When the PlayStation 5 Showcase aired, Sony unveiled a number of games that left twinges in every gamer’s soul. None was more controversial than Hogwarts Legacy.
Everyone knows of the impact of Harry Potter and what profound change it had on their lives. Whether you were buying the books for your children, reading them yourselves, or taking friends and loved-ones to the films, there aren’t many people who were not touched by the magical legacy of the Wizarding World.
For LGBTQ+ audiences, the story of a person who was rejected by one society only to be embraced and eventually become the hero of another, this story was very meaningful. For those of us who had to eke out our own private, magical worlds in books or in hidden places, these were stories that spoke directly to us.
No wonder, then, that the highly publicised and controversial statements the author has made have caused heartache to many people in the LGBTQ+ community – especially our trans siblings. They read like a litany of stereotypes designed to stoke fear.
When it comes to engaging in the Wizarding World, though, many of us are deeply conflicted. How can we enjoy these stories which gave us comfort during dark times, when the climate of fear and ridicule degrades trans* people and robs them of their dignity right now?
Not to rehash already well-covered ground, a recent article published on the Independent covers the reasons that a boycott of the recently announced Hogwarts Legacy game may not be a good idea. The arguments are consistent, valid, logical, and, whether you like it or not, very on-point. But still I’m conflicted.
To try and form an unbiased opinion, I asked Natasha Devon to host a Twitter poll via her non-profit mental-health organisation, the Mental Health Media Charter. I asked her to ask the MH Media Charter’s followers how they should react to this news – given the author’s recent comments along with the Charter, and Devon’s, long-held stance of allyship with the trans* community.
The results of the poll after 24 hours were:
Now for the actual opinion part: I fucking hate what has led us to this discussion. It’s akin to realising Walt Disney was a bigot or that Ellen isn’t as nice as we thought. These individuals are institutions in their own right, and so it’s hard to just cut them out of your life.
It’s also soul-destroying to realise that the creator of your own frame on life – perhaps the biggest cultural reference point for a generation – is not the perfect representation of hope and empathy that we thought. We expect our heroes to have flaws, but when they contribute to a climate where people can be denied their rights based on fear, it’s too much.
Ultimately, when it comes to the purchase of Hogwarts Legacy, the choice is yours. I will not purchase the game upon release. After reading the comments of many trans* friends and allies on social media I have come to that decision myself, but I don’t expect others to do the same.
I may (finances allowing) purchase the game from a reseller after the game has been out for a while, to indulge in the awesome work that has been put into it by developers, designers, actors, etc. I won’t be buying it new. That was a hard choice to make, but I feel it’s the right one for me.
This does not mean I will judge anyone else for deciding otherwise or for purchasing Hogwarts Legacy upon release.
A trans* friend on Facebook said it best (and I’m paraphrasing): do not judge those who engage in a fandom which has existed as long as their lifespan. Do not belittle or disdain the decisions they make because you choose not to engage. It is a choice every person has to make for themselves – and it may be a very difficult one. I will not judge your decision, regardless.
(I would copy and paste their status but I’d rather leave their impact anonymous for their own safety – given we know how these issues are magnets for transphobes and trolls.)
Whether you’re cis, trans*, straight, queer, or fall anywhere else on the spectrum of gender and sexuality, take comfort in this: the author is only earning money from the licence and not the sales. The licence has already been paid and she has her money. Don’t feel guilty about buying the game if you want to. Don’t let anyone else’s behaviour spoil your enjoyment of what was – and what might be again, if people change – a cultural phenomenon.
Take comfort in your fanbase. Enjoy the world as you made it in your imagination and your heart. If you need to, enjoy remaking that world in your own image, or move onto new and more inclusive worlds. The decision is yours.
If you would rather cut off the head to kill the snake, then do that too. But whatever you do, do not spoil your relationships with others over a video game, because we need to stand firm together to say:
Trans rights are human rights.
There will always be those who see the granting of fundamental rights to others as an erosion of their own rights. In the Wizarding World, it’s those who think granting freedoms to Muggle-borns dilutes the definition of Wizard, or that allowing Muggles to have their freedom weakens society and puts Wizards at risk. Those people are wrong and we defeated them once – even if only in our imaginations.
What erodes our human rights is allowing others to be marginalised and degraded because of fear and moral panic. The Death-Eaters increased their power by publishing propaganda and sowing fear – we know better than to give in to that.
If you would like to know more about the Mental Health Media Charter, or the work Natasha Devon has done, you can check out Natasha’s website.