Interview: Woman born 'Harry Potter' changes name and comments on J.K. Rowling trans row

Interview: Woman born 'Harry Potter' changes name and comments on J.K. Rowling trans row

The world is full of famous names. In fact, some are so ordinary that they unintentionally catapult regular people into a stardom of sorts for no reason other than they share that name with a famous person.

Now, one transgender woman has opened up about it was like growing up named "Harry Potter" after receiving the name before the beloved books were even published.

Ellen Potter captured the hearts of Twitter two days ago when she posted evidence of her legal name change on the microblogging site.

Addressing J.K. Rowling directly, she wrote alongside transgender flag emoji:

"So I was born named Harry Potter, before the books were published, it's just a coincidence but it's been challenging going through life with a famous name. anyway, I just got my legal name change approved."

After Ellen's tweet went viral, VT got in touch to learn more about her story, and what it was like growing up with one of the most famous fictional names in the world.

Ellen said she was set apart by her name when the first Harry Potter movie was released in 2001. She was five years old at the time and "everybody at [her] school had seen the movie."

She said:

"As a child, I was put in newspapers, on the radio, and even local tv news. I was treated somewhat like a celebrity for it, it really caused me to have an affinity with the character since we were in such a similar situation, being famous from a young age for no reason other than birth circumstances.

"Growing up, I was treated a lot like the character, people would react to my name in the same way characters would react to Harry Potter's. 'Merlin's Beard!' and stuff like that."

However, while Ellen's experience of being called Harry Potter was "harmless at first," after she left school "it became a bit more of a curse."

"I've been not taken seriously," she admitted. "I've had job applications torn up by potential employers upon seeing my name, I've had an ambulance not show up when I had one called for me following an injury from a bike accident, presumably thinking it's a prank call."

Ellen Potter. Credit: Supplied / Ellen Potter

Even though being called Harry Potter had its downsides for Ellen, she is a fan of the series, and the stories "have always greatly appealed" to her.

"I think despite the lack of meaningful LGBT representation, the stories really resonate with LGBT people," Ellen said. "This really not so subtle metaphor of young Harry coming out of the closet to find his true self and a new world really speaks to the community."

Ellen's parents also never regretted unknowingly giving her a name that would set her apart from her peers either.

"I don't think my parents ever showed any regret," she said. "For the most part, it wasn't damaging and was a harmless quirk. Maybe it would be different if I'd had the same name as somebody hated or evil rather than a beloved protagonist."

The Hogwarts express. Credit: Pexels

Ellen said that she ultimately changed her name because she is a transgender woman and not because of the fame that Harry Potter brought her.

"The desire to change my name really only comes from me being a transgender woman," she explained. "I wanted a name that would more closely suit my gender identity as most trans people want.

"'Harry' never felt like my name anyway. Just a wizard that people associate with me."

In light of the recent transphobia allegations against J.K. Rowling, we asked Ellen why she chose to change her name now.

"I'd been aware that it was going to happen eventually since coming to terms with my gender identity some five-six years ago, but was at the back of my mind the whole time," she said. "It didn't become an imminent reality until I started my medical transition at the start of this year."

The LGBTQ+ sign. Credit: Pexels

While being named after a famous fictional character was a "challenging" experience for Ellen, she chose the name of another one when changing her name.

"My new name, Ellen, comes from my favorite character from my favorite movie, Ellen Ripley played by Sigourney Weaver from Ridley Scott's 1979 movie, Alien. I just kept my original surname," she said.

Ellen also had some words of wisdom for any Harry Potter fans who have been left feeling disillusioned after its author's alleged transphobia.

"Hogwarts always felt safe and welcoming to all people, but unfortunately with Joanne's transphobic views surfacing recently, along with some other problematic allegories in the stories, I understand people no longer feeling safe or welcome," Ellen said.

"I don't really know where the community goes from here, I suppose it's up to each individual to decide whether it's time to move on or to accept that it's the fans who make the fandom, and to not let hate creep in."

Since being posted on September 27, Ellen's tweet has received over 87.7K likes and 10.8K retweets, prompting an outpouring of love from the LGBTQ+ community and their allies. 

One Twitter user remade the Harry Potter logo with Ellen's name.

A second wrote: "In an alternate reality where James and Lily had a daughter... they name her Ellen... she was the girl who lived... This is her story... #TwitterStory time."

A third Twitter empathized with the struggles that can come from having a famous name.

"I am so happy for you Ellen!" they wrote. "I am sorry you had to go through that, people can be cruel. My first name is Forrest and I was born before the movie Forrest Gump came out, but I got teased for it. Much love to you and your life!"

Meanwhile, a fourth wrote: "Congrats on the name change. Ellen is a great name! And also congrats on one hell of a flex. Life sure is a wild ride sometimes."

We'd like to take this opportunity to wish Ellen all the best for life with her new name.