Suggested readings on J.K. Rowling’s anti-transgender stance and Hogwarts Legacy

The game is simultaneously garnering significant hype and intense controversy, which means it's worth reading into more deeply

Hogwarts Legacy combat

On March 17th, Warner Bros. gave us our first extensive look at gameplay from Hogwarts Legacy, and it’s honestly looking like the Harry Potter game I’ve dreamed of since I was a kid.

Until now, pretty much every “Wizarding World” game has been a retelling of the same stories featured in the seven Potter books/eight Potter films. While there’s a certain novelty to that, especially for kids, what was always most tantalizing was a game that let you live out your own Hogwarts adventure, not a version of Harry’s.

With that in mind, Hogwarts Legacy ticks pretty much every box I could have hoped for. The ability to create your own witch or wizard and get sorted into one of Hogwarts’ four houses? An original story set many years before Harry was even born? An expansive open-world to explore with a broom or Hippogriff? A slew of flashy spells for dynamic combat? It really seems like developer Avalanche Software has understood the assignment.

If only it were that simple.

At this point, you’ve probably heard about the controversy surrounding the game. It’s one that, rather unfortunately, actually has nothing to do with Avalanche itself. Instead, it pertains to Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling, who’s come under fire in recent years for repeatedly making transphobic remarks. To reiterate: this is recurring behaviour, not a one-off tweet from years ago. Now, I personally know some people, either social media acquaintances or actual friends and family, who don’t see why this is a problem. Many others certainly don’t, either, and this can come down to people being genuinely unaware, deliberately ignorant or just plain bigoted.

As a straight, (half) white cis-gendered male, I originally didn’t understand either; admittedly, I’ve benefited from living in my own relatively hate-free bubble. But what I’ve done over the past year, and what I’d encourage others to do, is simply listen to what Rowling’s critics are saying.

With that in mind, I’d like to share just a few resources to better explain how Rowling is actively harming an already extremely marginalized and vulnerable community. These are people who know far more about the subject than me and can maybe help inform just a bit.

I’ve learned a lot in doing so, particularly when it comes to the rise of trans-related hate crimes in Rowling’s native U.K. amid her comments, how trans and other LGBTQ+ people feel about Rowling, the perspectives of the stars of the Potter films, how you can’t really “separate the art from the artist” with Rowling, and broader, frightening transphobic laws being pushed.

Those articles all cover Rowling’s transphobia in general, but there have also been some good pieces to relate it to back to Hogwarts Legacy. For one, trans woman Jessie Earl, a video producer at GameSpot, penned an incredibly detailed and nuanced piece about Rowling and Hogwarts Legacy. The majority of her piece unpacks Rowling’s falsehoods and dangerous rhetoric, before explaining how that all relates to the game.

Another trans woman in games media, The Gamer editor-in-chief Stacey Henley, has also written several thoughtful pieces on the game. These include layered opinions on whether you should boycott the title and her debate on covering the game at all.

Then there are organizations you can learn from and support, including:

  • Canadian Professional Association for Transgender Health (CPATH) — the largest national multidisciplinary, professional organization in the world, which aims to support trans and gender diverse people
    GLAAD — an organization aiming to support the LGBTQ+ community in general
  • Trans Lifeline — a grassroots organization offering direct emotional and financial support to trans people (Canadians can dial 1-877-330-6366)
  • Trans Pulse Canada — a community-based survey of the health and well-being of trans/non-binary people in Canada

A more comprehensive list of Canadian trans-supporting charitable groups can be found here.

Ultimately, you should make your own choice about buying Hogwarts Legacy. As some of the pieces above state, you’re not a bad person for doing that. If you feel complicated about it, that’s certainly reasonable, too. But hopefully, you can at least read a bit more about Rowling’s actions from those being negatively impacted by them and keep that all in mind, regardless of whether you end up playing the game.

Image credit: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment