As a kid growing up in rural Australia back in the early 2000s, one of my favourite pastimes was grabbing a book, finding a tree branch to sit upon and spending a long afternoon reading somewhere on my parents' farm.

With a personal library ranging from Margaret Atwood and Colin Thiele, through J.K. Rowling and Michael Connolly among others, the simple tactile pleasure of turning the page of a book allowed me to escape from the living hell that my life had become.

While I'd always known that I was "different", upon starting primary school it quickly became apparent that the other students around me were able to sense that difference as well.


My head was smashed into a bubbler so hard my teeth broke, both my wrists were fractured as a result of being crashed-tackled by a group of boys into a stack of surplus school desks then slammed into a door frame. Chemical powders were thrown in my face during classes, and then death threats attached to my identity started being left on my family's answering machines and mobile phones.

Amid all of this however, the words of wisdom that flowed from the books that I was reading taught me that the world was a far larger place than I thought it was. They also taught me that it was okay to be transgender, even though everything else in my life was screaming at me that it wasn't safe to be so.

While Harry Potter may sound like a strange role model for a transgender kid to have, the extremes of the bullying that he endured within the early parts of Rowling's books due to how different he was, made me realise that I would survive my school years as well.

As Rowling herself has stated previously, "To be bullied is a constant nightmare. It's feeling cold, as though Dementors are near, because you're dreading what certain people will say or do".

She then proceeds to kindly say that while bullying may leave us in a dark and lonely place, that it's in that darkness that "we often turn to fiction for solace. Books don't judge, they're always there for you, and sometimes you find that special story to help you through".

Now as thrilling as the magical adventures within the Harry Potter novels are, it's the powerful messages that Rowling left in her books about how its "okay to be different", that "nobody is born better", how we should do our best even when others are being unreasonable and that "one small act of kindness can mean the world", that have made her stories so universally popular.

These messages also highlight why I feel deeply saddened by the transphobic messages that Rowling has been making over the course of the past few months, even though I doubt that she would be transphobic herself, if she knew what it truly means to transition genders and finally feel whole.

Even when words are written with kindness, sometimes they can come across as being hateful, if the person writing them doesn't recognise all of the contexts in which they can be read.


Take for example the uproar that Rowling caused late last year for example, when she accused transgender people of "forcing women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real".

While Rowling may have seen the remarks that some people were making about Maya Forstater (who is an economics academic) as being an attack against womankind, any reasonably minded person who read the entirety of the UK Employment Tribunal's ruling would have seen that Forstater lost her job as a result of continuing to abuse and vilify other people, regardless of whether they were from her own workplace or not.

From specifically targeting individuals by name on the workplace social media platform Slack, to her continued attacks on fellow researchers and making derogatory references on Twitter about the risk of trans people who are blood donors infecting recipients with HIV, the tribunal ruled that while Forstater was free to say what she liked, so were her employers in not renewing her contract.

By choosing to side with Forstater rather than condemn her abuse and vilification of others however, many LGBTI people viewed Rowling's tweet as the equivalent of Harry Potter joining up with Draco Malfoy, in order to bully her comically adorable character, Neville Longbottom.

While Rowling mightn't have intended for her tweet to come across that way, the fact that studies conducted by Vanderbilt University on behalf of the US government late last year show that trans people experience significantly higher levels of unemployment and poverty than non-trans people, would have ensured that her words felt like a slap in the face to many.

With many transgender people feeling betrayed and Rowling herself feeling under siege due to their response, it's not surprising that Rowling was then influenced by people who actually hold trans-exclusionary views, due to the refuge that they offered.


While that may seem counterintuitive given her previous remarks in support of LGBTI people, it's also very human in the sense that we all look for safe harbour, when caught in the middle of a storm.

As a result Rowling likely would have felt attracted to such people, purely because they weren't targeting her for her uneducated thoughts.

Rather than join the attacks on her though, I'd prefer to present Rowling with a challenge, if she is able to find the courage to accept it. While some people would justifiably throw out her books and turn away, I encourage Rowling to use these experiences as a chance to learn and grow as a person.

Having spoken previously in depth about my own life, I'm willing to give her that opportunity in private with no questions being off-limits, while also introducing her to those with softer and less prominent voices than my own.

In a world full of unhappy people, it doesn't make sense to hate upon some people for being happy.

After all, it's in kindness rather than in hatred that magic can truly be seen.


Kate Doak is an investigative journalist for 10 News First and ViacomCBS in Australia. She is also a member of their LGBTI support group, CBS Pride.