Featured image description: The default featured image for Trans Autistic Feminist blogposts, with a pink background on the left and blog logo on the right. The white text on the left says the blog title “Why You Shouldn’t Buy the New Harry Potter Game.” The smaller text says “(aka Hogwarts: Legacy)”.
CW: J . K Rowling, transphobia, terfs, fascism, nazis, conversion therapy mention, murder (real and fictional)
Recently, during the 16th September PlayStation 5 digital livestream event, a long-rumoured game set in the Harry Potter universe was finally announced. Hogwarts: Legacy is an open-world RPG game set in the world of Hogwarts where the player is a blank slate protagonist who carves out their legacy. It sounds pretty promising on paper if you aren’t aware of the broader context of the author. In practice, this announcement only serves to boost a bigoted author who has gradually revealed her bigotry over time. The gender-critical movement (aka one of many arms of the far right). has radicalised J K Rowling.
I don’t have the energy or ability to dig into much of Rowling’s history myself and explain it all to you. I try not to address such crap especially given my situation (hence why there is almost no reference of the said author on my site, and I may be somewhat sloppy in this post because of the stress). But I will include a summary.
A summary of gender critical feminism’s harmful aims
This situation is incredibly distressing for trans people like myself for many reasons. Gender critical hate speech has the ultimate goal of rolling back rights for all women and LGBT people, but they start with trans people.
- wrongly imply our existence is a danger to cis women and children,
- wrongly claim that we are predators and cross-dressing fetishists
- advocate putting us into single-gender spaces matching our assigned sex at both (and will be dangerous for trans people)
- barring us from sports, domestic violence refuges and inclusive healthcare
- advocate “watchful waiting” for medical transition (especially in trans kids), which is conversion therapy
- they support gatekeeping and pathologizing to the point of suffering and making support inaccessible
- want us removed from public life and to go stealth, if not end our lives
The wider context though stems beyond trans people. The ultimate aim is to restrict the way women can present and enforce a binary, outdated form of presentation for women and nonbinary people. It is feminism in name only. In reality, it is far-right conservative hate speech that functions like a cult. It is very much in the same way that the far-right have indoctrinated MAGA supporters and Brexiteer gammon into supporting hate.
Many cisgender people do not realise this. Terfs use dog whistles and concern trolling, they harass and doxx people who call them out and threaten them with legal action. They frame the rights for trans people to exist as a “debate” even though they don’t want a discussion; they want to spread hate. Their “debate” in the UK – alongside a complicit and bigoted media – has derailed the Gender Recognition Act reforms and turned a simple administrative change into a fake culture war.
Heck, even J K Rowling’s new book coming out in the near future used many of the transphobic tropes outlined above as part of the murderer’s character. Namely, this fictional murderer is a cis man who dresses as a woman to target and kill cis women. This was published under her pen name Robert Galbraith. Fortunately, the backlash for that has been swift and severe. Rowling and other terfs have threatened libel suits to force trans people into silence and not call out this harm. This is the suffering these bigots want.
This reveal ruined the stream
Frankly, the reveal ruined the whole stream for me and no doubt many others too. It speaks volumes that Sony and Warner Bros. believed platforming a J K Rowling IP during a significant event was a good idea. This shits on the diverse gaming community, including trans people, is. This distresses their trans viewers as well as allies. I had expected this reveal at some point as it had been rumoured for months. However, I had not expected it during such a significant stream. Additionally, the queer adventure game Goodbye Volcano High was revealed at a PS5 digital event just a few months earlier., which is what makes it hurt a lot more. Do Sony actually care about LGBTQ+ rights or not?
It’s very insensitive considering the harm Rowling is doing and shows either they are clueless about this reality – or they don’t care and want to increase sales. They know many gamers do not have principles and will often buy things they got outraged at during reveals when they come out. As it is, many people online have been like “Oh I don’t like what Rowling has done, but I still want to buy this Harry Potter game.” However, the consequences of this go far beyond video games.
Transphobia has fatal consequences
This is a classic example of why you cannot separate the art from the artist. You cannot separate transgender people from human diversity. They are innately linked, and there’s nothing anybody can do to change this reality. But until the world accepts this, trans people have to deal with a constant risk of being murdered no matter where they are in the world – especially black trans women. Trans people, in particular, are more likely to be in poverty, unemployed and have comorbid mental illnesses due to transphobia. We often cannot defend ourselves from this due to lack of money or poor mental health. Despite what bigots say, love will eventually win.
But the more harmful figures like Rowling are platformed, this progress is reversible, especially when people become manipulated into supporting fascism. The Nazi government in Germany did this back in the 1930s, by burning books and libraries from the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft (aka Institute of Sex Research). This library containing decades of LGBT positive research and is one reason why trans healthcare is decades behind where it should be. Yes, literal book burning. And to think many right wingers like to claim the left are “book-burning Nazis.”
Don’t buy the game
I understand how a lot of people – especially those my age and younger – have a lot of nostalgia for the Harry Potter series and are inclined to support the game. And this is a perfectly valid inclination. However, Rowling will likely make royalties off it (even though she is not involved) she doesn’t need or deserve.
Therefore myself, much like the politically active trans community as a whole, urge you not to support this game. Do not buy it. Do not give Rowling or this publisher a penny. I say publisher because in practice the developers won’t make bank off it thanks to capitalism and lack of unionisation, which is an issue across gaming. Buying a copy of Hogwarts: Legacy supports a billionaire who is using her platform and influence to spread hate speech to rollback trans rights. Even if it’s “just a game.” Money talks, especially those who already have wealth.
If you really want to play it, wait until after launch day to pick it up pre-owned. That way, only the seller of the second hand game gets the money. And don’t go round bragging about it on social media or in collection videos, instead keep it quiet that you have it and are playing it. Because trans people and allies will notice and start to doubt that you genuinely have their back and this will be very distressing.
One of my favourite pastimes are video game collection videos and I fear being unable to watch PS4 / PS5 / Xbox One / Xbox Series X videos now knowing it’s possible that game could come up and the person buying it sees no issue supporting a transphobe. For transgender people, our rights to exist is literally a matter of life and death thanks to transphobic cis people. Don’t remind us of that through supporting this video game, a medium popular with trans people.
How you can help:
I know being an ally can be difficult for cis people to do as they don’t know what to do so that I will help.
- Firstly, buy the game second hand if you can’t bear skipping it as mentioned earlier. Otherwise, skip it. Same goes for all other Harry Potter products.
- Educate yourselves on trans people and our lived experiences. There are many of us out there. I’ve included some links at the end of this post to help.
- Give us money to access healthcare, housing and mental health support. Give us well-paid jobs. Discrimination is still rampant against trans folk. Many of us have to crowdfund to access private healthcare because public healthcare routes are unfit for purpose.
- Support our content if we are self-employed as many of us have to go self employed in order to work.
- Boost our voices. Sharing content written by trans people like this one is a great place to start.
- Get political. Call out the bigots around you. Assume good faith, but if they turn hostile, don’t be afraid to call them out. Fill in consultations and write to elected ministers about transgender issues. Go to protests if you can access them.
Anyway, that’s me out. This whole thing is very distressing for me, so for the time being, self-care is needed. With all this said, I am so glad this game is not coming to the Nintendo Switch (my preferred and most accessible gaming platform this gen).
Here is a short essay by Katy Montgomerie, that unpicks Rowling’s arguments and why they are transphobic (a much longer, more thorough breakdown is available elsewhere on her Medium blog)
The Wikipedia page for the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft, the private sexology research facility where the Nazis burnt the books in 1933 (trigger warning for images of Nazis and book burning)
Unrelated to the above external reading links, I recently set up a crowd funder to help kickstart my medical transition privately. Please consider donating to it if you have something to spare. You can view it here. If not, no worries. Thank you so much for reading!