‘More Fuel to the Fire.’ Trans and Non-Binary Authors Respond to Controversy Over J.K. Rowling’s New Novel

Marieke-Nijkamp
Courtesy of JLFAuthor Marieke Nijkamp

Troubled Blood is the fifth in a series featuring the private detective Cormoran Strike, which Rowling, a cisgender woman, penned under the male pseudonym Robert Galbraith. In an early review published on Sunday, British newspaper The Telegraph called Troubled Blood “a book whose moral seems to be: never trust a man in a dress,” citing a plotline featuring a male serial killer dressing up in women’s clothing to commit murders.

A subsequent review from The Guardian describes this character as “just one of many suspects” in the novel’s primary narrative, however; while the killer is apparently written to fetishize lingerie, he uses a stolen women’s coat and a wig solely as a disguise to aid his crimes. The review adds that, “he is not the main villain, nor is he portrayed as trans or even called a ‘transvestite’ by Rowling.”

Still, given Rowling’s previous comments on transgender people and gender identity, the plotline is “disappointing, but not surprising,” says Mason Deaver, author of I Wish You All the Best. The novel, Deaver’s debut, follows the journey of a character coming out as non-binary, and their newly-forged friendships along the way. Writing, Deaver says, is a way to create what would have mattered to them as a child.

They are concerned about the impact of Rowling’s latest work, particularly on those who are trans fans of Harry Potter and had previously admired her work. “I think the harm it’s going to do to them is tragic,” they say.

Trans and non-binary writers believe that narratives relying on transphobic tropes have a harmful impact on their community, and reinforces both transphobic sentiments and misinformation at large. As outlined in this year’s Netflix documentary Disclosure, which analyzed transgender representation on screen, narratives of mentally ill men dressing in women’s clothing and committing violence towards women have long existed in popular media, like the films Psycho and Silence of the Lambs.

“It might not seem obvious at first, but it’s very harmful to portray that being trans adjacent is somehow connected to your mental health,” says Deaver. “I think for the people who hate us, or don’t like us, it’s going to help

The last 48 hours have been full of conflicting emotions for Marieke Nijkamp. A New York Times bestselling author, Nijkamp’s new novel, a YA thriller titled Even If We Break, was published Tuesday. It’s Nijkamp’s third novel, and their first to include a non-binary protagonist, which makes the book “very special” to them, as Nijkamp is a non-binary, disabled person. “Mainly I want to reflect the world that I see and live in and am a part of,” Nijkamp says. “I think fiction doesn’t do that enough as it is.”

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One example of fiction they feel is unlikely to do that: J.K. Rowling’s new novel, Troubled Blood, also publishing on Tuesday. It quickly faced criticism for allegedly leaning into portrayals of trans people as villains.

…I have to say, the irony here is rich: Basically JK Rowling is posing as a man (Robert Galbraith) to write a novel about a man who poses as a woman to kill people. PROJECTING MUCH?!?!

— Julia Serano (@JuliaSerano) September 14, 2020

I know a lot of you who follow me probably share some of the fears around the myth about “men who dress up as women to hurt women”. If I wasn’t trans I suspect I would too.

But I ask you to look inside your heart and question what is really happening here https://t.co/cdYE2TKmkt

— Paris Lees (@parislees) September 14, 2020

Nijkamp, who says they’ve mostly tried to ignore Rowling’s previous comments on trans issues, found the controversy impossible to avoid this week. The juxtaposition was a painful one. “We’re generally not perpetrators of violence, we’re victims,” Nijkamp says. “I can’t imagine going back and explaining to my teenage self, ‘Hey, this author you love so much blatantly hates people like you.”

Courtesy of JLFAuthor Marieke Nijkamp

Troubled Blood is the fifth in a series featuring the private detective Cormoran Strike, which Rowling, a cisgender woman, penned under the male pseudonym Robert Galbraith. In an early review published on Sunday, British newspaper The Telegraph called Troubled Blood “a book whose moral seems to be: never trust a man in a dress,” citing a plotline featuring a male serial killer dressing up in women’s clothing to commit murders.

A subsequent review from The Guardian describes this character as “just one of many suspects” in the novel’s primary narrative, however; while the killer is apparently written to fetishize lingerie, he uses a stolen women’s coat and a wig solely as a disguise to aid his crimes. The review adds that, “he is not the main villain, nor is he portrayed as trans or even called a ‘transvestite’ by Rowling.”

Still, given Rowling’s previous comments on transgender people and gender identity, the plotline is “disappointing, but not surprising,” says Mason Deaver, author of I Wish You All the Best. The novel, Deaver’s debut, follows the journey of a character coming out as non-binary, and their newly-forged friendships along the way. Writing, Deaver says, is a way to create what …read more

Source:: Time – Entertainment

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