Harry Potter: Is It Time To Disapparate?


As many who share a love of all things Harry Potter, I have been following the backlash toward JK Rowling over her recent twitter posts. Last night, I caught an article in Marie Claire written by Kathleen Walsh. To be honest, it hit hard especially in relation to a blog post I just published dealing with my take on current affairs. Unfortunately, whatever I write will disappear into the void of a blog-post black hole; I don’t have anything resembling the bandwidth Walsh will enjoy by publishing in Marie Claire.

The last statement of her first paragraph ends with: “We must end our Harry Potter fantasy now.” I didn’t care for the tone as I’m not one to be told what I must do, but because I’m invested in the discussion, I waded through the wordy article and then the referenced JK Rowling essay. I’m sensitive to transgender issues, I wrote a post five years ago after research and interviews on the subject. It’s a complicated matter. The shades of existence between traditional male and female standards aren’t the straightforward colors of a Pride flag, but more like a Jackson Pollack painting – the permutations seem infinite.

The problem is not everyone “gets” it. Just like Black Lives Matter, how many people respond with a dismissive All Lives Matter retort? People older than millennials generally grew up without a clear understanding of LGBTQ issues. How often do you still hear gayness is a choice? If they aren’t even capable of accepting how someone can be gay or lesbian, how are they going to absorb transgenderism with all the new acronyms, pronoun assignments, and the multitude of sexual preferences?

As with racial concerns, transgender issues require education. We need more people to believe, like the sign in the George Floyd/Black Lives Matter protests said: I understand I don’t understand, but I stand with you. Instead of encouraging this, we witness name-calling and character assassination. As I said in my post, argumentation is now performed from the platform of absolutes. If you say one thing counter to the paradigm someone subscribes to, you’re branded a person to be shunned, ignored, and trashed, destined to be a societal pariah. We have many who deserve that moniker: Donald Trump, Jeffrey Epstein, Harvey Weinstein, David Duke – people who clearly exhibit fundamental evil. I cannot, and will not, label essentially good people with similar epitaphs.

JK Rowling was wrong in her assessment, but to consider wholesale verbal flogging and boycotting is the opposite extreme. People are now scrutinizing every sentence of all seven books picking any piece of evidence to support the notion Rowling is transphobic and racist. I will say this: there is not one author or one book ever published capable of withstanding the application of everyone’s personal agenda. Instead of accepting the good Rowling has done and continues to do while giving her the opportunity to enrich her education on the subject of transgenderism, we see vultures circling, anxious to devour the flesh of one of the much-loved authors of our time.

My own path to acceptance and to the degree I understand homosexuality, transgenderism, and race was a difficult one. In some cases, it resulted in a 180-degree reversal of thinking and feeling, but I got here, and I’m still learning. I am not a religious person, but for one rare occasion, I will quote the Bible: let s/he who is without sin cast the first stone.

As for Harry Potter – the books and the movies – will I end the fantasy? No, not now, not ever.

Sorrows to the Stones



Therefore I tell my sorrows to the stones;

Who, though they cannot answer my distress,

Yet in some sort they are better than the tribunes,

Titus Andronicus, Act III, Scene I

Sorrows to the Stones is a work in progress, novel title, but the quote from which it derives best defines the place for where my understanding of humankind has landed.

The late Dr. Karen Erickson, former Dean of the school of Arts and Sciences at Southern New Hampshire University and advocate of the Master of Fine Arts program once said the job of a writer is to observe and become the spokesperson of what those observations reveal. Writers hold the mirror of humanity, of society, and permit the reader to focus on what it means to be a participant of life.

I’ve had ample opportunity to observe over six and a half decades. I watched John Glenn launch in 1962, felt the tension of the Cuban Missile Crisis, experienced the emotional shock of the JFK, RFK, and MLK assassinations. Observed the unfolding civil rights movement as integration and school busing blurred the strict segregation of African-Americans, the landing on the moon, daily reports from the battlefields of Viet Nam on the evening news. The freedom marches of 1963 and yet we succumb to riots like that in Los Angeles three decades later and now again with the murder of George Floyd.

I’ve seen the widening divergence of our two-party political system. Where a Venn diagram once showed the majority of red and blue dots in the center, now has solid white space between red and blue balloons. Gay rights and LGBTQ issues finally made it to the table of discussion, yet it seems even more dangerous to be anything other than a male or female heterosexual. Society had forged inroads to acceptance, but like a failed launch, the rocket has come crashing back to earth.

I observed the Islamic world through five years in the Middle East, seen unrelenting poverty of third-world nations where Philippinos, Yemenis, Pakistanis, and Asians made the equivalent of pocket change in comparison to their western counterparts. I’ve seen children in Africa with only a single outfit of clothing, herding flocks of goat and camel down barely paved roads. Soccer balls were the currency of youth on the streets of Asmara.

Then there was the election process of 2016, a turning point – my observations now hyper-focused with a clearer imperative. The simple act of writing stories faltered in the context of relevance. The stay-at-home version of existence thanks to Covid-19 allowed more time to scan posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram where the conduct of argumentation performs from the platform of absolutes. There is a tendency toward a lack of attention to perspective and the breeding of over-simplification. Smart phones provide the means by which bad behavior proves the point but also becomes a weapon to brand anyone and everyone with a scarlet letter. Someone is offended in one way or another at every moment. We live with daily character assassination, some warranted; many questionable. Civil wars of all issues, no matter the magnitude, rage and divide. Leadership tears at the fabric of our country and feeds the virus of disease that diminishes all progress. Worse, the creation of a permissive environment where racist and supremacist attitudes projecting hatred and narrow-mindedness are tolerated with tacit encouragement at the highest level.

I was fortunate not to be born in a time or place that would have subjected me to the likes of Hitler, Stalin, or Mussolini. I have not been starved or suffered the threat of horrific death by bombings, political purges, or prejudice. I have faced many issues and difficulties, but for all that live a decent life. It doesn’t mean, however, my observations are any less accurate, nor is my perception of where we are heading, and it’s scary.

The brief respite the planet has enjoyed from human interaction has demonstrated some remarkable changes. Fish can be seen in the canals of Venice, carbon emissions are down, air quality is up, water is cleaner, animals stray farther from their limited habitats. It paints a clear picture of the damage we do and what we’ll continue to do once the pandemic passes. The DNA of human nature is rife with destructive tendencies. The media does a good job in demonstrating this with every article, news report, breaking headline, and interviews with every talking head imaginable. One cannot experience a half hour news program without feeling doom, even with the occasional uplifting story designed to restore a sense faith and hope eroded by our steady diet of reality.

I don’t know where we go from here, but from my observations and conclusions, it doesn’t look like a very good place. So, I share my woes with the stones…for their concern seems more genuine than that of my fellow man.


Photo by Nikhil kumar on Unsplash

LGBT: The next battle…


Though pockets of resistance remain, the battle for gay marriage was won. But, the war isn’t over, especially for individuals who identify as Transgender. Their struggle is just beginning to coalesce into a meaningful discussion, thanks in part to Caitlyn Jenner’s coming out. Though Jenner is the current ‘poster child’ for transgenderism, she is by no means the first. Sex reassignment surgery for those who desired a full transition dates back to the 1920s by doctors in Germany. Christine Jorgensen, a self-proclaimed transgender woman, was first known to Americans with the headline: “Ex-GI Becomes Blonde Bombshell” in the early 1950s. Chaz Bono came out in 2009. At the very least, Jenner’s step onto the stage identifies the shadow group of people who live and suffer in the day-to-day world. The ultimate benefit of this comes with the crystallization of the understanding for just how complex humans are. Any attempt to gauge the diversity between simple male and female classification is like trying to comprehend the infinite dimensions beyond the 3-D world we live in.

However, transgenderism isn’t all about gender-confirming surgery; it’s about identification, and more specifically about self-identification. It begins with the recognition that who you are on the inside doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with what you look like on the outside. In a world were almost everyone tries to label or categorize into a known – and comfortable – set of classifications, being transgender invites a multitude of problems, not the least of which is outright danger.

Of course I knew the story of Christine Jorgensen, and I saw the reports on Chaz Bono, but my knowledge of this sketchy existence was limited until about two years ago. I first met a woman as a member of my class in a Master’s Degree program for writing. We struck a friendship from our first day, and gradually a sense of trust in each other. A year later, in a conversation with her and a small group of my other classmates, she made it known that the memoir she was writing as her Master’s thesis was based on her life as a transgender woman. The courage of the revelation was astounding. I now have the privilege of doing some editing work on that very same book, and her words are electrifying.

Transgenderism is fast becoming mainstream news. There are even reality shows and television dramas featuring people who identify as such, though one complaint is that the scripted series tend to have cisgender actors in the roles rather than actual transgenders. Transparent, starring Jeffrey Tambor as a trans-dad, looks at humanity despite issues of gender and has won dozens of awards. I Am Jazz, another TV series explores the difficulties of being a transgender in school. The soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful has a plot line that featured the marriage of a transgender woman. In September, the movie About Ray will premiere starring Elle Fanning as a girl trying to make the transition as a boy and the family issues that it provokes.

Despite this new-found awareness, problems facing transgenders are overwhelming. Even basic healthcare becomes a headache.

I had a lengthy conversation with Amelia Gapin, a transgender woman and the co-founder of My Trans Health. Their mission is to connect transgender people to physicians who will provide knowledgeable and quality healthcare. Amelia stresses about “just finding a doctor, of having to go through having to have that conversation with them, and then not knowing how they’re going to react.” She had one doctor go so far as to ask if she needed a pap smear during a physical. Her friends and fellow transgender women have had doctors wonder how it was possible they had breasts. It’s clear that the medical community, despite years of study and training, isn’t automatically adept at dealing with them. One patient saw the contents of her medical file in which the doctor wrote that he was masculine looking and dressed like a woman. The doctor was “ignorant of the fact that she was a transgender woman” and used male pronouns. Other complications might arise, especially in the case of a transgender man who probably still has a cervix, a uterus, and ovaries. Doctors need to be aware that they’re treating a man with the possibility for the development of certain cancers.

So far, the hardest challenge facing My Trans Health has been reaching out to the medical community and finding those willing take the time to educate themselves to the complications or those who have had some experience already. Initially they are focusing on New York, Miami, and San Francisco. Amelia’s guess is that there are perhaps 750,000 transgender people in the United States alone, but that number could be on the very low side. Ultimately, My Trans Health would love to be proactive in the development of special medical education that will cover transgender issues.

Medical insurance can be a nightmare. Most policies do not have transgender-inclusive riders and therefore generally fail to cover the costs of gender-affirming surgery which can run anywhere from $20,000 to over $100,000 and be performed by only a small handful of surgeons. The best that most transgenders can generally hope for is the coverage of hormone therapy.

The most horrifying aspect of the transgender world is the violence they face. There has been no lack of recent news on how many murders have been committed. The recent reporting of a Marine in the Philippines, a man who should have been serving with honor, strangled a transgender woman to death when he found out. In this country alone, there have been 19 murders so far this year as of four days ago. Most have been transgender women of color. These reports are only the ones we hear about; I can’t begin to imagine how many of the total number of murders in this country might have had some aspect of transgenderism associated with it. So many find they must relocate often and disassociate with their loved ones in order to live in relative safety. The opportunity to find happiness and live a normal life is elusive and mostly unattainable.

Governor Christie, of New Jersey, recently underscored issues of documentation by vetoing a statute that would have allowed transgenders to change the sex on their driving licenses. His excuse was that “Birth certificates unlock access to many of our nation and state’s critical and protected benefits such as passports, driver’s licenses, and social services, as well as other important security-dependent allowances.” It seems to me that if a married woman can effectively change her name to reflect her husband’s (that’s another subject entirely) and have new documents issued, it shouldn’t be that difficult to figure a way to make it easier for transgenders to do the same.

These few issues are just the opening salvo of the new battle for LGBT rights and acceptance. There are many more, from legal protection and discrimination to the minutiae of how school districts administer who is entitled to use the bathrooms and locker rooms.

It took forty-six years from the time Leo Laurence called for the Homosexual Revolution in San Francisco to achieve legislated same-sex marriage. One can only hope that the wisdom gained from the emergence of these rights will carry over to the battle for transgender support, recognition, and acceptance.