Chris Moore is MoPOP's Exhibitions Project Manager.
Photo from pajiba.com
There’s a certain cold, heartless, joy-sucking entity in the world of Harry Potter and, this time, it is not actually a Dementor.
We would love to go with the internet’s theory that these books were actually written without an author, but this certain person is a bit too vocal with her super hateful and divisive views to be ignored. Yes, we’re talking about J.K. Rowling, and no, we don’t like that we’re giving her more publicity, so that’s the last you’ll see of her name in this post. We’ll just stick with You-Know-Who because they’re close enough in character.
Her transphobic viewpoints are front and center these days, but we can’t forget all the other ways that she’s problematic: the support of antisemitic creators, the racial stereotypes that she used while creating characters, the incredibly white wizarding world, the fat shaming, the lack of LGBTQIA+ representation, the super-chill outlook on the bigotry and othering of those that don’t fit into the standard wizarding world, and so much more. We’re going to be focusing on You-Know-Who's transphobic views in this blog post because she’s really doubled down on them lately.
So, hi! An introduction is important for this post because, while I’m writing for MoPOP, I'm also an individual who has been affected by her viewpoints. My name is Chris Moore (he/they) and I am the Exhibitions Project Manager at MoPOP. I’m also a board member for the Seattle Trans and Nonbinary Choral Ensemble and a transgender Harry Potter ex-fanatic. I have felt the sheer joy and excitement of finding out that the next book or movie is coming out and the heartbreaking disappointment from learning more about her viewpoints. Harry Potter was first published in 1997 and I started reading it in 1998, when it was released to the US market. I’m going to date myself by saying that I was half-hoping for my own owl after reading the first book. When I was growing up, the surface themes in Harry Potter of acceptance of others and for protecting people against mistreatment were incredibly compelling to me. To only find out, as an adult, that You-Know-Who's views put me in league with Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange... for reasons that are outside of my control.
A bit of history is important here, too. You-Know-Who started dancing around transphobic statements in 2018 and became more vocal in 2019 by supporting a person who was fired for being transphobic. In June of 2020, she fully committed to these viewpoints and went on long, hateful Twitter tirades (we recommend not reading them, but here’s Daniel Radcliffe being an awesome ally on Rolling Stone). This caused many cast members of Harry Potter to distance themselves from her... unfortunately, it also caused many cast members to support her and out themselves as being transphobic. In the same year, she released a new book under her pen name about a serial killer who dresses in women’s clothing to seduce his victims. It ends up being an entire novel of thinly veiled transphobic scare tactics. Unfortunately, nothing got better after 2020.
The game Hogwarts Legacy was recently released on all major gaming platforms. While the video game developers tried their best to distance themselves from You-Know-Who (while also being hateful individuals in a myriad of other ways), she has already come out and said that any support of this game ends up being a support of her transphobic viewpoints. She’s even gone so far as to attack one of MoPOP’s former Video Editor, Jessie Earl. Jessie is a content creator on YouTube, Twitter, and other platforms (give her a follow – she's awesome) where she talked about how financially supporting Harry Potter ends up supporting transphobic viewpoints and is harmful to trans people. You-Know-Who's cronies then went on to continue attacking Jessie, garnering (approximate as of writing) 4,200 comments on the original post and writing hundreds of negative comments on Jessie’s posts.
From an outside perspective, this may sound silly, but these people and ideas add up. Currently, there are over 400 bills in 43 separate states (as of writing) that would restrict or ban gender affirming healthcare or rights for transgender youth and adults. Some of these bills are occurring in our more trans-friendly state of Washington. On March 2nd, one of these bills became law in Tennessee. On March 3rd, another became law in Texas. These bills affect the health and wellness of transgender individuals throughout our country, not just the state where it is occurring. We’re left concerned for our transgender siblings and wondering if or when our own existence will be outlawed.
So, what can cisgender individuals do to support transgender people right now? There’s a lot of things that can be done. Writing legislators, creating or joining campaigns, attending PRIDE events to show support, offering support to transgender individuals effected by blatant bigotry, saying something against those that are enacting that bigotry, supporting nonprofits like The Trevor Project and GLAAD for national support or Entre Hermanos and Lambert House for local support (just examples, there are lots of options out there), and the list goes on.
And what is MoPOP doing? If you’ve visited the museum recently, you will have seen artifacts from the Harry Potter films in Fantasy: Worlds of Myth and Magic gallery and her likeness in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame. They’re there and trying to dance around it would make me look like a bigger hypocrite. But here’s the deal... it’s complicated. Long conversations are being had and a lot of considerations around what to do with problematic people and content because instances like this are going to keep happening. I’m privileged to get to work with our Curatorial team and see the decision-making processes there, so let me give you a little bit of insight into what these are like after someone outs themself as holding terrible ideologies.
While the Harry Potter series is a major player in the pop culture sphere, we wanted to give credit to the work of the actors, prop makers, and costume designers in our Fantasy gallery. We learned that You-Know-Who was a problem, which is why you’ll see the artifacts without any mention or image of the author. After all, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint are all incredibly vocal allies. Should we forget their work now that the original author is terrible? I’m not even talking about “separating art from artist” but giving credit where it’s due. I’ll never be able to purely enjoy Hagrid or Stephen Fry again because of their support of the author, but I’ll always be a wreck when Dumbledore... y’know. No spoilers. Besides, there’s plenty about Dumbledore that I’ll be a wreck about.
As for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame, this list of inductees has a long history that didn’t start with MoPOP, EMP Museum, or even the Experience Music Project. It was founded in 1996 at the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction and came to MoPOP in 2004. The inductees are specifically chosen by public voting. You-Know-Who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2018 before she became the face of trans-exclusionary radical feminism (TERF). If you keep looking in there, you’ll see other figures with questionable if not downright disturbing pasts. But what does that mean? Are MoPOP’s hands tied on something that is in our building? Again, it’s complicated. For the time being, the Curators decided to remove any of her artifacts from this gallery to reduce her impact. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s what we were able to do in the short-term while determining long-term practices. As we’ve continued to learn and grow, they’re planning on continuing to add context to creators and content through our blog and possibly in-gallery QR codes.
Of course, the work for diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility is a practice. It’s why you’re seeing more signage in our galleries around harmful language and hateful, abusive, and divisive creators, why we have ongoing conversations and trainings on all kinds of DEIA considerations, and also why I felt safe enough to change my pronouns and start transitioning 4 years ago. It’s something that we take seriously, and we’ll always be striving for improvement. We’re not perfect in this practice, but that’s why it’s called practice.