A Harry Potter trivia quiz at a popular New Zealand book festival is being canceled this year due to the book series’ author’s history of transphobic tweets and statements.
The Featherston Booktown Karukatea Festival is held every year, but after consulting with the local LGBTQ+ community, organizers have decided that one tradition, a Harry Potter quiz, will not be returning this time. When the festival takes place Friday through Sunday, J.K. Rowling’s books will not be celebrated.
Peter Biggs, the chairman of the festival’s board, said they didn’t make the decision lightly. “The overwhelming response was there was a risk around causing distress to particular members of the community and that was the last thing we wanted to do,” he told Stuff, a New Zealand website. “We always thought Booktown should be an inclusive, welcoming place for everyone, so we took the decision not to go with Harry Potter.”
Tabby Besley, who works with LGBTQ+ charity Inside Out, said she thinks “it’s a strong decision that shows they’re really trying to be an inclusive community and support their rainbow and transgender young people.” Besley added, “There are so many inclusive writers of books and stories out there, so I’m sure they can come up with something else awesome to do a quiz on that doesn’t have that kind of potential upset.”
Rowling, who was once one of the most beloved authors on the planet, has taken a sharp turn towards trans exclusion and transphobia in the last few years. What started as liking tweets by TERFs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists) and defending authors called out for transphobic views soon grew into more. In 2019, when a tax expert in London was fired for transphobic tweets, Rowling rushed to her defense, tweeting, “Dress however you please. Call yourself whatever you like. Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you. Live your best life in peace and security. But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real? #IStandWithMaya.”
Rowling confirmed she is a TERF when she tweeted out a transphobic tirade in 2020. “If sex isn’t real,” she said, “there’s no same-sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives. It isn’t hate to speak the truth.”
She continued, “The idea that women like me, who’ve been empathetic to trans people for decades, feeling kinship because they’re vulnerable in the same way as women — ie, to male violence — ‘hate’ trans people because they think sex is real and has lived consequences — is a nonsense.” Continuing, Rowling wrote that “I respect every trans person’s right to live any way that feels authentic and comfortable to them. I’d march with you if you were discriminated against on the basis of being trans. At the same time, my life has been shaped by being female. I do not believe it’s hateful to say so.” Rowling later posted an essay defending her transphobia and comparing trans women to predators.
Since making these beliefs public and digging even deeper into them, Rowling has faced a backlash from many LGBTQ+ fans, allies, and many of the actors who have starred in the film adaptations of her books.