secure himself a Gender Recognition Certificate and be a woman in the sight of the law.”


This is what scares her the most – men exploiting such legislature to invade women’s spaces such as toilets and changing rooms and assaulting women. Essentially, her whole argument goes back to I was assaulted by a man and I see trans women as men so I don’t want them to have the same rights as biological women. But whilst this incident is awful, Rowling has never experienced the other side of that situation. I’ve been out at pubs or restaurants, wearing a dress and makeup, and had to choose between being seen as a pervert and potential rapist in the women’s toilet, or a pervert and a target for violence in the men’s.

The most interesting thing about Rowling’s essay is that she comes so close to reaching the level of gender awareness that almost all trans people have. “When I read about the theory of gender identity,” she writes, “I remember how mentally sexless I felt in youth.” This mirrors my epiphany when I first realised I was non-binary. Once I recognised the performativity of gender, I realised that I’d never really felt like I had a gender, only the attributes I chose to fit into certain groups.


JK is also aware that the trans issue has become increasingly pressing due to medical advancement and cultural shifts. “I didn’t have a realistic possibility of becoming a man back in the 1980s,” she says, implying that she would’ve if given the choice. But instead, made bitter by the lack of options, she had no choice but to accept her biological sex, reframe this entrapment as feminist liberation and empowerment, and then end up writing detective novels about a male serial killer who dresses up as a woman and hunts women in public toilets. (2)

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Joanne Kathleen, if you’re reading this, one day I’d love to sit down with you.

I’ll thank you for the hours of joy your books gave me as a child, and for what they later helped me realise about myself.

And in return, I’ll set you free.

On behalf of the community, I’ll forgive you.

Because deep down, we both know, you’re one of us.

It’s not the 1980s anymore.

There are millions of us around the world, and we’re here to help you.

It doesn’t matter that you’re 57.

You’re rich enough to afford all the hormones and surgeries you want.

You can legally change your name to Robert.

I’ll take you by the hand, lead you into the men’s toilet, and we can piss side by side at the stinking urinal, me with my ready-made penis after lifting up my maxi dress, you with your bespoke transplant.

Afterwards, we’ll wash our hands, and laugh about how you used to spread lies and hatred to your millions of admirers, enabling bigots to come out of the shadows and feel validated.

Because I was transphobic once, before I knew I was trans.

Don’t worry, Robert.

I’ll give you a big hug and you’ll cry into my shoulder, sobbing I’m sorry I’m sorry I didn’t realise and then I’ll give you a short haircut and we’ll go charity shopping for a new suit.


 

(1) JK Rowling, JK Rowling Writes About Her Reasons for Speaking Out on Sex and Gender Issues, jkrowling.com (10.06.2020).


(2) Troubled Blood (2020) has sold hundreds of thousands of copies, and will be made into a BBC TV series.

 

Harper Walton is a writer based in London. They were born in Bath and grew up in the West Country. They studied English Literature at Queen Mary University and have a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from the Paris School of Arts and Culture. Their work takes form in personal essays, poetry, short stories, novellas and novels.

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