Harry Potter Made Me Gay, But Does JKR Value That?

Okay, disclaimer: the Harry Potter series did not, in fact, take an otherwise perfectly straight person who enjoyed dating only people of another gender and make them gay:



But what I do mean by this dramatic subject line is that I can draw an ironically straight line straight-identifying Katie to gay-identifying Katie that goes right through Harry Potter, mostly thanks to the fandom around it. And because of how integral the HP books and surrounding fandom have been for me over the last 15 years, it makes it so honestly devastating to see everyone involved with the newest Harry Potter universe film series, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them completely ignoring the golden opportunity for some absolutely wonderful gay and otherwise LBTQIA+ representation.

I wasn’t new to fandom when I first got into Harry Potter, but I’d always been into heterosexual ships in any kind of serious sense. I started with HP the same way, to the extent I shipped anyone through the first five books. Then, as I started to get more into the fandom, I found the Remus/Sirius ‘ship. I absolutely fell in love with this pairing, right on the level of my previous Mulder/Scully love. It was completely wonderful. I experienced a wave of inspiration, pulling from the new experience of writing about two men together, navigating that line of revisiting all the old tropes I used to write for a man and a woman while not falling for the concept of assigning a “woman’s role” to a man. It was great fun

Along with reading and writing all the fic, I started participating in role playing games with other fans, in which I would play a character while they played others, and together we created a story. There’s a bit of improv skill to it, and it helped to build friendships for myself as well. Enter M (who shall remain anonymous). She was in an RPG group with me, and while she wasn’t the Sirius to my Remus, we grew very close. And between her open and proud bisexual identity and my telling a story of young Remus Lupin coming to terms with his sexuality, I was encouraged to examine some feelings I’d been avoiding examining for years. I finally knew I wasn’t straight.

After M left my life, I met my absolute best friend, and when we role-played, I was able to use my character to continue working through some difficult identity issues, and at long last, I became comfortable with calling myself gay, a lesbian.

Of course, Remus isn’t gay in the books–he marries a woman and has a child, and never displays any overt same-sex attractions, despite how it read to me and plenty of others. Sirius isn’t written as gay, either. No one, in the canon of the 7 Harry Potter novels, is explicitly described or shown to be anything other than straight. But not too long after the final book was released, author JK Rowling had an event where she answered questions, and in the process of answering, she revealed that Headmaster Albus Dumbledore was gay.

An actual image from a news article about her revelation.

This caused a bit of a stir in the greater HP-reading world. Many were thrilled to have The Author finally confirm that a character, particularly such an important character, was gay. Some were glad for it, but felt it lacked the true impact that it would have had being in the books directly. Of course, there were those who had far more negative opinions as well, from justified anger at it being a fairly manipulative character who had been in love with the Wizarding World’s version of Hitler but otherwise single and sexless, to the real lovely folks who clutched pearls and feared that this would now turn all the children who’d read Harry Potter gay. WELL, IT DID, ETHEL. IT DID.

(lol jk no he didn’t, not like that; ps why do I have this?!)

I hadn’t yet fully come to a complete comfort level with my sexual identity when this information came out, but it meant a lot to me to know that even if she hadn’t included it specifically in the books, it was something she’d considered, that a character might be gay. It made me wonder what other thoughts she had about other characters that might never come out (ha!), particularly since I and others had actually seen subtext indicating Dumbledore’s feelings for Grindewald before Rowling made her revelation. At that time, we assumed the world of Harry Potter was closed and we wouldn’t be getting new information or characters. We certainly didn’t suspect we’d get a new movie series involving Dumbledore and Grindewald.

And yet, here we are. Just over 10 years later, we find ourselves preparing for a very such movie, the second in a 5-movie series. But even with the large expected focus on the one character we know Rowling has said to have written as gay along with the man he loved, we’re told today to not expect to see any sign of this love or attraction between them at all. And honestly, let’s all admit it: If Albus Dumbledore was Abigail Dumbledore, there’s a far greater chance that her love for Grindewald would have been mentioned in the books, and I personally feel there’s every chance that the movies would have focused entirely on this intense, passionate, and ultimately doomed romance. Even if, as Rowling teased, the romance might be addressed in a later movie, the earlier movies would hint very clearly at the forthcoming romance.

It’s unavoidable, if people are honest with themselves, that the only reason these aren’t romantic adventure fantasy movies is because the romance would be between two men.* That the filmmaker argues that “everyone knows” that Dumbledore is gay as a reason to delay showing proof of that is, really, just all the more reason to not need to tiptoe around it. If we all know, then who will be shocked? Even if you’re not ready to start showing Dumbledore in love with Grindewald for the sake of the story, you can easily indicate that he is, at least, gay. There are ways if you want to do it, if you value the representation enough. It’s clear, though, that it’s not valued. It’s not a priority. And that’s… upsetting.

*Full disclosure, I never saw the first Fantastic Beasts movie and I don’t know how the Newt Scamander character plays into the future movies or what his possible romance story looks like, though I do believe he’s at least given a female love interest? Regardless, his story isn’t my point.

This whole world Rowling created has meant so much to me. It has given me so much, and I have given so much back to it, in hours of my time and lots of my dollars of money. Just recently I purchased the entire series in ebook format so I could re-read all the books again with my best friend. (We’re struggling through Chamber of Secrets right now; it is the most annoying book to read again!) Even if I consider the canon closed and I don’t go to Pottermore to learn new things that would ruin any of my personal choices for characters, I keep playing with the original canon to expand the world in a way that I own. I’m not going to stop playing in this sandbox, and I’m certainly not out to argue that anyone should avoid the new content being created. But as defensive as Rowling wants to get towards people who are upset with the unwillingness to show a gay man she’s already told us is gay in her newest movie series, the fact is that those of us who are angry have every right to be.

We’re told so often how everyone has a place in the Wizarding World, that we can all be Sorted into a Hogwarts House just like Harry was. But how can we all feel welcome, truly welcome, if you shy away from showing people like us actively in this world? We can’t. Simple as that.

Juan Di Nella Sharon McCutcheon

In Which I Stand Over the Bloody Corpse of 2017, Victorious

A part of me wants to resist the urge to make a ~new year new me~ post, but given how truly awful my 2017 was, I want to put as many positive vibes into 2018 as I possibly can.

I’m not looking to dwell, but my 2017 included the following:

  • 2 separate trips to the ER, including minor surgery
  • being forced to move back in with my parents
  • concerns about my work performance
  • having to start taking insulin injections
  • ever-increasing anxiety about the state of my country

So not… great. I started 2018 with this tweet:

That’s the attitude I’m taking into the new year. I survived last year, I beat it. It died at the stroke of midnight, and I still breathe, my heart still beats, and as much as it and the people in power in 2017 tried to kill me, they failed. So with survival of 2017 comes the goal of surviving 2018, too. Does it ever end? No, the years start coming and the sure as fuck do not stop coming.

So, guess I should hit the ground running.

I have three main goals for 2018:

  • as a participant in Get Your Words Out, write 120 total days
  • pay off $1400 of my current credit card debt
  • get my monthly glucose levels to average to under 150 mg/dL

These aren’t easy goals, but they’re also attainable. I like that these goals really force me to make a lot of different choices and changes in my life, but I don’t have to focus on those titchy goals that feel less concrete. For example, getting my glucose levels down is going to come from a combination of medication, diet, and exercise. I could make a goal to work out at a certain frequency or to avoid certain foods, but I know I don’t find those compelling reasons on their own. But my blood sugar–as a measurable indication of my better management of diabetes–is a result I can see easily, and I can also easily see how small efforts can affect my results. Same for the writing, because I don’t have to work on a word count or a specific project, but it gets me to make a habit out of writing, and I’m hoping that building the habit will lead to bigger word counts than I expect, or maybe even the start of a project I can realistically complete.

And ultimately, these goals aren’t my ideals. Ideally, I want to pay off my credit card debt entirely so that when I use my credit going forward, I can pay it off each month. Ideally, I want to be writing most days of the year on short stories or novels. Ideally, I want my blood sugar levels to fall within the expected healthy ranges without taking insulin. But these ideals aren’t anything I can accomplish in a year. Long-term, I’d like to have them done by the time I’m 40 (which isn’t as far off as I’d like!). So these are all really good first steps for me to take this year, and if I’m successful, they can lead to further improvement to those ideals in the next few years.

I don’t want to add “write more posts here on this blog” to my goals, but I’m hoping that will happen as a result of all of these things (obviously, particularly with the writing goal!). It would be nice to use this more regularly, to give myself a place to express more than 140 280 characters at a time. I admit, I tend to consider writing a post and then talk myself out if it, telling myself no one cares, no one will come here to read it, or if they do, they won’t interact. But maybe that’s on me to be more active here and encouraging of readers to stick around.

Anyway. I’m cold and I’ve got a fic to pick at, a walk to force myself to take outside, and then it’s back to work tomorrow. I’m already planning how I’m going to beat 2018, even as I hope it is a far kinder fight this time.

Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

NWHL, Don’t Put All Your Olympians In One Basket

First things firsts: I love having the US Olympians in the NWHL and I can’t wait for them to come back. I’m glad the league (and the CWHL for Canada) lets these elite players take the season off to centralize and work together to put forth the best teams for PyeongChang 2018. But one thing that their absence this season has shown us, is that the NWHL has done itself a disservice in allowing the US Olympians in the league to lopsidedly play for the Boston Pride.

I admit, I’m a Riveters fan, and so maybe that perspective marks me as biased. After all in the first season, the Riveters had no current Olympians; even last year, while we did have #BestKessel, one of the best Olympians possible, she was hurt for a big part of the season, and she was still just one skater. Buffalo and Connecticut each had a few. And then there’s Boston, hoarding their Olympians like a dragon, and not surprisingly racking up the wins just as greedily.

Look, I get it. From a purely logistical standpoint, it makes sense. The trainer most of these players used from before the NWHL existed was based in Boston. Why mess with a good thing after such an impressive (if ultimately heartbreaking and soul-destroying) result in Sochi? Plus, many of them had been part of the CWHL’s Boston Blades, which meant they all had housing and jobs in the Boston area. It’s logical that they would stay there. But logic doesn’t always make for the best product, and here’s why.

Overloaded Pride

The Boston Pride went on a winning streak from January 10, 2016 to March 12, 2017, including 4 playoff games. They outscored their opponents a total 126-46. When the Pride were on the schedule for the week, you didn’t hold out much hope. And why not, when they were stacked with Hilary Knight, Brianna Decker, Meghan Duggan, and Alex Carpenter, just to name a few. While the Pride only had 4 shutouts in that timeframe, scoring a couple goals was never going to be enough to win. The other three teams could sometimes give the Pride a tough game, but on average the Pride beat their opponents by just about 3 goals per game. It finally took the scrappy Riveters to win 3-2 on the last game of the 2016-2017 regular season to end the Pride’s streak of 27 games (23 regular season, 4 playoff).

Good teams are great to see, but it’s different in a league of 4 teams total, and when the good team is that way from being overloaded with top talent rather than the team having chemistry that rocketed them to the top. That’s not to say that the Pride didn’t have chemistry, but it’s chemistry that was helped by playing for the US as well as the Blades. It’s a chemistry the other 3 teams didn’t get to experience. Of the 10 members of the 2017-2018 USWNT who were in the NWHL last season, 7 of them were on the Pride. (Of the other 3, two were Buffalo Beauts, and 1 was a New York Riveter.) Imagine the 10 players spread out more, around 2-3 per team.

Dismantled Pride

The 2017-2018 season, however, is markedly different. The members of the USWNT are not signed with NWHL teams at this time, as they centralize and focus on preparing for the Olympics–and this means that things are very different for the Boston Pride. With 7 elite players gone, along with the normal losses that can happen between seasons with free agency, the Pride have a lot of new faces on the ice. These players are all still very good, to be sure, but after four weeks, the Pride currently sit in last place at 0-3-1.

This year so far they’ve been outscored 8-14, losing by an average of 1.5 goals per game. It’s early, though, and their last two games saw them score 3 goals in each. Their last game against the Whale they held a 3-1 lead late in the third before losing in a shootout. So there’s chemistry starting, and I doubt this losing streak will last much longer.

In comparison, look at the Metropolitan Riveters. They’ve started the year perfectly, 4-0-0. They have the most goals of the four teams, and they certainly benefit from the fact that their turnover from last season was the least of all the teams. And they also only lost one skater to the Olympic centralization. So they have that chemistry that has built over the previous seasons.

As much as some fans of the other three teams might enjoy getting some W’s against the Pride, Boston’s fans certainly can’t be thrilled by the start, not when they’re so used to easy success from their team.

For the Fans

We hear the league and its players tout the “Grow the Game” phrase, reaching out to inspire young girls to play hockey and reach for their dreams. For the first two years of the league, though, most of the top players were only going to be seen by fans when they came to town. In 2015 we were coming off Sochi, which was a perfect time to start the league, but the players I’d gotten to know in February I could only see a few times when they came to New York. I didn’t get to know any of them like I did my home team.

So what if young players could see their Olympic heroes not 2-3 times a season, but 8 times? What if they could visit them in the autograph line after every game, become friendly with them, really form a bond that can inspire them to not only play the game, but to aspire higher than ever? You don’t get that with the players spread around.

We don’t know if any of the players will be back in the NWHL after the Winter Olympics are over, but at the very least, next season they’ll probably be back. I’m happy to have as many of them in the league as possible, but I really hope they spread out more evenly. It’ll make the competition in the league better, and it’ll be better for fans to have their “own” elite players to get to know well.