Dec 5, 2012

The Person Harry Potter Loves Most

Fans of J.M. Rowling's Harry Potter series (1997-2007) often comment on how easy it is to queer the teenage wizard-in-training (played by Daniel Radcliffe in the movie series).

Growing up in a closet, different from the others, with abilities that the adults try hard to pretend do not exist?  Believing that you are all alone in the world until you discover that there are many others, far away, in a good place?

Whether or not he gets a boyfriend, Harry’s experiences certainly mirror those of gay children who grow up in a society that insists there are no gay children.

But he gets a boyfriend.  Fans have noticed a strong current of romantic intensity in the relationship between Harry and his bumbling best friend, Ron Weasley (played by Rupert Grint in the movies).  In the 200,000-plus Harry Potter fan-written romances published on The Fanfiction Website, Ron is the most common object of Harry's affection (His nemesis Draco Malfoy is second, Hermione third, and Ginny, his girlfriend in the actual text, a distant fourth).

During the first few installments of the series, Harry and Ron behave -- and are treated -- precisely as a romantic couple, with Hermione acting as their gal pal.  In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2000), a wizarding contest requires Harry to rescue the “person he loves the most” from an underwater abduction, and the person the all-knowing wizards select for him is -- Ron.

But the moment Harry discovers that Ron is the person he loves most, Professor McGonagall summons him to her office and tells him, with an uncharacteristic urgency, that he must bring a date “of the opposite sex” to the upcoming Yule Ball. She is very firm about "opposite sex."  That is, you may love Ron, but you must not bring him to the Ball.  You must not make your relationship known.

In the world of Harry Potter, gay people exist, but they must find lady friends or gentlemen friends, bring an opposite-sex date to every Yule Ball, enter into a screen-marriage, never for an instant let the world know.  Harry may have escaped from his closet, but every gay wizard, every gay student, every gay child who reads the books is expected to stay in one forever.

The last scene in the last book of the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007),  depicts all the major characters as adults.  Harry has married Ron’s sister Ginny, so they are now brothers-in-law.  Isn’t that what they really wanted all along?  Meanwhile, Ron has married their other friend, Hermione, and their effeminate antagonist Draco has married an unspecified woman.  All loose ends are tied, all connections are made, everyone has turned out to be straight, or at least pretend to be.   Rowling concludes: “All was well.”

After all of the books in the series were published, Rowling informed the world that Professor Dumbledore, elderly headmaster of Hogwarts, is – was – gay.   No such revelation appears in any of the books, though one could certainly queer his story.  But notice the carefully placed layers of invisibility. Dumbledore is an adult, not one of the children; presumably there are no gay children.. His gayness is revealed after he is dead, so no one has to face a living gay man. None of the other characters were apparently aware that he was gay.  He lived his very long life constantly passing, lying to chums about the girls he liked, finding lady friends, letting the gay students at Hogwarts, and the gay readers, believe that they were utterly alone in the world.

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