Sometimes I need a change. I have changed many things about myself and my surroundings over the three and a half decades I've been on this planet. When I was a kid, I rearranged my shared bedroom furniture regularly, reconfiguring the beds, dressers, and desks to create a new and exciting environment. As an adult, I periodically reorganize our closets and drawers, or reconfigure the shed when I suddenly see a way for things to fit better or to be more easily accessible.
This week, my partner (and co-worker) and I spent a couple hours discussing how we can rearrange our office now that we've spent a year working in it. We are both in the middle of major projects that can't be halted just yet to allow for several days of office special upheaval, but it was refreshing all the same to talk it through, take measurements, and sketch out a plan.
One of the things I most appreciate about rearranging physical spaces is the opportunity to assess what is working well about the current set-up and what potential differences could make it even better. What could serve a need or a function more completely or more efficiently or more beautifully? Each space has a purpose (or many) and I appreciate the exercise in realizing the fullest potential of that purpose.
I get a similar kind of joy and satisfaction from examining my own internal spaces. It is important to me to recognize all the parts of myself, shine a light on them from time to time and ask "how is this currently serving me?" This week I had the opportunity to review my connection to a very large slice of my personality pie: the Harry Potter book series.
I have loved these books since I was first introduced to them in my late teens. I was already living on my own, outside my parents’ home, but my younger sister was reading it and she recommended it ecstatically. I was taking a trip back east so with an eye-roll, I picked up the first book to "just check it out" on the long flight. I devoured it on the first leg of my journey.
When the plane touched down for my lay-over, I was so eager to know what happened next that I sprinted from my gate across the entire San Francisco airport to the only bookstore behind security to buy books 2 and 3. I made it back to my gate just in time for boarding and voraciously read for the rest of the flight. Unfortunately, book 4 had not yet come out so I was stymied in my attempt to discover whether good would ultimately triumph over evil until several years and three books later.
Each time the next book approached release, I re-read the series up to that point so I would be ready to dive right in to the newest installment. My investment never rose to the level of full-on fandom mania – I did not dress-up to camp-out with other fans in line for a midnight release – although I did dutifully put in my pre-order and excitedly pick up my copy a day or two later.
I also have never identified with the snobbery some fans (of anything) exude for loving it before it was cool or for winning the most trivia competitions. I clearly showed up after the party had already started and I am not so cool. My devotion is quieter and more personal. I just love the story and the world and the way all the details of each character's arc are woven together across the volumes into a beautiful tapestry about family and revolution and humanness.
I have gotten many things from the Harry Potter series, including a clear sense that the world is not divided into Good People and Death Eaters. Humans are complex, many faceted, and ever-changing. Harry Potter has inspired me to be more open-minded and inclusive, to consider the wholeness of other human beings as well as my own humanity, and to fight against the status quo of institutional and societal systems.
Which is why I was so shocked a year ago to learn that the author has so little compassion for trans folks, and was actively using her platform to speak out against trans rights. At the time, I was unspeakably disappointed that the human who crafted those 7 tombs of humanity could be so unable to see how she was diminishing the humanity of others. It came up again this week when a friend made a post declaring no better time than now to ditch the series forever.
The post itself was not all that salacious, it was the comments that got me thinking. Specifically, it was the way some commenters were so heavily invested in the idea that because the author is refusing to see her problematic behavior we must also abandon her creation without further consideration. Last year I appreciated all the other celebrities connected with the Harry Potter world denouncing JK Rowling's anti-trans pronouncements because I wanted the art itself to avoid becoming tainted by her ignorance and fear of her fellow human beings.
I won't pretend the Harry Potter series is without problems or limitations. There are really no alter-abled characters (other than Mad Eye Moody) and very few characters of color, for instance. But not every piece of art is going to consider all the things I want to be included for consideration, especially when the whole of the world consistently and deliberately fails to take those perspectives into account. That is why I also seek out other art and other artists.
There are so many authors of color and trans authors writing about fantastical places and human exploration and journeys. So many fascinating tales about other worlds, futuristic technology, and interplanetary exploration. Harry Potter is just one series written from one viewpoint... a very white and privileged viewpoint. A viewpoint that has gotten more than its share of time in the spotlight right up to and including the present moment in modern society. There are many fantasy series out there and Harry Potter certainly should not be a standard by which any others are measured.
And lifting those other artists and their stories up does not require tearing Harry Potter down. Their value and the importance of their contribution to the world stands alone. It has nothing to do with whether any other series exists. It also does not serve to move humanity forward to automatically dismiss the writing because the writer is acting like a dreadful human being. But the revenue from the books, movies, and merchandise does financially support the author, and the notoriety provides her with a vast sphere of influence.
I want to acknowledge the hurt and harm JK Rowling has caused and continues to cause some of my fellow humans. I want to support efforts to push back against her problematic anti-trans views, ideally in a way that encourages her to grow and learn and change her impact on the world. I also want to continue to read and enjoy a fantasy series that has had a profound and positive impact on my life. And I don't think any of those things are in conflict. I can do them all.
I love Harry Potter and I do not want to provide financial support to JK Rowling at this time. So I have to express my Harry Potter appreciation in ways that do not generate support for JK Rowling. Fortunately for me, I already own all the books (and the audio books). So I will not buy another Harry Potter book or movie or audiobook, and I will not go to Harry Potter World or attend an official fandom event if the proceeds will find their way back to JK Rowling. And I will talk about why I cannot support the author any time I want to publicly support the books.
Creating change is not just about doing different things. It’s also about doing things differently. If I respond to the dehumanizing of some people by dehumanizing the dehumanizers, than I have only perpetuated the very thing I am working against. There are a lot of things about our world that need to change. I want to change them in a way that sets our future selves up with a chance to avoid baking the same damn problematic cake out of differently flavored ingredients
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Jaydra is a human in-process, working to make the world a better place. Sharing thoughts, feelings, and observations about the human experience.