I’ve always been late to the play. Last year, deciding the time had finally come, I decided to read the Harry Potter series. It wasn’t that I’d taken any kind of stance against the series – I wasn’t even particularly smug about it. I’d just never read the books. Like anyone my age, I had an awareness of the franchise – I’d seen most of the movies, I even took an interest in the actor’s follow-up projects. Even as an occasional viewer, I felt as though I grew up with that crew. I can only imagine what that bond must have been like for truly active fans – for the diehards; for the Stans.
Needless to say, I flew through the novels. Having forced myself to read a lot more “seriously” in the past few years, it was super enjoyable to read something fun.
But despite how much I enjoyed the series (and I enjoyed it a hell of a lot), I noticed some of the problems instantly. The fat-shame was present from Chapter One (the Dursley boys are horrible because of their actions, not their bodies). The characters were overwhelmingly (like, OVERWHELMINGLY) white. And at a school where student’s sleep in gendered dorms, nary a same-sex shenanigan is peeped. As someone who attended an all-girls school, I can tell you one thing for sure; that last detail is far from realistic.
It’s interesting then, that J.K. Rowling, the series’ author, suddenly considers herself a lesbian rights activist.
It’s a common belief among trans-exclusionary activists that lesbianism, as an identity, is being eroded by the centring of trans-ness within the LGBTQ community. What’s interesting is that many of the folks who fall down the transphobia spiral aren’t lesbians, but take it upon themselves to stand up for the group. Often they haven’t even squeaked about lesbianism prior to using it as a tool with which to beat trans people.
As with all things, it’s a nuanced topic. Have lesbians ever been marginalised within the Gay Rights Movement? Of course they have! The closer a community is to the cis, white, male, patriarchal “default”, the closer they are to power. It’s no wonder cis, white, wealthy, male gays are some of the most visible members of our community. (Think of how many white-male-gay characters you know from TV shows. And now think of how many Black lesbians characters you know. Is it proportionate? Are the shows that represent Black lesbians considered mainstream? What about the shows featuring white male gays?) The LGBTQ community, or queer community, is riddled with its own biases – it was born under a white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, after all. Lesbianism is de-centred in the queer discourse because women are de-centred under patriarchy. It's not transgender people who are marginalising lesbians.
Just as there's no such thing as “reverse racism”, there's also no such thing as "cis-phobia". Power cannot be taken from a community by a less powerful community.
To be clear: it’s entirely possible for a person of colour to bully to a white person. That bullying may even be based on the person being white. But that still isn’t “reverse racism”. Racism happens at a structural level – and filters down to individuals. Prejudice against white people can happen on an individual level – but it never filters upward. White people will never be structurally subjugated for their skin colour. In the same way, trans people will never pose a true “threat” to cisgender women.
In her transphobic manifesto, Rowling claims she could have taken the easy route and tweeted the appropriate hashtags. She aligns the sentiments that ‘trans lives matter’, and that ‘trans rights are human rights’ with woke showboating (or in internet-speak: virtue signalling). She misses entirely why these hashtags are so devastating: trans people are still asking for the bare minimum – to be seen as human. To matter.Support Villainesse