As a Potter fan and a bisexual, I reacted to the announcement of Dumbledore’s sexuality with applause.
The reaction nationwide has been fascinating. There have been jokes about flaming phoenixes, people hunting for evidence within the books and some ignorant statements about Dumbledore’s relationship with Harry – as if all homosexuals were pedophiles. And then there were editorials like Mr. Gibson’s, that analyzed it as a symbol for the gay movement and found it wanting.
But anyone looking for a “symbol” in Dumbledore’s outing will be disappointed. It was never meant to be a symbol of anything.
Rowling’s announcement of Dumbledore’s sexuality was actually a reply. When asked if Dumbledore ever found love, she said that he did – with another man. That romance was something already written in the text, a major
revelation in the last book. While the relationship wasn’t explicitly sexual, Dumbledore did speak of being “caught … inflamed,” and used other intense language that isn’t typically attached to a
Anyone looking for “clues” might want to review that bit of the character’s history. Rowling’s statement about the books as a “call for tolerance” is being taken out of context, as it was in a completely separate answer about Death Eaters alluding to Nazis.
I’m disappointed that Dumbledore couldn’t have made the romantic side of that relationship clearer. But the friendship was already a huge twist in a book packed to the gills with plot and exposition. To discuss the wizarding society’s reception of homosexuality would have uselessly diverted the plot, distracting from the story Rowling was trying to tell. Judging from the reaction at Carnegie Hall, it might have distracted from the book itself. I think it’s fair to say that Rowling’s first duty is to her story.
I prefer it this way. Dumbledore isn’t some kind of mascot, and ‘message characters’ are more message than character, which isn’t the case for him. If you want a message, try this: Dumbledore is brilliant, powerful, respected, wise, kind. All this was more important for us to know than his sexuality.
In 40 years, they may not analyze Rowling’s private statements. I wouldn’t be disappointed – they have no bearing on the books themselves. But at the height of the Potter phenomenon, homophobic souls could fall in love with this character and then be surprised out of complacency. It’s a profound lesson, whether Rowling intended it or not – more than any mention in the books might have been.
Kim DeCina is a senior majoring in social work.