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J.K. Rowling sparks outrage for including cross-dressing serial killer in new book

J.K. Rowling’s new book Troubled Blood set off a wave of anger for including what many are calling a transphobic plot line.

‘You are deliberately enforcing an awful trope about transgender people,’ says advocate

J.K. Rowling's new book, Troubled Blood, has sparked outrage for a reportedly transphobic plotline. According to an early review, the book features a 'transvestite serial killer.' (Christophe Ena/The Associated Press)

Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling has set off a wave of anger for including what many are calling a transphobic plot line in her new book. 

Penned under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, Troubled Blood is Rowling's fifth book to feature private investigator Cormoran Strike. An early review of the book by Telegraph writer Jake Kerridge described it as featuring a "transvestite serial killer," which inspired readers' anger and spawned the Twitter hashtag #RIPJKRowling — a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the author's career.

The backlash comes on the heels of several accusations of transphobia in recent months against Rowling, and trangender activists said the new book appeared to take a deliberate swipe at the community.

"It's really sad to see this road J.K. Rowling appears to be on," said writer and trans advocate Ugla Stefanía Kristjönudóttir Jónsdóttir, who quit Rowling's literary agency in June in protest at the writer's stance.

"It's one thing to have diverse characters, but when you write about a man dressing up as a woman in order to kill women, you are deliberately enforcing an awful trope about transgender people."

Admirers of the Harry Potter books were among those to express their anger.

"The hardest part of being a Harry Potter fan is JK Rowling herself," one said on Twitter on Tuesday.

Despite this, the backlash does not appear to have dented sales. The various hardback, audiobook and Kindle versions of Troubled Blood all occupied the top five positions in Amazon's bestsellers list on Tuesday.

A long-simmering debate

Rowling weighed into trans rights debates in June, when she published an initial tweet criticizing a headline that said "creating a more equal post-COVID-19 world for people who menstruate."

"'People who menstruate.' I'm sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?" Rowling tweeted at the time.

The writer, whose Harry Potter series has sold more than 500 million books, followed the tweet with a 3,600-word essay, in which she disclosed she had been a victim of domestic abuse and sexual assault.

Rowling's agent said the writer would not be commenting further.

But while many in the trans community were outraged by what they saw as further transphobia from the world's wealthiest author, others have defended her.

Robbie Coltrane, who played a recurring character in the Harry Potter film series told a British magazine that people were "waiting to be offended."

"I don't think what she said was offensive really," the actor told Radio Times, despite the film series' three main leads, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, having publicly criticized Rowling's past remarks on the subject.

WATCH | J.K. Rowling defends comments about transgender people:

Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling is continuing to defend her Twitter comments about transgender people as LGBTQ organizations and the stars of the films based on her books speak out against them.  4:21

Bev Jackson, co-founder of activist group LGB Alliance, said many of the attacks, which saw the hashtag #RIPJKRowling trending on Twitter, amounted to "misogyny."

It was "extraordinary that people have opinions about a book they haven't read," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Tuesday.

"There are thousands of thrillers published every year, many of them will feature people who dress up in disguises, and this is fiction."

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