A new Harry Potter-themed video game features the franchise’s first-ever transgender character — an especially noteworthy development, given Harry Potter series author J.K. Rowling’s comments about transgender identity.
The Hogwarts Legacy video game, which reimagines the Wizarding World universe created by Rowling in the novels as a 19th-century role-playing game, was released earlier today, Friday, Feb. 10.
According to Game Revolution, the game features the character of Sirona Ryan, a transgender witch who owns the Three Broomsticks pub in Hogsmeade village.
Players are able to interact with Sirona while searching for a goblin named Lodgok. In response to a question about Lodgok’s whereabouts, Sirona reportedly responds, “Hadn’t seen him in years when he came in a few months ago. But, he recognized me instantly. Which is more than I can say for some of my own classmates. Took them a second to realize I was actually a witch, not a wizard.”
No voice actress is officially listed as being attached to the Sirona role in any public materials. The game’s end credits provide a list of voiceover talent without mentioning their specific roles.
The inclusion of a transgender character in Rowling’s Harry Potter universe is sure to raise eyebrows, given the author’s history of making comments skeptical of gender identity and asserting that advancements for transgender women come at the expense of cisgender women and threaten the existence of single-sex spaces.
Most recently, in October, Rowling penned an article for the Sunday Times Scotland expressing opposition to proposed legislation in Scotland that would allow people aged 16 or older to legally change their gender and obtain a certificate recognizing their gender identity.
Under the proposed legislation, which was ultimately blocked by the United Kingdom, a person could have changed their legal gender by attesting that they are transgender and living in their “acquired gender” for three months.
Currently, an applicant for a gender change must provide two medical reports proving they have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, lived in their “acquired gender” for two years, and make a statutory declaration that they intend to live in that gender for the remainder of their life.
According to the game’s website, Rowling was not involved in the creation of Hogwarts Legacy and has not been involved in the development of other games created by Portkey Games, the Warner Bros-owned label that creates games related to the Wizarding World.
“This is not a new story from J.K. Rowling,” the website states. “However we have collaborated closely with her team on all aspects of the game to ensure it remains in line with the magical experiences fans expect.”
Regardless of Rowling’s lack of involvement, some transgender people and allies are still boycotting anything related to the Wizarding World universe, including Hogwarts Legacy.
Still other Harry Potter fans — including those who are transgender — wish to play the Wizarding World games and try to separate the Harry Potter universe from the views of its author.
The disagreements over which approach is better have played out on various Internet forums, so much so that on the Hogwarts Legacy Reddit forum, moderators have imposed restrictions on discussing Rowling or her comments, arguing that such conversation “quickly spirals into bigoted language towards LGBTQ+ individuals.”
According to The Hill, transgender Twitch streamer Veronica “Nikatine” Ripley announced that she would no longer stream on Twitch as long as the platform continued to show advertisements for Hogwarts Legacy.
“I call on every streamer to join me in taking a stand against bigotry, hatred and those who support such views,” Ripley wrote on Twitter. “I call on Twitch to end his harmful relationship with Hogwarts Legacy, and continue to take steps towards providing a safe space for the trans community.”
Percy Ranson, a transgender gamer, went further in an article for the Australian gaming site GamesHub, arguing that purchasing the game supports the royalty checks that Rowling will receive for use of Harry Potter intellectual property.
This will send a financial signal that Wizarding World content continues to be profitable and lead to future Harry Potter-themed or -adjacent games that will only further enrich Rowling. It will also broaden the audience with whom Rowling can continue to share her hostility towards transgender people.
“If you purchase this game — if you praise its qualities and encourage others to ‘support the developers’ or ‘treat yourself to a guilty pleasure’ — you are making a choice that will harm the transgender community,” Ranson wrote.
But xQc, a popular streamer with more than 11 million Twitch followers, criticized people who seek to shame those who buy the game, claiming that “people fund all sorts of evil with their purchases across the board in way worse ways” than purchasing a video game.
Another transgender gamer, Asher Chelder, who works on social media for the Harry Potter fan site MuggleNet, told The New York Times that he is looking forward to playing the game despite the controversy. “Every big ‘Harry Potter’ thing turns into an LGBTQ conversation,” said Chelder.
Last month, Sebastian Croft, who stars in Netflix’s Heartstopper, publicly apologized for his role in Hogwarts Legacy after it was reported that he was cast as the voice of one of the game’s playable characters.
“I was cast in this project over 3 years ago, back when all Harry Potter was to me, was the magical world I grew up with,” Croft wrote in an apology on Twitter. “This was long before I was aware of JK Rowling’s views. I believe wholeheartedly that trans women are women and trans men are men. I know far more now than I did 3 years ago, and hope to learn far more in the next 3.
“I’m really sorry to anyone hurt by this announcement,” Croft added. “There is no LGB without the T.”
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