New J.K. Rowling book, featuring cross-dressing serial killer, fuels criticism over transphobia


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Author J.K. Rowling, who uses the pen name Robert Galbraith, has repeatedly sparked outrage due to comments which many perceive as transphobic. Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP via Getty Images)

  The 'Harry Potter' author has been heavily criticized for repeatedly making anti-transgender comments on Twitter

LONDON — Best-selling Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling has stoked anger in the transgender community by including a cross-dressing serial killer in her latest novel, published on Tuesday.

Penned under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, “Troubled Blood” is Rowling’s fifth book to feature private investigator Cormoran Strike, the first four of which have been dramatized by the BBC.

K Rowling’s latest book “Troubled Blood”, written under pseudonym Robert Galbraith, is pictured outside of a bookstore in London, U.K., September 15, 2020. Photo by Peter Nicholls /REUTERS

Rowling has faced serial accusations of transphobia in recent months and trans activists said the new book appeared to take a deliberate swipe at the community.

“It’s really sad to see this road J.K. Rowling appears to be on,” said writer and trans advocate Ugla Stefania Kristjonudottir Jonsdottir, who quit Rowling’s literary agency in June in protest at the writer’s stance.

“It’s one thing to have diverse characters, but when you write about a man dressing up as a woman in order to kill women, you are deliberately enforcing an awful trope about transgender people.” Article content continued

Admirers of the Harry Potter books were among those to express their anger.

“The hardest part of being a Harry Potter fan is JK Rowling herself,” one said on Twitter on Tuesday.

The trans rights row does not appear to have dented sales, however, with the various hardback, audiobook and Kindle versions of “Troubled Blood” all occupying top five positions in Amazon’s best sellers’ list on Tuesday.

The book revolves around the case of a woman missing since 1974 and presumed to be the unknown victim of a long-jailed serial killer.

In one scene in the novel, the murderer disguises himself as a woman in order to abduct his victim.

Rowling had earlier weighed into the trans rights debate in June, when she published an initial tweet criticizing a headline that said “creating a more equal post-COVID-19 world for people who menstruate.”

“‘People who menstruate’. I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?” she tweeted at the time.

The writer, whose Harry Potter series has sold more than 500 million books, followed the tweet with a 3,600-word essay, in which she disclosed she had been a victim of domestic abuse and sexual assault.

Rowling’s agent said the writer would not be commenting further.

But while many in the trans community were outraged by what they saw as further transphobia from the world’s wealthiest author, others have defended her.

Actors Jim Broadbent (left) as Professor Horace Slughorn, Robbie Coltrane (centre) as Rubeus Hagrid and Daniel Radcliffe (right) as Harry Potter in Warner Bros. Pictures’ fantasy adventure “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” based on the book by J.K. Rowling. Photo by Warner Bros. Pictures

Robbie Coltrane, who played the recurring character Rubeus Hagrid in the Harry Potter film series, which has grossed a total of almost $8 billion, told a British magazine that people were “waiting to be offended.”

“I don’t think what she said was offensive really,” the actor told the Radio Times, despite the film series’ three main leads, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, having publicly criticized Rowling’s past trans-themed remarks.

In a June 6 statement, Radcliffe published a frank rebuttal of Rowling’s remarks on The Trevor Project, saying that “transgender women are women” and that more support is needed for transgender and nonbinary people.

But Bev Jackson, co-founder of activist group LGB Alliance, said many of the attacks on Rowling in the wake of the row, which saw the hashtag #RIPJKRowling trending on Twitter, amounted to “misogyny.”

It was “extraordinary that people have opinions about a book they haven’t read,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Tuesday.

“There are thousands of thrillers published every year, many of them will feature people who dress up in disguises, and this is fiction.”

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