Iin 2013, J.K. Rowling explained how she chose her now controversial pseudonym, “Robert Galbraith”. The first name, he said, was a nod to his political hero, Robert Kennedy. And the surname? “When I was a kid, I really wanted to be called Ella Galbraith, I have no idea why.”
It’s a fascinating anecdote, but unfortunately Rowling shares her pseudonym with real-life psychiatrist Robert Galbraith Heath, who in the 20th century pioneered what we now call conversion therapy using techniques such as electroshock and “drug” drugs. brain washing”
Rowling’s anecdote, published before her choice of an alternate name sparked much mainstream controversy, considers this connection as pure, if unlikely, coincidence. But the author’s recent transphobic comments have eroded the willingness of many fans to extend the benefit of the doubt, and Rowling’s new book, which revolves around a transvestite serial killer, has only made matters worse.
Troubled Blood, the latest in Rowling-slash-Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike series of detective, is a 944-page tome in which the killer, Dennis Creed, is described as a cisgender man who occasionally dresses up as a woman, sometimes, to approach to his victims. Her propensity to wear clothing and jewelry is framed both as a fetishization and as a result of trauma, playing on two of the most common and pernicious notions about people breaking traditional gender “norms”.
As critics of the novel have already noted, the trope of transvestite killers has a long and sordid history in pop culture. (To think: The silence of the lambs, Psychopath, et al.) The concept is prominent enough that the Netflix documentary Disclosure, which explores media representations of trans people, dedicates an entire segment to it. Laverne Cox, a keynote speaker on the paper, condemned Rowling’s remarks, as did Cynthia Nixon, who has a trans child. Beyond the offensive implication that transgression of gender mores is somehow related to violence, these depictions also serve as a back door to denigrate trans people.
Rowling portrays villain Dennis Creed’s habit of wearing clothing like a mask that masks the violent monster below. His effeminate tendencies cause some people he meets to believe he is gay, which may further remind us of the homophobic arguments of the 1970s and 1980s, which view gays as predatory in a similar way to how anti-trans movements now frame trans people. Rowling’s protagonist, Cormoran Strike, at one point says that Creed’s victims “were fooled by a careful display of femininity.”
But the most damaging are the passages that make fun of Creed using transphobic language. Sometimes there is a fixation on Creed’s ability to “pass” – including an entire retrospective of a doctor’s office discussing whether an unregistered patient was a “lady” or a dressed man. The book frames Creed’s interest in women’s clothing as a result of abuse as a child and considers him a voyeur who uses the cloak of womanhood for his own twisted, again, pernicious anti-trans tropes.
“It thrilled me … to see a woman who didn’t know she was being watched,” writes the character in a first-person passage. “I would do this to my sisters, but I would also approach the lighted windows … I was excited not only by the obviously sensual aspects, but by the sense of power. I felt I had stolen something of their essence from them, taking what they thought private and hidden . ”
“I was aroused not only by the obviously sensual aspects, but by the sense of power. I felt I had stolen something of their essence from them, taking what they thought private and hidden.“
It is also said that the character enjoys stealing women’s underwear, wearing them “in secret” and masturbating with them.
Rowling has gradually become the most recognizable face of an increasingly toxic anti-trans movement taking place in Britain. In recent years, as the US has been battling over bathroom bills, the UK and many prominent media columnists have similarly seized every opportunity to question the humanity of trans people and frame them as threats to women and girls.
In 2017 the UK government announced that it was seeking public comment as it sought to modernize the 2004 Gender Recognition Act. The announcement made it clear that its goal was to ease some of the burdens trans people face as they search the legal recognition of their identity and to provide non-binary persons with recourse under the law; this was not, the announcement noted, an invitation to discuss the humanity of trans people.
Yet in the years that followed, the latter is precisely where the discussion took place, with Rowling and prominent media columnists leading the charge. And it seems their efforts are working: this summer, leaked documents suggested the government intended to ban penis people from “female-only” spaces and come back with some protections already offered by the law.
Armed with a twisted version of “feminism,” Rowling and others have chosen trans people, and especially trans women, as threats to cisgender women when, in reality, trans people, especially trans women, face levels of terrifying violence.
“Rowling and others have pointed to trans people, and especially trans women, as threats to cisgender women when, in reality, trans people, especially trans women, face terrifying levels of violence.“
In June, after launching several transphobic tweets, Rowling further complicated matters by revealing that she is a survivor of domestic abuse and sexual assault. He framed his fear of trans people invading “female only” spaces as the logical result of this trauma, despite the fact that such fears have been completely disproved. (It’s worth noting that even homophobes and racists have adopted bathrooms as battlefields in the past.)
Rowling also said she worries about the young girls she said she went through to escape misogynistic treatment, only to detransition later. (A ridiculous idea for anyone who has glimpsed even a glimpse of the treatment trans people often receive, even before noticing that detransition is a long way off. less common than some news reports suggest.)
As critic Kelly Lawler notes for USA TodayRowling’s comments made it virtually impossible to “separate the art from the artist.” Troubled BloodThe premise of a man wearing a wig and dressing up while terrorizing women feels inextricable from Rowling’s panic over trans people “invading” the “female-only” spaces.
It also doesn’t help that Rowling engaged in even more directly transphobic language in an earlier Cormoran Strike novel. As PinkNews notes, the second in the series, The silkworm, portrays a trans woman as “unstable and aggressive” – playing with the transphobic idea that trans women are somehow unable to suppress violent masculine tendencies.
The character, Pippa, chases Cormoran Strike and eventually tries to stab him – and once the detective traps her in his office, she is revealed as trans, as Rowling describes her Adam’s apple and hands while Strike says that her prison “it won’t be fun for you … not pre-operative.” (Troubled Bloodalso mentions Dennis Creed’s “big hands” in contrast to the wig and dress he wears as a drag.)
Rowling and her contemporaries love to complain about being bullied in order to subdue her, an accusation Rowling herself made in her essay “TERF Wars” this summer. But often, and certainly in this case, those who claim to be silenced have the largest pulpits. Rowling has now used her Twitter platform, her blog and her novels to spread transphobia. And perhaps with the most bitter irony of all, every time he does it in book form, he manages to profit from it, all under the name of a man.