KATE EMERY: Does JK Rowling’s anti-trans rant about Scottish hate law make her Harry Potter or Lord Voldemort?

Kate Emery
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Is JK Rowling shaping up to be a Harry Potter or a Voldemort when it comes to the issue of trans rights?
Is JK Rowling shaping up to be a Harry Potter or a Voldemort when it comes to the issue of trans rights? Credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros Pictures/Courtesy of Warner Bros Pictures

JK Rowling’s public attack on Scotland’s new anti-hate speech law is a bummer for any Harry Potter fan who isn’t threatened by the existence of transwomen.

It’s a particular bummer for me that they come just as my daughter is exploring the glorious fictional world Rowling created, with its message about the ability of love and compassion to triumph over hate and fear.

Rowling’s concern appears to be that the new law, which makes “stirring up hatred” on the basis of someone’s age, religion, disability or gender identity (race was already protected) a crime, is an attack on free speech. The Scottish Government is expected to pursue a separate anti-misogyny law to protect women.

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She expressed that concern in a social media rant lumping violent criminals, like a male rapist who changed gender while awaiting trial (but was ultimately housed in a men’s prison anyway), in with transwomen activists and declaring them all “men, every last one of them”. She said Scottish police should arrest her if she had committed a crime.

As a long-time admirer of Rowling’s work and philanthropy, I gave her the benefit of the doubt years ago when she first expressed concerns that the trans-rights movement might threaten the rights of girls and women. I thought she was wrong but coming from a well-intentioned place.

Watching her become radicalised into someone who has publicly supported Posie Parker, an anti-trans demagogue masquerading as a feminist, and uses her considerable platform to attack society’s most vulnerable has been bleak.

I don’t know if Rowling’s latest comments fall foul of the new Scottish law. But they are, at best, needlessly cruel and, at worst, dangerous.

Anti-trans hate crimes are on the rise across the UK, the US and Australia.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29: JK Rowling attends the "Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore" world premiere at The Royal Festival Hall on March 29, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images for Warner Bros.)
JK Rowling challenged Scottish police to arrest her for her comments. Credit: Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images for Warner Bros.

One in two trans Australians experienced some form of hate and one in ten experienced violence in the past year, according to a 2023 report by the Trans Justice Project and the Victorian Pride Lobby. As a straight, cis woman I experience a tiny fraction of it in the form of online abuse every time I express my support for trans rights.

The reality is that transwomen remain overwhelmingly more likely to be a victim of violence than its perpetrator and Rowling, a smart person, surely knows this.

Those victims include Brianna Ghey, the 16-year-old British transgender girl murdered last year in a premeditated attack and whose killers, the judge who sentenced them found, were motivated at least in part by her transgender identity.

Rowling is not going to be the one stabbing a trans teenager, abusing a trans person in the street or bullying a trans kid to suicide.

But her words risk emboldening those who would.

Free speech is important. So is protecting people’s rights not to be abused, attacked or killed because of who they are.

I don’t know if the new Scottish law, which seems reasonable enough to me on paper, has got that difficult balance right.

I do know that whipping up fear and outrage against a group already at risk of violence, in order to protest something you don’t like, is not the answer.

Perhaps Rowling needs to re-read her own back catalogue and consider if she’s the Harry Potter or the Lord Voldemort in this story.

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