JK Rowling and the Disregard for the Rainbow

Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore. Powerful. Magical. Wise. Gay. The last one is a more recent addition to the many character traits of this powerful wizard. This little nugget of knowledge may be widely known to those belonging to the Harry Potter fandom but it might not be known to the more casual fan. Well this might have been true until around nearly two weeks ago when Dumbledore’s sexuality was truly dragged through twitter and other social media sites all over again.
Dumbledore was first outed in Saturday, 20 October 2007 when the author of the beloved series announced his sexuality to the world via the packed house in New York’s Carnegie Hall on Friday, as part of her US book tour.
However, this time it wasn’t the fact he was gay that was causing a stir. No. Yet a rather queer – no pun intended – phenomenon occurred when JK Rowling and David Yates jointly announced that Dumbledore’s sexuality will “not explicitly” acknowledged in the next film of the spin off, prequel series entitled; “Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald.”


Dumbledore Portrayed by Michael Gambon . Credit: Creative Commons

These revelations have sparked renewed fire into the long standing debate over LGBT representation in media. It seems the debate usually centres on film and books that are made to appeal to a younger demographic like the original Harry Potter series. With the usual fearmongering of concerned parents that are worried there precious babies will burn at the sight of a little homosexual focused romance.

To which the common LGBT response to this poor argument is that we have had to put up with Disney insisting that a boy and a girl will fall in love. Swiftly followed by a happily ever after. Once one slays a dragon, saves china or rewrites Native American history within a neat 90 – 100 minute period. Yet, I and many other still managed to turn out as straight as a banana.
CeCe Edwig, a You – tuber known for her channel called ‘Problems of a book nerd’ on which she reviews books Had a lot to say on the subject and happily talked about the famous wizard in half-moon glasses. She said: “I definitely feel that Dumbledore’s sexuality remaining unexplored in the Harry Potter canon is very negative in terms of LGBTQ+ representation in the media. As it is, LGBTQ+ people are starved for the little bit we are allowed to see of ourselves in the books, films, TV shows, and more that we consume. But J.K. Rowling occupies a very specific place in history. She has a huge voice, a reaching chance to make change, and yet she won’t be the one to step forward and include a gay character in one of the biggest franchises in the world. She confirms representation outside of canon in order to appease her readers longing for representation, but her refusal to include confirmation in a canon work is just another sign that she only cares about shutting fans up instead of including them in her world.”
CeCe felt that JK Rowling and Yates need to wake up and smell of the coffee and realise fans will no longer ‘accept scraps’ of representation. She said: “By telling Harry Potter fans that they are releasing yet another movie that fails to confirm a character’s sexuality, they have given many LGBTQ+ readers and fans another reason to not see the upcoming film.”
The You – tuber feels let down but unsurprised by the news of how Dumbledore’s sexuality will be effectively ignored. Feeling that over ten years should be enough time to include an explicit reference to the great Wizard’s identity.
The popular you – tuber pointed out that Rowling still had plenty of opportunity to discuss Dumbledore’s sexuality in the Cursed Child. This itself has been thoroughly criticised for ‘queerbaiting’ the main characters Scorbus and Albus. She said: “They could have discussed it in Cursed Child, but they haven’t. I think the point is to push fans to just wait until they are finally given the barest scraps of what should have been included years ago.”


cursed child
Cursed Child play script Credit: Creative Commons

Remembering back to when fans originally asked her if Dumbledore ever found love and her response was something that has reshaped the way we all looked at the old, wise head – master forever. She said: “Dumbledore is gay,” Referencing that the character once loved Grindlewald. You know, before he turned into a Dark wizard bent on making Wizards more powerful than muggles.
Even back then not everyone was happy with these revelations claiming that although they did provide some positive and well-rounded representation that not dealing with the subject head on is failing to take that brave step forward.
In fact, in the very same BBC article that broke the news, Peter Tatchell, avid Human Rights Campaigner said: “I am disappointed that she did not make Dumbledore’s sexuality explicit in the Harry Potter book. Making it obvious would have sent a much more powerful message of understanding and acceptance.”
So, from above CeCe was evidently not alone in her feeling’s. Like a lot of LGBT people at the time when Rowling originally broke the news Miss Edwig, was feeling positive about the representation. She said: “I was pleased because there was this wise, wonderful character who people had loved for years and he could be gay too! But more and more over the years I’ve been frustrated with how Rowling addressed it, because she seems to think that merely telling people he was gay is enough and it isn’t.”
LGBTQ+ people have been underrepresented in our media for a long time as well as horrendously misrepresented. In 2014, a GLADD study found only 17 of 102 major studio films the year previous featured gay characters, with most them offensive. That was four years ago, and it is still abundantly clear that LGBT people will still have to wait until Hollywood will let us play catch – up.
Miss Edwig explained that movie studios just need to take a deep breath and dive in to really make way for more of the rainbow to come shinning through. She said: “Movie studios shy away from making big budget movies about queer characters because they’re worried they won’t make money. They are trying to appeal to masses, and there is still a fear that media with an LGBTQ+ lead won’t have a high viewer count. All it takes is someone making that step, proving that it can be done, for other studios and creators to make the next leap”.
CeCe gave an example of upcoming movie called Love, Simon believing it to have the potential to change the industry. It will be a revolutionary Rom – Com with a gay lead.
The young woman believes that LGBTQ+ representation is essential. She said: “We all long to see ourselves in film, tv, and books. There is an acknowledgment that “hey, I exist!” and it can mean so much. Queer representation is especially important to queer teens struggling with their identities, or who feel alone. By ignoring them in media, we ignore them in our day to day lives. When queer characters are out in the world, it allows for confidence and strength for those who finally get to see themselves.”
A lot of films and TV shows have killed off queer characters in in discriminately in the past, especially those of the female variety. This trope is so common it has a name: ‘Burry your gay’s’.
Cece also commented on this sating it was one of her most hated LGBT tropes. She said, “In movies, LGBTQ+ characters either remain on the fringe, non-existent, or their stories end in death and sadness.”
Although it is not all doom and gloom certain aspects of Hollywood is changing and for the better. Moonlight, Love, Simon etc. being examples of how the film industry is constantly getting better at showing more diversity in film.
True to CeCe’s nature she pointed out some book recommendations that express positive LGBT representation. She said: “Last year books like The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee, How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake, and Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore showed a range of queer identity that hasn’t been seen in YA before. I just wish that J.K. Rowling could also move forward and see that the publishing world is changing around her, and she’s not changing with it.”

Famous line from Sirius Black as portrayed by Gary Oldman Credit: Creative Commons  

It is very clear that CeCe and many other Harry Potter fans are left pulling their hair out. Feeling frustrated, constantly feeling crazy as we talk to cold damp walls. Rather like how I imagine Sirius must have felt breaking out of Azkaban only to have Kreacher and Buckbeak for company.
A lot of people have drawn a comparison to Harry’s cupboard to the ‘gay closet’ but if JK Rowling is really, interested in what a closet is like. It’s much more like that horrible prison you wrote about in your books. Damp, cold, confusing, dark and guarded by thinly veiled metaphors for depression. By failing to address Dumbledore’s sexuality you force one of  your greatest heroes to experience all of that and at the same time fail to inspire this completely new generation of  witches and wizards to escape Azkaban.



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