J.K. Rowling’s TERF legacy

By Rachel Choi, Multimedia Managing Editor, Chief Copy Editor

J.K. Rowling, possibly the most renowned TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) to exist within our youth’s cultural sphere, has been given yet another money bag through her new role-playing video game “Hogwarts Legacy,” based on her New York Times best-selling book series “Harry Potter.”

The game’s release conveniently reminds consumers of her own troubling legacy, and why you should refuse to support a bigoted hypocrite who had the potential to remain a solid legend if she had just kept her mouth shut.

J.K. Rowling’s transphobia became apparent in 2017, when she liked a tweet (of course this all started on Twitter) that criticized the trans rights movement. In 2018, she liked another tweet that called trans women “men in dresses.” After multiple comments and retweets with negative backlash from her fans on Twitter, she quickly backpedaled, claiming that she had “accidentally” liked the tweets. 

From there, things only got worse. 

In 2020, Rowling really let it rip when she retweeted an op-ed published by Devex, a social enterprise and media platform. The headline read, “Creating a more equal post COVID-19 world for those who menstruate,” to which Rowling very maturely replied, “‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?’” 

It was then that Rowling started to truly embrace her TERF identity. Following her pathetic attempt at political criticism, Rowling tweeted a blog post intelligently captioned “TERF wars.” 

In this unnecessarily long manifesto, she talked about her worries “about the new trans activism,” and how this so-called new trans activism was “erod[ing] the legal definition of sex and replac[ing] it with gender.” She also wrote in length about her fear for the safety of “natal girls and women,” because, according to her original argument in this manifesto, “throw[ing] open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman” would put vulnerable women—cisgender women—in precarious situations. 

Her transphobia has not stopped since then. It’s in the midst of this transphobic tirade that Avalanche Software scheduled their latest video game, “Hogwarts Legacy,” for release on Feb. 10. The game is set in the same universe as “Harry Potter,” and revolves around a customizable protagonist who, in the midst of their 5th year, becomes the new hero of Hogwarts by investigating and crushing a goblin rebellion. 

Just to provide a little backstory for those unfamiliar with the famous-turned-infamous “Harry Potter” series, goblins are a cunning race of magical beings who are successful bankers by trade. However, they’re seen as inferior to humans, and as such are expected to be subservient—do you see where this is going? It’s not really about defeating goblins. The game is about squandering the rebellion of an oppressed race all while having a blast exploring the wondrous halls of Hogwarts.

The goblins themselves have been criticized as antisemitic caricatures of Jewish people. The movies really exemplify Rowling’s reliance on stereotypes—goblins are depicted as short, beady-eyed, bearded, large-and-hook-nosed, and wearing suits. This depiction is scarily reminiscent of many different antisemitic pieces of literature, like “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” a book literally meant to spread lies and generate as much hate for Jews as possible. 

“Hogwarts Legacy” turns these antisemitic caricatures into antagonists, reinforcing Rowling’s depictions of them as subservient and inferior, and making the player crack down on their attempts at a rebellion. It’s quite the metaphor.

The world of “Harry Potter” isn’t just antisemitic—it’s a race-centric universe with racist terminology and ideals. Like when non-magical individuals born into magical families are classified as “Squibs,” or any non-pureblood wizards are deemed “Mudbloods,” a derogatory slur used against Muggles—non-magical humans who are classified as subhumans—by pureblood wizards. Not to mention the orientalism-based views, such as Arthur Weasely finding Muggles exotic and miraculous for living without using magic. It even portrays pro-slavery sentiments like through the house elves, who serve wizards, denying their own freedom and preferring to remain enslaved. 

The thing is, while being transphobic, Rowling has also created a world that—beneath the surface level—is riddled with bigoted views that are slowly but surely being noticed by the average reader.

“Hogwarts Legacy” is a video game that’s based on these bigoted views, and buying the game, or any books of Rowling’s at this point, is giving her the money and agency to continue being just as bigoted. Her influence in contemporary media—from books, to movies, to video games—enables her to command internet users, especially those who already hold prejudiced views, to continue to spread misinformation that directly affects marginalized communities.

Her more recent books resulted in extreme backlash, specifically “Troubled Blood,” released in 2020—ironically just around the same time she openly admitted to being a TERF. “Troubled Blood” is a mystery/thriller and the fifth novel in her “Cormoran Strike” series. The book’s antagonist is a serial killer who likes to dress up as a woman to lure women into a fake sense of security. 

For the record, the idea that men will dress up as women in order to enter their bathrooms, as Rowling believes, or gain their trust to assault them is both outdated and holds no statistical merit. In fact, it’s usually the opposite—a survey conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality in 2016,  revealed that 12 percent of transgender individuals who used public restrooms faced verbal harassment from cisgender people, 1 percent were physically attacked, and 1 percent were sexually assaulted. 

In the United Kingdom, an estimated 262,000 people identified as trans as of 2023. This estimate is the first time the UK government has made an actual evaluation on the population of transgender people in the country. Around 53 percent of them reported hate crimes or other related incidents from cisgender individuals. The stats say that it’s not trans people putting cis people in danger; rather it’s cis people purposely committing hate crimes against trans individuals in the name of fighting against, as Rowling puts it, “the eroding of sex.”

When it comes to the facts, Rowling’s insistence that trans people, specifically trans women, are a threat to “natal women” is unfounded.

Archaic transphobic sentiments veiled with colorful words and maliciously crafted text came to encompass Rowling’s identity on the internet. Now? She’s still as transphobic as ever. Her Twitter is a jumble of retweets and tweets about trans people, carefully cherry-picked to only share posts that fearmonger and spread misinformation—like a 2020 tweet claiming that she is “watching a new kind of conversion therapy for young gay people” when referring to hormonal treatment.

I grew up being a huge “Harry Potter” fan. I prided myself on being a Slytherin, on shipping Drarry (let’s not talk about that anymore), and on knowing all the answers to the trivia questions. I found comfort in the mundane moments between the heroic endeavors of the wizarding world, and the warmth of rereading a book that had taken up much of my childhood. I was excited about “Hogwarts Legacy” when it was first announced—but reality bounced back to me.

Knowing the scope of Rowling’s shortcomings and her prejudiced views makes it impossible for me to truly enjoy her works like I used to. That’s why I refuse to buy “Hogwarts Legacy.” I’m instead satisfying my nostalgic appetite with the upcoming “Percy Jackson” television show.

I think it’s about time for you, whether or not you love “Harry Potter,” to look at Rowling through an objective lens. Even if it pains you, refuse to support her in any way, shape, or form. There are other works out there made with love from truly admirable writers; let Rowling roll away from your life and leave “Harry Potter” to be nothing more than a cherished memory.

Or just pirate the game, but you didn’t hear that from me.