Dumbledore's Gay: Does Anyone Care?

Author J.K. Rowling brewed controversy after admitting Dumbledore is gay.

February 12, 2009, 4:58 PM

Oct. 23, 2007 — -- Harry Potter fans' favorite magical, wand-wielding headmaster is gay, says the series' author, and as it turns out, many bookworms don't love him any less because of it.

Parents around the country told ABCNEWS.com that when their children heard the news that professor Albus Dumbledore — who was also Potter's mentor — was gay, most of them shrugged it off.

Robin Moyher, who writes for the Chicago Mom's Blog, said that her son was not at all upset about the wizard's sexuality.

"So what? It's a fact of life," Moyher's 9-year-old son said upon hearing the news.

Dumbledore was outed by Potter creator J.K. Rowling at an Oct. 19 question and answer session at New York City's Carnegie Hall, where a young fan inquired as to whether the headmaster had ever been in love.

"Dumbledore is gay, actually," replied Rowling, who went on to explain that he had once loved Gellert Grindelwand, a fellow wizard, but was then let down when he went to the "dark side."

Grindelwand's downfall, Rowling said, was Dumbledore's "great tragedy."

While some readers have seemingly embraced — or perhaps ignored — Dumbledore's newfound sexuality, whether a more serious backlash is brewing has yet to be seen — will all fans take the "who cares" approach to the news, or will the series' popularity be cursed?

"I think my kids would find it more captivating to discuss a character's magical power than a character being gay," said Devra Renner, author of "Mommy Guilt" and a contributor to the DC Metro Mom's blog. "Being gay isn't much of a mystery to my kids, as we've had ongoing discussions about families, those with two parents, one parent, adopted, etc. My kids know gay people. Magical people? Not so much."

Many parents echoed Renner's thoughts and said that kids nowadays know what being gay means, and found Rowling's announcement to be irrelevant, especially considering it was never mentioned in any of the books.

Philip Nel, an associate professor at Kansas State University, who teaches a course on the Harry Potter series, told ABCNEWS.com that authors often know more details about their characters than they end up sharing with readers, challenging rumors that Rowling's comment was made on a whim.

"All good writers know a lot more about their characters than they tell you," said Nel. "That's what makes them more believable. They have these life histories, but readers are only told what they need to know."

Because the series was told from Potter's perspective, Nel did not find it unusual that Dumbledore's sexuality was never revealed in the seven-volume series. After all, Nel asked, what school-aged kids really spend time mulling over their teacher's sexuality?

Dumbledore's popularity, combined with his homosexuality, could prove to be a wonderful combination, Nel said, and may teach kids that their attraction to someone shouldn't hinge on their sexuality.

"[Rowling] has established Dumbledore as a moral center in Harry's universe," said Nel, who said that he hadn't suspected Dumbledore's homosexuality before now. "This portrays gay characters in a positive light, and I don't see it as a bad thing."

While the youngest fans seem to accept Dumbledore, whether he's gay or not, others seem to have a tougher time blowing off Rowling's admission, arguing that sexuality has no place in children's literature.

For Christian groups, which have always been anti-Potter, due to the wizardry and magic in the series, Rowling's homosexuality curveball has heightened their displeasure.

"It's very disappointing that the author would have to make one of the characters gay," said Roberta Combs, president of the Christian Coalition of America. "It's not a good example for our children, who really like the books and the movies. I think it encourages [homosexuality]."

Combs said that she would never allow her own children or grandchildren to read the books or watch the movies, and would encourage other parents to implement similar rules.

Meredith Sinclair, who said that her 10-year-old is "obsessed" with the series, said she was not happy that Rowling has essentially forced her to talk to her son about sexuality.

"It has nothing to do with the feelings about being gay, or homophobia, or whether I accept it or not," said Sinclair, another contributor to the Chicago Mom's Blog. "What I'm upset about is that I feel like this author has such power ... and she's using that power to force parents to talk to their kids about [homosexuality] before they're really ready."

"It's kind of like the sex talk — I want the control to talk about it when I'm ready, and when my son's ready," said Sinclair, who explained that she and her husband would likely have a sit-down talk with their son so that he won't get misinformed by friends at school.

With two Harry Potter movies still in the works, fans wondered whether Dumbledore's homosexuality would become more obvious in the films than it was in the books.

"If the movies do what they've been doing all along, and stay true to the books, they won't necessarily change anything," said Melissa Anelli, webmaster of the popular Potter Web site theleakycauldron.org. "It wasn't addressed in the books, so it won't necessarily be addressed in the movies."

I don't think it's going to hurt the movies," said Colin Bertram, features editor at the New York Daily News. "[Rowling] makes sure they stick pretty close to the books. ... I doubt this will have any impact on the films."

Bertram said that Rowling likely has a clause in her contract that any major changes to the plot line in the making of the movies must be first cleared by her.

"There is usually so much in the books to package into the film, that they have to cut things out," said Bertram. "I can't imagine they would explore this plot line when it has nothing to do with the momentum of the film.

"I think Harry will be making a lot of money for J.K. Rowling for a very long time," said Bertram.

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