Written by Lindsay Seldera.
Art by Hélios L.
I cannot re-watch the Harry Potter movies because they make me too emotional. I feel so much empathy for all the characters, Slytherin and Gryffindor, Elf and Muggle alike. J.K. Rowling’s writing made me feel so connected to the universe she created that it hurts me, almost physically, to see any of the characters hurting, even the “Bad Guys.”
I put that descriptor in quotes because to categorize characters and people this way would be a gross oversimplification. People do not exist on a two-way spectrum of “Good” and “Bad.” The human experience could not possibly fit into that binary, a point Rowling irrevocably drove home throughout the seven part series. Sometimes the Potters were the bullies. Sirius Black wasn’t as bad as everyone thought.
Rowling is trying to take our lived experience of the world and of the Harry Potter books from us.
Rowling crafted her characters, her stories, with lots of space to challenge young readers to see that things aren’t always black or white or even shades of gray. The world is a colorful place with plenty of room for everyone.
Now, my generation’s collective favorite writer is desperately trying to regain control over the magical universe she gave us. Reading through her Twitter and her latest work is surreal. I looked it over again for this essay and it left me with my head in my hands. Her Twitter feed is, at this point, a few hundred charming drawings submitted by young fans of her most recent short story, but with hateful messages carefully slid between them. The juxtaposition of kind messages to young children with the kind of toxic, self-victimization characteristic of radical right hate-groups in the U.S. is hard to stomach.
Functionally, Rowling is trying to take our lived experience of the real world, and of the Harry Potter books, from us to sell an easier, more comfortable black, white and grey world that I don’t fit into. I won’t be relinquishing the power I’ve claimed as part of a bigger, brighter world.
The world is a colorful place with plenty of room for everyone.
The Autistic community (meaning the community of Autistic people, not those “Autism Mom,” puzzle-piece, find-a-cure, fear-mongering hate-groups) conceptualizes the Autism spectrum as more of a big, sphere-like, three dimensional measuring tool. When I say I’m on the spectrum, I mean that I exist on a widely varying spectrum of autistic traits and struggles that fluctuate depending on a number of factors. To me, and to many Autistic comrades, (including many of the Autistic GNC people Rowling is apparently so concerned about being manipulated into gender affirming surgery) this huge spectrum is the only logical framework through which human life can be understood.
There is no “more Autistic” or “less Autistic.” Just like Severus Snape and James Potter are not categorically “good” or “bad.” There is no imposed “male” or “female,” there is just an artificial binary that is nothing more than a broken tool for people like Rowling to pretend to measure humanity. The idea that most people would fall on one of two dots on that line, or even on any line at all, makes no sense logically.
I grew up in Nebraska. It honestly has never occurred to me to question my “gender,” or my sexuality, or my place as an Autistic person. I simply am who I am, and even before I had the language to describe myself I knew these facts. The wizarding world was the lens through which I was able to stake my claim in the real world. The world is a complicated, beautiful place full of humans, elves, giants, centaurs, and hippogriffs. I can’t understand the logic driving the same person who taught me this, to now spew hatred at me.
I am not confused. I am not confused about my “gender,” I am not confused about my sexual preferences, and I have not been manipluated by some sort of pretend, monolithic queer community into being the person I am. Still, Rowling relentlessly cites numbers reporting that a higher percentage of Autistics are gender non-conforming than non-Autistics, attempting to use us as evidence that being trans isn’t a real thing.
To my autistic brain, it’s childishly clear that any reports of Autistics identifying themselves as existing beyond the gender binary only prove the worthlessness of that binary. All Autistics are different people, but in general, we are a lot less likely to be tangled up in bullshit. We are blunt, we are quick, we don’t usually do things that don’t make sense. We don’t have time for the artificial rules of society. If more Autistics are identifying as gender non-conforming, I don’t think the Autistics are the ones who are being manipulated by the society around them.
It is imperative that we–as a queer community, as an Autistic community, as a Harry Potter community–continue to stand up for our sacred right to self definition.
Contrary to the harmful argument J.K. Rowling chooses to push, I’m not confused and, with regard to my gender and sexuality, I never have been. I will never understand the compulsive need of so many around me to sort human beings into pretend categories: good or bad, high or low functioning, boy or girl.
It is imperative that we–as a queer community, as an Autistic community, as a Harry Potter community–continue to stand up for our sacred right to self definition. Only I can know where I lie on the many spectrums of humanity, only I have the opportunity and obligation to explore. True “confusion” lies not in an individual’s brave dive into the unknown depths within themselves, but in maintaining an illusion of having any sort of jurisdiction over anyone else.
J.K. Rowling is trying to force us out of the Wizarding World but I, for one, refuse to leave. The idea that it’s owned by one hateful writer means I certainly will not be spending any money on her new work or on her licensed toys and games, but I have the right to continue exploring the Forbidden Forest. So do you. The power of the Harry Potter Universe is that it is not limited by its creator. We’ve taken it and together made it something far more magical for everyone.
About the Author
Lindsay Seldera is an Autistic writer and fighter based in Omaha, Nebraska. They studied Creative Nonfiction and History at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. See more of Lindsay’s work at patreon.com/LindsaySeldera and in various MMA cages around the midwest.