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‘My, Professor Dumbledore, what a big wand you have!’

So JK Rowling has outed Albus Dumbledore, wizard supreme and mentor of Harry Potter, as being gay. She admitted this last Friday at Carnegie Hall in New York City when a young fan asked her if the headmaster of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy had ever fallen in love.

“My truthful answer to you … I always thought of Dumbledore as gay,” said Rowling. Apparently she had to veto a scene in the script of the next Harry Potter movie where the good professor reminisces about past (female) loves by crossing it out and writing “Dumbledore is gay” — because Dumbledore was in love with his childhood wizard friend Gellert Grindelwald. It helps explain Dumbledore’s delay in later fighting an evil Grindelwald, among other aspects of the books.

Why tell us this now, after seven books have made publishing history? No one had ever asked before, said Rowling in a press interview this week. She also said at a writing festival in Toronto: “It has certainly never been news to me that a brave and brilliant man could love other men.” Alexander the Great, anyone?

She did not, however, want to comment on whether her “outing” of Dumbledore might alienate the world’s homophobes. “He is my character. He is what he is and I have the right to say what I say about him,” she explained.

Rowling’s revelation drew more than 3 300 comments on über-Potter website The-Leaky-Cauldron.org. Most comments were very positive (though the site administrators did note that hateful or intolerant comments were deleted). Here is a sample:

  • “He can’t be gay and cool?”
  • “This is a victory for homosexuality the world over.”
  • “Now, I really think Ian McKellen should’ve played him.”
  • “Perhaps my age has made me jaded, but instead of a revelation, it seems so tabloid.”
  • “Totally didn’t need to know that.”
  • “No straight man can pull off those robes with such class.”
  • More seriously: “There will be parents now who won’t want their kids reading the books because Dumbledore is gay,” wrote one fan. Very true. But consider how many children of adult homophobes have already devoured all the Harry Potter books …

    What does this mean for Dumbledore? He was already presented as an asexual figure; it’s not as if passages from the books suddenly take on steamy new meaning (though I am tempted to reread them all to check). It adds a twist to his already complex character — not only was he struggling with aiding Harry Potter in defeating Lord Voldemort, but his personal demons also included his hidden homosexuality.

    What Rowling did, intentionally or not, was to give to the world a strong, sensitive, moral hero, letting readers grow to love him, and then proving that gay people are just as worthy of love and attention as their heterosexual counterparts.

    Would it have hurt her book sales had she spilled the beans earlier? Probably. There are still too many bigots among us — and I’m sure the movies that remain to be released may meet some additional conservative Christian outcry. But the Potter juggernaut would have rumbled on mostly unaffected, I would venture.

    Now just imagine if other famous authors had made similar revelations about their protagonists: Did Romeo secretly fancy Mercutio? Was there more than elementary friendship between Sherlock Holmes and Watson? Why did Scrooge end up a bitter old bachelor?

    Author

    • Riaan Wolmarans is a former editor, reader liaison, spell checker, general mechanic, morale officer and journalist at large at the Mail & Guardian Online.

    3 Comments

    1. traps traps 24 October 2007

      It’s incredible that at this time, this kind of ridiculous bigotary still exists.

      People are exposed to so much information that you’d have thought that this irrational hatred would have died down by now.

      We’ve still got a LONG way to go before ‘civilized’ and ‘society’ should be used in the same sentence.

    2. Ndumiso Ngcobo Ndumiso Ngcobo 25 October 2007

      There are so many much, much better reasons to hate people than what they do in their beds behind drawn curtains.

      For instance, the next time Elton John sings another Disney duet, I will gouge my eyes out with a plastic butter knife.

      Now, how difficult can that be?

    3. Richard Catto Richard Catto 12 December 2007

      What Rowling did, intentionally or not, was to give to the world a strong, sensitive, moral hero, letting readers grow to love him, and then proving that gay people are just as worthy of love and attention as their heterosexual counterparts.

      Not so, my dear Wolmarans, not so.

      Rowling wrote fiction from which nothing about the nature of homosexuals can be deduced.

      I’m a big gay rights supporter myself, but a work of fiction cannot be used to teach us anything about real people.

      What this episode proves though, is that prejudice is irrational. Before Rowling tagged Dumbledore with the gay label there existed no problem.

      By labeling a fictional character as gay, one who had not even been presented as overtly homosexual, she has created an artificial problem for all the homophobes the world over who desperately fear that their children will catch teh ghey should they read her HP books now.

      Fact is, people object to GAY, just because it is GAY, not because of anything that GAY did.

      GAY is just wrong, by default.

      If anything is called GAY it is therefore wrong.

      Riaan, you are so gay. ;)

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