How To...Create Your Own Fandom

Harry Potter Fans Have a Wizarding World Without J.K. Rowling

· Updated on May 2, 2021

Last June, after Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling spouted off about gender identity — and revealed herself to be a Dementor in the eyes of many LGBTQ+ fans — the actor who played the Boy Who Lived urged followers to forge their own relationship to the text.

“If you found anything in these stories that resonated with you and helped you at any time in your life — then that is between you and the book that you read, and it is sacred,” Daniel Radcliffe, who played the boy wizard in the Harry Potter films, wrote in a Trevor Project essay. “And in my opinion, nobody can touch that.”

In other words, fans’ love for Hogwarts’ witches and wizards need not snuffed by the ramblings of a 50-something cisgender white lady.

And sure enough, fans have used Vanishing Spells on the woman whose words hurt trans, nonbinary, and genderqueer people around the world. Today, queer writers are abandoning Rowling’s agency The Blair Partnership in protest of her refusal to get with the times. The stories themselves, however, are still beloved by queer folks from across the spectrum. 

Call it the Fandom That Lived.

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Understandably, some Potterheads can’t yet revisit the stories. “I thought about doing a reread a few months ago and I just — it’s hard to imagine doing that without sort of like having her snarky offensive Twitter voice in the back of my mind,” Jackson Bird, who described the Harry Potter fandom’s role in his transition in his 2019 memoir Sorted, recently told Variety. “I hope that one day I can enjoy it again.”

Others, however, are forging ahead and finding a Wizarding World that doesn’t include Rowling. The Gayly Prophet podcasters Lark Malakai Grey and Jessie Blount — who introduce themselves as a white, queer trans boy and queer Black woman, respectively — recently shared “A Guide to Cancelling JKR While Keeping Harry Potter .“

In that guide, Grey and Blount recommend boycotting the author by not buying new Harry Potter books, paying money to watch the movies, seeing the Cursed Child play, going to the Universal theme parks, or buying official merchandise. Instead, they recommend getting Harry Potter books and DVDs from libraries that don’t give authors royalties, enjoying fan-created content including fan fiction, and supporting queer merchandise and content creators.

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“We are not separating the art from the artist, we are holding the artist accountable while giving ourselves permission to keep loving something she made,” Grey and Blount wrote on Instagram. “JKR wrote Harry Potter, and we can’t pretend she didn’t. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t love these books that meant and continue to mean so much to so many of us!”

Rori Porter, a trans femme designer, told The New York Times in June that she’s been a fan for two decades now but stopped listening to the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban audiobook in December when the JKR controversy intensified.

Even so, Porter might not have said goodbye to Potter forever. “I don’t want to give J.K. Rowling the satisfaction of taking away from me something that I loved as a kid,” she added.

Indeed, Porter wrote on Medium in January 2020 that they’re “not in the business of ripping out valuable stories from someone’s life just because the author otherwise sucks” and that Rowling’s stories “belong to the fans more than to her at this point.”

Meanwhile, Talia Franks, a non-binary member of the activist group Harry Potter Alliance, told the Times that they will continue engaging with the fandom. “I don’t need J.K. Rowling at all,” Franks said.

And in an email to The Washington Post, Elayna Darcy, a genderqueer MuggleNet contributor and Harry Potter podcaster, recommended fans in the “queer Potter community” support LGBTQ-embracing content like the literary magazine Wizards in Space, an offshoot of the Potter fandom.

“I think all the outrage getting aimed at J.K. Rowling right now, we’d be much better off by focusing our energy on uplifting trans and non-binary creators who are out here doing the work for readers that she refuses to do,” Darcy added.

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