Pop Culture
2 min

Not again: J.K. Rowling’s new book is super transphobic

“Troubled Blood” features a cis male serial killer who murders cis women while dressed as a woman

J.K. Rowling
Credit: EPA/Neil Hall; Francesca Roh/Xtra

Months after facing backlash for ongoing transphobic tirades, author J.K. Rowling is at it again—this time relying on a fear-mongering, transphobic stereotype in the plot of her new book.

Troubled Blood follows an investigation into a cis male serial killer who dresses up as a woman to murder cis women—a book, according to an early review published Sunday in The Telegraph, “whose moral seems to be: never trust a man in a dress.”

The 900-page novel is the latest in Rowling’s crime series, written under her (questionable) pseudonym Robert Galbraith, featuring detective protagonist Cormoran Strike. Troubled Blood is allegedly inspired by a 1974 cold case in which a missing woman was believed to be murdered by a cis male serial killer who posed as a woman during his crimes.

The plot appears to feature a common transphobic dog whistle: that trans women pose a threat to the safety and livelihoods of cis women. That idea was a centrepiece in Rowling’s meandering, 3,900-word essay on “gender issues” in June. “I want trans women to be safe. At the same time, I do not want to make natal girls and women less safe,” she wrote on her website. “When you throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman… then you open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside. That is the simple truth.”

In reality, trans women are most vulnerable to violence and trauma. In 2019 alone, at least 23 trans women were murdered in the U.S.; that year, the Human Rights Campaign notes, 91 percent of trans murder victims were Black women. Moreover, studies have found that 50 percent of trans people will experience sexual violence in their lifetime. And as Vox’s German Lopez writes, there is no evidence that allowing trans women to use the bathroom that best corresponds to their gender identity puts cis women at greater risk.

Worse yet, it’s not the first time Rowling has relied on transphobic tropes in the Strike series: In her 2015 novel, The Silkworm, a trans woman attempts to kill the novel’s protagonist while Rowling describes her aggressive demeanour, Adam’s apple and large hands.

News of Troubled Blood has since hit Twitter, where users say the author has managed to kill her career by hating trans people. The result: the trending hashtag #RIPJKRowling. If we’re lucky, this will be the end of Rowling’s transphobia—but we’re not holding our breath.

Editor's note, Sep 15, 2020: Some language in the story has been updated to more accurately reflect the contents of the book.

This story is filed under Books, Pop Culture, Transphobia, News
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