Politics

Quidditch to change name, citing J.K. Rowling’s ‘anti-trans positions’


Real-life quidditch, inspired by the magical game in “Harry Potter,” is changing its name, citing author J.K. Rowling’s “anti-trans positions in recent years.”

US Quidditch and Major League Quidditch announced in a joint news release Wednesday that they will conduct a series of surveys over the next few months to decide on a new name for the sport, which resembles soccer and field hockey, but as a contact sport with broomsticks.

“For the last year or so, both leagues have been quietly collecting research to prepare for the move and been in extensive discussions with each other and trademark lawyers regarding how we can work together to make the name change as seamless as possible,” Major League Quidditch Commissioner Amanda Dallas said in the release.

The leagues say there are a few reasons for the name change. Among them is that the name “quidditch” is trademarked by Warner Bros., which produced the “Harry Potter” movies, and as a result the sport’s expansion has been limited in its sponsorship and broadcast opportunities.

The name change is also part of an effort by the leagues to “distance themselves from the works of J.K. Rowling,” according to the statement, “who has increasingly come under scrutiny for her anti-trans positions in recent years.”

Rowling has faced criticism for her views on the transgender community, which some have called transphobic. She first made headlines for her views in 2019, when she publicly supported Maya Forstater, a British tax specialist who was fired over tweets that were deemed to be anti-trans.

Then, in 2020, she mocked a headline that used the phrase “people who menstruate,” which trans advocates noted is meant to be inclusive of trans men and nonbinary people who still have periods.

Just a few days later, she doubled down on her views in a nearly 4,000-word blog post that some critics on Twitter called a “transphobic manifesto,” in which she asked whether a “contagion” fueled by social media has led to the rise in the number of young people coming out as transgender.

In the blog post, she also revealed that she is a survivor of domestic abuse and assault, and that as a result of that trauma, she is “deeply concerned about the consequences of the current trans activism.”

“So I want trans women to be safe. At the same time, I do not want to make natal girls and women less safe. When you throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman — and, as I’ve said, gender confirmation certificates may now be granted without any need for surgery or hormones — then you open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside. That is the simple truth,” she wrote, using a talking point that advocates say is common among anti-trans or “gender critical” groups.

A 2018 study by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law found that there is no evidence that letting transgender people use restrooms and other public facilities that align with their gender identity increases safety risks.

Since Rowling published the blog post last year, several actors who starred in the “Harry Potter” films have condemned her views, including Daniel Radcliffe, who played Harry Potter; Emma Watson, who portrayed Hermione Granger; and Eddie Redmayne, who starred in the “Fantastic Beasts” films.

US Quidditch and Major League Quidditch also voiced their support for trans people and diversity, saying the sport has “developed a reputation as one of the most progressive sports in the world on gender equality and inclusivity, in part thanks to its gender maximum rule, which stipulates that a team may not have more than four players of the same gender on the field at a time.”

The International Quidditch Association, the sport’s governing body, also lists inclusivity on its website as one of the sport’s values.

“As a community we want our sport to be inclusive of people of different ethnicities, cultural backgrounds, ages, languages, genders, sexual orientations,” the website states. “A key demonstration of this is the Gender Rule in quidditch, whereby players are able to play as the gender that they identify as including non-binary genders.”

Alex Benepe, one of the founders of real-life quidditch, said he is “thrilled that USQ and MLQ are moving in this direction.”

“Big changes like this don’t come without risk, but I’ve been a strong advocate for making this move for a long time,” he said, according to the leagues’ statement. “The sport needs its own space without limits on its growth potential and changing the name is crucial to achieving that.”

In “Harry Potter,” quidditch players fly around on broomsticks and try to score points by throwing balls through the opposing team’s goals, which are a set of three rings. Harry Potter, whose position is seeker, is tasked with catching the golden snitch — a small, flying ball that is “wicked fast and damn near impossible to see,” as one character described it in the 2001 movie “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”

Benepe and Xander Manshel brought it into the real world in 2005 at Middlebury College in Vermont. In their version, players hold sticks or real brooms between their legs, and, as one player explained to NPR in 2015, the golden snitch is “velcroed to the back” of the “snitch runner,” and this player must elude the seekers.

There are now more than 450 teams worldwide in more than 30 countries, according to US Quidditch and the International Quidditch Association. It’s reportedly “one of the few mixed-gender full contact sports,” according to the association.

US Quidditch and Major League Quidditch said they will be surveying stakeholders regarding the name change until the end of January.

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