Famed children’s author J.K. Rowling has spent much of 2020 embroiled in controversy, breaking the hearts of many of her fans. This time, it’s her latest novel, and it’s questionable premise, that caused Rowling’s name to blow up on Twitter.
Troubled Waters for Troubled Blood
Troubled Blood, Rowling’s latest work under her pen name Robert Galbraith, follows detective Cormoran Strike as he tries to sort out a cold case involving the victim of a “transvestite serial killer”. There’s a lot to unpack, simply in that very brief description. First of all, simply the use of the word “transvestite” is objectionable. It is an antiquated term for cross-dressers and is now considered to be derogatory and offensive.
It’s not just Rowling’s terminology that’s upsetting here. The entire idea of a cisgender man dressing up as a woman in order to murder women promotes dangerous ideas about trans women. The notion that a man might dress up as a woman in order to carry out violence is a common conservative talking point. It may sound familiar from the debate surrounding the North Carolina bathroom bill. Rowling’s latest villain promotes the idea that allowing men to dress in women’s clothing is dangerous to other women.
Disappointed But Not Surprised
While disappointing, Rowling’s latest foray into transphobia doesn’t exactly come as a shock. Just months ago, “J.K. Rowling” was again trending because of comments she made in regards to how the existence of trans women somehow invalidates the experience of cisgender women. This latest novel fits perfectly into the narrative that Rowling has been crafting on Twitter. It’s disappointing, but in no way is this a departure from Rowling’s widely published beliefs.
This also isn’t the first Cormoran Strike novel to contain transphobic concepts. The Silkworm, published in 2014, features a trans woman named Pippa, and the way she is described and treated showcases Rowling’s attitudes towards trans women in a disturbing way. In a particularly revealing scene, Rowling’s hero traps Pippa in his office and says, “‘If you go for that door one more time I’m calling the police and I’ll testify and be glad to watch you go down for attempted murder. And it won’t be fun for you Pippa,’ he added. ‘Not pre-op.’”
Troubled Blood drops Tuesday. It promises to be just as heartbreaking and horrifying as The Silkworm and Rowling’s Twitter page.