A Gay Wizard

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

Do you ever wonder about the sexuality of the folks at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry? I never really did. I mean, I knew Harry had a crush on Cho, then Ginny.... And that Ron and Hermione have some serious chemistry. But I never thought much about the grown-up characters in the book. Some age bias, perhaps. Anyway, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, fortunately, has given them much more thought than I. On Saturday, she let an audience at Carnegie Hall in on a secret: the headmaster of Hogwarts, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, is gay. Some say Rowling's revelation is a safe choice, others praise her for making "the most intelligent, honorable and respected character of the entire series" a gay hero. What do you think?



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I really could care less. I think this is just a publicity stunt by Rowling.

Sent by Mary | 2:40 PM | 10-22-2007

Who cares? Dumbledore's sexual orientation is completely irrelevant to the stories. Even the thing with Grindelwald absolutely doesn't need to have that kind of context to be poignant. It's just as heartbreaking to loose a kindred spirit/best friend to evil as it someone you're in love with. I always thought of Dumbledore as sort of asexual if I thought about it at all.

Sent by Cassie Leclair | 3:35 PM | 10-22-2007

It seems a strange announcement to me, particularly because of the timing. Why did she chose to make this announcement now that the series is over? Furthermore, why make the announcement at all? Couldn't readers have just inferred from the reading that he may have been a gay character? I worry that new readers will only be able to focus on the fact that Dumbledore is gay and not the wonderful, epic story Rowling has created.

Sent by Dawn | 3:40 PM | 10-22-2007

I had suspected that Prof. McGonagall was a lesbian, but never gave a thought to Dumbledore's sexuality.

Sent by Annette | 3:44 PM | 10-22-2007

Why did she chose to make this announcement now that the series is over?

If you look at the (unofficial) transcript of the question and answer period of the Scholastic's Open Book Tour Sweepstakes event, the "outing" was in response to the fan question "Did Dumbledore, who believed in the prevailing power of love, ever fall in love himself?"

Sent by Amanda | 4:01 PM | 10-22-2007

I'm sure that this announcement has left most wondering what motivated Rowling. After all, the series is over and "outing" Dumbledore as gay changes nothing about the books, nor should it. If this was something that was important to the story and its messages, it should have been included somehow in the plot. The postscript by Rowling seems superfluous and strange.

Sent by Erin Kennedy | 4:03 PM | 10-22-2007

This has to be one of the most ridiculous "stunts" by Rowling. Somehow I suspect that JKR sat around with a bunch of friends chatting and this idea got "hatched" as a "ooh... wouldn't THIS make for a bizarre twist!" It serves no purpose except possibly causing some "hype" (like we need any more) about the book series. The world could have done well w/o this "revelation".

I concur with Erin K. that if it was of ANY importance it would have been IN the book rather than some passing "well I always thought of him as..." remark.

Sent by SenseiC | 5:06 PM | 10-22-2007

This fact seems very random and unnecessary. Who cares? Seriously, the series is over and done, so what does that have to do with everything? If J. K. Rowling gives reference to this in the 7th movie, that will be irrelevant and stupid.

And i really liked J.K. Rowling, too. Why did she have to open her mouth and ruin everything???

Sent by Aqeelah | 5:43 PM | 10-22-2007

I always thought Professor Grubblyplank was so gay.

But, yeah, I was wondering why none of the characters in the potterverse were, indeed, gay. This revelation makes me happy, especially because I think it makes sense. In either book 6 or 7, a young Dumbledore is described as wearing a flamboyant purple velvet suit or some such. At the beginning of the first book he's wearing high healed boots. Though I never consciously wondered if Dumbledore was gay, it doesn't alter my perception of him now.

And, really, does Rowling need to stage stunts by now? She's pretty much the best-selling author in recent years.

Sent by Katie | 6:52 PM | 10-22-2007

My wife and I are fans of the Harry Potter series and we both think J.K. is a wonderful story teller. What I don't understand is what her motivation is for telling the public about this aspect of Dumbledore's life. The character has died at this point in the story and the last book in the series has concluded. She didn't make mention of this within the story, no matter how much we are supposed to relate his relationship with Grindelwald to Dumbledore's sexual preference. It seems that gay people may see this as an attempt to please members of their community but that the attempt seems so hollow. Not that I even think sexual preference really matters within this particular situation but if Rowling truly wanted to relate to a homosexual audience then she should have explained the true nature of Dumbledore's and Grindelwald's relationship in the pages of the last book. The only other reason I could see for J.K. making this somewhat controversial revelation would be if she was planning to write further about Dumbledore's earlier days. If this is the case then I wouldn't feel like this announcement was just so hollow. I have read stories and listened to radio interviews that mirror my thoughts.

Sent by Christopher Bolton | 7:22 PM | 10-22-2007

Amanda seems to be one of the few people wise enough not to jump to the conclusion that Rowling had anything intentional to do with the timing of this announcement. Please bother to read the actual details of the story before you comment, or you just sound silly and uninformed, which is somewhat ironic for posting at an NPR board isn't it? The simple fact is a teenager asked her a direct question about a detail and she chose to answer it honestly. She could have ignored the question but it was a good one, and had nothing to do with sexual orientation. But in order to answer it, the truth had to "came out" (so to speak.) Anyone who follows the series and its fans may already know Jo Rowling offers readers Q & A sessions periodically. As a writer myself I'm often surprised at the amount of detail she's willing to share, because it's really her business and she doesn't "owe" her audience every last detail. But fans are sometimes insatiable. She's joked that she's flattered that folks want to know her characters as well as she does. Some authors would not be as open. I think there's a lot of not wanting to let the Harry Potter "high" go on the part of fans, now that there will be no more new books about him and his world. So she's giving readers and some real fanatics what they're asking for: details and more details. She used to refuse to answer some questions whilst writing the series so as not to give away key points too soon. Now her readers are dissecting everything even more, and she's allowing much more out. She really didn't seem bothered by the "gay" detail herself, given that she appeared surprised at the reaction. All it is is a back story. We'd never have known had this reader not asked, because it's fairly unimportant to the story. (Please also bear in mind she is British, and over there this is much less of an issue than in the states, so who cares?) There's nothing to do with appeasing a gay audience, no "shock value" intended, just a simple reply that people seem to have blown out of proportion. You might also note she had other details to reveal but few are commenting about them here, because true fans are at the HP sites and to them Dumbledore's sexuality is just another detail. (With luck some day we'll be able to say the same about the citizens of our country too!) She revealed it about as casually as she might have relayed his eye color. Authors have developed their characters and may or may not choose to let readers in on the full details. Many let us "read into" characters which is fun. She chose to share when questioned. That is all.

Sent by Heidi | 8:56 PM | 10-22-2007

It's so surprising that almost every comment here, however tolerant, seems to contain shocked disappointment, as though something were 'ruined'. I too felt some disappointment to hear that our favorite headmaster was a gay wizard. Why so, do you think? Does it spoil him as a potential father figure, like hearing your favorite movie starlet is married? It bears examination.

I think a certain amount of resentment happens, as in real life, when the people we look up to and think we know when we're growing up turn out to be more complicated than youth could perceive.

I don't think this is a stunt by Rowling at all-- I think it is true that as she says she always concieved of him that way. As in real life, while it puts some aspects of him in a different light, it also makes him more comprehensible as a character. And, as in real life, the challenge brought to us is to allow our regard to go on undiminished, when we learn things about someone we admire that are, frankly, none of our business anyway. :)

Sent by Susan Hickey | 8:58 AM | 10-23-2007

Responding to Heidi regarding her point about the original question that prompted J.K.'s revelation about Dumbledore, I still think it is odd. J.K. is a very intelligent woman and she would have known that revealing something this potentially controversial would have sparked much discussion. She isn't usually a sensationalist and certainly doesn't need to worry about trying to boost book sales. The simple explaination that Dumbledore is was gay just seems too empty. If Rowling is going to give us another detail about the venerable Wizard's mysterious life then I would challenge her to take the time to go further. I said in my earlier post that maybe this is the spark that could develop into a prequel story about Dumbledore's early adventures.

Sent by Christopher Bolton | 11:39 AM | 10-23-2007

I realise what Christopher is saying about prequels but I just don't see it. I don't get the sense at all from Rowling that she planned to say anything, nor that she felt one way or another about sharing the information, at least not more so than any other details she's revealed in Q & A sessions. (And I meant "the truth had to come out" not "came out" up there, but my personal copyeditor isn't doing her job catching my typos.) Other than the encyclopedia of back stories on every HP character Jo's referred to but reportedly not yet begun, I doubt there's any more excitement plotted for Dumbledore's life story on her part. But we'll see!

Sent by Heidi | 5:58 AM | 10-26-2007

Let me just chip in my two cents with Heidi here -- this whole explosion of dialogue (which I'm now participating in) feels a little ridiculous. Taken in context, Rowling was only explaining the way she imagined her characters in order to facilitate writing them. Rowling is indeed a very intelligent woman, but perhaps was less concerned with the way pundits and bloggers may later interpret her words than in explaining her craft. I imagine that her answer wasn't a question of making a "potentially controversial" comment (and especially not for any sort of press response), but simply an aside -- a passing comment about the way she writes. She imagines Dumbledore gay; it helps her define his character when she's writing about him. I can't help but suspect it may even be in part because she's imagining Gandalf by way of Sir Ian McKellan. Be that as it may, the notion that it was anything more than an explanation of her own internal character-creation process is, well, silly. Are we done?

Sent by Justin Lane Briggs | 11:28 PM | 10-30-2007

JKR just exposed one more dramatic concept of humanity in her character. It was a simple detail that A. Dumbledore was homosexual. The important and the most sensitive part of it was that Dumbledore lost to evil his great love! imagine how painfull for a human (just like us) is loosing someone you care to the thing you most fight against. human concept that envolves all her "toil".

Sent by Est??v??o Teuber | 7:11 PM | 11-3-2007

I mean its J.K. Rowling's book so she should do whatever she wants.

Sent by Christine Spamoni | 6:13 PM | 11-13-2007