At a recent public book reading in New York, in response to a question from a child, JK Rowling, author of the extremely popular “Harry Potter” series of books recently stated that Dumbledore, headmaster of Harry’s school and Harry’s staunchest and most powerful supporter was gay.
In general, gay adult sexuality is not a normal topic for children’s works. Because the books are principally targeted at children, and the fact that no trace of this situation was made plain in any of the books, the declaration shocked and disappointed many readers. There was a definite outcry from fans forced to completely re-think the motivations and actions of one of the most beloved characters in the story line. Rowling responded to the objections, commenting: “He is my character. He is what he is and I have the right to say what I say about him.” Others simply took this odd retroactive statement to be a publicity-scooping attempt to draw attention and increase book sales for “The Deadly Hallows”, the final installment of the Harry Potter series.
The statement that Dumbledore is gay does require some re-evaluation and rethinking of the story line in the Potter books. The idea certainly has the potential to change the motivations and underlying relationships of the characters. Over the last several years, as they were published, I read the books myself and enjoyed them. However as I sat down to re-consider the story in light of a gay Dumbledore, a far more sinister question came to me. If Dumbledore was written to be a gay man, is he also a closet pedophile? Will that be JK Rowling’s next publicity sucking, earth shattering declaration? While only a very small percentage of gay men are also pedophiles, in re-reading the books with the idea that Dumbledore is gay, one is forced to ask if Dumbledore might well also be a pedophile.
Rowling said last Tuesday she found it “freeing” to out Dumbledore, adding that the passages about him will mean different things to different readers. “I think a child will see a friendship and I think a sensitive adult may well understand that it was an infatuation,” she said. While this statement was not specifically made concerning Harry, it well could have been.
The term pedophile is commonly used to denote an adult who is sexually attracted to adolescents or youths below the local age of consent. For anyone who has read the books, there is no question that there is a very strong bond between Dumbledore and Harry. Rowling makes it plain that the Headmaster has obvious feelings for Harry over and over in many passages in a number of the books.
If fact, there is an extended passage in book 5 where Dubmledore tells Harry that he purposefully stayed away from Harry for that school year because he cares “too much” for him. With a gay Dumbledore who could possibly be a pedophile, I am forced to think about what caring “too much” for Harry really means. It is a question that as a reader I do not want to ask, nor do I want to know the “real” answer from Ms. Rowling. While nearly all readers have until now interpreted Dumbledore’s feelings as bonds of fatherly friendship, a reinterpretation may be necessary given Dubbledore’s new gay status and Rowlings quote describing Dumbledore’s feelings as infatuation rather than friendship.
Pasages in the final book make it clear that Dumbledore has a dark side and that he has made choices which he does not wish to discuss with Harry. One is forced to wonder about the extent of those “dark choices”.
Finally, there are the obvious questions about a gay man who seeks employment as a teacher among school age children, and spends his entire adult life there. While this alone does not prove the fact, similar life paths are commonly chosen by many gay pedophiles.
So is Dumbledore actually a closet pedophile? There is little question that he follows many of the paths and makes many of the choices of individuals who are. I personally hope that Ms Rowling does not come out with that supposedly “enlightened” pronouncement in the future, but it would not surprise me.