Rowling Outs Dumbledore, and Fans Can’t Get Enough
Article Date: 10/24/2007
By Ross von Metzke
You’ve probably already heard the one about Albus Dumbledore being a friend of Dorothy—the Associated Press, The New York Times… even CNN featured the headline on its tickertape, right behind an update of the California fires.
So why is an innocent announcement by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling that her 150 some odd year-old wizard is gay such a headline grabber? At the same talk, Rowling revealed that Harry Potter grows up to be an auror with the Ministry of Magic, what conflicted Aunt Petunia says to Harry after their final meeting, what becomes of Hermione. But Rowling’s off-handed revelation that Dumbledore is gay during a Q&A at Carnegie Hall was the only announcement met with near-unanimous applause.
Rowling dropped her bombshell when a fan asked if Potter’s powerful mentor, long a proponent of the power of true love, had ever indeed been in love himself. The author’s response? "My truthful answer to you—I always thought of Dumbledore as gay," going on to detail an intense affection Albus had as a young man for talented wand-wielder Gellert Grindelwald. She said Albus’ affection blinded him to Grindelwald’s faults, as it does for so many mere muggles, leaving him shattered when Grindewald turned out to be evil.
She went on to say that at a script read for the sixth book, she had the screenwriter ax a line which referred to Dumbledore’s intense affection for a young woman. Rowling said she slipped the screenwriter a note reading, “Dumbledore’s gay”.
And yet, for all the intense devotion and connection fans have for Rowling’s characters, the author fielded hardly a peep of complaint. In fact, fans cheered the announcement, one 9-year-old fan saying it explained the sister-like feeling she’d always confused for love that Dumbledore directed at professor Minerva McGonagall.
The question is, why? Is it a sign that younger generations are growing up in a world where an announcement like that is no longer seen as a shock? Possible, though the current administration would have you believe otherwise. Is it that hundreds of fans everywhere had already picked up on Rowling’s numerous clues that Dumbledore might just play for our team (comments of Dumbledore and Grindewald taking to each other at once, trading letters and, in one description, Dumbledore responding with near euphoria to a visit from the wand-wielder)?
Or is it simply a testament to Rowling’s works? In Rowling’s world, issues of bigotry, discrimination and intolerance are commonly discussed. Her stories are filled with a veritable painter’s palate of races and cultures. Discussion of degrees of beauty and class distinction fuel her narrative—Rowling has always been very forthright about the discrimination of the wizard world by Muggles, a subject civil rights activists have used to illustrate their own struggles.
In truth, had a member of Rowling’s world not been gay, it would have been a gross omission.
It’s just goes to show how much power Rowling’s truths hold that audiences would respond with such overwhelming support. Lance Bass coming out on the cover of People Magazine and Neil Patrick Harris declaring that he’s a proud, openly gay man while starring on a hit sitcom opened the world’s eyes to the fact that the gays are indeed among them, but Rowling is to the literary world what Oprah Winfrey is to television. Fans of Rowling’s Potter listen to every word she says… she’s the expert on all things Potter, after all, and to fans, what she says goes. If she insists Dumbledore’s being gay and the heartache that came from that were an essential part of his being the right mentor for Potter, well—you’d better believe fans are listening and, more importantly, accepting.
"I know that it was a positive thing that I said it, for at least one person, because one man 'came out' at Carnegie Hall," Rowling told a news conference Tuesday at the International Festival of Authors, according to the Canadian Press. "I'm not kidding."
In fact, Rowling said she knew Dumbledore was gay even before the first book was published, something that, she says, fueled his relationships with several characters throughout the series. The reason she held on to the information for so long, she says, is because his rather tragic infatuation with Grindewald was a key element in ending the book, and “why would I put the key part of my ending of my story in book one"?
Rowling said she answered a direct question with a direct answer, telling the Associated Press she found it "freeing" to out Dumbledore because she often "felt like a salmon swimming upstream" while writing the books.
The gay media found it freeing as well. No sooner did Rowling’s announcement hit the press than gay media watchdog GLAAD issued a statement. In it, GLAAD President Neil Giuliano said, "It's wonderful that J.K. Rowling would help open readers eyes to the life and truth of such a beloved character. Rowling's decision to allow readers to see Dumbledore for all of who he is—and her determination to preserve the authenticity of his character in the films—will enrich the power of these stories for generations to come."
As to the legions of fans and bloggers who have been questioning Dumbledore’s sexuality since book one, Rowling laughs, according to E! Online, saying, “just imagine the fan fiction now”.