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Nicolais: It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our friends

An open letter to one of my favorite authors after JK Rowling publicly undermined the transgender community

Dear JK Rowling – 

As your beloved Albus Dumbledore taught us, “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.” 

When you look out and see so many people standing up against your recent support for a woman openly hostile to the transgender community, please remember many of us remain your loving readers and, through your books, friends. But we would fall short of the ideals we learned in your pages if we didn’t summon the courage to stand with the transgender community now.

Mario Nicolais

In my home, you have long been venerated. Quotes from Harry Potter hang on our walls. A few months ago, on our anniversary, my wife gifted me your first three books as illustrated in breathtaking manner by Jim Kay. Paintings of the Hogwarts Express, the Forbidden Forest and Hogsmeade Village decorate our house. The inscription inside my wedding ring – which I didn’t know about until we’d already taken our vows – reads, “until the very end.

And that passage also marks the best place to begin explaining why your position is so wrong. 

I’ve always assumed that you wrote every word and every book to get to that exchange between Harry and his deceased loved ones. I know because you’ve spoken openly about the influence losing your mother had on your writing

That’s why you finished that brief section with your most important lesson to readers: the people we love never really leave us. We are all like Harry and carry them with us, “their presence is [our] courage, and the reason [we are] able to keep putting one foot in front of the other” during our most trying moments.

How powerful that lesson must have been for young transgender boys and girls leafing through the final pages of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Just like Harry, many have been targeted, subject to tease and torment solely because they are “different.”

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More likely to be physically or sexually assaulted, at risk for anxiety and depression, and often unsupported by family (like the Dursleys, only far worse), transgender people experience homelessness, isolation and suicide at a disturbingly disproportionate rate. All because their assigned gender doesn’t match their biologically coded sex.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the comfort and connection many transgender people found in Harry Potter literally saved lives. That’s why your dismissive tweet, no matter how you attempted to soften it, hurt so badly.

TODAY’S UNDERWRITER

For me personally, it undercuts one of the defining decisions of my life. Not without a little influence from the example set by Harry and his friends, I became a champion for LGBTQ equality in 2012, just after your books and the movies based off of them concluded. I am neither gay nor transgender, but just as Neville Longbottom stood against Lord Voldemort, I needed to stand with people who needed my voice.

I like to think that my choice and contribution helped instill even a nominal amount of courage in transgender advocates like the 12-year-old transgender girl who recently helped make my state’s laws more humane for her community.

I understand that your support for Maya Forester likely evolved from your support for women’s equality, but that support doesn’t need to come at an exclusionary cost. In fact, that position undermines your goals. As one of my country’s great orators once wrote from a jail cell, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

I hope that earnest pleas like mine, to educate yourself more and understand the flaw in your logic, find their way through the angry, scathing criticism currently aimed at you. After all, not even Harry Potter was infallible, but he had friends to help correct his course when he made a mistake.

I will continue to cherish Harry Potter, the lessons I learned from him, and you as well for introducing it all to me. But in this instance, I must stand up against you and with the transgender community, until the very end.


Mario Nicolais is an attorney and columnist who writes on law enforcement, the legal system, health care and public policy. Follow him on Twitter: @MarioNicolaiEsq


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