Why LGBTQ Harry Potter fans feel betrayed by J.K
How Rowling first introduced Dumbledore's sexuality to the "Harry Potter" canon
In order to understand the current wave of backlash, it's important to remember why Dumbledore's sexuality is a topic of discussion at all.
Within Rowling's original seven "Harry Potter" books, there is no character who identifies as gay, bisexual, transgender, or anywhere on the spectrum of LGBTQ+.
J.K. Rowling has given several new pieces of information about "Harry Potter" in the post-book world. John Phillips/Getty Images
But in 2007, several months after "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" (the final book of the series) was published, Rowling attended a Q&A at Carnegie Hall, where she revealed that Dumbledore was gay.
One person asked the author if Dumbledore ever fell in love himself, since he believed love was a prevailing power.
"My truthful answer to you … I always thought of Dumbledore as gay," Rowling replied, according to "Harry Potter" news site The Leaky Cauldron. "Dumbledore fell in love with Grindelwald, and that added to his horror when Grindelwald showed himself to be what he was."
Grindelwald, as "The Deathly Hallows" revealed, was a Dark wizard who lived next door to Dumbledore when both the men were teenagers. They spent a summer bonding over shared ambitions and concocting plans to overthrow the wizarding world's statute of secrecy.
But their time together ended in tragedy when Dumbledore and Grindelwald got into a heated argument with the former's brother, Aberforth. The ensuing fight ultimately killed Dumbledore's younger sister, Ariana, and Grindelwald fled.
Dumbledore spent a lifetime never engaged in a romantic relationship. Warner Bros.
As he grew more powerful, Dumbledore delayed setting out to confront him partly due to shame and partly out of fear that he would learn exactly who was responsible for the death of Ariana. But he eventually did find Grindelwald and defeated him, winning the allegiance of the Elder Wand and imprisoning Grindelwald for life.
Rowling's answer about Dumbledore's sexuality went on to say that his love for Grindelwald had blinded him to the horrific intentions of the young Dark wizard. Rowling also said that she had given the writers working on a movie script for "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" a note about Dumbledore's sexuality.
"They had Dumbledore saying a line to Harry early in the script saying I knew a girl once, whose hair… [laughter]. I had to write a little note in the margin and slide it along to the scriptwriter, 'Dumbledore's gay!'" Rowling said.
The crowd of fans reportedly erupted in fierce applause and gave Rowling a standing ovation. When she saw the reaction, Rowling reportedly said: "If I'd known it would make you so happy, I would have announced it years ago!"
How the Dumbledore and Grindelwald relationship connects to "Fantastic Beasts"
Rowling herself is penning five total movies for the new "Fantastic Beasts" franchise. The first installment, "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," focused on a magizoologist named Newt Scamander as he got up to hi-jinx in New York City in the 1920s.
Johnny Depp as Gellert Grindelwald in the "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald" teaser. Warner Bros.
We found out in that first movie that Newt was a former student of Dumbledore's, and that Newt had unwittingly walked into the middle of a Grindelwald plot. By the end of the movie, the character played by Colin Ferrell was revealed to be Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) in disguise.
Since the first movie came out, more news has broken about the sequels, including that Jude Law was cast as a younger Dumbledore. Based on the timeline of events, the five "Fantastic Beasts" movies are taking place after the death of Ariana and likely leading up to Dumbledore's legendary duel with Grindelwald.
Two years ago, Rowling spoke at a press conference about Dumbledore's role in the coming movies.
"I can't tell you everything I would like to say because this is obviously a five-part story so there's lots to unpack in that relationship," Rowling said. "You will see Dumbledore as a younger man and quite a troubled man — he wasn't always the sage. We'll see him at that formative period of his life. As far as his sexuality is concerned … watch this space."
Fans watched the space, but are now finding themselves disappointed.
Why "Harry Potter" fans hoped Dumbledore being gay would be part of the "Fantastic Beasts" sequel
When Elisabeth Joffe, a longtime "Harry Potter" fan who identifies as queer, saw the first "Fantastic Beasts" movie when it premiered last year. She was pleasantly surprised when the movie's ending shifted the focus toward Grindelwald and Dumbledore.
"I was like, 'This is fantastic,'" Joffe told INSIDER. "'We're actually going to see the manifestation of Dumbledore's queer narrative come into focus in a very large arena.'"
Jude Law and Albus Dumbledore in a "Fantastic Beasts" cast photo. Warner Bros.
Joffe said she didn't have any expectations of seeing Dumbledore's sexuality explored in the second "Fantastic Beasts" movie until the casting announcement was made for young-Dumbledore (Jude Law). His character could have been off-screen until the third or fourth movies, after all.
"I'm not looking for a gay rom-com out of the 'Fantastic Beasts' series," Joffe said. "That is not my expectation here. But the idea that [Dumbledore's feelings toward Grindelwald] are not essential to the narrative is surprising to me."
Another fan we spoke to, Rebecca, identified herself as an LGBTQ ally whose been a part of the "Harry Potter" fandom for as long as she can remember.
"I am both furious and heartbroken," Rebecca said. "Dumbledore's sexuality is not an Easter egg for fans of the books [...] it is an integral part of the character. It gives the story depth and meaning. To leave it out is to cheat the fans of a well-written movie. Everyone deserves to be represented."
Ron and Hermione were one of several cis-gendered heterosexual relationships highlighted in "Harry Potter." Warner Bros.
"Harry Potter" followers who identify anywhere on the LGBTQ+ spectrum have spent a decade knowing one of the most prominent characters in the series is gay, but have yet to see a single concrete piece of fiction reflecting this simple fact. Ian Thomas Malone, a gay transgender fan who has been immersed in the "Harry Potter" fandom since 2000, feels passionately about Dumbledore's storyline (or lack thereof) in the books and movies.
"It is a big deal for a major franchise character to be gay, especially in 2007 when it was first revealed," Malone said. "The way this has been handled has turned this moment in a subject of insinuation. He can be gay in Rowling's public appearances and tweets, but not on screen."
This is a particular sticking point: Rowling offered up Dumbledore's sexuality as a post-book tidbit (one of many she has since ret-conned into the "Harry Potter" canon). But for some fans, that's simply not good enough.
Why LGBTQ+ representation matters
Many of the people INSIDER spoke to said the appearance of a queer "Harry Potter" character could or would have a large impact on the lives of many of Rowling's devoted followers.
Elayna Darcy, who works for MuggleNet and co-produces a "Fantastic Beasts" podcast called SpeakBeasty, is a queer "Harry Potter" fan who also is disheartened by the latest bout of news. She recalls feeling excited back in 2007 when Rowling first broke the news about Dumbledore being gay.
"I was only 17 at the time and still in the closet, but I remember rejoicing like crazy because it meant that one of my heroes was queer," Darcy said. "I sometimes wonder if she acknowledged it sooner, as the books were coming out, if it would have helped me come to terms with my own sexuality sooner."
Rowling's "Harry Potter" series is a cultural touchstone for many young people as they grow up. Associated Press; Warner Bros.
Another fan, who asked to be referred to only as "Harry," agreed that this news could have had a positive impact on their own struggle with their sexuality.
"I was pissed. When [Rowling] said he was gay I was in the process of accepting my bisexuality," Harry said. "Why would she say that after the fact and not include in the book? That would've helped me through a confusing time in my life."
Representation has become a major talking point in Hollywood. From breakthrough franchise movies like "Wonder Woman" to the highly-anticipated "Black Panther," more groups of previously underrepresented pop culture fans are seeing themselves reflected on screen in meaningful ways. But this has yet to extend to LGBTQ+ characters appearing in major franchises.
"Young people are looking to media to see themselves represented, and it's absolutely critical that they find themselves in the characters they see on screen," Brad Ausrotas, a bisexual "Harry Potter" fan told INSIDER. "You won't be able to ignore that forever — the generation growing up today is the gayest on record. I don't think you're going to find silence from us any time soon."
"Wonder Woman" broke box-office records as the first female-led super hero movie. Warner Bros.
And though Rowling has implied that Dumbledore's sexuality will be openly addressed at some point in the next four "Fantastic Beasts" movies, many fans don't see why they should have to wait.
"I had very high hopes that — given the previous criticism of the books and films as distinctly lacking in queer representation — Rowling would do better," Ausrotas said. "Time had passed, the world had moved slightly closer to rights and equality for all queer people [...] Maybe she could finally make good on her promise of Dumbledore having this dark, epic gay romance with Grindelwald."
Rowling isn't doing herself any favors with her public statements
Several hours after the EW report began stirring backlash, Rowling tweeted the following: "Being sent abuse about an interview that didn't involve me, about a screenplay I wrote but which none of the angry people have read, which is part of a five-movie series that's only one instalment [sic] in, is obviously tons of fun, but you know what's even *more* fun?"
Then she selected a GIF of rapper Lil Yachty "muting" the audience to accompany her message.
"It's so interesting because J.K. Rowling's presence on Twitter has grown into such a hurricane of nightmares," Joffe said. "What she said in her tweet didn't really give me much assurance. Especially for someone who is queer and is a 'Harry Potter' fan."
"Not that she necessarily owes me anything as a fan, but she has to speak to a large audience that she knows encompasses folks who are queer," Joffe said. "To immediately go on the defense and make it about herself, and also think that it was okay to use a quippy, quirky gif as a response ... it doesn't sit well with me."
Fellow fan Darcy acknowledged that Rowling had a point in her tweet— we haven't seen the screenplay or movie yet, and of course no one should "abuse" her on Twitter.
Dumbledore and Grindelwald will be focal points of the rest of the "Fantastic Beasts" series. Warner Bros.
"But I'm really hoping that she does his character justice, and depicts him in a way that makes queer people feel seen and represented," Darcy said. "While the whole of the queer community cannot obviously be spoken for with a single character, I am (perhaps foolishly) holding out as much Hufflepuff hope as I can that Rowling sees us, hears us, and represents us, despite her sassy retorts on Twitter."
Not everyone is upset — other fans believe people are overreacting to the news
"We should all calm down and see what they do with it," Kyla Szustaczek, a 23-year old fan who identifies as gay, told INSIDER. "Rowling has not yet given me any reason to distrust her. Maybe Dumbledore doesn't even know he's gay yet or maybe he's in the closet. I don't think that's hurting visibility — those are real stages that most of us went through and can relate to."
Claire Furner, who also identifies as gay, echoed similar sentiments about the fandom being preemptively upset. There might just not be space in the coming movie for Dumbledore's sexuality to be mentioned or shown, according to Furner.
"We have no idea what this means or how this will manifest," Furner said. "I strongly suspect we'll only see a few scenes with Jude Law's Dumbledore in this film. If that is the case, surely they will be bogged down in exposition, introducing us to his younger self and establishing his relationship with Newt."
Ezra Miller and Claudia Kim as Credence and Maledictus in a cast photo for the coming "Fantastic Beasts" film. Warner Bros.
She also believes the "Harry Potter" universe would benefit from introducing other queer characters outside of Dumbledore. Some fans have hoped that Credence, played by Ezra Miller, is a "Fantastic Beasts" character whose treatment and ostracizing for being an Obscurial can be interpreted as a metaphor for the discrimination queer people face.
"Personally, I don't find Dumbledore particularly original or inspiring as a gay character," Furner said. "If anything, I'm hoping we're introduced to new queer characters, ones whose stories we don't know.
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