JK Rowling has sparked fresh controversy regarding her stance on transgender issues as details about the plot of her new book were revealed in an early review.
The reaction on social media has seen the Harry Potter author receive backlash as the villain in Troubled Blood, a “psychopathic serial killer”, was revealed to be a man who dresses as a woman.
What is the new book about?
Troubled Blood is the latest book from the Harry Potter author, released under her pseudonym Robert Galbraith.
It’s the fifth book in the Strike series and follows the story of a cold case from 1974, when GP Margot Bamborough disappears from her surgery in Clerkenwell, and a fumbled police investigation means that she was never found.
Forty years later, Margot’s daughter is determined to find out what happened to her.
Further details of the book were revealed when an early review was published on The Telegraph website, written by Jake Kerridge.
Kerridge explains in his review that Bamborough is thought to “have been a victim of Dennis Creed, a transvestite serial killer”.
Kerridge asks in his review: “One wonders what critics of Rowling’s stance on trans issues will make of a book whose moral seems to be: never trust a man in a dress.”
This isn’t the first time that readers have pointed out that Rowling has framed transgender characters negatively in her Galbraith series, with one Twitter user writing: “J.K Rowling is single-mindedly obsessed with trans people and actively frames them as predators in her novels.”
This is reference to the second Galbraith novel, The Silkworm, where Detective Strike is stalked by a woman named Pippa.
Pippa attempts to stab Strike, before getting trapped in his office. Strike demands to see her ID and her identity as a transgender woman is revealed, with Strike noting her Adam’s apple.
She tries to escape before Strike says: “If you go for that door one more time I’m calling the police and I’ll testify and be glad to watch you go down for attempted murder. And it won’t be fun for you Pippa. Not pre-op.”
What has the response been to the new book?
Given the author’s recent history with transgender issues, details of the book have been met with backlash.
On Twitter, the hashtag #RIPJKRowling started trending.
Trans activist Paris Lee tweeted: “JK Rowling's new book's about a ‘transvestite serial killer’. Meanwhile over in the real world the number of trans people killed in Brazil has risen by 70 per cent this past year, young trans women are left to burn in cars and men who kill us (for being trans) are pardoned and sent home."
Lee added: “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.”
Quoting part of a review of the book from The Telegraph, another tweeted: “The meat of the book is the investigation into a cold case: the disappearance of GP Margot Bamborough in 1974, thought to have been a victim of Dennis Creed, a transvestite serial killer.” Transphobic “Silence of the Lambs” trope! How original!”
Another wrote: “#JKRowling believes you are the sex you were assigned at birth based on your genitals - she doesn’t differentiate between a man in a dress and a trans woman. Remember that when transphobes excuse her new novel on the grounds that it’s about a man in a dress and not a trans woman.”
In an interview with the Independent, actress Cynthia Nixon (Sex and the City, Ratched) spoke out against the author.
Nixon explains that Rowling’s comments hit close to home as her 23-year-old son Samuel is transgender.
Nixon said: “It was really painful for him because so much of his childhood was tied up with Harry Potter. We’re a Harry Potter family.
“The books seem to be about championing people who are different, so for her to select this one group of people who are obviously different and sort of deny their existence, it’s just… it’s really baffling. I know she feels like she’s standing up for feminism, but I don’t get it.”
What did Robbie Coltrane say?
While news of the book has been met with widespread criticism, Robbie Coltrane, who played Hagrid in the Harry Potter films, has spoken out in defence of the writer.
Speaking to Radio Times, Coltrane said: “I don’t think what she said was offensive really. I don’t know why but there’s a whole Twitter generation of people who hang around waiting to be offended.
“They wouldn’t have won the war, would they? That’s me talking like a grumpy old man, but you just think, ‘Oh, get over yourself. Wise up, stand up straight and carry on.’”
He said he did not want to comment any further on the issue because he didn’t want to “get involved in all of that because of the hate mail”.
What was the controversy last month about?
In the past few months, the Harry Potter writer has found herself at the heart of an online discussion concerning transgender issues and rights after she initially responded to an article about menstruation products, taking issue with the phrase “people who menstruate”.
When people responded to the writer that “people who menstruate” was accurate because transgender men experience menstruation, transgender women don’t, and other gender identities across the spectrum could also experience periods as well, Rowling responded with a series of tweets deemed as transphobic.
She wrote that “sex is real and has lived consequences”. She went on to write a 3,600 word essay detailing her struggles with sexism and misogyny, and also compared hormone treatment to gay conversion therapy.
Rowling had many stars from the Harry Potter series speak out against her, including the actors who play the iconic trio, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint.
Rowling had come under criticism before for similar comments in the past.
In December 2019, she came out in support of a researcher who had lost her job after saying a person could not change their biological sex.
A version of this article originally appeared on our sister title The Scotsman