* spoilers below
J.K Rowling doesn’t Tweet all that often but when she does it’s usually worthwhile. See the exchange below where a fan questions why she announced after the final book was published that Dumbledore is gay because she “just can’t see him that way.” The Harry Potter author responded as such:
BOOM. (To be fair it’s worth noting the author of the original Tweet apparently responded saying “amazing answer… Yes you are absolutely right. Such an inspiration!!” though the original Twitter account has since gone inactive.)
I think Jo (I can call her that because she told her fans once that we could, plus in my mind we’re kindred spirits who just haven’t met yet) concisely said all that needed to be said about Dumbledore being gay. But if I may (and of course I may – this is my blog!) be permitted to tackle the issue of Dumbledore’s sexual orientation from a purely HP-universe perspective…
Many have suggested that this detail about Dumbledore’s character was an afterthought that Jo inserted given that there is no implicit or explicit mention of this fact throughout the 7-book series. I would be tempted to think the same except for one vital thing: Dumbledore being gay makes so much sense. In fact, a cornerstone of the plot rests largely on him being in love with a man. I’m referring of course to Dumbledore’s “lost summer” with Grindelwald in which the two young men are seduced by the idea of the Death Hallows and pledge to install a new world order in which Wizards and Witches rule over Muggles (non-magic folk). Over the course of their planning the two wizards have a big falling out and part ways. Grindelwald goes on to become one of the most powerful Dark Wizards of all time while Dumbledore rejects completely his former ideology about “the greater good” and opts instead for a life as Hogwarts professor and professional badass.
The importance of Grindelwald, and his relationship with Dumbledore, becomes a focal point of Book 7. Grindelwald steals the Elder Wand soon after parting with Dumbledore which Dumbledore takes into his possession after defeating Grindelwald in a duel years later (he was reluctant to confront his former friend but is eventually persuaded by the fact that Grindelwald was committing atrocious crimes in pursuit of power). The Elder Wand, and it’s ownership, is the reason why Harry doesn’t die when he confronts Voldemort for the final time in Book 7. So as peripheral as Grindelwald may seem, he ends up being pretty damn important to the plot.
Grindelwald is also vital to understanding the character of Dumbledore (and this is true even if you set aside the Headmaster’s sexuality). When we first learn that Dumbledore considered dabbling in the Dark Arts it is shocking. Throughout the series Dumbledore has been a standard-bearer for good which makes the details of his past not only surprising but also very confusing. It goes against everything we know about Dumbledore as a character. Dumbledore claims that this early experience taught him that power is his weakness and his temptation.
With all due respect to Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, I don’t buy it.
The brief time he spent with Grindelwald is the only time he seemed interested in power at all. Two months during one’s youth seems like an awfully short window to become obsessed with power and then quit pursuing it cold turkey. It is therefore more plausible that what seduced Dumbledore that summer was not an idea, but a person. So many things make more sense if Dumbledore was in love with Grindelwald. His initial attraction to Grindelwald’s ideas, his hesitation to confront Grindelwald even at the height of the Dark Wizard’s power, and Grindelwald’s refusal to give Voldemort information about Dumbledore or the wand even under torture.
A central theme throughout the Harry Potter series in the power of love and the way that love can make us do extraordinary things. Lily sacrificed her life for her son because she loved him, Snape becomes a double agent and betrays his former master because of his unrequited love for Lily, Harry is tricked into breaking into the Department of Mysteries when he thinks his beloved godfather is in danger, Dumbledore is temporarily blinded to the horror of his ideas because he is experiencing an overwhelming feeling of love for an exciting stranger, and his love for his family eventually helps him see the error of his ways. Love is the central theme that underpins the entire Harry Potter story and Jo has never shied away from portraying love as messy, complicated, and powerful.
For all of these reasons something clicked when J.K. Rowling revealed that Dumbledore is gay. Knowing that crucial fact about the character fills a gap in the plot for me. Sure it’s just how I think through things in my head but, as Dumbledore himself said, why on earth should that means it is not real?