Harry Potter and the Magical World of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

Okay. 

This here is a big one. 

Like, the biggest. I can’t function until I write about this.

Is it even a real fandom site until I dive into the mess that is this subject?

J.K. Rowling: toot or boot?

Harry Potter shaped my childhood. It shaped many of my first experiences of the fandom world. J.K. Rowling inspired me as a woman, as a writer, and as an activist.

Is she the role model that I need now though? Or should her actions, and inaction, place her firmly in the past?

Can actions today affect the legacy that she has created?

Do we, as fans, move forward with or without J.K. Rowling?

The Beginning:

In 2007, the author J.K. Rowling revealed to fans that her character, famous wizard Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, was gay.

The thought? A-MAZE-ING.

However, the problem with that statement was that there was literally no mention of this in the books or in the movies. No hint. No indication.

Trust me, if there was, ficfans would have found it and spread it.

But it was 2007, and even earlier when she wrote the books. Maybe it was simply to early for that story to be told, I thought to myself.

Come 2016, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was released.

2018, and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald was released.

Was Dumbledore depicted as a gay man? The answer is complicated.

What level of representation do we need?

Do I believe that every queer story has to look the same? No, obviously.

I was variety and diversity. I want stories that are all about a person’s gender and sexual identities, and I want stories about queer people that hardly touch on those things because they are to busy telling other aspects of their lives.

I am really sensitive, however, when it comes to the way mainstream media represents us. I think it is to easy for an author to say they are inclusive by commenting, after seven books, that a character was gay the whole time, even when every single relationship in her books to date appeared to be heterosexual.

With seven books and eight movies, I think we as fans are very right to demand a lot from J.K. Rowling when she says that one of her characters is gay.

I was certainly the first to applaud her, I think it is a boss-ally move to make that announcement about the most powerful wizard of all time, but actions speak louder than words. J.K. Rowling had the chance to show the queer community that we would be represented in the Harry Potter world, but did she?

Opinions vary.

Certainly there are some queer vibes. Dumbledore sees Grindelwald in the Mirror of Erised so like, you’ve got some desire there. Of course Harry saw his parents, so the desire does not have to be sexual (back down all you AO3 incest taggers, this is not a space for you). So really, we are still left to make that leap ourselves.

Dumbledore is gay. It is cannon. We know it, the director knows it. It really comes down to what they are willing to put in the movie.

Some say they aren’t explicitly addressing the relationship that Dumbledore and Grindelwald had because that isn’t what the story is about.

Others say that they are hiding the nature of the relationship to make the store more palatable for a larger audience.

One thing is for sure though. Eventually, Dumbledore and Grindelwald will have to meet, and then their past will be exactly what this story is about. It will be interesting, I think, to see what the franchize chooses to represent in that moment.

Will they stay true to Dumbledore’s identity as a gay man? Or will they leave just enough induendo in there to throw at fans when they raise questions over this exact issue, while still leaving their films bland enough that even the most homophobic of movie-goers will enjoy the film?

In my opinion, doing so would be a huge cop out, and a letdown to the fans that do believe in J.K. Rowling’s promise to bring more diversity into her stories. Cause on the surface, her stories are filled with straight, white, and cisgendered characters.

As fans, I think we demand more from our mainstream media now, so this story line should be handled with the utmost delicacy if the franchise wants to avoid losing the support of its LGBTQ+ fans and their wonderful allies.

But wait, there’s s’more!

While the debate about J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter universe will doubtlessly rage forever, there are tons of other books that will give us the representation we crave.

We can demand better from the people who say they want to support us, but we can also do our best to support those who are already doing a stellar job of supporting us!

Fanfiction, of course, is my go-to. If you haven’t tried it, you’re missing out <3.

However, here are three of my fav books that do a really lovely job of showcasing queer stories and capturing a bit of the complexities of the queer experience. I flew through these books, and am currently obsessed with Gentleman Jack on HBO.

I came for the GOT and stayed for the queer representation: story of my life.

Heads up: I do believe I will get a percentage of the sale if you buy through this link. 
If that makes you uncomfortable, then I encourage you to buy these titles through your town's 
locally owned bookstore.

M.

6 comments

  • I’ll confess that I haven’t watched the newest movie yet, so I didn’t know how this would be handled. I agree, though, that it all comes down to how it’s handled when these characters actually meet. If we don’t see actual interaction between them that shows us that they’re gay, then it’s a very obvious cop-out. I guess I’ll withhold judgment until then.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The newest movie is… a lot.

      I hear ya, it is so hard to judge them when the last three movies aren’t out yet (haha, yah I got jokes). I think so many fans, myself included, find ourselves very jaded about the possibility of the franchise following through with this because so far we haven’t seen any of the representation we crave yet, in a world that has promised us a lot more.

      Now, I really want to be hopeful. I hope they will handle Dumbledore meeting his old lover with the same effortless grace every heterosexual plot line gets from its directors. And I am with you, I think we need to withhold judgement till the very end… It’s not like we need them to meet and have some big post-breakup blowout, but we do need to see some overt action that shows they were once everything to each other. I, personally, am not going to be satisfied by subtext and subliminal messaging… after countless years of erasure queer people deserve more than that.

      On the really really positive side, I appreciate they they aren’t overtly sexualizing the only queer relationship in the Harry Potter universe to date. Leave that shit to the fandom :P.

      Liked by 1 person

  • First off, I would have to say I agree with you 100 percent! This article is deeply understandable to those who share the same feelings for Professor Dumbledore. Why did J.K. Rowling not go further into Dumbledore’s history? Do you think characters themselves were afraid of coming out of the closet? Or, do you think Dumbledore (as mysterious as he was) wanted to keep his identity a mystery? Either way, it would have been bloody interesting to read further into Dumbledore’s perspective of life! People might think that by expressing DumbleDore’s identity could veer away(become a distraction) from Harry Potter story itself. A movie or even a novel about Dumbledore himself would be nice!

    Like

    • I wish that J.K. Rowling had given herself license when writing the original books to be just a little freer with her understanding of Dumbledore’s sexuality. I agree with you FitnessChick927, it would have been incredibly interesting to learn more about Dumbledore. As for his story becoming a distraction to the Harry Potter story line, well, that’s a really valid fear. However I think that purposeful representation does not have to involve great plot leaps or require the author to stretch their story out of line in order to provide representation. For example, I just finished reading a really amazing Hannigram fic by Maharetchan on AO3 called Pi’s Lullaby. Will Graham was a trans character, something that played almost no part in the overarching plot. It wasn’t something that was explicitly stated, but neither was it tiptoed around like a dark secret. It just was. There were hints to a really complex backstory for Will Graham and his (in-the-fic) daughter, but there was nothing that I identified as problematic. Really, it was masterfully done. When Hannibal and Will eventually got intimate, there was the understanding that Will was nervous because of past experiences, recognizing his feeling as a FTM individual, and the scene itself was respectful in it’s portrayal. And HANNIBAL. He may be a serial-killer-cannibal, but I have never admired him more than when he was treating Will and his kiddo like they hung the stars; even if the author left in all of his trademark darkness. (Honestly I could go on and on about this fic). My point, however, is that I don’t think representation should be a distraction from the plot. It can be seamlessly integrated without pandering LGBTQ+ story lines just by showing people being people. Hell, I maintain that mainstream authors could learn a lot from fanfic authors about representation. If Maharetchan gave a class, I would take it. In the books, whenever J.K. Rowling talked about Dumbledore’s youth, I think that would have been the prime time for some much needed representation. Or when he was removed as headmaster of Hogwarts. Or when he died. There were a lot of chances for her to implement some language that would have represented Dumbledore’s identity as a gay man, yet she chose not to, time and time again. That oversight stings.

      Ohhhhh girl I would read a Dumbledore exclusive story line in a heartbeat! I’m hoping, as you know, to see a lot more of his story line portrayed in the upcoming Fantastic Beasts films, but you know, we will see. Jury is still out. In the meantime, I am going to do a deep fanfiction dive and find some really amazing Dumbledore-centric fics for everyone! Brb XD

      Liked by 1 person

  • Pingback: Scared? Representation vs. Cultural Appropriation | M. Grace

  • I had read online that J.K. Rowling always knew that Dumbledore was a gay character. However, having read the H.P. books like more times than I can remember I never got that vibe from any of the chapters or scenes if you will that have him in them. I must admit I always thought (growing up at least) that he had a attraction to Professor McGonagall (I’m fairly certain I spelled that right). Of course that belief of mine might stem from the fact that while growing up I was under the impression that normal was for a man to like a woman and vice versa, of course now I know differently, but that is just my thought as to why Rowling never made it clear in the books that Dumbledore was gay. She was afraid that the people (most likely middle aged bigot adults) would boycott and hate her work for trying to make a gay character mainstream. This is my opinion of course, but unfortunately I do know people that would probably exhibit that behavior had that been the case, and this shows the main underlying problem with America in that people are taught from a young age that there are specific social classes that revolve around race, sex, and gender identity and that in most cases white and heterosexual is supposed to be the ruling class. This is clearly flawed thinking, but that might be why she didn’t go all out in outing Albus Percival Wulfrick Brian Dumbledore as the gay, wise, old man that we all know and love.

    Much love from your not so secret admirer.

    Like

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