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About Sexuality of Characters in The Harry Potter Series

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The Harry Potter series depicts a magical world that responds with hatred to anyone who is different. J.K Rowling offers a diverse story that parallels to the real world filled with social differences. However, never in the novels does she mention the existence of a queer character or anything other than the heterosexual experience. Rather, all of the characters in romantic relationships are with someone from the opposite sex and nuclear families follow the hetero normative culture. One could argue that by applying a queer literary analysis lens, the series references queer coding, gender binary, and deviant labeling in the lives of Harry Potter and Albus Dumbledore. Queer theory focuses specifically on sexuality as a primary component of human identity and as it being thoroughly connected to how an individual’s is treated. The headmaster of Hogwarts is often described as a noticeable person that has unconventional behaviors and Harry’s introduction to the wizarding world is often regarded as a coming out tale. Later on, Rita Skeeter’s work gives insight to Dumbledore’s questionable friendship with Gellert Grindewald. The journalist’s words speculate the nature of the close relationship and insinuate the sexual orientation of one of the main characters.

In The Sorcerer’s Stone, Mr. Dursley hears about the Potters having an accident, he informs Petunia by using phrases like ‘her crowd’ and ‘funny-looking people’, terms often used to ridicule homosexuals, to refer to wizards. These negative remarks about Harry’s parents have a profound impact on the queer individual’s life. Readers, meet him ten years after the death of his parents as a scrawny, misfit boy that throughout the years had been labeled as dangerous. Dr. David Nylund’s article on ‘Reading Harry Potter: Popular Culture, Queer Theory and The Fashioning of Youth Identity’ comments about Steven, a queer individual in foster care that relates to Harry Potter. Nylund suggests that ‘cultural studies theory/theories suggest that media/popular cultural texts are polysemic, that is, open to multiple interpretations’ but Steven, like many other queer found evident in the books the alternative identity of Harry Potter. He describes his first encounter with the queer community like Harry’s first day at Hogwarts. Relieved he wasn’t alone Steven imagined ‘that’s how Harry felt when he went to Hogwarts and found out there were other kids who were different’ (Nylund 20).

Furthermore, a key figure in Queer theory, Judith Butler, claims in her book ‘Gender Troubles’ that one can perform an identity by repeating gestures, clothing, attitude, but not sexuality. Harry performs an identity so he doesn’t get in trouble by behaving good and using Dudley’s clothes. The Dursleys had intentionally put him in a closet under the staircase at Privet Drive with means of keeping him hidden and prohibited him to do many things. Similarly, non-accepting families commonly use methods of isolation in hopes of fixing the queer child. They are embarrassed of their connection with the Potters and go to great lengths to conceal their nephew’s existence. Horrified of what the neighbors might say if they saw him, the adorned living room is furnished with pictures of Dudley but the ‘room held no sign at all that another boy lived in the house, too” (Sorcerer 18). Harry had very little space in the dark cupboard, but inside it was the only place where he was allowed to dream. This is symbolic, because here a literal closet represents the struggle of queer individuals to show their real self. The family believed to be perfectly normal and any strange event was blamed on Harry. Since he was little, abnormal things would happen around him. He was not allowed to say anything out of the ordinary ever, or to share his own opinion and recent dreams because “if there was one thing the Dursleys hated even more than…asking questions, it was…talking about anything acting in a way it shouldn’t’ (Sorcerer 18). Also, one day his aunt Petunia cut all his hair only leaving bangs to hide his scar. Since hair is a living, growing part of humans, cutting it symbolized the desire of change. The next morning ‘all his hair had miraculously grown again’, this abnormal occurrence was his magic unintentionally fighting back against the oppressive rules assigned by his hetero -normative family.

Moreover, his cousin loves to jump on the steps of the stairs. That way, spiders would awaken Harry. He also makes sure Harry goes to school with broken glasses and treats him as if he was a human punching bag. According to the Trans Students Educational Resources, gender binary ‘is a system of viewing gender as consisting solely of two, opposite categories, termed “male and female”, with no other possibilities for those who don’t fit the norm. Dudley’s character can be perceived as masculine and Harry’s role as passive. Dudley supports the traditional role by using violence on odd individuals that lack it. Victimizing Harry led him to see he was different and expected to change if he wanted to fit into society. The clothes Harry is given are all used and oversized because they all belong to Dudley. Baggy clothes and tapped glasses made him look different than what is considered to be a normal eleven year old. Harry is described as having ‘ a thin face, knobbly knees, black hair, and bright green eyes'(Sorcerer 14). The sub human treatment and being confined to his dark cupboard are a representation of a prejudiced family fearing a homosexual. Harry is treated poorly and people in the ‘normal’ world do not value him.

However, his life changes when he receives a Hogwarts letter accepting him as a student. The moment Hagrid goes to pick him up and tells him he is a wizard marks a very important moment. His aunt accepts her hate for Harry’s mother, Lily, calling her abnormal and saying ‘what she was — a freak!’ (Sorcerer 41). Petunia talked as if she had wanted to say that for years and exposed her jealously for not having magic herself. She, like many, react with hate to difference and prefer to ignore and not believe the truth. Uncle Vernon then confirmed they both knew he was a wizard and confessed that his parents ‘were weirdoes, no denying it, and the world’s better off without them'(Sorcerer 43). Due to the ambiguity of the vocabulary, the words ‘freak’ and ‘weirdo’ are queer coding the Potters. Queer coding is when characters are given traits that indirectly suggest the character’s sexual orientation in the reader’s mind. His family does not accept Harry and mock every word Hagrid tells him about the magical world in that liberating night. This means to the queer narrative that Harry has been liberated from the normative and can start a new life as his true self in a place where people are his ‘equals’.

Furthermore, in the final book, Rowling presents information about the friendship of Albus Dumbledore and Gellert Grindewald. The reader’s first glance at the latter is in a photograph with his hand over young Dumbledore, where he is referred to as his ‘companion’. Again, deprived of any other clarification, the reader can recognize the terminology’s purpose of queer coding. In this case, the word companion is often used when indicating to same sex couples, evoking a queer image of Dumbledore in the reader’s subconscious. Also, Rowling hints several times of the dark wizard’s physique ‘golden hair that fell into curls to his shoulders’ and a ‘gleeful, wild look’ in hopes of captivating the readers and making them forget his flaws. The author focuses in portraying Grindewald as the teenager Dumbledore met, not as the unforgiving wizard he is. When they encountered each other, it was the first time Dumbledore had met ‘someone just as bright and talented as he was'(Hallows 566). Implicating that due to his longing for a companion and lack of acceptance in his own family, the relationship must have given him feelings he had never felt before in his life.

Additionally, Bathilda Bagshot in one of the interviews with Rita Skeeter mentions her introducing them and declaring that ‘the boys took to each other at once'(Hallows 356). They would send each other letters at all times and are said to ‘got on like a cauldron on fire'(Hallows 356). Skeeter makes sure to use words relating to fire and warmth to hint passion in the new friendship. A copy of an original letter written by Dumbledore is displayed in the ‘Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore’. Rita Skeeter’s language directly hints that it was more than dark magic what had the two boys not sleeping at night because of talking to each other. In the letter, Albus remarks that if Gellert hadn’t be expelled they would have never met. He is thankful to have found him and is blind to see the evil nature of his lover. The character Rita Skeeter challenges the gender binary by introducing a homosexual couple through her book. According to Roy ‘Dumbledore is shown as having great faith in the power of love ‘ and this is his downfall, to have trusted and loved someone so brilliant that later abandoned his hopes (Roy 105).

Later on in the book when Harry meets Aberforth Dumbledore, he gives another side to his brother’s story. He shares with Harry that Albus learned from young age secrecy from their mother and ‘he was a natural'(Hallows 562) at it. Even as a child Dumbledore had things to hide like his sexuality, that’s why he was so used to being enigmatic. He saw in Grindewald the confidante he had been awaiting and the later reacted intensely when Aberforth tried to remind Albus of his responsibilities. Grindewald does not feel empathy for anything other than his own desires. “He didn’t like that at all ‘ and when he defends his ‘relationship’ with Albus he uncovers the close bond the two teenagers had (Hallows 566).

In the end, many details of J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter Series confirm the possibility of a ‘queer’ reading of the text. Even though the author does not openly say Harry Potter or Albus Dumbledore are gay, she codes for individualities that make queer individuals relate to the fictional characters. The gay allegory starts with Harry in the closet, portraying a ‘different’ individual who is not accepted and abused in his home. His aunt and uncle’s wording suggest the magical world is the homosexual community and express hatred towards anything outside the norm. Attending Hogwarts later liberates him by attending a school of ‘different’ people, just like him. Lastly, Dumbledore sexuality is clearly established by Rita Skeeter’s choice of words in her book of the ‘Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore.’ Her evidence and well-defined propositions allow the reader to interpret the teenage relationship as naturally homosexual.

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