MuggleCast 447b Transcript
Transcript for MuggleCast Episode #447b, Why J.K. Rowling’s Tweet Was Transphobic and Hurtful
Andrew Sims: Hey everyone, Happy New Year, and welcome to another year of MuggleCast. We’re excited to have you listening in our 15th year of podcasting, wow. Today we have for you a chat about J.K. Rowling’s controversial tweet with a friend of ours named Rori, who’s transfemme. We spoke to Rori about why the tweet was hurtful to trans people and their allies. No matter how you feel about the tweet, we hope you learn something from this discussion and just hear out our point of view. We actually recorded this as part of Episode 448, but it ended up feeling like an episode in its own right, so we are releasing this special installment of MuggleCast a day before your regularly scheduled episode. And now the interview. We are joined by Rori, somebody we’ve known for a long time. Hi, Rori.
Rori Porter: Hi there. How are you?
Andrew: Yeah, good. How are you?
Rori: I am doing absolutely wonderful.
Andrew: Good. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Rori: Yeah, I’m 31. I’m transfemme, which means that, in slightly outdated terms, I’m male-to-female transgender. I work in advocacy in LA; I actually just recently started a new position with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
Andrew: Oh, nice.
Rori: So that’s what I’m doing right now. I also write online quite a bit. But just me as a whole, just kind of a nerd.
[Andrew and Eric laugh]
Andrew: And like I said, we’ve known you for a while. You’ve designed some awesome websites for us, including back when Twilight was a thing; I think we had you design TwilightSource.com, right?
Laura Tee: Oh, wow.
Rori: Oh, God. Yeah, I did that. I at one point designed MuggleCast.
Eric Scull: Nice.
Andrew: Oh, yeah. Which design was it?
Rori: It was real muddy. [laughs]
Andrew: Oh yeah, the brown one, yeah.
Rori: Yeah, yeah. It was a very rough-looking scrap of parchment or something. It’s certainly not to my design standard now.
Andrew: [laughs] Well, we all grow and change.
Rori: It’s not in my portfolio anymore. But it was for a very long time.
Andrew: Anyway, so back in late December, it’s the end of the year. We’re wrapping things up. We recorded two episodes of MuggleCast in advance just to get things out of the way. And then we all wake up one morning to this tweet from J.K. Rowling. It reads, “Dress however you please. Call yourself whatever you like. Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you. Live your best life in peace and security. But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real? #IStandWithMaya #ThisIsNotADrill.” On its face, I think a lot of people read the tweet and was like, “Oh, okay, J.K. Rowling is back tweeting something political, whatever. That’s what she does all the time.” I think a lot of us have come to maybe tune out a lot of what she says, too, [laughs] because it just became so much at some points. But then we started hearing people in the LGBT community and the transgender community be like, “Whoa, I can’t believe she just tweeted this.” So Rori, can you tell us what is this tweet in reference to, first of all?
Rori: Yeah, and actually, this tweet is kind of loaded. This tweet is designed to have you look at it and say, “Oh, this looks supportive.” “Love whoever you like, dress the way you want, consenting adult…” That’s all designed for you to look at it and not know that it’s messed up. When you start digging deep into it, these are things that are said by TERFs in a lot of online spaces that are designed to pull people into their movement, so that you don’t notice that you’re being pulled in by hate. So it sounds completely reasonable to say, “Dress the way you want, love who you want to love,” but then the “Sex is real” comment kind of flips it on its head, because that’s implying that trans people think that sex isn’t real. It definitely throws us off. It’s not starting a debate from a point of common understanding. There’s no good faith here.
Micah Tannenbaum: Do you mind just explaining what a TERF is?
Rori: Oh, yes, a TERF is a trans-exclusionary radical feminist. This is actually a name that they originally created for themselves on Tumblr back in the great Tumblr discourse wars of 2012.
[Andrew and Eric laugh]
Rori: And when trans people started actually calling them TERFs, because they were definitely using it and claiming it themselves and very proudly saying, “I am a trans-exclusionary…” whatever, when we started saying that to them as well and using it back harshly, they decided that it was a slur against them. And now they call themselves “gender critical.” Gender critical feminists, or gender critical radical feminists. And this is another means of hiding the hate within their movement under a facade of wokeness.
Andrew: Part of this… she is referring to this trial that occurred, and she hash tagged, “I stand with Maya.” What was this trial about? And what was the ruling?
Rori: Yeah, that’s actually one of the really interesting things about this, is how mischaracterized this trial was, that Maya Forstater was not fired even. She had a contract that was not renewed. And what happened was, she was working in a position of advocacy, and this was in the UK, and her employer found that she had been going on to Twitter and doxing and harassing trans women, particularly trans women, and basically trying to make them get off the platform. And I don’t have complete verification of this; I’ve just heard it anecdotally. But she was apparently using a work email, so there were some consequences. And when her employer found out that she was doing this, they just decided not to renew her contract. There was no firing involved. They had every right to do that. And especially in the UK, this kind of speech that Maya Forstater engages in isn’t protected under their laws, so in no way were any laws broken. And in no way was anybody abused except for the trans women that Maya Forstater went on Twitter to try to knock them off the platform.
Andrew and Eric: Yeah.
Eric: And there’s something in the UK called the Gender Recognition Act, and so Maya Forstater sued to have her comments be viewed as protected philosophical speech, I believe, is what it was.
Rori: Right. Yes.
Eric: But what happened was on the day that J.K. Rowling tweeted, the judge released a statement that favored the employer and said that, in short, she would “refer to a person by the sex she considered appropriate, even if it violated their dignity and creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment.” And the judge said that approach “is not worthy of respect in a democratic society.” So this amazing judge said, “There is no place for that behavior, basically, in the realm of advocacy, in the realm of doing what you’re doing. The workplace is completely reasonable in not renewing your contract.”
Rori: Exactly. And in my position in advocacy, if I went into a foundation and started speaking against, say, the homeless population of Los Angeles, that would not be a good look for me, and I would be fired immediately because that is who my organization serves. And that is completely within the bounds of that organization to say, “You do not represent us. You are going online and you are trashing what we do; we don’t want to be associated with you.” And I think that’s completely reasonable.
Laura: Yeah, at the bare minimum, we’re talking about somebody creating a toxic and hostile work environment. And I think that it’s the right of any organization, business or otherwise, to say, “Mm, you’re creating a hostile work environment,” or “You have the potential to do that, based on your behaviors outside of work, when you have this very public-facing role intended for this kind of advocacy. We’re not going to work with you anymore.”
Eric: So not only does this judge say “There’s no place for this in democratic society,” but J.K. Rowling decides to then break six months – nine months? – of Twitter hiatus, and create this Tweet with the hashtag “I stand with Maya.”
Rori: And I think, ultimately, Rowling throwing her support here is extremely disturbing, because this isn’t just transphobia. This is a transphobic movement. It exists online, it very closely mirrors the alt-right movement and how they groom young people. They catch young feminists when they’re in college, oftentimes, when they’re malleable, when they’re willing to follow an authoritative voice. And that’s really what’s so dangerous here, is that this movement is very strong, especially on Twitter and Reddit, and Rowling giving any legitimacy to that movement is frankly horrifying.
Andrew: Can you tell us why this is hurtful to not only transgendered people but the LGBT community and why this so goes against what we thought J.K. Rowling stood for in her books?
Rori: I mean, from my perspective, this is something I was raised with. They caught me at a Scholastic Book Fair, I got the Potter cult at age 10. So this is something that I’ve lived with for most of my life, 21 years, at least, of a Harry Potter fan, and internalizing those stories and really feeling them deeply. And also finding Harry Potter to be a very grounding place when I’m in bad times and bad mental health spaces, and that’s something that has been taken away from me personally. I can’t necessarily speak for the entire community, but I do know a lot of people feel this way that something that was very precious to us, that was grounding and gave us foundation and taught us a lot, has been taken away from us by the very icon that we idolized.
Rori: And it’s very hard to see people supporting her still. The discourse surrounding this has heated up to such an extent that my social spaces are uncomfortable to traverse through. Twitter is a hellscape.
Laura: And given the fact that J.K. Rowling has such wide influence, but particularly with youth populations, what’s the impact on trans kids of seeing somebody like this make this kind of comment?
Rori: I mean, I think trans kids are often in such a vulnerable state because we have to understand that when we say trans kids, we often mean trans closeted. These are kids who are sensitive and quiet, and you don’t necessarily know that something’s wrong until they’re gone. And that’s the problem I have with J.K. Rowling’s tweet, is that it’s so irresponsible toward these kids who are reading her stories and internalizing these messages, and then seeing her go and say that they’re invalid, that they’re not worthy. That is at such a formative formative age. When I was reading Harry Potter at age 10, if I had any sense of my gender, that would have been absolutely horrible. I don’t know how I would have internalized that at that age. I think it would have been fairly devastating to my psyche at that age.
Eric: There’s a direct reply to Rowling’s tweet I’d like to bring up because I think it also touches exactly on what we’re talking about. Princess Lily on Twitter says, “I grew up as a trans child reading your books as an escape. I would often pick out names from characters to give to myself, before I ever felt comfortable in who I was. This decision, to support people that hate me, and want to do me harm. It brings me to tears… Why. Why?”
Eric: Why? Why does J.K. Rowling use the hashtag “This is not a drill” to…?
Rori: Actually, that’s a good point. And that’s something I wanted to round about to eventually, is that “This is not a drill” is a TERF dog whistle for “We are literally going to war with the trans women.” That is what that means. And that is what those circles use it as, is that it is a call to action in a very, very visceral, violent way.
Andrew: It’s also just so hurtful because, like Rori, you said, we grow up with these books, and it teaches messages of inclusion, loving everybody. And then of course, J.K. Rowling has been an advocate for the LGBT community in several ways over the years. We’ve always wished that there were more gay characters present in the Harry Potter series; it never happened. Of course, she outed Dumbledore after the book was released. There was an opportunity, many people felt, in the Cursed Child; it didn’t happen there either. So we didn’t get what we really wanted. But she definitely seemed to be fully supportive of LGBT people, queer people on a whole, and then something like this… she’s just really pulling the rug out from under us.
Rori: And it does make you question all of her previous stances.
Rori: Not to minimize some of her advocacy, especially with children across the world and making sure that kids aren’t thrown into orphanages; I think that’s really a valid and wonderful thing that she’s taken on. That doesn’t make this better.
Andrew: Exactly. On December 19, when she wrote this tweet, a lot of people in the fandom – people you probably follow – all came out and said, “This is not okay, what J.K. Rowling did, and we’re really hurt by this.” The unity within the fandom that day was really special. That said, there are some people, including probably a bunch of our listeners – we did get some emails from people who wrote in and were trying to defend J.K. Rowling – who were on her side in that, “Let her voice her opinion. It’s not a big deal. She’s done a lot of good in the world.” But the stance on this panel here is what she said was hurtful, and it was disappointing.
Eric: I cannot support somebody with that level of a platform who kicks vulnerable people while they’re down. I can’t do it.
Rori: And just from my position – and this is an over-exaggeration of my place in society – but from the trenches looking at transphobia, I don’t see how people could continue supporting her and calling themselves allies. You have to pull your money. In our society, in our capitalistic society, one of the ways that you can vote best is with your dollar. And personally, the way that I’m moving forward is not by not engaging with the universe, not by not enjoying the Harry Potter stuff I already own, but by not paying further into it.
Eric: Yeah. And not to put too fine a point on it, but I was really taken by these comments and this whole event to really just remind myself that we as Harry Potter fans – or we do a weekly podcast on Harry Potter – as consumers of media and of this franchise and its global assets, everything, we’re in a constant dialogue with this. And really, this is true with any show, any book, anything that we engage with; we are constantly consciously choosing to pay for it and to invest in it. And you know what? This is a conversation where we can stop. We can stop buying these things. We can stop supporting these people whose views are so hateful. We can do it.
Andrew: Honestly, I’m still going to be buying things. Obviously, we’re still doing this podcast. Us here on the panel, maybe not Rori, we’ll be seeing the next couple of Fantastic Beasts movies and whatever comes next.
Rori: I mean, I’m looking up at my fourth edition of the Jim Kay Harry Potter illustrated versions. I’m not sure that I can’t not buy the fifth one.
Andrew: Oh, there you go.
Rori: I need to complete my set.
Eric: But it’s a struggle.
Rori: And that’s the balance that we’re dealing with right now, yeah.
Eric: But yeah, it’s an individual choice, and it’s all really, really difficult. But you guys, this is going to stop me from buying shit. Honestly, it will. I’ll see the movie; we need to talk about it on the podcast. I’m really not going to directly support JKR. I’m not going to buy the next Strike novel; I’m just not going to do it. I don’t care enough.
Andrew: How I’m going to cope with this is I think it’s time to separate the art from the artist. It’s about the fandom for me now, interacting with everybody through the podcast, going to fan events, seeing friends that I’ve known forever from time to time, socializing with them more, enjoying the stories that J.K. Rowling is writing. But I think it’s time to face the music that J.K. Rowling is a 50-something-year-old woman who has very different views and whose views may not change in our lifetime. And remember, this isn’t the first time that she’s suggested that she’s transphobic. She has followed people on Twitter who have a history of being transphobic. She has liked transphobic tweets. She also…
Rori: Yeah, and in her other books. She’s also had a few transphobic characterizations, particularly in the Robert Galbraith books, and I think in The Casual Vacancy.
Andrew: Yes, that’s true. She has also insulted the Native American community. She has been doing things that are very problematic. This was the most blatant of them all, though. To return to Twitter… the other thing is – this is getting more gossipy now – but why this? You were stewing over this so much that you had to go and tweet about it? Just sometimes I seriously wonder if J.K. Rowling has friends.
Rori: Well, part of this is, I think, this is the discourse around trans people that’s happening in the UK right now. The divide over there is much more volatile.
Andrew: But can’t she just text one of her friends, like, “I cannot believe what is happening with this trial”?
Micah: Well, that’s what I said to you, though, I think, Andrew. I don’t think that makes it any better, though. I mean, if she does it under this guise of just, “Oh, I’m going to text this woman who I’m supporting,” or “I’m going to find a way to reach out behind the scenes,” it doesn’t make it any better, because she still feels this way. And going back to book references, I don’t really know what to make of it, but let’s not forget that in Prisoner of Azkaban the way that Neville deals with his boggart is to imagine Professor Snape in his grandmother’s clothes. So I don’t know if there’s any kind of subtext going on there as well.
Rori: It’s definitely a little something in there, yeah. That definitely betrays a little… the “man in a dress is funny” trope definitely was probably the first thing that betrayed her. We just didn’t notice it because we were kids.
Micah: Right, but I just wanted to go back to… I think, Rori, you explained it really well, because when I first read the tweet, being completely honest, I didn’t really think much of it. I had to dig and quite honestly listen to other people’s responses and educate myself. But I guess…
Rori: That really is truly what’s so insidious about it is that to understand the tweet, you either have to already understand where she’s coming from, or you have to do some research. And a lot of people aren’t willing to do that, so they don’t see the problem.
Laura: I personally found… you talked about how the language at the beginning of the tweet is intentionally misleading, and on its face, it does seem positive and inclusive. But to me, when I first read it, I was like, “Okay, so you think that being trans is just about dressing how you want?”
Andrew: Right. That also cheapens it.
Laura: Yeah, it’s so dismissive and so flippant that I was like, “Eugh.”
Rori: Yeah, that’s actually a really common thing to corner trans women about is like, “Oh, you have acrylic nails. Do you think that’s all being a woman is?” I’m like, “Yes. Yes, I do. Absolutely. 100%.”
Rori: “All my 31 years of life on this planet have culminated in my gender being acrylic nails.”
Andrew: Some people might grapple with transgender people, they may not understand it, including maybe some of our listeners. And the way I think of it and the way I explain it to other people sometimes, especially the older generations… a lot of them just don’t get it. Trans people are not as welcomed as gay people are in today’s society. And even 10, 15, 20 years ago, obviously gay people weren’t very welcomed, either. But the way I explain it to people is to think about somebody who has decided to come out as gay. They just have this burning feeling deep inside them that they are attracted to people of the same sex. And Rori, correct me if I’m wrong, but trans people feel the same way, that they just have this desire that they are a different gender. You can’t shake this feeling; it is just what is inside of you. It is a part of you. Nobody wants to have to go through the coming out process. It’s incredibly hard. But they do it because they know there’s no other way.
Rori: Well, that’s a huge thing, is that that’s a huge part of the trans experience for a lot of people. And then for a lot of people, the trans experience is being super confused about gender. I actually didn’t have a concept of gender for a long time; I didn’t understand it. I didn’t understand the binary nature of it. So when I found that I was attracted to men, I really was like, “I must be gay,” and then just went that direction for a while until I was like, “Oh, wait, this is not the path. This is not who I am,” and started unlocking a lot of issues. Because trauma also can freeze people’s gender identity in place and not really know what’s going on, so it’s really complex. And that’s part of why Rowling’s situation is so hard to look at, is because for a lot of us, this identity is really hard fought. This has come with a lot of therapy for me; I had to go through years of therapy to realize that I was trans. It was so repressed. So some people do definitely have really emergent trans characteristics, like the kid who comes out at 3 really distinctly trans, but for a lot of us, it’s not that cut and dry.
Laura: It also seems, too, just… because I did my own research on this as well, just to really try and understand the full scope and the full context behind this tweet. And it seemed like a lot of, and they were women interacting with J.K. Rowling, who agreed with her, were also coming from a place of seemingly feeling threatened by trans women being considered women and having that distinction and that class assigned to them. I know you mentioned in the UK, things are a bit more contentious than here in the States. But is that something that you’ve seen as well?
Rori: I’ve definitely seen a lot of that backlash toward trans women wanting to be in women’s spaces. That’s actually happened to friends of mine in Los Angeles, who are comedians who went into a women’s-only standup space, and were not well received. So I’ve definitely seen that, where… and honestly, it’s usually cis white feminists who push back on this idea of trans women entering their spaces. They think that it’s a violation; I’ve seen that mentality come across quite a lot. Quite a lot. I’ve also seen it just passively directed at me, throughout my life, so it’s definitely real. It’s a little disconcerting because from my perspective, we need to be creating spaces that are fully inclusive, and making them completely focused on the uterus is really backwards.
Eric: I mean, it’s all a commentary against cis male toxic masculinity, right?
Rori: Right, and it tries to lump trans women in with that, even though we’re not men.
Eric: No. Exactly.
Andrew: So I was really expecting an apology from J.K. Rowling because the backlash was so huge, unlike ever before. And I mean, this was getting coverage everywhere. And this is typically what you see happen: The person who has gotten themself in deep trouble decides to apologize. And I thought that since even if J.K. Rowling didn’t want to apologize and the apology wasn’t authentic, I thought team J.K. Rowling would talk her into it…
Andrew: … just from business perspective, because we’re talking about buying things now going forward. I think this hurts the theme parks. I think it hurts the play. This is awful for the play that’s putting on this nightly show. [laughs] I think it’s also hurtful to the movies and people’s interest in continuing to watch them. So I thought we would at least get a fake apology, but we did not even get that. And I think J.K. Rowling just does not care. It’s sad because she’s hurting people, and I think she knows she’s hurting people now, and she’s still not apologizing. That’s crazy.
Micah: What do you think is worse, though? Is not saying anything after making this comment worse, or is an apology worse?
Andrew: That she doesn’t mean?
Rori: Yeah, if we got an apology, it would definitely be a PR thing. It wouldn’t be an actual apology. So I don’t think that it would be received well by the trans community, to be honest.
Eric: But not even Warner Bros., not even several other people that she’s working with are issuing statements saying “I disagree with this.” I mean, a lot of the…
Rori: Oh yeah, I’ve been paying attention to even Harry Potter cast members to see what they’re saying.
Eric: See, Emma Watson…
Rori: I was very impressed with Emma Watson, but we need to hear from a few people.
Eric: Yeah, Emma Watson had a huge thing. So has Emma released a statement?
Andrew and Rori:: No.
Rori: Just has in the past supported trans people.
Eric: I mean, that’s the thing, is I want to see the Emma Watson rebuke of J.K. Rowling’s latest… or I just want to know that Emma called Jo and said, “Hey, Jo, not cool.” Because people… what Rori said, I think, is really important. How can you continue to support J.K. Rowling and call yourself an ally to LGBT people?
Eric: I think that’s a question I struggle with.
Rori: I mean, me too, just as a trans person, because I’m not sure… I certainly can’t judge people for continuing to go enjoy these movies or books or whatever, when I’m still going to, in some way, engage in this content because I refuse to have it taken away from me.
Andrew: Yeah. So GLAAD said they reached out to J.K. Rowling’s people and offered to sit down with J.K. Rowling to educate her, and GLAAD said that representatives turned them down.
Andrew: And not just ignore them, turned them down. And that is pretty shocking. Eric, you mentioned Emma. I think what has to happen… you said Emma needs to call her. I think that is exactly what needs to happen. Who could possibly change J.K. Rowling’s mind and educate her? She doesn’t want to listen to GLAAD. She doesn’t want to listen to Twitter. So somebody who is very well versed on this topic, who she knows, who she trusts… I think Emma is the perfect person. And maybe that has happened.
Rori: Actually, I would love to take this time to actually note that as a trans person, I have very limited platform and voice here. Even though this is something that affects my community and not yours, you guys have more power than I do as cis people, as cis allies, to benefit the trans community. And honestly, that’s what we need right now, is we need you guys to be doing this podcast.
Eric: That’s exactly it. Well, and that’s the thing about Emma; she’s still a straight presenting cis white female…
Eric: … who would be correcting Jo on her beliefs. Because you know that Jo is intolerant enough that she wouldn’t listen to a trans woman on the subject, or a trans man. Jackson Bird wrote a wonderful article for the New York Times following this called “Harry Potter Helped Me Come Out as Trans, but J.K. Rowling Disappointed Me.” Huge, right? And these are the kinds of things… and in his article, Jack calls for J.K. Rowling to, like, “Hey, come talk to us. We really want to have a discussion.” And you just get the sense that it’s not going to happen. I mean, I did not expect to end 2019 with Chick-Fil-A up and J.K. Rowling down.
Andrew: Right, yeah. [laughs]
Eric: I did not expect that to be the last blunder of the year.
Andrew: And honestly, we put out that Decade in Review episode after this happened, and I just felt really crappy putting that out. Here we are celebrating the decade, and we talk about J.K. Rowling making some really nice comments and all that when the movie series ended. I was embarrassed to be a Harry Potter fan that week.
Rori: I mean, but who could predict that?
Andrew: I know.
Rori: I mean, our community definitely knew that something like this was coming. We didn’t know that it was going to be this blatant.
Rori: But it definitely wasn’t… I don’t think anybody was expecting her to come out this hard, this firmly, in favor of TERFism.
Laura: And Rori, we’ve been talking a lot about the impact this has. You’ve also mentioned that as cis people, we have the platform to be able to confront people like J.K. Rowling about things like this. And I’m curious, from your perspective – because I think everybody would have a different take on this – but in your estimation, is there actually anything J.K. Rowling could do to regain trust?
Rori: I think that there’s a certain part of the community that she’s absolutely cut off forever. There’s some people who will just not trust an apology from her. I think I would have a hard time trusting her apology. But it would really depend on the nature of it; it would depend on how it was issued. Her words would be really important, because we’re dealing with a writer; she can seem sincere. So I mean, it’s actually really hard to say at this point. I don’t know if I would be able to take her seriously. Depending on her tone, just because this is such a history, that one apology wouldn’t actually be enough, I think. I think that it would take quite a lot of action on her part for the trans community, doing action within our community, to fix this. This is going to take some work on her part, or she’s just going to end up being lumped as a TERF for the rest of her life.
Andrew: I’m also thinking she’s just hoping in this 24-hour news cycle that we’re all just going to forget about it, but I don’t think we are. For the next few decades we’re just going to see J.K. Rowling from time to time pop up with some batshit political view on her Twitter account, and then we’re going to be like, “Oh, there goes Grandma again, losing her mind.”
Andrew: “Anyway, what else is going on today?” I really think that’s what’s going to happen now.
Rori: And honestly, I think that’s the best case scenario for the fandom at this point, is just to cut the author off.
Andrew: I will continue to enjoy the stories that are produced, and it’s going to happen for decades to come. But I said earlier, I think now I am ignoring J.K. Rowling.
Laura: Yeah, I mean, I don’t even…
Rori: Certainly not following her on Twitter.
Laura: Yeah. I actually have never followed her on Twitter.
Andrew: Oh, really?
Micah: Oh, I thought I started that trend.
Laura: Yeah, this was a happy coincidence for me. And it just so happened December 19 was my birthday, and I woke up to the Internet blowing up about this tweet, and I was like, “Jesus Christ, J.K. Rowling. What are you doing? Stop.”
Eric: Yeah, we posted on MuggleCast the “Happy Birthday, Laura” post and then an hour later had to completely…
Andrew: “We stand with the trans community.”
Eric: Yeah, oh my God.
Rori: Well, honestly, I have to say that you guys posting stuff like that has been super appreciated because it lets me know, it lets the trans community know, where you stand immediately. I got on Twitter because of this, and I’ve only followed people after going through their profile and seeing that they commented something against J.K. Rowling before following them.
Rori: In the Potter community, I want to see you make a stand one way or the other, so I know where you’re at.
Eric: That’s what J.K. Rowling taught us, right? I mean, make a stand, stand up for what you believe, be yourself…
Eric: That’s why in our tweet, we said, “You are valid.” J.K. Rowling was trying to invalidate an entire swath of oppressed people and marginalized individuals in a global community. And that, it’s unforgivable.
Andrew: And in this fandom, we’ve all got each other’s backs. We all are there for each other. We accept everybody. And that’s why this is such a problem, J.K. Rowling’s tweet. I came out to only Harry Potter friends, people I met through the fandom, in those early years. If I didn’t have the Harry Potter fandom, I don’t know how on earth I would have come out. I didn’t know any other gay people or gay allies in the late 2000s, the early 2000s, I guess I should say. The Harry Potter fandom was there for me, and nobody judged me, and that meant everything. Because when you’re first coming out, you need to put people on your team, so to speak. People on your side, so you can say, “Oh, okay, maybe now it’s time to come out to my parents, because I have enough people on the good team, on the people I’ve already come out to, so they’ve got my back if things were to go wrong.” You need those allies, and the Harry Potter fandom is just one big group of allies. And so for the leader, the creator of that fandom, to come out and be so transphobic and so blatant with it and just decide to tweet about it in the first place, it’s like, “Whoa.”
Rori: Well, and it’s so interesting to look back on that community that formed in the early days of Harry Potter that was so queer-friendly. It was actually really an amazing thing at the time, because like you, I didn’t have anything else like that.
Rori: And it’s actually really poetic to think back on the fact that J.K. Rowling created her own detractors.
Andrew: [laughs] Right. You made us this way, J.K. Rowling!
Rori: And that’s actually one of the things that you look back, and like, “Oh my gosh, how much of that was just calculated because she wanted to have a fun message, a nice message in her stories? And how much of that was real?”
Rori: It’s hard to parse out now.
Andrew: Yeah, yeah.
Eric: Hypocrisy is not a good look on anybody, and we don’t need more of it in this world.
Andrew: All right, anything else we want to address here? Or Rori, anything else you want to say?
Rori: I just want to say this is super nostalgic, coming back on the show after… I was a teenager living in my mom’s house when I was on this show last time.
Andrew: Oh, man. Do you remember what episode that was?
Rori: I have no idea.
Andrew: I’m searching now.
Rori: I know that it was at a point when you guys were just going through the books and reviewing them chapter by chapter.
Laura: Hey, that’s what we’re doing now.
Micah: We’re still doing that.
Andrew: It was Episode 96 you were on, titled “More Shows, More Problems.”
Rori: [laughs] Nice.
Andrew: More tweets, more problems. That’s the title of this episode. [laughs]
Eric: Ugh. True.
Rori: And of a note, my old name is on that episode.
Rori: So it’s available, but don’t go spreading it, folks.
Andrew: Got it.
Rori: But if you aren’t curious, it’s there. It was a whole meme.
Andrew: [laughs] If people want to learn more about trans people, or I don’t know, the LGBT community, are there any good resources you would recommend for further reading?
Rori: Yes, my favorite resource on the Internet is TransStudent.org, and they have a really wonderful visual representation of gender, sex, sexual orientation; what the differences are. Similar to if you’ve ever seen the Genderbread Man, this is the Gender Unicorn.
Andrew: [gasps] Yes.
Rori: And it is a wonderfully designed piece that helps people understand these complexities.
Andrew: This is great. Because gender is on a spectrum; it’s not binary. And the Gender Unicorn teaches you that, and the Gender Unicorn is so cute.
Rori: And that’s the thing that a lot of people don’t realize, that sex is different, gender is different, sexual orientation… these are all very separate entities that come together, and they mesh together, but they don’t necessarily feed off each other.
Andrew: Yeah. And you also wrote a piece on Medium; we’ll include a link to that in the show notes. It’s titled, “This Is Not a Drill: It’s Time to Cancel J.K. Rowling.” And there’s a whole discussion to be said about cancel culture, and I know you are typically not for cancel culture, but why did you say that? Why did you say she needs to be canceled?
Rori: Honestly, it’s because I woke up that morning and rolled over to “J.K. Rowling tweets…” and I was angry. And I wrote that piece out, and it was definitely a very honest, emotive, just anger that I put to the page. And there’s a little more nuance to my stance; I haven’t included in that piece that I’m not going to judge people for continuing to engage in this universe. I’m not actually telling people “You have to cancel J.K. Rowling or you’re not an ally. You suck.” That’s not the message I’m trying to actually portray, but that is kind of how people are reading that piece. I’m not editing it because I think that it is valid in its own right, and I think that it creates a really good discussion around cancel culture, and who we should be canceling and who we shouldn’t. Should we be canceling a teenage YouTuber? Or should we be canceling a 50-year-old white woman who is abusing her platform?
Rori: So yeah, that piece has actually generated more interest than I expected it to. It didn’t get picked up by Medium, but it has been shared in a lot of Antifa spaces, so it’s making its rounds. And I am happy with that. Because I think that even though I hardline the position that I do agree with, but I think it’s a little over the top, I think that it creates a really, really healthy discussion around cancel culture, around who should be canceled, around what we’re actually allowing our public figures to be doing without recourse.
Andrew: Yeah. All right, so we will include a link to that in the show notes, like I said, if anybody wants to read it. Okay, Rori, thank you so much for coming on. We really appreciate your insight and your time.
Rori: Yeah, thank you for having me. I really appreciate it. And I appreciate you guys still doing this. How many years have you been doing this?
Andrew: This will be your 15th year.
Andrew: Yeah, I know, right? [laughs]
Rori: That is nuts.
Andrew: Yeah. But yeah, it’s been great to talk to you again, too, after all these years. Under unfortunate circumstances, but…
Rori: I’m sure, yeah, there hopefully will be a better time to have me on in the future. But for now, this is where I need to be.
Andrew: “Can you believe J.K. Rowling’s perfect apology? Wow, she did it!”
Rori: I would love to be on for that episode.
Andrew: If she apologizes, we’ll definitely have you back on because I want to know how you interpreted it, so we’ll see.
Rori: Oh, yeah, I can’t wait to analyze that non-apology.
Andrew: [laughs] We’ll be analyzing it like it’s a Harry Potter book.