I’ve wanted to write a post about the big H.P., but I haven’t been able to think of something I could write about cohesively. For a little while I wanted to talk about the few (but horrifyingly obvious) sexual innuendos in the movie (Ron: “So what was it like?” … Harry: “Kind of…wet.” Delay. “…Because she was crying”). Then I wanted so badly to talk about how I finished the last installment overnight and which parts I loved most, but nothing really seemed to resonate particularly with the theme of this blog community. Then, after a few conversations with queer people, it hit me:

Harry, where are the GAYS? Now I realize this is kind of a modern dilemma whether it’s appropriate to create gay characters into major media that reaches children. Even if J. K. Rowling wanted to introduce a gay character, could she have?

If you devote enough ink to craftily introduce a gay character in a children’s series (and it would be a lot of ink – you’d have to do it carefully, sensitively, and you’d have to take on the role of educator much more than as if you’re taking about heterosexual teen dating), how can you talk about gay kids without prompting a magnifying glass on the character’s (the child’s) sexuality? Is it appropriate to suggest we could/should do this to children? And despite the problems of assuming heterosexuality for all children, it may create a bit of a window for gay kids to work out their identity internally before “choosing” sexuality. So, sorting through all these confused thoughts: As much as I would like a gay wizard at Hogwarts, I’m confused about how it should be delivered. Maybe it’s just because it’s never really been done before.

The other question I have about presenting gay characters in children’s stories is this: how do you actually, noticeably, present a gay character? It’s something the gay community has wrestled with for a while. If you made the gay male gender variant (read: gay), then you’re isolating gays who aren’t effeminate. But if you don’t make them effeminate (Brokeback-style), then you risk only making gay okay when it’s not overtly gay. And IF they’re not gender variant, then do you make them talk about their sexuality? Do you make them actively hunt other gay men? So many questions, with answers I don’t have.

But this is not to say that I’m letting Rowling off the hook. I believe she has done a very good job of creating, for the first time in popular children’s literature, a series that focuses intently on issues of mass media and exposure of identity. That said, couldn’t she have taken a little more responsibility? Ignoring the fact that Hermione, despite her smarts, is helplessly tiny and cries all the time (a gust of wind could knock that girl over); ignoring that it’s Harry’s mother, and not his father, who protected him with the obnoxiously feminized “power of love”; ignoring that Mr. and Mrs. Weasley (despite their charm) represent (and promote) the stereotypical, lower-class system of rigid gender roles; and ignoring that the highest ranking women officials always hit a glass ceiling (McGonagall, Umbridge) …why couldn’t she have appeased us all a little and thrown in a character with either a little gender variance or status as a sexual minority?

Possibly the most aggravating part of this all is that Rowling does, in fact, allude to gayness at least once in the series:

'I heard you last night,' said Dudley breathlessly. Talking in your sleep. Moaning.'

'What d'you mean?' Harry said again, but there was a cold, plunging sensation in his stomach. He had revisited the graveyard last night in his dreams.

Dudley gave a harsh bark of laughter, then adopted a high-pitched whimpering voice.

'"Don't kill Cedric! Don't kill Cedric!" Who's Cedric - your boyfriend?'

(Harry and Dudley, Book V)

So Rowling is willing to admit that gayness exists, and that it’s something that can be used as a tool for bullying – so, uh, in my book I think that means she created for herself the responsibility of playing the balancing act: if you mention gayness in such a light, you need to discuss at some point when talking about gayness is appropriate. Particularly relevant to the final book, in which Rowling suggests that identities are anything but static, and that people can change dramatically over time as they face the truth about the world and about themselves. That, and isn’t England supposed to be more queer-friendly? If this is the case, now I’m even more worried that Harry Potter’s lack of gay characters was purposeful.

So now that Rowling is charged with the task of writing Mary Potter: The Boi Who Lived (Fabulously), I leave her with a quote from wise Dumbledore:

'You fail to recognise Cornelius, that it matters not what someone is born,
but what they grow up to be!'

(Dumbledore, Book IV)

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