I wish she hadn’t done it! On the outing of Dumbledore

By , 26 October 2007 9:09 pm

It seems impossible this week not to make some sort of comment on the fact that She-Who-Need-Not-Be-Named has outed Dumbldore as gay. This is one of those events, relatively minor in itself, which I fear will no doubt have major repercussions, some of which are as yet unsuspected.

I have some difficulty in writing about homosexuality. I have very little empathy for it, which makes treating the subject with sympathy difficult. I am also aware it is a subject of enormously strong feelings. Being gay is such a core feature of homosexual people that to be negative about it is seen as a personal attack. It is also a subject of such complexity that it needs careful unpacking; for example are we to endorse even the most promiscuous sort of homosexuality? A blog is hardly an appropriate location for a discussion. Nevertheless I feel that some comment must be made, so here goes.

I wish she hadn’t done it for many reasons. Let me begin with the literary problem. She has effectively added an amendment to the books which now, for better or worse, require their re-evaluation. The pivotal Dumbledore-Harry relationship must surely be now be reconsidered. It is a wise rule that once a book is written, authors leave their finished work to the readers. This has an unfortunate air of ‘Harry Potter: The Author’s Cut.’

Secondly, she has chosen to throw her considerable weight on one side of what is perhaps the biggest and most painful cultural battle of our time: whether homosexual relationships are as equally valid as heterosexual ones. I remind you that this is no light issue: to accept such a legitimisation is basically to reject the Bible’s authority in matters of sexuality. And if the Bible is kicked out of the bedroom, then it will soon be kicked out of the boardroom and the schoolroom. Its authority will be utterly undermined, and all we will have left is some edifying stories and some pious promises. I feel that she has done this because she is a modern Western woman and it’s the thing to do.

Thirdly, and most worryingly of all, she has bought this pained and complex battle into children’s literature. When I taught in Beirut in the early 1980s there was a universal (and generally held) agreement amongst the trigger-happy thugs of the warring militias that the campus of the American University of Beirut was off-limits. In the same way, I think there has been something of an unspoken consensus that it was not right to wage this battle in the presence of children. But at a stroke JKR has brought the war into the school library. I regret this, not because I think the gay rights issue cannot be countered at this level, but because I believe in an endangered thing called childhood in which such matters remain over the horizon. The all too vulnerable area of childhood, long eroded by commercialism, is now threatened by warfare over sexual orientation. (Incidentally, had it been the evil Voldemort who had been outed, then I trust I would have been just as irritated.)

Finally, I regret it for a selfish reason. It makes our lives difficult as writers. Do we now have to declare some sort of affidavit that ‘no character of ours will be subsequently outed’? Let me pre-empt that. Let me say here, for the benefit of my readers and for posterity that no character good or evil I have written of in the Lamb among the Stars books is gay. But I wish I hadn’t had to say it.

10 Responses to “I wish she hadn’t done it! On the outing of Dumbledore”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for being a more respectable writer than Rowling.

  2. Boaz says:

    Or perhaps she simply did it to stir up more controversy and sell more merchandise. Perhaps that’s the cynical way of looking at it. What is certain is that she wanted the information out there.

    Would this have been better if she had written a prequel, a la Albus Dumbledore and the Army of Inferi, at least from the literary viewpoint?

  3. dugmad says:

    Perhaps this was just an attempt to add “depth” where there is none.

    Maybe it’s her rebuttal to those who tried to attach some Christian relevance in her books.

    What might she do next?

  4. ee says:

    Thought provoking post.
    I agree that sexuality is best left out of children’s literature, and I agree that authors should leave their books to the readers once they’ve finished them. Now we’re asking whether there are any further revelations.

    What are your reasons for saying that the Harry-Dumbledore relationship has to be re-evaluated though – are you saying this because of a sexual interest? If so, that smacks of the very discredited homosexual=paedophile belief.

    I’d also challenge the assertion that to accept homosexuality is to reject the bible. I think the interpretational issues involved are far more complex than that – but I don’t have space on a comment board!

  5. Chris says:

    Hi ee,

    Thanks for your comments.

    On the Harry-Dumbledore relationship being re-evaluated I hadn’t quite got so far as considering him as a predatory paedophile! But can we now rule out any subconscious sexual attraction?

    As for the “very discredited homosexual=paedophile belief” we are in tricky waters. Of course not all homosexuals are paedophiles. In these days of mob law we need to be clear on that. But I am wary of phrases like “very discredited”. An attempt to check this on the web suggests that there is in fact evidence that ‘transgenerational attraction’ seems more common between men and boys. But forgive me if I don’t pursue the research!

    On the issue of the Bible I think we have to take seriously the foundational statements in Genesis 1 that a) men and women are different (and are not interchangeable), b)they were made for each other and c) heterosexual marriage is the only approved sexual bonding.

    But this isn’t an area I really want to get into on a blog! Its complex and potentially hurtful.



  6. Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much for this blog post. As someone who grew up with the Harry Potter series, this is a blow to me as a Christian and I’m glad that there are Christian authors out there that are going to hold to a moral standard!

  7. My Boaz's Ruth says:

    Honestly, one of the first things I thought when I heard about the statement about Dumbledore was “Dumbledore and Harry?” Like it or not, it DOES put a different light on their relationship.

    I was recently talking to a woman whose son had gotten into pornography. And now she can not see her son and daughter snuggling together, her daughter sitting on the son’s lap, etc. without wondering if there is more to it than just their affection for each other as brother and sister. He is not acting any different than he did before, but with the new knowledge of an area he is struggling with, she is seeing the same situations differently.

    With this same knowledge about Dumbledore, it makes the close relationship between him and Harry different. I wish she had felt okay leaving him as the sexless head of the school.

  8. Anonymous says:

    being gay is a core feature of homosexuality? who would have thought?

  9. Chris says:

    Dear anonymous,

    Please have the grace to read and quote the bit you object to correctly.

  10. Bardoftoday says:

    I echo the above statements of taking a stand on what the Bible says and not compromising. I too am a fantasy author and may myself have to put some kind of disclaimer out there. *shudders* Ugh, that would be totally sick. 😛

    Luke T. Barnett

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