J.K. Rowling is at it again. This time, the Harry Potter author picked a fight with Jessie Earl, a 30-year-old YouTuber who recently called for fans to boycott an upcoming video game over the author’s well-documented anti-trans rhetoric.
“When I saw J.K. Rowling tweet about me, I knew I had to sort of be prepared,” Earl, who uses the moniker Jessie Gender on YouTube, told BuzzFeed News.
“She's seeing the trans person boogeyman that she…has created in her head and believing that is really what the trans community is,” Earl said.
The video game, Hogwarts Legacy, is set to release on Feb. 10.
Earl, who is transgender and uses she/they pronouns, tweeted on Friday that they will not “begrudge” anyone who already consumed Rowling's past work, but that any support for the upcoming game is harmful.
“I will not begrudge anyone their love of past works or thing they already own that they take comfort in,” Earl said on Twitter. “I own the first 9 movies and all 7 books myself. But any support of something like Hogwarts Legacy is harmful.”
Rowling responded, tweeting to her 13 million followers accusing Earl of “purethink.”
“Deeply disappointed @jessiegender doesn't realise purethink is incompatible with owning ANYTHING connected with me, in ANY form,” Rowling said on Twitter. “The truly righteous wouldn't just burn their books and movies but the local library, anything with an owl on it and their own pet dogs. #DoBetter.”
The onslaught happened quickly. Earl told BuzzFeed News that their DMs were soon flooded with negative comments, some of which resurrected age-old tropes that LGBTQ people sexually abuse children.
Despite the massive amount of harassment hurled at Earl from Rowling’s supporters, they also received support.
“It has been so incredibly heartening, and I've had many people reach out to me behind the scenes,” Earl said. “That's meant so much to me.”
The interaction came toward the end of a year that has been very hostile to LGBTQ communities. In March, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a bill that critics dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” because it effectively banned instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in classrooms. In September, when Gov. Glenn Youngkin tried a similar move in Virginia, thousands of students walked out of nearly 100 schools across the state.
Rowling became a global celebrity for introducing the world to Harry Potter in 1997, but her name has become inextricably associated with her anti-trans remarks in the last decade. She’s demonstrated her contempt for trans people over the years in various ways. In 2019, she released a statement on Twitter supporting Maya Forstater, a woman who was fired for saying transgender women should not be legally recognized. The next year, she published an extensive essay on her website about her fears of “current trans activism” and mocked an article where the author used the term “people who menstruate."
“‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?” Rowling said on Twitter.
Daniel Radcliffe, who played Harry Potter in the film adaptations, has distanced himself from Rowling’s views. In 2020, he published a statement with the Trevor Project, a nonprofit organization focused on suicide prevention among LGBTQ youth, saying that “trans women are women.”
“Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional health care associations who have far more expertise on this subject matter than either [J.K.] or I," Radcliffe said in the statement.
In an interview with Indiewire, he later explained why he decided to publicly speak out, saying he wanted the many queer and trans kids who were fans of the series to know that not everybody in the franchise shared Rowling’s beliefs.
Earl said the support for trans people coming from Radcliffe and other Harry Potter actors made it easier for them to enjoy the original series they grew up on before Rowling’s anti-trans prejudice became widely known.
“It’s still easier to find joy in those works and it also heartens me that people of my generation like Daniel and Emma [Watson] are supporting not just trans rights but the people around the world and helping make a future where we can all join together in solidarity and kindness,” Earl told BuzzFeed News.
Many LGBTQ fans resonate deeply with Harry’s story of being shoved into a closet and told not to express himself, only to later find a loving and accepting community.
“I mean, that's a story that I think many queer people and really anybody who feels marginalized,” Earl said.
David Haddad, the president of Warner Bros. Games, stopped short of criticizing Rowling directly and told Axios that fans should stay focused on the new video game.
“We’re going to stay very focused on the game that we built and the great job that the Avalanche studio has done,” Haddad told Axios. “We want everybody that loves this world and loves these stories and loves these characters.”
Rowling and Warner Bros. Games did not immediately respond to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News.
Peer-support services are available at the Trans Lifeline. You can call the hotline at 1-877-565-8860.
If you or someone you know has experienced anti-LGBTQ violence or harassment, you can contact the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs hotline at 1-212-714-1141.