I am far beyond tired.
Let’s, for a moment, set aside Trans and other gender-based parts of the LGBT+ acronym. In this case, as in most cases, they weren’t even invited to the table, and that is a problem. But the current problem I want to discuss is entirely the issue with depicting sexuality.
When Director David Yates said Dumbledore would not be ‘explicitly’ gay, I was sure he literally meant explicit. As in ‘Dumbledore isn’t going to be playing tongue hockey or tiddlywinks with anyone.’ Everything that has happened since has only cemented that theory for me.
Of particular interest is this lovely gem from the bonus section on the Crimes of Grindelwald Blu-Ray and DVD:
“It was passionate, and it was a love relationship. But as happens in any relationship, gay or straight or whatever label we want to put on it, one never knows, really, what the other person is feeling. You can’t know, you can believe you know. So I’m less interested in the sexual side — though I believe there is a sexual dimension to this relationship — than I am in the sense of the emotions they felt for each other, which ultimately is the most fascinating thing about all human relationships.” — JK Rowling’s statements regarding Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s relationship.
“I was very conscious of wanting to try to suggest that Dumbledore still held this affection for Grindelwald…There was not just regret, but there was still a love that existed between the two men.” — David Yates, regarding his efforts to interpret their relationship.
I really do think they are trying, in their own straight-people way. Its the same straight-people ways that many allies have tried to be inclusive in the past. That doesn’t make it right, or ok.
I can agree that an effort was made, and that they weren’t depicted in an overtly stereotypical manner, which is better than other options they could have gone with. They could definitely be doing better, but I will give credit where it’s due.
I can also understand why it was never mentioned when the books were coming out — Grindelwald was not an important character in the books and Dumbledore was a mentor and not really one of the characters that we spent the most time with. The books were also coming out in the 90s and early 00s, and I know an out gay character would have significantly restricted who got to read the books, especially since religious groups were already holding book burnings just because the stories were about witchcraft and wizardry. I don’t hold any grudges for her saying that he was gay after the fact (though her lack of diversity in general is certainly a problem point unto itself).
But lets come back to that ‘they could be doing better’ part.
I admit, when director David Yates said that Dumbledore wouldn’t be ‘explicitly’ gay, my mind immediately conjured up a room of straight men imagining strip-drag shows and dramatic coming out stories and how those two options definitely don’t fit Albus Dumbledore, sage mentor of the Boy Who Lived.
Everything that was said in this feature just makes me believe that my impression was probably not too far from the truth.
What, truly, do straight people think is required for someone to be explicitly gay?
In this case, what they are doing, whether they directly say it or not, is boiling down Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s relationship to the sex part of their sexuality. They couldn’t show too much, you see, because the sexual side isn’t what interests them in this story.
This stereotype is often at the root of a lot of bigotry against non-straight sexualities. Gayness, or bisexual-ness or pan-ness or any other possibilities, becomes inappropriate because it is reduced to sexual behaviors, and a lot of groups of people have different levels of tolerance towards witnessing sexual behaviors. Even innocent behaviors become more dirty when those characters’ relationships are only defined by what body parts they want to rub up against.
Dumbledore’s greatest love being the primary villain should, in theory, make his feelings somewhat more of an important plot point. Instead of that, we get a creator talking about how she is “less interested in the sexual side” of Dumbledore. Well, good news Ms. Rowling! We aren’t interested in his sex life, either. But we are interested in his emotions, and his feelings, and how this is affecting him and the world around him. Which you say you, too, are interested in, and yet that aspect has most definitely not been explored.
Its an aspect that is almost never explored. Still now, the few examples I can think of primarily fall into ‘primarily for LGBT audiences only,’ ‘it happens at the very end so those of certain sensibilities can just not watch the last episode,’ or ‘sex.’ I appreciate Tessa Thompson for trying to get some representation into the Marvel movies, but the representation was, too, going to be sex-related. Similarly, Lando, the said-to-be-pan rep from Solo, was very sexual in nature.
It’s not all about sex. LGBT+ people are, well, people. And while there is somewhat of a problem of relationships being boiled down to sexual interest across many mediums, those moments are often recognized for being the pandering, bad ‘romances’ that they are. Yet that is also the only sort of situation that people seem to be able to conceive of for LGBT+characters.
I want more, and I want it to be better.
I want relationships.
I want heartaches.
I want human beings. Or, you know, monsters and/or aliens that have been inserted as a proxy for human beings and are thus, in their own way, humans.