Why Young Dumbledore’s Sexuality Matters
Ten years ago, the release of Deathly Hallows was not the only reason Harry Potter made headlines. I am of course referring to J.K. Rowling revealing that everyone’s favorite Hogwarts Headmaster was gay. Rowling joked,“I would have told you earlier if I knew it would make you so happy.” It went on to become quite possibly one of the most hotly debated pieces of information about a character in the series. MuggleNet founder Emerson Spartz was even interviewed about the news, saying it served as a sobering reminder of how discriminatory some people can be.
For queer fans, it was a mixed bag, with many rejoicing at the fact that we were being represented all along, even if it was all in the subtext, while others claimed just saying it wasn’t enough. One article from BBC following the news back in 2007 cited thoughts from Peter Tatchell, a human rights campaigner, whose sentiments were shared by many LGBTQ+ members of the Potter fandom.
It’s good that children’s literature includes the reality of gay people, since we exist in every society. But I am disappointed that she did not make Dumbledore’s sexuality explicit in the Harry Potter books. Making it obvious would have sent a much more powerful message of understanding and acceptance.
But things are different in 2017. The first book was released in 1997, which was also the year in which Ellen Degeneres came out publicly on her show Ellen – an act which at the time was seen as bold and potentially career-crippling. (Thankfully, it wasn’t.) In 2007, when the last book came out and Rowling announced Dumbledore’s sexuality, only one state in the US allowed same-sex marriages, while today it is the law of the land. We have come a long way, but progress for LGBTQ+ individuals isn’t the only thing that’s different.
We now have four more Fantastic Beasts films to look forward to, and with today’s announcement that Jude Law will be playing young Dumbledore (#Youngledore), the one thing that came to mind for me was, Jo—this is your chance.
.@anakocovic21 Maybe because gay people just look like… people?
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) March 24, 2015
With a much more progressive climate, and with Rowling making statements like the one above in response to someone saying they “couldn’t see Dumbledore as gay,” one has to have hope that she will use this opportunity to show us the side of Dumbledore we could never have seen when we was a much older man who had long before been tragically let down by the man he loved. We have the chance to witness, in real time, a Dumbledore who is young and vivacious and who, hopefully, both acknowledges his sexuality and gives us a chance to see a well-rounded gay character in a mainstream blockbuster.
As a queer fan who grew up reading Potter (but who didn’t come out until age 22), I have to wonder what it would have been like for me to see one of the wisest, most trusted, respected, and looked up to characters in the series be open and proud of his identity. I’ll never get to know now if that would have helped me come out sooner, but what I do know is this: Representation can change people’s lives and make them feel seen. We saw it with the brilliant casting of Noma Dumezweni as Hermione, and while the actor isn’t queer himself, we have the chance to finally see Dumbledore at least portrayed that way with Jude Law.
Kids growing up right now have a chance to experience one of the most important characters in the entire saga as someone who’s confident with who he is. J.K. Rowling once tweeted that of course Hogwarts was a safe space for LGBTQ+ witches and wizards and that “If Harry Potter taught us anything, it’s that no one should live in a closet.” Never has there been a more perfect chance for her to show her queer fans that she really means it.