Are You Sitting Down? More Importantly, Are You Prepared to Yawn?

If you are an author hoping to inject a forced significance into the characters within your oeuvre, then J.K. Rowling is your role model. There is no doubt in my mind that this was designed not so much as a gambit for the fan fiction enthusiasts, but as a sexual orientation to launch a thousand grad student essays. Now that we know that Dumbledore is gay — and we must assume this to be true because the author says so! — one wonders why insinuations weren’t there in the text all along. After all, if Rowling “always saw Dumbledore as gay,” would this not have provided an extra subtext to the Harry Potter universe for Rowling to play around with? Or is this merely a retroactive attempt to move a few more units?

I’m wondering if other YA authors will follow in Rowling’s footsteps. Will Daniel Handler declare Klaus Baudelaire a BDSM enthusiast? The time has come for more startling announcements. Because as jaw-dropping bombs released to the public go, Dumbledore’s secret life is terribly anticlimactic.


  1. As a fiction writer, I often know things about my characters that help me get a handle on them but which end up not specifically mentioned in the stories. For example, a fairly recent story had a minor character whom I thought of as a black woman, although after drafting the story, I saw that there was no point where I made that clear and it seemed forced and awkward to state it. (Back in the day — the 1970s for me — the young white writers I knew discussed graceful ways of making it clear that characters weren’t white; we’d read too many books where there were lines like, “He stared at his ebony face in the mirror.”)

    For me, it’s similar to what actors do. They often know something about their characters that is not revealed explicitly through the dialogue or any other way; this helps the actors “inhabit” the role but it shouldn’t be necessary to know this for the audience to “get” the character. Once, in a play, I decided that my character had six toes on one foot.

    So I don’t think it’s odd that Rowling had in her mind that Dumbledore was gay when she wrote the character if it helped her portray him. I don’t see why she would make this known to anyone if it’s not explicit in the book; however, she was asked a direct question relating to Dumbledore’s love life. She might have answered without reference to his sexual orientation, but it’s hard to blame her for a spontaneous remark. It’s not as if she called a press conference to say this.

    I have to admit, having only seen some of the HP movies, that it did cross my mind that Dumbledore might have been gay. But then I think many people assume things about characters that may or may not have been true.

    Did you consider the possibility that Dumbledore could have been gay without Rowling knowing it? Have you ever met anyone who was gay and not aware of it themselves? I am pretty sure I have met several.

  2. “and we must assume this to be true because the author says so!”

    You appear to be using the exclamation point of sarcasm — but I don’t understand why. Who better than the author to know about her characters? Or is this one of those academic, post-modern things that I’m not getting where characters exist irrespective of an author and we’re all Pirandello?

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