Author: Joel Dull
All photos courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
The initial response when J.K. Rowling announced in 2007 that she always thought of Dumbledore as Gay was generally a happy one—of course that excludes Harry Potter fans on the conservative side of the spectrum. It didn’t take long, though, for fans to be upset with the fact that if Dumbledore was and is gay, then why was that not shown in any of the seven books. This was 2007. LGBTQ+ victories were few and far between at that time, so a victory, however small, was a step in the right direction. Fast forward 11 years and Rowling is working on a new set of stories with Dumbledore as a key character. Yet, he still isn’t gay.
The podcast Waypoint Radio brought up the topic and talked about how it felt like Rowling “picked a name out of a hat and was like, ‘yeah Dumbledore will be the gay one.’” It’s getting to the point where it truly feels this way. Rowling said he was gay, gave a possibility as to how that fits in to his story, and then left it at that. Especially after writing a movie with a young Dumbledore and his alleged lover, it feels like a failed attempt by Rowling to seem more diverse in her story telling. Fans can see how Dumbledore being gay would fit in. That makes it even harder to understand why Dumbledore isn’t written that way. The opportunity was there. All of the fans saw the chance for Rowling to make something of her claims and she didn’t take it.
At the beginning of the year, David Yates, the director of the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them films, put out a statement saying that Dumbledore’s sexuality will not be “explicitly” explored. That was an understatement. Aside from a few shots of young Dumbledore and Grindelwald being next to each other and the line “We were more than brothers,” the exploration of Dumbledore’s sexuality was none existent. I’ve run all of the different excuses through my head, but they all end up being the same thing: excuses. There is no reason that The Crimes of Grindelwald couldn’t have addressed Dumbledore’s sexuality even a little more. If the only thing in the movie was Dumbledore saying, “we were lovers,” instead of “we were more than brothers,” it would have had such a greater affect. Rowling and Yates need to stop dancing around the fact that he is gay and just say it. Not off screen; not in the margin of a script; ON SCREEN. Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore is gay. So, show us.
When people ask me what I thought about the movie, some of my go to words have become, “well it’s a setup movie.” Perhaps part of the setup is for a wonderfully queer filled third installment to the five film Fantastic Beasts series, but that is still not an excuse as to why Dumbledore can’t be gay now. If Dumbledore’s feelings for Grindelwald were so immense that he could over see many of the young dark wizard’s flaws, I’m sure it is strong enough to be shown though his character at least once in every movie. It isn’t worth the shock factor for when Dumbledore is finally shown in an intimately queer scene or even admits it through dialogue.
In 2015 a fan tweeted at Rowling saying, “I wonder why you said that Dumbledore is gay because I can’t see him in that way.” To which Rowling responded, “Maybe because gay people just look like…people?” This is an extremely frustrating response. Of course gay people look like people, but it’s not right to ignore a distinguishing part of their identity. Being queer in any way does not define a person. Nevertheless, it is a part of them that must be recognized and represented. It’s wonderful that Dumbledore can look like everyone else and not be another perpetuation of a gay stereotype; however, if being gay is a part of Dumbledore’s character, then it needs to be represented because sexuality is a big part of what makes up people as a whole.
Dumbledore has the potential to be a magnificent, strong queer character in one of the most recognizable roles in pop culture. One of the greatest parts of film as an art medium is its potential to represent diverse groups of people on a tremendous scale. Film can bring ostracized groups into the mainstream. We are finally seeing true progress with diversity in Hollywood with films like Crazy Rich Asians and Black Panther. A film as lucrative as Harry Potter has the potential to be another groundbreaker. J.K. Rowling needs to do Dumbledore’s character justice by representing him fully. No more excuses. We want our gay Dumbledore.
JOEL DULL | Not so patiently waiting for Rowling and Yates to get their acts together | KXSU Arts Reporter