“Ms. Rowling Endorses Abortion, Gay Love, and Pacificism!”

Well, no, she hasn’t.

She did say that she has “always thought of Dumbledore as gay,” that she is against homophobia, and that homosexuality is a quality she considers a “shade of character,” not anything especially defining about Dumbledore. Ms. Rowling even seems a trifle put out that readers haven’t universally welcomed her sharing this extra-textual shading with us:

“There were people who thought, well why haven’t we seen Dumbledore’s angst about being gay? Where was that going to come in? And then the other thing was — and I had letters saying this — that, as a gay man, he would never be safe to teach in a school…He’s a very old single man. You have to ask: why is it so interesting? People have to examine their own attitudes. It’s a shade of character. Is it the most important thing about him? No, it’s Dumbledore for God’s sake. There are 20 things that are relevant to the story before his sexuality.

Of course, I couldn’t agree more. The Dumbledore-homosexuality controversy (budding controversy?) is for me a non-starter. It’s not in the books, does not add any new dimension to his character because whatever sexuality means to the Headmaster is never explored or enters the story, and serves only as a distraction to the greater themes of love, death, sacrifice, faith, etc., in the books.

Because Ms. Rowling decided to share this (I honestly think in a moment of genuine concern for an individual reader), however, public reaction is what it is — and should be anything but surprising. Her feigning or feeling disappointment that many of her readers didn’t embrace the news is hard to understand or sympathize with. She went how many years with Christian and other concerned parents around the world refusing to let their children read the books because of their supposed occult message? Did she think these same people, many of whom have become fans of her books over time, don’t dread the possibility that their children will become homosexual more than that they will become warlocks or crones?

I wonder how the editors at Bloomsbury and Scholastic take these interviews. Ms. Rowling is saying that Dumbledore’s sexuality is a non-issue (good) but wraps that message in a statement that those who for whatever reasons don’t consider homosexuality just another way of loving are small-minded homophobes (bad?). As it keeps her in the news and in public conversation, I want to think her publishers think all controversy is free publicity and a boon to them.

I’m suspicious that this controversy concerns them more than the Sorcerer’s Stone publicity binge.


For one thing, during the occult tempest that raged and waned from 1999 to 2003 (with small pockets of the storm still active in the blogosphere and religious ghettos), Ms. Rowling was a passive object who rarely spoke freely on the subject if only because she was determined to protect her storyline. That barrier being down, she is free to speak her mind and she seems more than willing to exercise that freedom. Ms. Rowling is personally generating this controversy; it’s not her books and how people interpret them this time.

And, perhaps more important, we may be seeing just the tip of the p.c. iceberg in this Gay Dumbledore brouhaha. Ms. Rowling said in her interviews with magazines in Spain that she was “obsessed” with the US Presidential primaries and that it is “very important” that a Democrat win the White House. This de facto endorsement of the Democratic candidate, of course, immerses Ms. Rowling into the whirlpool (tsunami?) of American partisan politics and pigeon holing.

Is she aware that to many of her readers, for and against abortion on demand and the war in Iraq, by choosing sides in the campaign she has identified herself — and, inevitably, by extension, her books — with the Democratic platform? Is Harry a “cut-and-run pacifist”? Is Hermione as concerned about a woman’s right to partial-birth abortions in the third trimester as she is about house elf rights? I hope Ms. Rowling does understand this and has counted the cost because the “bleed” from her involvement in American politics into how people understand her stories is not a “maybe” thing. You can bet on it.

And, with Ms. Rowling promising a “political fairy tale” as her next literary contribution, it seems possible that we are entering a new period of Harry Potter scholarship. We already have had to adjust to the post-speculative era; it seems that a significant part of coming to a mature, critical understanding of the books and Potter mania, now that we have the seven-part epic en toto, will be coming to terms with, either embracing or ignoring, Ms. Rowling’s continued public announcements about her beliefs.

That shouldn’t be too hard. It’s just a choice about how to understand books and authors. Some serious readers are exclusive, some are inclusive. What will not be as easy for these readers will be ignoring those who use Harry Potter as a litmus strip, not as a test of any reader’s spiritual orthodoxy, but as a gauge of their left or right political leanings. As bad as the occult controversy was (and it flared to temperatures I never would have believed possible for a book series in our times), because of Ms. Rowling’s engagement, the political controversy promises to be longer lasting and at least as deeply felt.

Which will be worse: Democrats claiming Harry as their standard bearer against the evil Ministry or Republicans condemning Ms. Rowling (and, again, inevitably, by extension her stories) for taking the side of Lord Voldemort and a culture of death? Both are equally sad and absurd and likely. If there is tragedy in the comedy of Harry entering the partisan political madness, however, it is only that the shared text of the young third millenium will be colored in so many minds, young and old, with dyes that won’t run off as easily as the first controversy’s ink have since Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows were published.

Could all that be avoided? Ms. Rowling believes she has certain responsibilities consequent to celebrity, not unlike what her characters feel in accepting circumstances they didn’t create and doing the hard, right thing. It looks like that means she will be speaking out on issues that have little to nothing to do with her stories. The Harry Potter novels come with the message that we are to accept people as they are and celebrate a diversity of opinion and beliefs (short of torturing Muggles). I can accept Ms. Rowling as she is and sympathize for the responsibility she feels to throw her considerable fame and fortune on the side of whatever candidates she thinks she must. She hasn’t forfeited her freedoms to act and her political engagement, whatever her views, is something to celebrate in itself.

Forgive me, though, for feeling some sadness about the possibility that her wonderful stories, with their counter-cultural, anti-partisan messages about the primacy of love before all else, may be lost or just diminished in the culture at large consequent to their association with any one party’s platform, left or right, Democrat or Republican, Labor or Conservative. Ms. Rowling labored for ten years to protect her stories so that her readers could experience them as they should be experienced. I regret that she herself may now be the agent and engine of the most significant and lasting “spoiler” for present and future readers.

I welcome your comment and correction.

[Hat-tip to the new and beautiful Hog’s Head — a Pub for Potter!]

Update: Please click here for a much more complete version of what Ms. Rowling said about Dumbledore in her most recent interview, as reported in the original link for this post.


  1. John,

    The last eight years of Republican rule have been disastrous on a global scale for the reputation of the United States. The Bush administration has been arrogant with our allies, starting with unilaterally withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol.

    I am not surprised to see Jo Rowling being obsessed with our national elections, because the world is watching like never before. Europeans especially want to see a new administration that will treat them as partners on the world stage and not minions who are ordered about by American masters.

    The candidacy of McCain does not promise any dramatic break from the Bush legacy, whereas either Obama or Clinton would.

    You and I have not discussed politics very often, but I have gleaned from this and from other writings that you and I have different opinions on many social issues. I also think that these are areas where we are not likely to change either one’s mind, so why deliberately antagonize the other?

    I have debated people before and the experience has polarized me and my sparring partner, especially in November and December 2000 post-election protracted Bush v. Gore debacle.

    Frankly I am weary of the divisiveness in our national politics and would like to see those issues aside put aside so that we can work together as a people to address the needs of our country.

    If you are interested in my opinions on the current presidential race, you can see them here:


    Be well,


  2. John…I visited the Hog’s Head (yes, the site is quite nice) and found the discussion very interesting, which prompted me to click your “Ms Rowling even thinks” site. The one JKR quote that stood out for me was this:

    “It is a very interesting question because I think homophobia is a fear of people loving, more than it is of the sexual act. There seems to be an innate distaste for the love involved, which I find absolutely extraordinary…” (an exerp from the JKR interview posted at Bgay.com)

    Obviously, this is Rowling’s opinion…which, I must add, is hers to have and share in whatever manner she chooses. I find the INTERVIEWING SOURCE revealing as well. OK, JKR is not against homosexuality. We all get that…she’s flown her flag for the world to see, albeit post-publication. I definately don’t agree with her observation that homophobia is a fear of people loving. That fear would be “eros-phobia” or “philio-phobia” or “agape-phobia” ! I submit that Jo is playing the media game, pandering to her interviewers and giving them somewhat blanket-style responses to placate whatever audience she wishes to appeal to at the time.

    As for Rowling’s preference for a Democrat in the White House….well, I give her U.S. political clout as much credence as I would any American celebrity weighing-in on the election of Great Britain’s Prime Minister. Personal opinion and all that. The concern must be for the people who believe without question…and we know the media LOVES each and every one of them.

    John, you say that the next JKR work will be a “political fairy tale” causing us to “enter[ing] a new period of Harry Potter scholarship.” Well, maybe this will be a good thing…to see how the public statements of her beliefs manifest themselves in her work. The reading public will not be given the luxury of discovery this time; rather, we will be meeting the work with eyes wide open. Nor will Jo be able to cloister behind said reader-discovery. I hope JKR chooses to introduce new characters apart from Harry’s world. But alas, I am a professed Pollyanna about these things.

    PJ, basking in the nearly-springtime sunshine and missing the grands

  3. Laserlawyer says

    Having attended an all-male British boarding school (“public” school) in my late teens, I can’t say I’m surprised that Ms. Rowling has declared that Dumbledore was gay. I recall one of our professors being exposed as a pedophile who seduced/molested some of the students. He ended up throwing himself in front of a train rather than face the disgrace of what he had done and who he had become.

  4. Alas, I fear too the same end. But if JKR thinks her opinion on these matters so important, she is perfectly free to squander the good potential for the identification as a liberal Westerner intent on spreading bad behavior into other cultures. One does wonder if she stops to think of the effects of her words on the reception of her work in some places. Though out of Amesty International for some time, she cannot have lost the sense of international results to celebrity remarks this soon, can she?

  5. I am so glad you brought this up. I, too, am saddened by the turn her comments have taken. It is a very unfortunate thing, that just like many Christians cannot mentally compartmentalize “witchcraft” when used as a literary device, many citizens will not be able to separate the author and her opinions from the literature itself. Instead of drawing people to accept her literature for the literature that it is, it will drive them further away. I personally have been very disappointed in her comments and beliefs, especially in light of the images drawn by her books. However, I can honestly say that I am no more disappointed in her than I was in C.S. Lewis when I found out things about him that I found distasteful. The primary difference is, he’s a dead guy so most people aren’t picking on him anymore, but she is yet alive and out there making matters worse for those of us who would defend her stories but not her opinions. It is very difficult to reconcile the two. When the day comes that she is dead and gone, and people are still picking up HP and enjoying it, no one will likely remember her stance on politics or homosexuals, but until then (and please don’t get me wrong, I am not in any way wishing an untimely death upon Ms. Rowling), I am afraid we will have to continue to endure the ripple effects of her comments.

  6. revgeorge says


    I don’t think anyone has been postulating that Dumbledore was a pedophile, nor have people’s objections to JKR’s revelations been based on that.

  7. revgeorge says

    Personally I think way too much is being made of JKR’s comments. if her interview is read closely, she herself doesn’t consider Dumbledore’s sexuality to be anything but peripheral to the story. It’s more of her internal back story.

    But her comments are disappointing because she seems to be doing exactly what has been done to her by ‘fundamentalist’ Christians. That is, labeling anyone who has any objections or concerns about homosexuality as homophobes, thus automatically disqualifying any concerns people may have. Calling someone a homophobe is like calling someone a NAZI or racist or even a fundamentalist; it shuts off debate & indicates that the person so labeled isn’t even worthy of debate or of having valid opinions.

  8. Arabella Figg says

    Well said, John, PJ and Ginnicsim. It appears Rowling has a bad case of celebrityitis–that unfortunate condtion in which a celebrity feels the world is in dire need of their “significant and important” opinions/lectures. Given her worldwide fame and the books she has written, she has, unfortunately, a more superb platform from which to speak.

    While she has the right to speak her political views, I wish she’d promote them (whether I agree with them or not) specifically and far apart from the books. Perhaps this is splitting hairs and too idealistic.

    The BGay folks didn’t say what else was in the interview that may have shaded what they quoted. It’s easy to grab on to what you want to hear and delete the rest. I found it curious that Rowling indicated Dumbledore was “safe” because he was old. Sexual predation know no cutoff age. She’s unraveling around the edges the more she talks.

    I’m afraid, with comments like these, I’m now leaning toward “shut up, Jo” sentiments.

    I told Luscious Badboy to shut up once–he just sneered at me…

  9. “… I am afraid we will have to continue to endure the ripple effects of her comments…” ???

    I was not a aware that I was ‘enduring’ anything!

    The views expressed by JKR in this interview in a local Edinburgh publication are just the same views the vast majority of educated British professional people hold, in other words completely unremarkable – JKR couldn’t be less controversial on this side of the pond if she tried!

    The fact that these are not the standard views within other groups of individuals and in other parts of the world is neither here nor there.

  10. Thank you, SeaJay, for sharing the UK perspective. You and Linda missed my point almost exactly, however, because you find these comments “completely unremarkable.” Millions of people in the US and UK disagree; this will affect how the books are read and the atmosphere of the conversation about their meaning.

    I’m sorry you and Linda seem to believe that I disagree with Ms. Rowling’s political and social beliefs. I don’t care for the use of fundamentalist that she uses but I have fallen to the same sloppiness myself. For reasons irrelevant to this site’s purpose, I abstain studiously from political partisanship and opinions as much as this is possible (I haven’t read or seen a newspaper headline, for example, since Super Bowl Sunday). Ms. Rowling is obsessed with American politics; I have chosen non-participation as my obsession and social obligation.

    My post above, consequently, was not approving or disapproving with respect to the beliefs she expressed. It was about the inevitable reaction in the US consequent to these comments and how that will affect understanding of her books. I’m sorry I didn’t make that more clear.

    To other readers: please refrain from sharing how normal or abnormal you find what The Daily Prophet has reported of Ms. Rowling’s opinions. That’s not what we’re discussing here. Let’s restrict the discussion to how her statements of partisan political comments, right or wrong, affect how readers understand Harry.

  11. Thank you John for your considered reply. I was not intending to express any opinion concerning politics etc.. I just wanted to put the interview and how it would most likely be received by its intended readers in Edinburgh in context.

    I agree that fundamentalist and many other words such as liberal or environmentalist often have different meanings / connotations / associations in the UK and the US. This can make for many misunderstandings.

    As you know ‘fundamentalist’ in the UK is almost always used with reference to Al-Qaida. Liberal in the UK refers to a preference for free markets and less government interference. Language can be quite treacherous!

  12. Arabella Figg says

    I’d like to make clear that when I wrote above: ” I found it curious that Rowling indicated Dumbledore was ‘safe’ because he was old. Sexual predation know no cutoff age,” I wasn’t judging Rowling’s beliefs nor do I believe Dumbledore was a danger to students.

    I agree, John, it’s about the books and how they may be perceived as Rowling reveals more of her personal views.

    Thanks, SeaJay for your illuminations. There is a definite difference between how terms are percieved on both sides of the pond. How interesting to learn that “liberal” there is “conservative” here! Language is indeed treacherous, with undercurrents and riptides awaiting unwary or careless waders.

    The kitties eschew water whenever possible…

  13. globalgirlk says

    Oy! At this point, I’m tired of hearing about the books as much as I enjoyed them. I’m tired of extra content being released per the author’s words. My books have become paper weights at this point and I often wonder if other people would enjoy them more than I. In my opinion, whatever the personal interest she may have had, J.K. Rowling ruined the books when she said that she’d always thought of Dumbledore as gay. I’m beginning to wonder if witchcraft however real or literary it may be has no place anymore. Just some thoughts from a tired Cajun girl.

  14. Wow–that’s very sad to think that JKR’s remarks would alienate someone who actually has read the books and enjoyed them. I might suggest that you do what I started about a month ago. Quit reading anything that Rowling has to say and just re-read the books, starting at the beginning. I have found that I’m enjoying them as much, if not more, now that I know the final outcome–and I’m also finding that I’m not reading them any differently because of all her post Deathly Hallows comments.

    But, John, I do think I see what you are getting at–for those who haven’t read the books, all of this latest will just add fuel to the fire that the books shouldn’t be read because of her political or social views. And that is a shame. Whether we agree or disagree with an author, reading the books (any books, not just HP) gives the reader the opportunity to explore ideas, and so much the better that those ideas are a catalyst for dialogue with other readers. It then is still the problem when non-readers want to jump into the discussions–they can only go on hear say, or on what they’ve heard the author say. And that’s not really misses the point of the books.

    I have to say, though, that I find I feel the same way about certain actors who have decided to be very vocal about their beliefs. If I agree with them, fine, but if I don’t, I now tend to avoid their movies. So, in that respect, I can understand the reaction of people who have not read the books but continue to hear Rowling espousing her views.


  15. Pat…you expressed my thoughts so well and I would like to add that re-reading Harry et al without dwelling on periperal hype is pleasant entertainment. (I FINALLY have all 7 books and can make margin notes at my leisure!) Hang in there, GlobalgirlK…you can weather this media storm with the help of the Professor and the rest of the HogPro All-Pros.

    Wow….”Liberal” in the UK is “conservative” in the US. Who knew???? Again, circumstantial perspective is SO important, as is clear communication.

    I hope Ms Rowling surfs HogPro and other Potter-related sites periodically to get an idea of how her comments are being interpreted. Maybe she doesn’t care…but I have a hard time believing she wouldn’t.

  16. pj : “..….”Liberal” in the UK is “conservative” in the US….”

    ..well yes, and no. I will not discuss british political history here but this link gives a very brief summation of how the eighteenth century Whigs evolved into the Liberal Party:


    It was the Tories who evolved into the conservatives!!! (with apologies to John for being off-topic)

  17. The BGay link is not leading to anywhere. It displays a, “No Page To Display/Action Canceled.” Message.

  18. Here is The Leaky Cauldron article which includes a lot of other interesting material I hadn’t seen (Cognitive Behavior Therapy? Who knew?). Enjoy!

    You have to love the part where she says, “Every time I open my mouth, my life becomes more complicated.” File that under “Necessity of Continued Publicity for Potter, Inc.”

  19. Please note how BGay.com twisted Ms. Rowling’s delivery:

    On the matter of Dumbledore, Jo candidly states the following:

    “I had always seen Dumbledore as gay, but in a sense that’s not a big deal. The book wasn’t about Dumbledore being gay. It was just that from the outset obviously I knew he had this big, hidden secret, and that he flirted with the idea of exactly what Voldemort goes on to do, he flirted with the idea of racial domination, that he was going to subjugate the Muggles. So that was Dumbledore’s big secret.

    Why did did he flirt with that?” she asks. “He’s an innately good man, what would make him do that. I didn’t even think it through that way, it just seemed to come to me, I thought ‘I know why he did it, he fell in love.’ And whether they physically consummated this infatuation or not is not the issue. The issue is love. It’s not about sex. So that’s what I knew about Dumbledore. And it’s relevant only in so much as he fell in love and was made an utter fool of by love. He lost his moral compass completely when he fell in love and I think subsequently became very mistrusting of his own judgment in those matters so became quite asexual. He led a celibate and bookish life.”

    Clearly some people didn’t see it that way. How does she react to those who disagree with a homosexual character in a children’s novel? “So what?” she retorts immediately “It is a very interesting question because I think homophobia is a fear of people loving, more than it is of the sexual act. There seems to be an innate distaste for the love involved, which I find absolutely extraordinary. There were people who thought, well why haven’t we seen Dumbledore’s angst about being gay?” Rowling is clearly amused by this and rightly so. “Where was that going to come in? And then the other thing was-and I had letters saying this-that, as a gay man, he would never be safe to teach in a school.”

    An air of incredulity descends on the room as if Rowling herself still can not believe this statement. She continues: “He’s a very old single man. You have to ask: why is it so interesting? People have to examine their own attitudes. It’s a shade of character. Is it the most important thing about him? No, it’s Dumbledore for God’s sake. There are 20 things that are relavant to the story before his sexuality.” Bottom line then: he isn’t a gay character; he’s a character that just happens to be gay. Rowling concurs wholeheartedly.

    Albus Dumbledore was a celibate man with a same-sex-attraction episode in his youth.

  20. I don’t think Dumbledore is exactly what the progressive gay activists are looking for in a hero. If Jo Rowling thinks she’s like American progressives, she sure doesn’t show it in her writing. She probably has no idea who John McCain is anyway.

    Indeed, Dumbledore is the Christian ideal, a man who deals with his own “thorn in his flesh” in a way that is moral. He does not engage in activity that is sexually immoral. Have we not noticed the silence from the gay activists? Dumbledore is the classic stereotype of the English private (public) school headmaster – knowing Jo’s sense of humor (which can be sublime), but for her strange political statements of late that frankly just don’t measure up to her own text, Dumbledore is a satire.


  21. John wrote: “Albus Dumbledore was a celibate man with a same-sex-attraction episode in his youth.”
    ZoeRose wrote: “Indeed, Dumbledore is the Christian ideal, a man who deals with his own “thorn in his flesh” in a way that is moral.”

    What happened to stories (and indeed, real life), where young men and/or young women develop crushes for either sex? As a teenager in the 60’s (albeit a much more innocent time for a girl from a protected home environment attending a small high school), I had crushes on a male teacher and two female teachers. I ‘loved’ them. But it was a purely platonic love, a love of ideals and role-models. These people never made the slightest inappropriate overture to me or anyone else in my class. They were idols in my mind, and therefore infallible – truly an unfair position to have placed them in. But my point is, having strong feelings for a person, whether same sex or not, does not connotate “homosexual”. Going by JKR’s definition of homosexuality, I begin to question just what she truly saw DD’s “crush” to be.

  22. treebeard says

    I think ZoeRose hits a nail on the head with her statement that JKR’s “strange political statements of late… just don’t measure up to her own text.” I was attracted to the books by the themes of courage, valor, romance, and self-sacrifice instead of the current culture’s pacifism, sex, and self-centerdness. It seems, evidenced by these recent interviews, she has simply adopted the current cultural/political views as delivered by the mainstream media without much critical thought. I expected better of her.

  23. Arabella Figg says

    I just knew it! As stated above, BGay lifted some of Rowling’s words out of context/shading and only highlighted what they wanted to hear and spread. Thanks, John, for providing us the full interview, which was great, and also gracious, in my opinion (and thanks, Leaky Cauldron).

    As for cognitive behavioral therapy, here’s this below from the National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists, http://www.nacbt.org/whatiscbt.htm

    “Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy…
    is a form of psychotherapy that emphasizes the important role of thinking in how we feel and what we do.

    “CBT is based on the Cognitive Model of Emotional Response.
    Cognitive-behavioral therapy is based on the idea that our thoughts cause our feelings and behaviors, not external things, like people, situations, and events. The benefit of this fact is that we can change the way we think to feel / act better even if the situation does not change.”

    This fits very much into the Potter books. Harry, as we all know, bases too many decisions, feelings and opinions on what he experiences, thinks, or sees/hears. I feel the best exploration of CBT for Harry was in his therapeutic sessions with Remus Lupin, where he learned to overcome his fear of Dementors by thinking of something happy. The Dementors didn’t change; Harry learned to take control of his emotional reaction by producing a Patronus. He only came into full control of his thinking/acting at Shell Cottage, after Dobby’s death, ceasing to be centered, rather than pulled by others..

    Remus Loopy is looking at me smugly…

  24. globalgirlk says

    Thanks Eeyore, I’m actually going to do that. I get really tired of hearing the same thing over again. I am glad that she clarified her earlier statements.

  25. Arabella Figg says

    Above, I wrote ” He only came into full control of his thinking/acting at Shell Cottage, after Dobby’s death, ceasing to be centered, rather than pulled by others.”

    I meant to say “where he became centered within, rather than pulled from without by others.”

    Cleverpuss is giving me a smirk…

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