Every single person I have ever met in my life has sent me this piece of news.
I wonder why. 🙂
The news: J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books (yes, I’m a fan, suck it up), announced recently that the headmaster character, Dumbledore, is gay. It came up at a recent reading at Carnegie Hall; a fan asked about Dumbledore’s love life, and Rowling answered, “My truthful answer to you… I always thought of Dumbledore as gay.” She went on to explain that Dumbledore had been in love with the wizard Grindelwald in his youth, and that Grindelwald turning out to be evil was the great tragedy of Dumbledore’s life.
(As it turns out, the subject of Dumbledore’s sexual orientation had come up previously during the making of one of the movies; the director had some reference in the script to a girl in Dumbledore’s past, and Rowling had to pass him a note to gently point him off that track.)
I pretty much have just three things to say about this:
I think it’s cool that Dumbledore is the moral center of the book, the apotheosis of goodness, the one character that all the good guys look to for both political and ethical leadership.
And he’s gay.
That’s just nifty.
Two: I think it’s too bad she couldn’t have said so in the books themselves.
Don’t get me wrong. I totally understand why she didn’t. If she’d made Dumbledore overtly gay in the books, then in the general public eye, that’s what the books would have been about. Everything else that the books are about — moral complexity, the realities of a resistance movement, what it’s like to be a child growing up and figuring out that the adult world is seriously messed-up, all the lovely and ridiculous magic stuff — would have become suddenly and dramatically secondary. It would have become the children’s book series about the wizarding school with the gay headmaster. It would have become the seven-volume fantasy version of “Heather Has Two Mommies.” I think it was the right decision, and if I’d been Rowling, I would have done exactly the same thing.
I just think that’s too bad.
I think it’s too bad that we live in a world where the mere presence of a major gay character in a children’s book automatically makes it a Kids’ Book About Gay.
I think it’s too bad that I now have to wonder: How many other characters did Rowling envision as gay, but wasn’t able to say so? (My money’s on Draco…)
I think it’s too bad that the single most popular author in the known universe, the one author who could write her own ticket more than any author living today, still had to keep the gayness of one of her central characters a secret until the series was completed.
It is better now than it used to be, forty years ago or even twenty. Imagine if L. Frank Baum had announced that Glinda the Good Witch was gay. Or Tolkein with Gandalf. Or Madeleine L’Engle with Mrs. Whatsit. There would have been a shitstorm. But it’s a different time now, and the people who are mostly going to be upset about Dumbledore are the fundies who aren’t buying the books anyway because they promote witchcraft.
But I still think we have a long way to go. I still think it’s still too bad that a major children’s book can’t have a major gay character in it without that becoming the central defining feature of the book.
Maybe in twenty years.
Three: Now I have to read the whole series again. Or the last book, anyway.
Damn. What a shame.
Oh, and P.S.: Snape.
No, I’m not saying he’s gay. I’m just saying: Snape. Because I am constitutionally incapable of writing an entire Harry Potter post without mentioning Snape.