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Dear J.K. Rowling, the Closet Is No Place for a Wizard

Jude Law JK Rowling

The Harry Potter author has hurt fans with what some see as the "straightwashing" of Dumbledore. Jessie Gender asks Rowling some pertinent questions in an open letter.

Dear J.K. Rowling,

From the moment my father read me the first line of the Harry Potter series, you made me believe that magic is real and can fight real monsters like discrimination, hatred, and oppression. I was enthralled in your wonderful wizarding world. Which is why, as an LGBT person, it continually hurts to be shown that I'm not a part of it.

The news that Dumbledore's gayness would not be "explicitly" mentioned in your upcoming Fantastic Beasts sequel is disappointing. It may be true that, as David Yates said, "all the fans are aware of" his queer identity, but that doesn't excuse the fact that despite your constantly saying that Dumbledore is gay, he has never once been explicitly stated to be or portrayed as such in any canon media. Also you, and many others, argue that this is your story and your right to portray them any ways you want. Yet, you yourself brought up the conversation on queerness when you labeled Dumbledore as gay, not us. If feels like paying lip-service to our cause without following through in a meaningful way. Also, I find it hard to believe that if it were a straight relationship that their prior feelings for each other wouldn't have been explicitly brought up even once.

While Dumbledore may be the most direct and highest-profile queer missed opportunity, it's not the only one. When reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which you may not have written but did give your blessing to, many fans, including myself, saw a clear gay subtext between Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy. Yet despite an entire scene devoted to them simply giving longing looks to each other and others of them explicitly reaffirming their love for each other, the play ends with them randomly pursuing straight relationships. Perhaps this is just us fans over-searching for the representation we desire, but it comes across as simple queerbaiting.

Additionally, we've only been talking about gay men, not even touching on the rest of the LGBT spectrum (like my bisexual transgender self). This isn't even to mention that, while you have confirmed via Twitter that LGBT students do attend Hogwarts, not a single student (or any character) was shown to be LGBT throughout your entire beautifully written and realized seven-book series.

It's beginning to feel like you have a fear to actually name someone as gay or queer in your wizarding world. This may seem like a minor issue if the character is still gay regardless of it being "explicit." Yet you yourself wrote, when Dumbledore spoke of He Who Must Not Be Named, that we must "always use the proper name for things. Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself." By not calling someone gay when they are, you, by your own logic, are indirectly contributing to fear of the LGBT community.

The lack of queer representation is especially painful for many of us because your work has spoken so directly to our experience. In the first Fantastic Beasts movie, Ezra Miller's character Credence is forced to suppress his magic by his overly religious caretaker, causing him to unintentionally lash out and nearly destroy New York City in his pain. So many LGBT people have struggled with repressing the magic of their identity because of religious or other societal pressures. So it's sad that your Fantastic Beasts sequels seems to be suppressing Dumbledore's identity.

The rest of the wizarding world is filled with LGBT-adjacent themes. The main theme of the Harry Potter series is that we can fight bigotry, discrimination, and fear-based hate through community, understanding those different from you, and our love for each other. These themes reverberate throughout many of our queer and transgender experiences. Harry himself literally has to fight his family's fear to escape the closet under the stairs. LGBT people know what it's like to fight our way out of family-made closets.

I hope you understand that it's difficult for me to say all this to you. I've looked up to you as a role model all my life, and your work has continually inspired and informed so much of my sense of morality. But as Dumbledore himself once said, "It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends."

I may sound angry, but I'm not. We know you're an ally to our community, and many of us appreciate all that you've done out here in the muggle world. I know I do. I just wish I had a chance to see someone like me get their Hogwarts letter. Because maybe that means that mine is coming one day. Maybe I too can be magical.


A Proud Queer Hufflepuff

JESSIE EARL is a video producer for The Advocate. Follow her @jessiegender.

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