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JK Rowling has been slammed by transgender activists over reports that her new book features a male serial killer who dresses up as a woman in order to carry out his attacks.
Troubled Blood, the fifth title in Rowling’s Cormoran Strike series, which she writes under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, was released on Tuesday.
It features an investigation into the murder of a missing doctor, with police suspecting a “murderous cross-dresser,” per CNN.
According to the Daily Beast, at one point Cormoran Strike, the book’s protagonist, says that the killer’s victims “had been hoodwinked by a careful performance of femininity.”
In an advance review of the book, British publication The Telegraph opined “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.”
Rowling has garnered headlines in recent months for her apparent embrace of anti-transgender language and views, with the Harry Potter author being criticized for tweets containing language that has been characterized as transphobic, including claiming that sex was being replaced with gender identity.
After backlash over the tweets, the author later published a blog post titled “TERF wars,” in which she made unsourced claims about gender identity and detransitioning, drawing further ire from LGBTQ people and allies.
Her comments even led stars of the Harry Potter film franchise to publicly support trans people, including lead actor Daniel Radcliffe, who published an essay affirming that “transgender women are women.”
British charity Mermaids UK, which helps trans and gender-diverse children, youths, and their families, issued a statement saying it was “concerned” about Rowling’s reported use of a person presenting as another gender as a serial killer character.
The charity also noted that Rowling had previously included a trans person as a suspect in her 2014 Galbraith book The Silkworm.
“This is a long-standing and somewhat tired trope, responsible for the demonization of a small group of people, simply hoping to live their lives with dignity,” Mermaids told CNN.
“We are disappointed to hear that the author might be propagating the same, long-standing and hurtful presentation of trans women as a threat,” a spokesperson said. “As a children’s charity, we are bearing witness to the very real hurt felt by young people who once saw Ms. Rowling’s fiction as a place of comfort, friendship and escape.
“The author recently expressed support for trans people’s right to live free from persecution,” they continued. “Her latest book might cause those still enjoying her books to question that sentiment.”
Nick Adams, GLAAD’s director of transgender representation, told PinkNews that Troubled Blood was part of a pattern of “films, TV shows, and books using the ‘cross-dressing psychopathic killer’ trope,” which Adams said had “been created over and over by cisgender people.”
“This false and lazy storytelling device is based not in reality but in thinly-disguised homophobia and transphobia, and conflates gender non-conformity with evil,” Adams said. “Gender expression isn’t a danger to others. These false narratives put real transgender and gender non-conforming people in harm’s way.”
Trans activist and writer Paris Lees tweeted that while Rowling’s book featured a “‘transvestite serial killer’…in the real world the number of trans people killed in Brazil has risen by 70% 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.”
She asked her followers to “look inside your heart and question what is really happening here.”
“I don’t expect people who aren’t trans to every truly understand, but all I can tell you is that it’s beyond depressing to live day in day out under the threat and memory of violence towards you while simultaneously being told that you are in fact the threat. It’s completely sick,” Lees wrote.
“Like many trans people I faced violence all through my childhood and teenage years SIMPLY FOR BEING TRANS whilst being told that *I* was a pervert and a threat to others,” she continued. “Are you happy to live in a society that treats people like this? And if not how are we going to change it?”
Like many trans people I faced violence all through my childhood and teenage years SIMPLY FOR BEING TRANS whilst being told that *I* was a pervert and a threat to others
Are you happy to live in a society that treats people like this?
And if not how are we going to change it?
— Paris Lees (@parislees) September 14, 2020
Lees noted that average life expectancy for a trans woman of color in the United States is just 35 years old, adding, “The insult and injustice of being painted as the threat while this is happening to us is an unbearable evil.”
“Trans people I’m sorry we have to keep seeing this crap I know how upsetting it is particularly if you’re having your own problems not to mention worrying about the state of the world,” she concluded. “Please know you’re not alone and that you’re worth so much more than how this society treats us.”
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