Look. Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling is kind of, well, evil. Maybe she always has been, and as kids, we just didn’t pick up on some things from the books, like the anti-Semitic portrayals of the Gringotts goblins, or the weird AIDS metaphor involving Remus, and the even weirder slavery comparison with the House Elves. But as adults, we can see just how transphobic she is on top of all of that. It begs the question of why someone would so openly destroy their perfectly okay legacy as a children’s author who made, and still makes, gobs of money. But then again, fame is a helluva drug.
I first heard of Harry Potter about the time the first movie came out in 2001, because my cousin was obsessed with the series. They still are, to this day. My parents, conservative Christians, who twitched at any sign of witchcraft around their children, forbid the books and movies expressly in their home. And despite my pleas, every time we went to the library, which was at least weekly, to check the books out, they stood stalwart. I watched from afar. I knew most of the spoilers by the time I finally read them in 2011, just before going to college. I figured my parents couldn’t stop me; I was almost an adult, almost out of the house, and I was right. I devoured those increasingly massive tomes in about two weeks. I loved them.
I went to the midnight premiere — remember those — of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, with an audience full of fellow Potterheads, and we cheered together and cried together. It was a truly magical night. I dressed up as a Ravenclaw, which I thought was my house at the time due to the influence from the cousin, but I since discovered I’m a hatstall between all the houses but Hufflepuff. Can you tell I’m not generous enough to be one of them? However, I now take about as much stock in Hogwarts houses as I do astrology, which is to say, I think Hogwarts houses are nonsense.
At my first Wizards’ Ball, an annual nerdy dance thrown by my college’s RPG Club, I dressed up as a Ravenclaw again and even had my own hand-crafted wand, which was created by the Wiccan club on campus. Yes, we had one of those. My college was an entirely different world from the sheltered one I grew up in, and I appreciate it for that. I also remember eagerly trying to get into Pottermore in 2012.
Now, years down the line, I don’t really care about Harry Potter anymore. I haven’t seen any of the Fantastic Beasts movies. Despite having the opportunity to see the Cursed Child play when I lived in New York, I never did. I entered the lottery a couple of times, but that wasn’t a really sincere effort, and I mostly just wanted to see the disastrous-sounding writing for myself. Truth be told, the start of Rowling’s expansion of the Potter-verse soured me on the whole thing. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child sounded idiotic, the Fantastic Beasts series sounded boring, the allure of Hogwarts was passing quickly…but when she basically “came out” as a transphobe, I at first tried to think of Harry Potter as entirely separate from her, but you can’t really do that. Rowling is Harry Potter; Harry Potter is Rowling.
As someone who has struggled with my sexuality and gender identity ever since my teens, I find Rowling’s words abhorrent, her subsequent writing even more so. She has a powerful gift for convincing language, even if her prose wasn’t always the greatest. But something drew so many people to Harry Potter, and I’d argue it was just how persuasive she was in the writing of the books that this was a good universe, a good fight, with good characters, even when they weren’t all that good.
Return to Hogwarts is probably something I’ll never watch. It’s in part that I just don’t care anymore, and in part that I cannot in good conscience support her. I love the actors who, for me, held the film series together, but they’re all doing perfectly fine, from the sounds of it. We didn’t need Return to Hogwarts. We didn’t need everything that came after the final book and movie. And we certainly didn’t need Rowling’s spewing of bile and hatred. But as much as I sound like I’m completely dismissive of my whole experience with the series, I’m actually not. I grieve it, actually. I don’t think anyone in the fandom wanted it to be this way, and while some can live in a world where Rowling doesn’t exist, and Harry Potter doesn’t have an author, as a writer myself, I can’t.
I leave you with a piece from the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone soundtrack which always makes me cry, because there was something heartbreaking about it then, and something even more heartbreaking now: “Leaving Hogwarts”.