I remember a teacher suggesting I read “Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets” in middle school, long before the average American child was obsessed with the series. I was a very avid reader who sometimes would get in trouble for reading in class even! As a child with not many friends, I often fled to the fantasy worlds created by books.
So when I finally picked up the Harry Potter series I can honestly say that I fell deeply in love with the magical world. Decades later as an adult I can quote way too many lines from the books and movies, I know my house (Gryffindor) and will always tear up at the death of Dobby. I still hold much reverence for the world J.K. Rowling created. I’m as big of a HP fan as they come.
But this article isn’t about Harry Potter, it’s about the impact one woman’s voice is having. When I started reading and talking to people in the trans community about what J.K. was up to, I was saddened to say the least. I honestly wasn’t that surprised because even as a young adult Rowling’s adherence to gender stereotypes (e.g. none of the boys cry when Cedric Diggory dies) was pretty obvious to me.
What did surprise me is how much she doubled and tripled down when people who love her work let her know that her words and actions were only increasing the bigotry and violence the trans community was experiencing. To me that’s what this discussion is about, not so much her viewpoint, but how loudly and often she is sharing this one particular viewpoint.
So when I learned about the Hogwarts Legacy boycott and read emphatic posts, with critical breakdowns of the impact J.K. Rowling’s very public discussions on transgender people were having, I listened. I don’t know what it’s like to be trans, but I do know what it’s like to scream into the void about the impact of bigotry.
Even now as Black woman I see it, as the horror of the George Floyd protests slip from America’s memory, the fad of breaking down one’s own unconscious bias and learning about the struggle of the Black community is slipping away too. Many books bought with the good intention of learning about the bigotry Black people face, lay barely read or not read at all.
And I know the boycott was never going to have any significant financial impact. The last truly successful boycott I can think of is the Montgomery Bus Boycott and that lasted over a year. It took an INCREDIBLE amount of organization and teamwork that we as a people are too divided to achieve for any issue, let alone an issue that only directly impacts less than 1% of the population.
But to me, that was never the point of the Hogwarts Legacy boycott. The whole point was to show solidarity with the trans community. A community of people that experience violence just for existing as themselves. The fact is people are murdered for being transgender and the violence is only rising with the increased negative conversations around them.
When J.K. Rowling as the author of a book that has sold so many books as to rival the sales of The Bible itself continues to use her voice to share her disdain for the transgender community, she is definitely having an impact on the hearts and minds of many just as she did with the Harry Potter series.
I’m not sure if the people proudly posting memes like “LOL the boycott made it more popular” or “This other creator did this evil thing are you going to boycott that too???” have any friends in the trans community. I don’t really understand why people are proud to post straw man arguments that don’t address the issue we are talking about.
Perhaps they have never truly looked into the eyes of a transgender person as they tell you they had vile insults hurled at them just for riding the bus or that they had to run for their life from a person that wanted to hurt them for being transgender.
The existence of crappy people working on other products we use doesn’t negate the impact of a celebrity as popular as J.K. Rowling. It doesn’t negate the fact that people in the trans community needed some solidarity on something as simple as a video game. At the end of the day, it is not my task to understand other people’s actions, only my own and this article isn’t really about them.
I wrote this article to say the boycott worked on me. I love gaming, I play on my Xbox and VR headset pretty much daily. As an avid gamer I have not bought the Hogwarts Legacy game and certainly would not go as far to promote it even if I had decided to pay for it, because I get it (or I think I do at least).
The boycott was never going to cripple the Harry Potter empire, it was just about awareness and solidarity. So even though I am just one musician with a small following who will never really have the impact J.K. Rowling has on the world, I wanted to say that I stand with the trans community on this.
She could choose to talk about any of the many opinions in her head but she chooses to promote an opinion that people continually tell her is causing pain and harm. This behavior doesn’t align with my value of compassion and I cannot support it.
I hope we can one day get to a place where people who feel like they were born in the wrong body aren’t subjected to violence and hate, simply because other people disagree that they were born in the wrong body.
And I’m sorry so many people are gleefully disregarding the real point of the Hogwarts Legacy boycott, solidarity against the impact of J.K. Rowling’s words and actions. All I can say is that the safety of the trans community (or any human being) means a lot more to me than a video game and I will not be promoting it. The boycott worked on me.