She single-handedly created one of the most distinguished fictional worlds in literary, cinematic and popular culture history.

But Harry Potter author JK Rowling has not been invited to star in the franchise’s upcoming reunion special, Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts, which premieres on Binge tonight.

It’s one of the most controversial snubs in recent memory. The special will reunite everyone from the film’s main trio, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson, to extended cast and directors, as they revisit the Warner Bros set in London and discuss the film franchise’s enduring legacy.

On first glance, it seems bizarre not to feature Rowling, who was responsible for concocting this very world when she wrote Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone on an old manual typewriter back in 1995.

But the shine around Rowling – who is said to be worth $1.5 billion thanks to her publishing work – has begun to dwindle in recent years, beginning in late 2019 when she made damning comments about the transgender community, which were widely deemed transphobic.

Despite widespread backlash, Rowling has time and time again doubled down on her comments, and continues to cause controversy with her unwavering stance.

JK Rowling will not appear in the Harry Potter reunion. Picture: Justin Tallis/AFP
JK Rowling will not appear in the Harry Potter reunion. Picture: Justin Tallis/AFP

When did it all escalate?

In December 2019, Rowling made headlines for publicly supporting Maya Forstater, a researcher who was fired for tweeting that “men cannot change into women”.

Forstater’s comments, which had been ruled “not worthy of respect” by an employment tribunal, were later supported by Rowling on her Twitter account.

“Dress however you please,” Rowling wrote. “Call yourself whatever you like. Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you. Live your best life in peace and security. But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real? #IStandWithMaya.”

Amid the Black Lives Matter protest movement and the Covid-19 pandemic last year, Rowling doubled down on her transphobic messaging.

Posting an article on Twitter which had the headline “People who menstruate”, Rowling made a joke of the phrasing, writing: “People who menstruate. I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”

After copping backlash, Rowling yet again stood by her sentiment.

“If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction,” she tweeted. “If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives. It isn’t hate to speak the truth.”

“I respect every trans person’s right to live any way that feels authentic and comfortable to them,” she continued. “I’d march with you if you were discriminated against on the basis of being trans. At the same time, my life has been shaped by being female. I do not believe it’s hateful to say so.”

Rowling doubles down in astonishing statement

In a 3600-word statement released on her website on June 10 2020, Rowling didn’t back down, instead, arguing that she must speak out on these issues because she believed that trans rights erode the rights of biological women.

“I knew perfectly well what was going to happen when I supported Maya. I must have been on my fourth or fifth cancellation by then. I expected the threats of violence, to be told I was literally killing trans people with my hate, to be called c**t and b***h and, of course, for my books to be burned,” she began.

“I’m an ex-teacher and the founder of a children’s charity, which gives me an interest in both education and safeguarding. Like many others, I have deep concerns about the effect the trans rights movement is having on both.

“As a much-banned author, I’m interested in freedom of speech and have publicly defended it, even unto Donald Trump.

“Where things start to get truly personal. I’m concerned about the huge explosion in young women wishing to transition and also about the increasing numbers who seem to be detransitioning (returning to their original sex), because they regret taking steps that have, in some cases, altered their bodies irrevocably, and taken away their fertility.

“Some say they decided to transition after realising they were same-sex attracted, and that transitioning was partly driven by homophobia, either in society or in their families.”

It’s safe to say the statement did not go down well.

JK Rowling has continued to double down on her trans comments. Picture: Debra Hurford Brown © JK Rowling
JK Rowling has continued to double down on her trans comments. Picture: Debra Hurford Brown © JK Rowling

Harry Potter stars speak out

Daniel Radcliffe – who played Harry Potter – led comments speaking out against Rowling’s statement.

“Jo is unquestionably responsible for the course my life has taken,” Radcliffe wrote in a statement published by The Trevor Project, an organisation that works in crisis prevention for LGBTQ youth. “As a human being, I feel compelled to say something at this moment … Transgender women are women. Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional health care associations who have far more expertise on this subject matter than either Jo or I.

“I am deeply sorry for the pain these comments have caused you. If these books taught you that love is the strongest force in the universe, capable of overcoming anything; if they taught you that strength is found in diversity, and that dogmatic ideas of pureness lead to the oppression of vulnerable groups …

“If you found anything in these stories that resonated with you and helped you at any time in your life – then that is between you and the book that you read, and it is sacred. And in my opinion nobody can touch that.”

Rupert Grint, Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson all spoke out in support of the trans community. Picture: Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images
Rupert Grint, Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson all spoke out in support of the trans community. Picture: Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

Around the same time Watson also made a statement, tweeting: “Trans people are who they say they are and deserve to live their lives without being constantly questioned or told they aren’t who they say they are. I want my trans followers to know that I and so many other people around the world see you, respect you and love you for who you are.”

Finally, Grint also launched his own response in a statement.

“I firmly stand with the trans community. Trans women are women. Trans men are men. We should all be entitled to live with love and without judgment,” Grint said.

Recent tweet leaves fans fed up

Rowling shared an article in mid-December from The Times of London which was titled: “‘Absurdity’ of police logging rapists as women”. The article detailed how police in Scotland would be logging rape suspects as women if that’s how they identify, even if they have not legally changed gender.

Rowling tweeted: “War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength. The Penised Individual Who Raped You Is a Woman.”

Thousands of fans immediately hit out at Rowling, with many accusing her of having an unhealthy fixation on trans issues.

“You literally have a castle and you spend your time doing this,” podcaster Rob Rousseau wrote.

“What a weird hill to die on Rowling,” producer Brett Erlich added.

Rowling is yet to comment on her snub from the reunion, but despite the impact of her comments, she has declared she will not back down from her stance.

“I’ve now received so many death threats I could paper the house with them, and I haven’t stopped speaking out,” Rowling wrote in a recent tweet.

“Perhaps – and I’m just throwing this out there – the best way to prove your movement isn’t a threat to women, is to stop stalking, harassing and threatening us.”

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