The big news in the Potterverse this month is that Dumbledore is gay, and everyone has their own two cents on the matter. Some people want to use it to warp the parent/child relationship between Harry and Dumbledore, for example, while others use it as further evidence of the “gay agenda,” and some people, many people, actually, say that it doesn’t really matter. That the sexual orientation of the characters is certainly part of who they are, but it doesn’t change the books for them.
I have mixed feelings on the matter. As Dan Savage points out, if Rowling thought it was no big deal, why wasn’t it in the books? Why not let readers see a positive portrayal of a strong, fatherly, wise, wonderful gay character? And, for that matter, why aren’t more characters in the series gay, given the statistical likelihood of being homosexual? I have my suspicions about Lee, but no character is explicitly gay, which I think is interesting in the English public school environment; Savage points out that this environment is notorious for being rife with homosexual undertones.
Rowling says that she didn’t put it in the books because it was crucial to the plot of the last book, what with Dumbledore’s great lost love and all. And perhaps she’s right. But one of my favorite things about this series is the lessons that it contains; social responsibility, caring for others, the existence of strong female* characters. Why not put in some awesome gay characters in addition to all of the other great role models in the books? And would it have ruined the plot to make it clear that Dumbledore was gay? I think not. It’s interesting to see that all of Dumbledore’s faults and follies came out in the last book, making him a rather flat character until the very end, which is a great pity, since he was obviously a complex and very interesting man.
Dumbledore’s sexual orientation would have mattered to me if he had been out in the books. As it is, I think it’s just an irrelevant add-on. If Rowling thought it was important, she should have included it in the series, not announced it at a reading. She keeps delivering dribs and drabs about characters in interviews, which is really frustrating to me, because I think that information should be in the series for future readers to know about. Unless she wants to write another book with all of this information, which would be nice, since I would like to know more about what happened to the characters than what was in that poorly written piece of fan fiction appended to Deathly Hallows.
Furthermore, I think it’s interesting that Rowling outed Dumbledore, when that sort of thing is severely frowned upon in the gay community. Outing someone is a pretty serious act of betrayal…how come no one is talking about that?
*Speaking of strong female characters, would someone please explain why the end of the last book has Ginny and Hermione both happily married and pumping out kids? Not that motherhood isn’t great, and an admirable pursuit, but both of these women were painted as strong, smart, independent, confident characters, and now they’re stuck behind the Aga with their wands? Or did Rowling just “leave out” the bit about jobs at the ministry, professorships at Hogwarts, and so forth? What kind of lesson does that teach young women? Sure, be confident and awesome all through school, but once you graduate, you’d better hook up with the hunky boy and start making babies.