Was she going to slap you because you never in any way made him gay in the actual books, taking zero risks/doing absolutely nothing for gay characters in literature, and only announcing your “authorial intent” afterwards for a cheap shot at looking like an ~ally~
Gay people are just normal people. We are not told about any of the Hogwarts professors love lives, other than Snape, and it would be completely out of character for Dumbledore to walk around telling everyone about his sexuality.
Did you want her to make him dress in glittery platform boots, a crop top, and decorate his office in rainbow flags to make it more obvious for you? Would that be enough of a stereotype to appease you people? Or what? Please tell me. I’d like to know how you think a gay character is supposed to be portrayed.
And did you miss the Grindelwald chapters in the ‘actual books’? Or was that also not obvious enough for you? Did Dumbledore need to whisper “always” wistfully in order for you to connect that he had romantic feelings for Grindelwald? Maybe you are American and need them to gaze longingly into each others eyes with awkward close ups of their fingers almost grazing each other that Hollywood thinks means ‘true love’.
It didn’t fit into his relationship to Harry to ever say “I’m gay”, and so it was not stated explicitly (you might have noticed the book was told from Harry Potter’s perspective).
The point is though, that he is a homosexual, well respected, powerful, and very loved wizard- and his sexuality doesn’t matter because no one else thinks it matters. a.k.a. no one cares that he loves men, and that is wonderful.
And yet I knew he was gay in the first book. Fancy that.
Did you want her to make him dress in glittery platform boots, a crop top, and decorate his office in rainbow flags to make it more obvious for you?
In the very first chapter of the very first book I believe he’s wearing high-heeled boots and a an eye-smarting robe with stars all over it… that’s my memory anyway, I’d have to check.
But no really, there is valid criticism to be had here.
Because Jo Rowling made a choice to have the only gay charterer in seven books be someone who was elderly, celibate, and had no reason to ever mention his sexuality any time in the canon.
Saying ‘Dumbledore was gay’ after the last book is published is spineless and meaningless move that allows her to say that she wrote a gay character without actually working at portraying a gay character and facing the criticisms that come from portraying a gay character while her works were still in progress.
What does this mean about Authorial Intent re: the sexualities that we are to presume of all the other characters (after all, she didn’t say anyone else was gay)?
If the character’s sexuality is not apparent in the canon, then it’s up to fan interpretation and the fans are not wrong about it. Your post-work declarations are not valid, author. Time for me to once again quote Ferretbrain:
“As far as Rowling is concerned, Harry Potter is not a series of cultural artifacts existing within the world, but a world that exists in her imagination. This is why she feels so free to amend, interpret, and justify the text after its publication. As far as she’s concerned (and, as other FB articles have discussed, as far as a depressingly large number of other people are concerned) the Harry Potter universe has a distinct, external reality and the process of reading about Harry Potter is a process of bringing your understanding into line with this distinct, external reality. Essentially a person’s appreciation of Harry Potter (as far as Rowling is concerned) can be judged exclusively in terms of how closely it matches her own.”
The entire post on this subject, “What The Fucking Fucking Fuck JK Rowling?” is also really worthwhile.
Basically, ROWLING IS NOT CORRECT. If she didn’t write, in the books, anything that indicates that Dumbledore is gay, her declaration that he is because she’s the author and she says so is worth approximately squat in terms of character interpretation from the text, because the text is a thing that exists.
JK Rowling didn’t write, in her text, any explicitly sexual relationships. No one is stated to be having sex with anyone else at any time during the events at Hogwarts. We can infer in some instances that sex has occurred between characters; we can infer that Molly and Arthur Weasley have had a bunch of sex because they have seven kids. We know explicitly that Merope Gaunt raped Tom Riddle Sr. with the use of drugs, because that story was explicitly told. But no one has sex or even is said to be having sex on the page. Hence it is legitimate to debate whether it happened/is happening/will happen at any point in the story. What this means is that Rowling has no characters that are explicitly gay because she never shows characters in explicitly homosexual relationships. Just like she has no characters who are explicitly trans, and no characters that are explicitly outside of the gender binary. Not having characters like this is -safe- because the erasure of such characters is ubiquitous. These are marked categories of humanity. If we are not given explicit details about certain things pertaining to characters, it is an unfortunate fact that we, the readers, live in a culture where certain things are to be presumed about them. A character that is not described physically is presumed to be white, cis, able-bodied, and of averge weight and height. A character who isn’t in a romantic relationship with anyone and doesn’t have any sexual thoughts about anyone is presumed to be straight. It is not the fault of the reader for presuming these things, because these are assumptions that the author generally expects the reader to make; characters are from default classes of existence (Male, white, straight, able, average) until described otherwise. This is why white characters’ skintone is seldom described in fiction but black characters’ skin tone -always is- and why if a director makes a casting choice in which a character whose skintone in not described is played by a person of color, the fandom rants and raves and rends the heavens. It’s also why many readers feel totally comfortable ‘not picturing the character that way’ even when the character IS explicitly of color. Because white is default. Straight is default. Cis is default. POC, Gay, and Trans are -marked-.
Everyone go read “He’s Gay, and He’s Native American: Rowling and Scalzi Claim Marginal Identities for Charcters After the Fact”. I’ll wait here.
When an author declares information about a character that is not indicated on the page in any way, and says ‘I always envisioned them thus’…that’s useless to us as readers. When an author further says ‘If you envisioned the character some other way than the way I envisioned them, and you’re upset that I didn’t indicate that the character was that way, it’s your own fault. I always thought they were black and if you think the fact that I never described them as black means they’re white, it is you who are racist!’ that’s…. a fucking horrible, spineless move. SHAME ON YOU, AUTHOR. MOTHERFUCKING SHAME.
So yeah, maybe that’s why the reader looked like they wanted to slap you, JK. Just a thought.
Also, let me address this:
Did you want her to make him dress in glittery platform boots, a crop top, and decorate his office in rainbow flags to make it more obvious for you? Would that be enough of a stereotype to appease you people?
No one is asking for Dumbledore to have been ‘more gay’.
Her not mentioning Dumbledore’s sexuality in canon is not bad. It’s perfectly valid to have characters whose sexuality is never mentioned at all because it’s not important to the plot. Much like it’s ok to have characters about whom we know fuck all because they are not important to the plot. If the protag has a short conversation with a person identified only as ‘The police officer’ who is never even referred to by pronouns and who doesn’t appear again, absolutely nothing can be determined about that character other than that the protag believes them to be a police officer. And that’s fine.
Knowing shit about your characters that never makes it to the page is fine. I myself have many characters who only briefly appear in the work but who, in my own little head, have whole life stories before and after their appearance in the text. And that’s fine.
What isn’t fine is the author then going ahead and telling us all kinds of things about that character and pretending like they’re true because that’s what the author intended.
Dumbledore, like most of the characters in Harry Potter, doesn’t have a canon sexuality.
That’s not a problem at all. It just means that all bets are off and that no one’s speculations can be wrong (or right) because there is not enough evidence in the canon for anyone’s claims. It isn’t there on the page.
Once your canon is closed, you don’t get to add to it. That’s how canon works. ‘Dumbledore is gay’ is no more canon than ‘Dumbledore is straight’ or ‘Dumbledore is asexual’ or ‘Dumbledore is only sexually attracted to pink wereleopards from mars’ because Dumbledore’s sexuality is not a part of the story. My beef with JK Rowling’s declaration after the fact of Dumbledore’s gayness is that she’s basically trying to get the attention of having a gay character…without actually having had a gay character.
I want you to read these two other ferretbrain articles; they’re about race, but they could easily be about sexuality because they’re really about portrayals of marginalized characters and lack thereof:
Musings on Race in Fantasy or: Why Ron Weasley isn’t Black
Race, Brand and the Placebo Effect
Let me quote from that second one:
To put it another way, just imagine for a moment that Harry Potter had been a black kid. Of course first you need to get over the fact that it would then be a book about a black kid who gets rescued from his abusive black family by a kindly white guy, but if we assume that Harry was black and the Potter books weren’t written in such a way that “Muggle” was effectively a racial slur. You would then have a situation in which the single most recognised fictional character in the world was a black kid (not only a black kid, but a black British kid). It would be huge, just like it was huge the first time they let an actual black guy play Othello. It wouldn’t matter in the slightest that Harry Potter didn’t listen to hip-hop or talk about Malcom X or use “urban” slang or do whatever else it is that white people seem to think black people have to do in fiction to properly represent “black culture”. The simple fact of the most popular fictional character in the world having black skin would have been huge. It would have changed the way a generation of children thought about race, and it would have changed it for the better. It wouldn’t have been a miracle, it wouldn’t have abolished racism overnight, but it would have done more good than any three government initiatives you might care to name.
What if Dumbledore had actually been gay on the page? What if it was a known and explicit fact that he (or any character, for that matter) had during the books or in the past been involved in a romantic relationship with someone of the same sex? Not implied, not hinted, not ‘read between the lines, reader!’ - STATED. What if, in the best-selling Childrens/YA series in recent years, in a series of books that were a generational phenomenon, there were one or more characters who actually affectionately cheek-kissed and held hands with characters of the same sex. Attended the school dance with characters of the same sex. Had childish crushes on members of the same sex. Set up households and raised children with characters of the same sex. Existed, in canon, as explicitly gay characters. Not as ‘the author said it, so it must be true’ after the fact bullshit; undeniable and incontrovertible statement on the page during the story.
That would have been amazing.
“Dumbledore was gay because I said so” is a pale fucking imitation of what could have been. JK Rowling should not get ‘wrote a gay character’ props for her portrayal of Dumbedore.