Just a Moment
The internet can be annoying. Some of the worst parts of human behaviour and psychology can be revealed to us through it - but I think those elements get too much attention. I think it’s worth saying that a lot of people find refuge here. It’s really tempting to say to people who are “very online” something patronising like: If you’re getting too upset by the internet, just take a break from it! Go outside - touch grass etc. But in my own experience, as someone who does spend a fair amount of time outside my flat, I need to be honest with myself and say that the internet is very much an important part of my life. It’s become a part of almost every single thing that we do as a society. The way we pay for things, the way we learn & read news. How we keep up with distant friends. It’s always one unlocked screen away, and you’d be naive for thinking its easily escapable.
Which brings me on to Joanne, and by “Joanne” I am of course referring to JK Rowling. But for the purposes of this article, I’m going to be referring to her as Joanne because it’s her name. This isn’t a review, or a biography about a beloved kids author from the 90’s. It’s personal. And when it’s personal, you use someone’s name.
Let me first start by saying that I don’t really want to write this - I do so, not to hop on a bandwagon, or to stir up any drama. I feel compelled to write about it, because, it’s a subject that is seriously starting to damage the way I see this country, and my place within it. The subject has become so overwhelmingly a part of my consciousness, both online and in “real life” that I feel like to not talk about it would be dishonest. It’s on my mind - a lot.
When I was a kid, I read the first few Harry Potter books. They were catnip for depressed, outcast, sensitive little babies like me. The first book in particular, was an enchanting and funny piece of escapism that was never not unavailable in the school library. The pre-films cover illustrations were beautiful and, more than anything - it was short. I love a short book, I do. The shorter the better.
I did graduate to some of the later books, but by then the films were coming out and the books were getting more and more self indulgent, confusing an depressing. I respect the idea that kids might grow up with your series, but for me - I grew away from it. I don’t want to overanalyse why that might have been, but like Scouts, Morning Prayers at my South London state school, PE and masculinity - there was something in them that I couldn’t identify with. Something under the surface, hidden behind the words that just didn’t speak to me.
The first few films made us all forget about the flaws of the books. They revitalised, franchise-alised & merchandised the series. Harry Potter became a part of the social consciousness of the Britain, then the world. Things went mega - Board games, video games, spin off books, websites, toys, magazines, spin off films, candy, costumes, walking tours, behind the scenes experiences, gift shops, tourism, a two part play… theme parks. Joanne is very, very, very wealthy.
But she is an enigma. She appears every now and then for charity, or to announce a new venture, or revision to Dumbledore’s character. But then, one day - Joanne has her “senior moment”. Her first, as far as I can tell, foray into “the trans debate” as my existence has become known. She said something daft, and then apologised for it - calling it a “senior moment”. Just a “moment”. Nothing to see here, lets move on from it. I’m old, I don’t understand. The world is moving too fast, give me time. I’m sorry.
Now, I don’t know what happens next in Joanne’s mind. Who am I to say? But something happens. Something changes. Slowly, but surely, Joanne’s twitter account becomes more active. You don’t need me to speculate on, and re-hash the series of unfortunate events that we are still witnessing today. Instead - I want to go back to talking about the internet.
The internet is often a refuge for people in pain. It certainly was for me, as a teen. It’s where I found a community, often in forums, who helped me to come to terms with who I was, and what I needed to do in order to live a truthful, nourishing life. The internet is a room where you choose which doors to open. You connect with others, share experiences & speculate on what it all means. I had some really important connections on the internet when I was a teen. They helped shape who I am today - and now I can barely even remember what their usernames were. I’ve been through a lot in my life so far, and the internet has helped me through those experiences. Being a young carer & eventual slow, and traumatic death of a parent to Motor Neurone’s Disease. Needing to transition and not having anyone else to turn to. Battling deep, worrying depression & seeing that another way was possible. The exploration and facing of past, and current physical abuse traumas. The internet is a real place - at least to me.
But guess what else is a “real place”. London - the city I live in. A city in which on any given day, you will see posters for The Cursed Child, or a trailer for Fantastic Beasts, or a sale on Harry Potter collections, or a group of tourists waving wands around outside one of the many Harry Potter Gift Shops (both authorised, and unauthorised). I walk through Kings Cross most days, which has at least 2 famous landmarks from the Harry Potter films. People line up to pretend to run into a wall.
When the internet gets too much for me, and I feel like I need to take a break and smell the roses - unfortunately for trans people, there is always a reminder of what’s causing us harm. For a lot of us, it now feels like there is no escape from the metaphorical cupboard under the stairs. Our traumas follow us wherever we go.
An awful lot of trans people in the UK feel scared right now. That’s just how it is. Joanne’s social influence is large, and she is currently using it to spread propaganda about us. Our rights are being chipped away at every day here, and our hard won freedoms are being called into question, constantly.
The hope, is always that this is “just a moment”. A rocky period, that we’ll get through eventually. Sense will prevail, and empathy will be restored. But the deep, unspoken true fear is - that this is not “just a moment”. That this is actually a permanent change, and things aren’t going to move on much from this. Maybe it’s dementia. Maybe we have to be grateful for the good days, and approach the bad with dignity?
I really hope it’s “just a moment”.
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