For a while yesterday, #RIPJKRowling was trending on Twitter. But nope, the Harry Potter author isn’t deceased. It’s just that J.K. Rowling has a new novel out this week, called Troubled Blood, and it’s reportedly transphobic. Rowling has come under fire in the past for promoting TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) rhetoric, and themes in her new novel have critics ready to call declare the writer's career deceased.
Up to now, Rowling’s opinions have largely been contained to Twitter or 3,600-word diatribes on her personal website. But according to an early review of Troubled Blood in The Telegraph, the author is pushing all sorts of harmful and outdated stereotypes about trans people in her latest work of fiction. Troubled Blood is the fifth book in Rowling’s Cormoran Strike series, published under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.
It’s about the cold case of a woman who disappeared in 1974 and is believed to be the victim of “transvestite serial killer” Dennis Creed. (It’s important to note, “transvestite” is an outdated and derogatory term for cross-dressing, which isn’t the same as being trans.) The Telegraph’s damning review summed the book up as follows: “One wonders what critics of Rowling’s stance on trans issues will make of a book whose moral seems to be: never trust a man in a dress.”
While Troubled Blood seems to be the most explicitly problematic installment in the series, it’s not the first time Rowling’s beliefs on the issue have wormed their way into the Cormoran Strike series. In the second book, The Silkworm, a trans woman stalks and attempts to stab the protagonist. Apprehending the culprit, the detective quips that prison “won’t be fun for you. [...] Not pre-op.” Rowling included a gratuitous passage describing the trans woman’s Adam’s apple and hands.
Cynthia Nixon pretty much summed up our feelings about Rowling’s unrelenting transphobia in a recent interview with The Independent, in which she called Rowling’s hateful rhetoric “painful” for her transgender son Samuel to witness. “It was really painful for him because so much of his childhood was tied up with Harry Potter,” Nixon said. “We’re a Harry Potter family. The books seem to be about championing people who are different, so for her to select this one group of people who are obviously different and sort of deny their existence, it’s just […] it’s really baffling. I know she feels like she’s standing up for feminism, but I don’t get it.”