by: Rohan Lewis
When J. K. Rowling decided that it was due time for Albus Dumbledore to leave the closet, I was initially ecstatic. I was listening to the radio, NPR if I remember correctly, and a man next to me just simply said “Those books are wicked.”
Personally, I always perceived the professors of Hogwarts as not having sexuality. I couldn’t envision Minerva McGonagall or Filius Flitwick as having sexual endeavours. I still can’t think of Severus Snape having a sex drive, as though he were just romantically enamoured with Lilly. When Dumbledore’s sexuality was made known to the world, he diverged from that collective of professors in my mind. In fact, why should Dumbledore’s homosexuality matter? I am rather glad that Rowling didn’t write him up as this eccentric gay wizard who shoots rainbows from his wand or anything like that. That would have most certainly distracted the reader from the main plot and Harry’s attempts to save the world of gender and sexually diverse wizards and witches.
As much as this unsettled my childhood memory of Dumbledore, I cannot help but think about what that man had said. The fact that Dumbledore’s sexuality was suggested but still unimportant within the text made it important in the context of our simple world of mad, hateful and violent Muggles. The politics of the world of witches and wizards no longer fell underneath the paradigms of male-female romantic and/or sexual partnerships. This fantastical world included people like us, making us just as special as the gender-normative Harry Potter. Dumbledore became a symbol of great power, a gay wizard who not only defeated one of the most powerful dark wizards in the world, Gellert Grindelward, in a historical but he also inherits the Elderwand and also masters Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
As a wizard so powerful that even Voldemort feared him, Rowling not only included the gender variant communities in the great world of Harry Potter but also empowers them through the symbol of a great wizard. Not only does she empower the reader who feels left out, bullied, or somehow lost through Harry’s struggles, but she reveals to us a world of leaders within this world who are powerful and refined. Not only does Dumbledore oversee and nurture the bravery of the Boy Who Lived, but protects the world of innocents and villains, good and bad people through great sacrifices, culminating in his death. Thus he oversees all of us who find ourselves unimportant, unloved, unwanted and malnourished simply because we are different. This is perfectly encased in a man who, despite his difference, strove on to become a pinnacle figure in the world that Rowling had created.
How could such courage and nobility ever be called wicked? Can one aspect of a personality render all of their choices and sacrifices meaningless?
This is why I think that we need more powerful escapist figures, to drive the imagination to soldier us beyond such a world that might leave us uninspired. We need characters that challenge, reshape and define ideas of strength and beauty, because I think that Dumbledore serves to give us another aspect of such things, which lie far beyond the reaches of our senses. I think that we need another gender-variant fairy tale to remind us of how powerful we are and to teach people like this man that they are the wicked ones for seeking to destroy the image of virtuous man simply because he liked other men. The day that this man called the books wicked, and J.K. Rowling wicked, was the day that he dismissed Harry Potter from his shelves.
That was the day that I realized that this man who fathered me could never be my parent.
I have always loved worlds of magic, when I can run away from people like him. This is why I was very sad to see shows like Firefly and Legend of the Seeker be cancelled, in which we see characters express sexuality that is considered unusual. Inara Serra in Firefly, interpretation by Morena Baccarin, is a companion, who serves to pleasure clients of all kinds. In one episode, she pleasures a female client, and notes this other woman as special. Meanwhile, she is in love with the captain of the ship, Malcom Reynolds played by Nathan Fillion.
In Legend of the Seeker, Cara is part of a female order called the Mord-Sith, played by Tabrett Bethell. Although her character is trained to serve the Lord Rahl, even birthing his child, it is also revealed in the second and last season that she was sexually intimate with another Mord-Sith named Dahlia. In another episode, she falls in love with a replacement Seeker, a man who takes the place of the dead Richard Rahl, the Seeker who is on a quest to destroy the forces of evil about the world. Even the powerful wizard in the show, Zeddicus Z’ul Zorander played by Bruce Spence, appears in drag, charming an older man to romantically pursue him. Let me not forget Achilles, Patroclus, who died in the of his male partner during the War with Troy.
The beauty of these lands and galaxies is that we can find fairy tales where people like us are accepted, and made beautiful because of the fact that we are powerful in these worlds. As Inara moves about in beautiful dresses, Cara fights through the woods in red leather, Dumbledore dies for the world and Achilles and Patroclus battle with Trojans, I can move with them, for they have made legacies that do not ignore their gendered differences.
We need another powerful figure to remind us of our inner magicians, the special magic lies in the power of individualism. It is by this fact that we can find wizardry breathing in us all, because everyone, regardless of difference, can make Hogwarts a home.
Rohan Lewis is soldiering their way through their third year at Northwestern University. An ethnomusicology major with a minor in dance, Rohan invests time in performance and creation. A choreographer, dancer, trumpeter, playwright, composer, poet and fantasy writer, Rohan loves all things “fairytale.” Zie is inspired by Yo-Yo Ma, Lin Hwai Min, J. K. Rowling, Isabelle Allende, J. R. R. Tolkien, Tamora Pierce and Shakespeare. Rohan, born in Florida but raised in Atlanta, also carries a Jamaican dual citizenship.