A new Harry Potter wizarding world video game features a transgender character, which was reportedly added to quell controversy over the game started by JK Rowling‘s stance on gender roles.
In the soon to be released Hogwarts Legacy, which takes place 100 years before the events of the Harry Potter series, players are introduced to a character named Sirona Ryan who owns the Three Broomsticks pub.
The character tells players that during her time at Hogwarts, classmates took time to realize she ‘was actually a witch, not a wizard.’ Players are also able to customize their avatars to identify as transgender.
Industry insiders claim the character was added to serve as ‘performative bulls**t’ and distract from controversy surrounding the game, which culminated in calls to boycott it over Harry Potter creator JK Rowling’s stance that being transgender should not usurp sex identity.
Despite the controversies, the division of Warner Bros. that created Hogwarts Legacy has been insistent that JK Rowling had no connection to the creation of the game.
Transgender Harry Potter character Sirona Ryan, who serves as bartender at the Three Broomsticks pub
Hogwarts Legacy has faced calls for boycott from critics of JK Rowling’s transgender beliefs
In the game, players come across the character of Sirona Ryan when they enter the Three Broomsticks in the wizarding town of Hogsmead.
Pulling up a chair at the bar, players engage Sirona in conversation and ask how they know another character.
‘Hadn’t seen him in years when he came in a few months ago,’ she responds, according to GameRevolution. ‘But, he recognized me instantly. Which is more than I can say for some of my own classmates.’
‘Took them a second to realize I was actually a witch, not a wizard,’ she adds.
The inclusion of Sirona’s character is the first instance of a transgender character appearing in the expansive Harry Potter universe, which has been plagued by controversy since JK Rowling first took a hard line stance about the transgender community and feminism in 2020.
‘If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives. It isn’t hate to speak the truth,’ she wrote at the time.
‘The idea that women like me, who’ve been empathetic to trans people for decades, feeling kinship because they’re vulnerable in the same way as women—i.e., to male violence—’hate’ trans people because they think sex is real and has lived consequences—is a nonsense.’
Since then she has doubled down on her stance, leading to trans activists – and even many of the actors who starred in the Harry Potter film franchise – to disavow her.
The inclusion of Sirona’s character is the first instance of a transgender character appearing in the expansive Harry Potter universe, which has been plagued by controversy since JK Rowling first took a hard line stance about the transgender community and feminism in 2020
Calls for boycotts of Hogwarts Legacy began as the game’ release date neared, but intensified in recent weeks after Rowling responded to a tweet which said ‘any support of Hogwarts Legacy is harmful.’
‘The truly righteous wouldn’t just burn their books and movies but the local library, anything with an owl on it and their own pet dogs,’ Rowling responded.
US gamer Will Overgard urged a boycott in a video that has amassed two million views, insisting ‘by supporting the title you are essentially aligning yourself with some really heinous transphobic values.’
The voiceover cast of the game has also been subject to a backlash. Sebastian Croft, who previously starred in Netflix’s LGBT series Heartstopper, was forced to explain his involvement after criticism from fans.
‘I was cast in this project over three years ago, back when all Harry Potter was to me was the magical world I grew up with,’ he said. ‘This was long before I was aware of JK Rowling’s views. I believe wholeheartedly that trans women are women and trans men are men.’
JK Rowling’s Harry Potter wizarding world has been mired in controversy over her transgender stance
In response to the growing furor over the game, the Warner Bros. video game studio Portkey inserted the trans elements into the game, according to one person who said a friend worked on the game.
‘An old acquaintance did some work on that Hogwarts game,’ twitter user Stephanie Sterling wrote. ‘I’m told they added a token trans NPC to pivot the conversation away from JKR. They’re barely in it.’
Video game insider Liam Robertson – who has a long track record of leaking industry secrets – corroborated those claims from his sources.
‘I was also told this. There was apparently some trans representation added after some of the initial controversy,’ he wrote. ‘I don’t know how it appears in the final product but one of the sources I talked to described it as ‘performative bulls**t’.
Warner Bros. and Portkey have attempted to distance themselves from the controversy, posting a message on the game’s website telling how Rowling was not involved in the making of the game.
‘J.K. Rowling is not involved in the creation of the game,’ the website says. ‘While remaining true to J.K. Rowling’s original vision, Portkey game developers chart new territory by creating fresh ways for fans to immerse themselves in the Wizarding World.’