I recently had a commenter on one of my JK Rowling-related essays ask me:
“[…] didn’t you fans ever notice no queer characters? None. In — what? — seven books? And people are ambushed by her being transphobic? I’d have been astonished if she weren’t.”
There’s kind of a lot to unpack here, but let’s start with a really important context to understand before I continue:
Dude… I was eleven years old when I read the first Harry Potter book back in 1999.
Let’s set the stage. It’s 1999, I’m in grade school, and there’s a Scholastic Bookfair. As a bookish little kid, this was my favorite time of the semester. At this particular book fair, there were big cardboard cutouts of a bespectacled boy riding on a broomstick. I was entranced, and naturally purchased the first book and a metal snowy owl bookmark with the money my parents had sent me to school that day.
I was very much Harry Potter’s original target audience and I wasn’t exactly reading anything with a critical focus on queerness, diversity, and equitable representation back then. I don’t think the concept of queer representation was explained to me for another several years. I was a closeted kid in the midwest and I knew as much as the schools and my parents were willing and able to teach me at that time, which was very little. My worldview did not yet have me primed to understand the Harry Potter series, and ostensibly Rowling herself, beyond their face-value components.
Mind you, dear reader, despite coming out as queer around 17 years old, I didn’t come out as trans until I was 27. I didn’t have the words in my arsenal to express that I was trans until several years ago, so how could I be expected to know or anticipate that Rowling was or might be transphobic before I even knew what being trans was?
The lack of queerness in Harry Potter was, indeed, apparent. Once I knew to look for it.
Yes, once I realized that I was queer, I guess I took notice of the lack of queer characters in Harry Potter. However, none of the other books I was reading back then had queer characters in them either so it’s not…