Book festival cancels Harry Potter event over JK Rowling’s ‘hurtful’ trans views

Organisers of a New Zealand book festival have dropped a Harry Potter quiz from the event over JK Rowling’s trans views, saying they want the festival to be a “welcoming place for everyone”.

The Featherston Booktown Karukatea Festival in New Zealand said they have chosen not to feature the popular Harry Potter quiz on this year’s programmes in light of the author’s explosive tweets on trans people.

Rowling has received tremendous backlash due to a series of tweets and a lengthy essay she published on the subject in June 2020. She has been fiercely criticised by LGBT+ advocates and even Harry Potter film stars over her explosive stance.

Peter Biggs, the board chairman for the festival, told Stuff the organisers didn’t come to the decision lightly and had consulted with the LGBT+ community on whether to feature the quiz.

“The overwhelming response was there was a risk around causing distress to particular members of the community and that was the last thing we wanted to do,” Biggs said. “We always thought Booktown should be an inclusive, welcoming place for everyone so we took the decision not to go with Harry Potter.”

Tabby Besley, founder and managing director of LGBT+ organisation InsideOUT, supported the festival’s “strong” decision to drop the Harry Potter quiz. She told Stuff that JK Rowling had been “very vocally unsupportive of trans communities”, and there has been a “lot of hurt caused by that”.

Besley added the decision to drop the quiz showed Booktown was “really trying to be an inclusive community and support their rainbow and transgender young people”.

“There are so many inclusive writers of books and stories out there so I’m sure they can come up with something else awesome to do a quiz on that doesn’t have that kind of potential upset,” Besley said.

However, some people have lambasted the festival’s decision to cancel the Harry Potter quiz night, especially considering the festival is set to examine “cancel culture”.

Jenny Whyte, a Featherston resident, told Stuff that she believed the festival “might be trying to capitalise on the current fad of cancel culture”. She added the festival has “a session selling tickets to a panel discussing cancel culture” so there’s an “irony certainly” in cancelling the Harry Potter event.

Whyte, who is a lesbian, added that she didn’t think that JK Rowling’s comments were anti-trans.

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