In the most earth-shattering Harry Potter news since book 7 was released this past July, author J.K. Rowling revealed at a reading at Carnegie Hall last night that she “always thought of Dumbledore as gay.”
As a devoted Harry Potter fan (albeit a relative Johnny-come-lately since I didn’t catch on to the pheonomenon until 2002, several years after book 4 was published and before book 5), I must admit that I was shocked by this news – but mostly because that possibility had never really entered my mind! I regularly read The Leaky Cauldron for all news Potter, but I don’t read or post on Potter chat boards or read fan fiction where Dumbledore’s sexual orientation had apparently been questioned before.
I knew immediately that this news would cause a huge uproar, so it’s been interesting to watch the comments on Leaky and in blogs across the ‘net.
There are two sad things happening. First, that SO MANY people are saying that this news will give “Christians” another reason to hate the book. Those folks are very wrong. I believe that people who oppose the content of the book in the name of Christianity are misappropriating the title (of “Christian,” that is). The central message of the series isn’t witchcraft or homosexuality, but the power of pure, selfless love. And that’s the ultimate message Christ was sent to earth to reiterate to humanity.
The second sad thing I see is people questioning their own love of the character based on this new information. What has changed about Dumbledore? Not one thing, really! So why would someone who loved the character before feel any different today?
When I was in college, a dear friend of mine revealed that he was gay. I was taken aback at the time, and unsure how I would – or should – interact with him. But after much thought, I realized that not one thing had changed. Everything I loved about him as a person and a friend was just the same. He hadn’t chosen to be this way – no one grappling with the pain of denying who (s)he is for years upon years would choose that struggle – but even if he had, I don’t think it would have mattered.
Some people are criticizing Rowling for revealing this information about Dumbledore. I’m seeing comments like, “If his sexual orientation was so important, why didn’t she make it more apparent in the books?” The answer is that it WASN’T important! In fact, she revealed this aspect of the character for the same reason she has been revealing so many deeper aspects of so many of the characters – in response to direct questions from fans who, like me, have been so drawn into the multi-dimensional characters she created and fleshed out that we just can’t learn enough about them. (Thank heavens they are only characters in a book because it’s positively voyeuristic the way we crave more details about their lives!)
I’ve also seen some comments now criticizing Rowling’s humanization of Dumbledore in book 6 and 7, questioning whether she is somehow stereotyping homosexuals by making him more human. This is just patently ridiculous. In contrast to the first 5 books, when the character is less developed and more single-sided, the Dumbledore we know and love by the end of book 7 is revealed as more human, more capable of human failings and frailties, and yet more heroic and beloved in spite of – and possibly because of – them. In this age of flat, one-sided fantasy t.v. characters, Rowling’s devotion to very imperfect human characters is admirable.
[By the way, please don’t misunderstand me. I do NOT think homosexuality is an imperfection. Dumbledore’s human frailties, as discussed in the books and by Rowling herself, include an early lust for and potential to abuse power, a desire to manipulate and control people around him, and the tendency to trust people who perhaps should not be trusted.]