Ian McKellen Speaks Out on Dumbledore’s Sexuality

With all the excitement surrounding Dumbledore’s return in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, there’s been a fair amount of speculation about how this iconic character will be portrayed in his younger years. In January, we were disappointed to learn of the omission of an important aspect of the character: Jude Law’s Dumbledore would not be portrayed as explicitly gay.

David Yates confirmed the news to much dismay from fans, who lamented the lack of diversity within the franchise. One of these angered fans was actor and Dumbledore lookalike Sir Ian McKellen, whose identity as a gay man in the entertainment industry means he’s seen his fair share of LGBTQ+ erasure. In an interview with Time Out London for his new documentary, McKellen: Playing the Partthe actor gave his opinion on the controversy before ripping into Hollywood’s treatment of minorities:

That’s a pity. Well, nobody looks to Hollywood for social commentary, do they? They only recently discovered that there were black people in the world. Hollywood has mistreated women in every possible way throughout its history. Gay men don’t exist.

McKellen has been an advocate for representation ever since publicly coming out in 1988 in a BBC Radio interview. He described losing a role in the 1983 film Betrayal after coming out to producer Sam Spiegel:

We sat in Spiegel’s office and I happened to say that I was going to New York. He said, ‘Will you be taking the family?’ And I said, ‘I don’t have a family. I’m gay.’ I think it was the first time I came out to anyone. Well, I was out of that office in two minutes. It took [writer Harold] Pinter 25 years to apologize for not sticking up for me. But young actors in London now have all been out for years. That’s the future.

McKellen’s argument is nothing new, but neither is the entertainment industry’s blatant erasure of LGBTQ+ identities. Fans have long criticized J.K. Rowling’s retroactive Twitter post making Dumbledore gay after the books were done being published as a move for representation without any action behind it. Excluding his sexuality from Fantastic Beasts solidified that belief for many. Regardless of the controversy surrounding this particular decision, McKellen sees hope for representation in the future by looking at how far gay rights have come since he started acting:

When I go to schools to talk about gay rights, the kids can’t believe it. It’s not an issue for them.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald comes out on November 16, 2018.

Gayané Kaligian

Gayane has been writing about Harry Potter since the fourth grade, when she wrote her first five-paragraph essay on why Percy Weasley’s buffoonery could have led to Voldemort winning. These days, she’s still talking about the Weasley brothers, but it’s mostly about how overlooked Charlie is. In her free time, you can find her researching stunt choreography and geeking out over theater.