Stop giving it to us Straight: Rowling and queerbating

Stop giving it to us Straight: Rowling and queerbating

Kylee Watnick

With seven best-selling books, an eight movie franchise, four successful spin-off books, a musical-like sequel, and a successful movie prequel, it is pretty obvious that J. K. Rowling has created a successful world through her Harry Potter franchise. Fans all over the world flock to theme parks and festivals and read interviews that comment on this magical world, yet there is one thing that this fantastical world has yet to give us: representation of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Yes, representation is often seen as a cry from the background to give more and more diversity to those who have seldom had it, but those who demand representation have the grounds to do so. After all, it is the twenty-first century, and some things are meant to change.

A picture of a young Grindelwald and Dumbledore from the original films.

A picture of a young Grindelwald and Dumbledore from the original films.

It seems, though, that Rowling refuses to be one to change. Rather, she seems to be further queerbaiting fans. Queerbaiting is a term used to describe the feeling a fan gets when two characters have all the set-up to be non-heterosexual romantic partners, only to have all of that shoved aside at the end – usually for one of the two to go after a repulsive or very weak connection with someone of the opposite gender.

After seven books that teased at a relationship between close friends Seamus Finnigan and Dean Thomas (Ship-name Deamus), and even partly suggested a relationship between Ginny Weasley and Luna Lovegood (Linny), it seemed to upset fans when Rowling simply shrugged at the issue of LGBTQIA+ representation in her works and stated that she had “always seen Dumbledore as gay” at New York’s Carnegie Hall in October 2007. This news came about three months after the publishing of the last book in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. According to Rowling, Dumbledore had actually loved the dark wizard Grindelwald before his demise, decades before the Harry Potter series takes place. 

While there was never any talk of “outing” Dumbledore through the course of the eight films of the Harry Potter series, fans made the obvious leap that they would get to see Dumbledore being openly gay when the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them series was announced. After all, the first Fantastic Beasts movie has already revealed Grindelwald and confirmed who would be playing him in the upcoming Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald film. 

However, director David Yates was quoted as saying that they would not be showing Dumbledore as being “explicitly gay” in the upcoming film. This, of course, was an outrage. After putting fans through seven books of Deamus and Linny teasing, and the revealing of a dead man’s non-heterosexual identity only after the publishing of the books, fans could use a break. 

Rowling has only commented via Twitter to say that she was “being sent abuse” over the issue even though it was Yates and not her who said Dumbledore would not be gay. She implied that there would be more of a relationship between Grindelwald and Dumbledore as the movies progressed, and possibly even in the upcoming film, with more information on page eight in a separate article. But can we, as fans, really trust her?

What the world deserves from those who influence our culture and media is not teasing that results in the same, tired prejudices that have always been glorified. No, we need a revolution of thought. We need writers, singers, and all of the world’s creators to take a step towards diversity — a step towards inclusiveness. All people deserve to see themselves in popular culture. 

This is particularly important now. According to the Washington Post, hate crimes have increased dramatically in the U.S. over the last year. LGBTQIA+ people were some of the most targeted individuals, second only to Jewish and Muslim people. To stop hate, we need to spread love and acceptance. We need to normalize being who you are,  and that means including everyone in the popular culture.

While not all representation and diversity should be left to Rowling to write, she should still be expected to include them in her works. At the very least, she should make good on her word and make Dumbledore be gay and in love with Grindelwald. It is about more than shipping and angst. It is about making changes in the world as we know it. Let love win.