Sunday, October 21, 2007

Albus Dumbledore and Being Gay

Apparently they gave Jo K. Rowling a standing ovation in Carnegie Hall when she revealed that Albus Dumbledore was gay. She responded, "If I had known this would have made you this happy, I would have announced it years ago." Click here for more on the story.

If you don't know the actual plot, and I don't think I'm really spoiling anything here, Harry Potter learns that Dumbledore, the headmaster at Hogwarts and Harry's hero, had a best friend, Gellert Grindelwald, a young man who went in a different direction, magically speaking. So the boys parted ways.

I think the relationship ended because Gellert chased after the Dark Arts, but since I sort of buzzed through Deathly Hollows, correct me if I'm wrong.

No matter. Such a wonderful affirmative world we live in, that Ms. Rowling would get a standing ovation for having the courage to make the headmaster, the supporting protagonist of her novels, a gay man. But I wondered, Why wasn't it made more obvious in the text? Why didn't Dumbledore say, Harry, you know I'm gay, of course, don't you? I was in love with Gellert.

Maybe for a few reasons.

(1) Having a gay headmaster might not have seemed politically correct for an international readership of children. And yet, what an opportunity it was to change an internationally ever-so -heterosexist perception of gays.

(2) Why should Albus discuss being in love with Harry? Since when do teachers talk about their love life? Since when does ANYONE have to talk about his or her sexual orientation? Shouldn't some things simply be private?

(3) Just because he was gay didn't mean his relationship with Gellert was necessarily sexual, be it requited or unrequited. He LOVED his friend, his intellectual equal. That should be enough for teenagers, love.

And finally, (4) She never said he wasn't gay. She left it open. Indeed Dumbledore loves Harry, too, and there's never any hint of sexuality in that.

Same sex love between peers is very powerful and very good, and when I went to school, when I read Freud, Theordore Lidz and Erik Erikson, and other developmental theorists, it was considered GOOD to love your friends, to choose them over your parents. It constituted a developmental leap.

These days everything has to be sexual or it's not salable.

Even Harry Potter.

Sense and sensibilities. Call me old fashioned, but not homophobic in the least,



Izgad said...

What is bothering me about this whole business is that Rowling was not taking a stab at the heterosexist world. Not a real one at least. It takes no guts to stand up in front of a group of people, say something that the vast majority of the people agree with and be applauded. We usually call them political conventions. I have tremendous respect for those who will say unpopular things and pay the price even people I disagree with. I take offense though when people pretend that they are saying something controversial. They are the fake military heroes of the intellectual world.

therapydoc said...

Isn't it amazing? Here I thought she thought she was being controversial, or at least avant garde. She doesn't need to sell more books, that's for sure, or appeal to anyone other than her enormously vast reader public.

We'll hear more about this. I'd love to hear her support my supposition, that kids don't need to have sex, whether they are heterosexual, homosexual, metrosexual, transsexual, or any kind of sexual.

They need to get the job of childhood done well and learn how to be in relationships with other people. We only go around once.

Jay said...

I don't think anyone has the right to say she should or shouldn't have done this differently. We don't hear anything about any the faculty love lives in the book and that's just fine, and entirely realistic. So the fact that Dumbledore isn't outed in the book doesn't bother me at all.

But the adolescent social life as portrayed is very heterosexist. The students clearly have sexual feelings for each other - all that snogging! Which doesn't preclude other kinds of love, not at all. It does make me think that the gay students at Hogwarts must have been closeted, though. Harry certainly didn't seem to know any who were out.

therapydoc said...

Right, which makes us wonder if Ms. Rowling really always thought Dumbledore was gay.

therapydoc said...

Why is blogger not counting these comments? This is really strange.

Midwife with a Knife said...

The thing is, Albus Dumbledore's sexuality seems really irrelevant to the story, so I don't necesarily even see a need to announce it. In the book, in retrospect, I GUESS it makes sense for Dumbledore and Gellert to have been teenage lovers, but it actually makes at least as much sense (possibly more) for them to have been best friends.

Izgad said...

Jay of Two Women Blogging. By your logic anyone who does not actively mention homosexuality and advocate for gay rights is being heterosexist. By this logic Harry Potter is anti-semitic. Nothing is mentioned about Jews being at Hogwarts, though there is one kid named Anthony Goldstein, or about Jews being equal to everyone else.

therapydoc said...

I don't see that logic at all.

All I said was, or all I wanted to say, was that IF she was so into telling the world that homosexuality is fine with her, and that gays are people (wizards), too, then she missed a very obvious opportunity to tell millions of people.

How many books has she sold?

therapydoc said...

Oops. I guess that comment was for J of 2 Women Blogging. Never mind.

MT said...

By my reading, Dumbledore is an asexual academic obsessive who grew up without ever being part of a social circle and who, though he has only ever actually obsessed over a guy, hasn't done things carnal with either people of either sex that he felt confident or obliged to label "sexual" or "sexually romantic," and who doesn't think of himself as having an actual sexuality, and thinks that the question of what it would be if he did have one is purely theoretical and one that he's disinclined to contemplate--presumably for wise reasons, being that he's Dumbledore. But maybe Rowling will publish "Dumbledore on the Couch" and we'll learn otherwise.

therapydoc said...

Face it. We just love that name. Dumbledore.

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