To those of us who know Quidditch from the fantasy world of the Harry Potter books, the idea of grown-ups running around a field with a broomstick clasped between their legs is a bit ridiculous. But make no mistake: this is serious stuff. The sport has its own governing body, the International Quidditch Association, that manages its rule book. And there’s also a World Cup, currently held by the United States, which has won the tournament three times. But now, there’s trouble brewing in the world of Quidditch.
As the sport has grown, a problem has emerged. The name Quidditch is trademarked by Warner Brothers. In a recent statement, US Quidditch explained that this had ‘limited the sport’s expansion, including but not limited to sponsorship and broadcast opportunities.’ As a result, a name change has been proposed. But this shake-up isn’t simply about seeking to avoid the attention of Warner Brothers’ lawyers. Once again, JK Rowling – the person who came up with the concept of Quidditch in the first place – has found herself in the firing line.
‘Additionally,’ the statement said, ‘the leagues are hoping a name change can help them continue to distance themselves from the works of J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter book series, who has increasingly come under scrutiny for her anti-trans positions in recent years.’
Quidditch, you see, considers itself to be ‘one of the most progressive sports in the world on gender equality and inclusivity’. Its gender maximum rule stipulates that a team may not have more than four players of the same gender on the field at a time. On the face of it, this appears to be a worthy aim: it protects the representation of women in a mixed-sex sport. However those in charge at US Quidditch have succumbed to gender identity ideology that elevates feelings above facts. According to the Quidditch rule book:
‘The gender that a player identifies as is considered to be that player’s gender.’US Quidditch
Following that non-definition of gender, the rules add:
‘US Quidditch accepts those who don’t identify within the gender binary, and acknowledge that not all of our players identify as male or female. We welcome people of all identities and genders into our league.’US Quidditch
So it seems that a full team of people who were born male is all fine and dandy, as long as no more than four of them actually identify as men.
Rowling may have created the magical world of Harry Potter, Hogwarts and Quidditch, but she has her feet on the ground when it comes to the reality of the difference between male and female, and the dangers to women if we ignore that truth.
Yet for holding to those views – which, indeed, are those shared by many people – Rowling has been abused and condemned. Now it seems even the sport that took for themselves the name she created is taking a similar approach.
While US Quidditch doesn’t spell it out, Rowling has not only defended her sex, but has made clear her support for trans people, including transwomen. ‘I believe the majority of trans-identified people not only pose zero threat to others, but are vulnerable for all the reasons I’ve outlined,’ she has said. ‘Trans people need and deserve protection,’ says Rowling. For these views, Rowling is again having her name dragged through the mud.
If a change of name allows Quidditch to expand and develop the sport, then good luck to them. But the sport has no need to distance itself from JK Rowling. If she hadn’t written the Harry Potter books, their sport would not exist. If they want to be seen as a grown up sport – broomsticks not withstanding – then some gratitude to the woman who inspired it would be in order.
Debbie Hayton is a teacher and journalist.
* This article was first published by The Spectator on 20 December 2021: Why is Quidditch snitching on JK Rowling over trans rights?