Toronto
3 min

Much ado about Dumbledore

So Dumbledore is gay. For those of you who somehow missed this, Albus Dumbledore is the head master of Hogwarts and a master wizard in the Harry Potter series.

The outing came from the author, JK Rowling, confirming rumours that had circulated on fan sites for years. It was quickly picked up by the media and blasted around the world.

The reaction was predictable. Many within the Christian Right have long denounced the Harry Potter series for promoting anti-Christian propaganda and tried to have the books banned in schools and libraries. According to the American Library Association the series tops the list of the most frequently challenged books of the 21st century.

This just added fuel to their fire: What more proof was needed that Rowling was promoting an anti-Christian agenda?

For example one anti-Potter activist, Laura Malloy, has long lobbied to get the book banned by school boards in Georgia, unsuccessfully appealing her case to the Georgia Board of Education, arguing that the book is harmful to children, even contributing to violence in schools. She wasted no time jumping onto the Dumbledore-is-gay bandwagon telling ABC News that this revelation only confirms that the books are anti-Christian, adding, “A homosexual lifestyle is a harmful one,” she said. “That’s proven, medically.”

Admittedly Malloy was also voted Idiot of the Year 2006 by the Washington Post.

But even those a little less conservative than the Evangelicals lined up to denounce the outing of Dumbledore. The problem, according to some, was not that Dumbledore was gay per se but that children’s books just shouldn’t be talking about the sexuality of adults.

Barbara Kay, for example, wrote in the Oct 25 issue of National Post that “adults in a children’s novel should not be sexual beings” but rather should be “chaste or asexual.”

Well, sure, maybe explicit descriptions of sexual encounters might be a bit out of the normal realm of a child’s book but there is a conflation here of sex and sexuality. Apparently keeping out descriptions of sex also means keeping out sexual identity or rather gay sexual identity.

The National Post column provoked an avalanche of responses, for and against, outraged and affirmed. In an attempt to clarify her position Kay subsequently wrote that gays in children’s books are different than heterosexual couples. While straight folks “can be compartmentalized and their roles as mothers and fathers illuminated without reference to their overt sexuality, no such compartmentalization is possible with gays. In saying someone is gay you are saying they prefer to have sex with their own sex and nothing else since they do not have a dual identity as parents do.”

Wow. Excellent clarification. Being gay is, apparently, simply about having sex. Of course in her world there are no gay mothers or fathers or an identity of gayness outside of the sex that we are supposedly having at every minute.

The multiple responses to Dumbledore’s outing is a testament to both how far we have come and how far we still have to go. The fact that it is still a big deal — virtually every major media outlet covered the story — means it is still a big deal. Many readers cheered the outing, also suggesting that it’s a big deal. Those who opposed, on either extreme Christian grounds or more moderate children-shouldn’t-be-exposed-to sex grounds, also confirm that it is still a big deal.

Maybe the best sign of progress was the kind of blasé response, those who said “Huh, interesting” or just chuckled at the absurdity of an author discussing the sexuality of her fictional characters after she finished writing the book. This is a sign of acceptance.

But for the all the others, including those who felt compelled to wade in and defend the outing in the name of gay rights or the need for children to see gay role models or the affirmation of gay parenting or something (including my little dissing of the Post columnist’s position), it suggests that we still have a long way to go.

Dumbledore is gay. Big deal? Unfortunately, for too many, it still is.