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Harry Potter is Gay

Posted by pocochina on June 9, 2007

HOW GAY IS HE?

(Note:  these are backdated; this was written before the Big Gay Dumbledore Announcement)

I’m far from the first person to make this point, but I totally, utterly love it.  Harry Potter is very, very gay.

I’m not prepared to argue that this is a conscious choice on the author’s part, although I’m getting closer to believing there’s direct allusions to queer experiences.  It’s probably possible to read the Potter canon without noticing any of it having queer undertones, but once the reader squints, it’s always there.  Part of me wants to come out swinging (ha!)  for Harry being pretty much my favorite fictional bisexual ever.  In a series that deftly explores (sometimes with great subtlety and sometimes with all the finesse of a brick) bigotry in the western world, there’s parallels to ethnic, racial and religious bigotry, there’s sexist characters in a pointedly gender-egalitarian narrative.  Why not a commentary on homophobia?  I will discuss relevant issues in the books seperately and in the series as a whole, sometimes with tongue firmly in cheek (HA) and sometimes with seriousness under my clumsly literary analysis.  I’ll deal with the story arcs of individual characters in the books where that character’s story is most important to my analysis (I’ll save Draco for HBP, and Lupin/Tonks for DH, for instance).  Any lightheartedness is meant with deep respect, full support for LGBTQ rights is assumed, and no fictional characters were harmed in the writing of this essay.  (Except Snape, whose soul is burning.)

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone:

Little boy reaches puberty, realizes he’s not like his terrible, bigoted family, especially not his evil cousin, comes out of his closet, and goes off to a new world  full of people in fabulous clothes!

Well, yes.  When you put it that way.

Philospher’s Stone is a coming out narrative, of a sort.  Harry learns something new about himself, accepts the addition to his identity, and discovers a community into which he fits far better than the one he’s spent his childhood in.  It reads similarly to many of the coming out stories I’ve heard and read.

Dudley and his friends read as not just a comment on bullying in general, but a comment on the particular forced masculinity which socializes young boys to strive towards hegemonic masculinity.  The “boys will be boys” attitude shown towards Dudley (and, the author is to assume, to Piers and all of their other friends) goes far beyond laissez-faire, actually encouraging their bullying, which we are to assume is to teach them to be Manly Men – that is, not Big Homos.  Harry is rightfully resentful towards them.  His coping mechanism, portrayed hearteningly by the author, is sadness, but with the precise ability to experience anger towards the person(s) hurting him, and not turn it inward – a huge commentary on the necessity of self-esteem for young people in Harry’s situation.  The thinly-veiled allusions to the potential for child abuse and the desire to “stamp it out of him” (PoA, ch 1) allude to doing difference.  In fact, with the exception of Aunt Petunia and the teacher whose wig he turns blue, Harry Potter grows up in an apparantly entirely homosocial world until Hogwarts.  He’s an androgynous kid, not like the forced toughness of the Privet Drive bullies.  He also exhibits witty outsider humor, even before he knows he will have a refuge.  Is this just me hoping he conforms to the “funny ‘mo” stereotype?  Nah, outsider humor exists everywhere.  But Harry’s cutting, dry humor that he’s created all on his own is straight (HA!) out of a queer-friendly sitcom.

Also.  They were going to send him to Stonewall High School?  Stonewall?  All the British-y, mundane words she could’ve used, and Stonewall?  In a series about fighting oppression?  No, no gayness here, move along.

Then there’s also the journey to Diagon Alley, tucked into a back alley of London.  Outsider groups have traditionally gravitated towards cities; it’s more exciting, it’s easier to be one of the crowd, and you won’t run into your cousin when you’re buying condoms.  It’s a nod to the ancient nature of the city, a world capital where anything can happen, but it’s also parallel to the gayborhoods in other such lovely cities.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets:

CoS describes in greater depth the social problems within the wizarding world.

The concept of wizardry, and muggleborn witches and wizards, is also an interesting commentary on what happens when the child is fundamentally, in some way, not like the parents.  We can differ from our parents politically, occupationally, in terms of religious conversion, but these are choices.  The majority of us are unlikely to have something inherent to ourselves that makes us different.  It’s a growing up narrative, but it fits neatly into a queer analysis.  Conversely, pureblood supremacy reeks of homophobic connotations.  They look just like us, act just like us, but God forbid they should ever be us. And out homosexuality is an immense taboo in the upper echelons of a society which perpetuate themselves by bloodline.  Coincidentally or not, the majroity of our major players – Riddle, Harry, Severus, Dumbledore – are “half-bloods,” existing in a state where they’re only like some of their family.  And Riddle and Harry could have experienced familial acceptance for their magic, had their families lived.

Moving from the framework of the story to the actual plot, Harry’s dormant sexuality plays an oddly absent role.  For all Ginny has been set up to be The Girl, Harry’s reaction to her is…..well, utterly platonic.  He reacts to her valentine as someone sexually immature would – embarassed, but not antagonistic towards her – even though she’s set up with romantic consciousness despite being a year younger.  Harry Saves the Day, and the Damsel in Distress, but he’s more interested in the self-discovery inherent to the plotline than to the Sweet Lady.

Compare this lukewarm reaction to Ginny to Harry’s hypnosis in the face of young Riddle.  The kid springs out of a diary in which Harry’s seen a trusted buddy accused of murder?  Now, he’s still learning how the magical world works, we can’t really expect him to guess that this particular diary is Evil, Evil, Evil.  We would, however, expect a reasonably intelligent kid who has been hearing murderous voices in the walls all year to be a little more suspicious of magically preserved strangers.  His fascination is a narrative necessity, of course, and the “I am Lord Voldemort” anagram is oooh, such a delicious chill.  But we get that chill not just from the Evil(TM),  but also because Harry is responding to Riddle’s infamous charm.

And a broomstick may be just a broomstick, and a wand may be just a wand but my apologies to Freud – a Sword of Gryfffindor?  Is never just a Sword of Gryffindor.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban:

Which brings us to Sirius Black and the Gay, Gay Backstory.

Starting with the Pensive memory in OotP, Sirius is shown as pointedly Not Into Girls – the author even makes a point of telling us that a girl was “eyeing him hopefully” and that he took no notice.  This could, of course, be attributed to Sirius’ immense privilege or his legendary arrogance – but then we see him later by the lake, lazily passing up the chance to show off for the girls by the lake that his Boy’s Boy mate, equally popular and privileged, hops to eagerly.  The character we see isn’t shy, is in fact a charisma-laden, energetic man.  In an interview, the author informs us that Harry hasn’t got a godmother because “Sirius was too busy being a big rebel to get married.”  A big rebel against what?  He’d already left his family, any wife and kids would be as nonexistant to the Blacks as the Tonks family.  Oh, I can imagine Sirius Black, Free Love Crusader extraordinaire,  but not in addition to the kid who goes out of his way not to meet a girl at school.  And he would’ve had to go out of his way.

His disinheritance is left, like so much of the character-rich Potter backstory, up to the reader, and at this point probably will be forever.  And yes, the “they were evil buggers, and he saw the light” explanation certainly works.  But look, dying aristocracies don’t expel heirs because those heirs are spoiled brats.  They’re raised to be spoiled brats.  If they’re not spoiled brats, well, they simply won’t keep up with the neighbors, and next thing you know the half-bloods are taking over, the bloody peasants know about the Magna Carta, and Kunta Kinte is getting away.  (Kunta Kinte?  Also rocks.)  They’d be much more likely to disinherit a scion if that particular scion was Absolutely Not going to produce more spoiled little heirs.  And it’s already established that he didn’t have a punk-rocker Muggle or Muggleborn girlfriend knocked up, ensuring half-blooded offspring – even if that memory didn’t survive Azkaban, Remus would’ve told him and by extension, us.  It calls into mind British royalty scandals.  You were okay if you were cheating, gay, syphlitic, insane – just don’t say anything.  (Not, of course, to morally equivocate those four things.  But they’d certainly all be scandals.)  Sirius’ narrative about his terribly brave refusal to pretend to be a pureblood supremacist, even if it meant keeping the riches, keeping his house an family and name, even keeping some influence in politics, is a dramatic parallel to a coming-out story, if it is not an actual coming out story.

Speaking of Remus.

I have trouble believing that the reader isn’t supposed to draw parallels between lycanthropy and transmissible, chronic disease, as well as institutionalized homophobia.  (Disclaimer:   I am not arguing that gayness is  a disease, because I’m not an idiot, just that the author has probably intended to draw parallels to prejudices against these particular groups in this character.)  HIV/AIDS, in the minds of Generations X and Y, has only recently stopped being an issue among gay men and become a concern for the general population – hold that thought for HBP.

We also see a real, live outing!  Snape lets it slip to the adolescent rumour mill that Remus is a werewolf (and sidebar – Remus Lupin?  Nobody saw that by, like, page 2?)  We’re to understand from this that Snape is being a Very Bad Boy, and what he did was Wrong, Wrong, Wrong.  In Harry’s world, when someone’s secrets can hurt them, you don’t tell those secrets because life is tough and you’re not happy about it.  It’s vicious, and it’s cruel, and it hurts everyone around them.  It’s also a positive belief on the author’s part in the tolerance kids have  – even Ron, Harry and Hermione, who could’ve been eaten, aren’t mad at Lupin for keeping his secret, they’re mad that it’s been revealed for the sake of Severus’ spite.  (Good kids!  Have a cookie.)

Remus is also, at this point, set up as chronic bachelor professor.  Of course, he ends up as of HBP happily and heterosexually paired off,  but again, I have trouble believing he’s not a nod and wink to the gay uncles of the world – the kids all love him, but sorry, he’s not like us, he doesn’t get to stay in the conventional family atmosphere of Hogwarts.

Remus and Sirius are also, not coincidentally, the two characters mistakenly assumed to have been spies during Voldemort’s first rise to power.  They’re seen as different, as Other, and Not to be Trusted – and this leads to tragedy.  Assuming Remus’ guilt during the First War led to the Potters’ deaths; locking Sirius in Azkaban afterward meant that Peter could elude justice.  Prejudice isn’t just morally wrong in the wizarding world, it can and does, quite literally, kill.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

made my little heart sing with joy.  Harry even gets his first hetero crush in this book (at fourteen?  really?  yeah, I thought so too), but it’s still chock full of queer – and for the first time, actually homoerotic – overtones.

We get a comment on traditional versus nontraditional families in the Minister’s box at the World Cup.  Now, not all nontraditional families are queer, but queer families (at least to our generation, and according to most countries’ laws right now *stamps on her LEGALIZE GAY MARRIAGE podium*) are antithetical to traditional families.  Inside the Top Box, we have foreign dignitaries and Fudge sitting with two families.  The Malfoys, Death Eater Lucius, sympathizer Narcissa, and meaniehead Draco, are the perfect picture of a privileged traditional family.  The Weasley clan shows up – a father without the mother (yes, I know Molly exists, but she’s home for the day), far more kids than your average wizarding family, and two “adopted” kids, Harry and Hermione.  The Weasleys are the freaks in that box, but they nearly if not actually outnumber the “normal” people, and we’re supposed to like them better.  Harry’d rather be in his warm, loving, if at times dysfunctional, family of choice than with the privileged and powerful.

We get to Hogwarts, and experience the infamous Fight With Ron.  They have a vicious falling out when Ron believes Harry to have entered the Tournament without him.  This incident’s interesting.  We expect major anger issues from Ron, who comes from a family which celebrates every stereotype there ever was about redheads.  Ron treats every fight with burning intensity; you’d have to, being one of the youngest in such a huge, boistrous family.  (Sidebar:  I love Ron, and his major anger issues are part of what I love about him.  But I digrerss into Straight-Boy Land.)  But nobody has that same ability to ruffle Harry.  Not Hermione, his other best friend.  Not Cho, Our Hero’s first love interest, or Ginny, his redheaded bundle of lovin’.  Harry acts for all the world like he’s in the middle of the worst break up ever; we don’t see him acting much different than Ron and Hermione do when they fight in PoA, GoF and HBP.    Again, it’s got a simple context – Harry is a damaged kid who’s just had his first fight with his first friend, he’s under a bit of stress, of course he’s going to go off the deep end.  But while he takes another two books to even learn the meaning of the phrase “anger management,” we never see Harry react with such long, simmering fury in a romantic context.  (And then in the Second Task, Ron is the thing he’d miss the most!  Under there with Victor’s and Cedric’s girlfriends and Fleur’s sister!  The only boy underwater!  OMG TRUE LOVE!  I may choke on all the Gay.)

Harry’s reactions to his fellow champions are equally great character development, and equally queer-reading friendly.

Fleur is a Veela.  Fleur is Hot Stuff.  Fleur is also cool and smart and talented and loving (her relationship with her sister is beautiful.)  Fleur is the magical love child of Angelina Jolie and Flo-Jo.  Fleur rocks her shit, and Harry knows her, kinda, which in life outside of a children’s book would make him the star of the boys’ dormitory.  And Harry is…..totally not interested.  He’s the first to come to after the Veela dance at the World Cup, and after that, he’s immune to Fleur, who is leaving the red-blooded boys of Hogwarts drooling in her wake.  It’s not that Harry could’ve had time to get used to her Veela power right away – they really only meet a couple of times during the year, and Roger Davies (her Yule Ball date, who she presumably at least eats with, and probably has class with) is still foaming at the mouth during the Ball.  It’s not a question of immaturity, the author’s been careful to slip in a canon crush and a subtextual crush at this point.  Harry’s just not into the hottest girl in Britain since Anne Boleyn.

I got nothin’ for Krum, except that he is cool, and he and Harry are cool, which I love.  (And Eastern European accents are sexy.  Ahem.)

I’m actually of the opinion that Harry has a canon, part of the story, no-s**t-really crush on Cedric.  Cedric has handsome gray eyes!  Cedric is brave!  Cedric loves Quidditch and OMG so does Harry!  Cedric is totally the cutest Hufflepuff EVAH and don’t let anyone lie to you!  Harry’s reaction to Cedric, again, far overwhelms his reaction to Cho, to the point where if it wasn’t for the “stomach flip” in PoA, we’d be forced to assume Harry’s feelings for her are a projection of his Gay, Gay Love for Handsome Cedric (and I’m not entirely convinced that they’re not).  Harry deliberates excessively over his decision to tell Cedric about the dragons, and is mortified to approach him in front of the girls in the hallway.  Then he agonizes over whether to take Cedric’s advice, whether to accept use of the Prefects’ bathroom.  Harry’s a kid in desperate straits here, and yet he’s oozing neuroses over his conversations with Cedric instead of, you know, the lunatics out to kill him.  This dynamic doesn’t exist with the other two champions – he likes and respects Fleur and Victor, but doesn’t get the butterfly tinglies about them.  (Or swim in their bubble baths.  Honestly.  I’d make a joke, but it’s just too easy.)  Cedric playing Seeker in Quidditch also shows an interesting narrative potential:  Harry has some sort of tense relationship with damn near every other Hogwarts Seeker we get to know.  Ginny and Cho, of course, are his canonical love interests, Draco is his Schoolboy Nemesis (OR IS HE?)…and Cedric is Cedric.  This particular dynamic adds to the narrative, enhancing the shock and pathos at his Tragic End.  It ensures that we know the character so we are genuinely hurt when Voldemort takes him, and it helps to solidify Fearless Leader’s hatred of the enemy.  (My name is Harry Potter, you killed my Sexy Gay Crush, prepare to die.)

Compare this to the women in Harry’s life in fourth year.  For all he notices how pretty Cho is, he’s not any more concerned about her underwater than he is about Gabrielle.  And compare the descriptions of her with the descriptions of her boyfriend:  she’s pretty, yes, and Harry notices her across the Great Hall, and all the boys like her, but we don’t get the gushing, romance-novel review we get of Cedric.  Ginny barely gets a mention, most notably as the girl Neville beat Harry to asking.  Harry’s decidedly underwhelmed by his Yule Ball date, even though Dean’s just told us how blazing hot she is.  Again, it makes sense with Ron, he’s canonically mad for Hermione (and too busy hero-worshipping her date?), but Harry’s crush on Cho is just beginning to gain speed.  Can’t the boy get a little love?  Apparantly not.  He could’ve, he’s a Champion and the Boy Who Lived and according to Hermione, not totally unfortunate-looking.  Harry can put his relationships with girls aside when it’s important, even if not totally immediate.  His feelings about the boys in his life are tougher to shake.  There’s not that many more men in the narrative than women, and the women are interesting, well-written, strong characters.

GoF also shows the sexual behavior split that starts to show up between Harry and Ron.  Harry doesn’t come off as a bit queer simply because his writer doesn’t write dude’s dudes well.  No, Ron is the quintessential Cool Straight Guy.  Ron’s Raging Teenage Hormones(TM) are readily apparant, and while I’m not prepared to argue that this is meant as a foil to Harry’s noticeable lack thereof at this point in the story, it certainly serves that way.  Ron is throwing himself at Veelas, moping over Hermione, terrified of his Yule Ball date.  And Harry is mooning over Cedric.  Oh, I mean Cho.  Mmm-hmm.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix:

First off, Lupin and Black.  Two characters with potentially queer-coded backstories, going all the way back to PoA, are now living together.  Can a werewolf and a convict share a haunted evil mansion without being madly in love?  Yes, but it’s not nearly as much fun.  And it’s not, you know, unusual for adults who are already marginalized by society to be “roommates” to the rest of the world, especially “in front of the children.”  i know my uncles did it for years.  It’s not fair or right that it should be that way, but for some people it’s just easier, and I certainly don’t blame anyone for that choice.  The only times in the series thus far that Lupin has jumped in as a father figure to Harry has been in conjunction with Black’s godfather duties – wealthy Sirius buys the gift that intuitive Remus picks out, and both of them are present for Harry’s Pensive-related Daddy issues, even though it would’ve only actually taken one of them to say no, I promise, your Da was a good guy, and your Mum really loved him.  Sirius shows a distinct disinclination to listen to anyone but Remus, and he’s also one of the very few people in the series about whom Remus shows emotion.  I think there’s more than ample room in the text to read them as two people who are partners, or who have been at some point in their lives.  We have little basis for comparison as to how Sirius treats his friends, but Remus is surrounded by trusted associates who know his secret and still value him deeply.  He needn’t fall back into the intense relationship (romantic or not) with Sirius that I imagine existed in their adolescence, he’s a sadder and wiser man, but they continue to be deeply important to each other.  I’d also like to point to their shapeshifting abilities (which Black learned for Lupin, I know I don’t change into a dog for my roommates) as at least having the potential to symbolize the idea that these two characters are more than they seem.

We also meet Tonks in this book.  An Auror in her early twenties, Tonks possesses the ability to change her entire appearance at will.  She’s intriguing from a gender issues perspective, but in a series of high femme women, her tough and casual persona, combined with the symbolism of her mutable body, can also easily read as gay or bisexual.  (Hold that for Deathly Hallows, coming soon.)  Tonks herself is also the product of rebellion against the sexual norms of wizarding society, with a Muggleborn father and a mother from the Noble and Most Ancient House of You’d Better Make Some Pureblood Babies.

Oooooh.  And such a charming comment on traditional heterosexuality, especially as manipulated for power.  Bellatrix is a sexual character, even clueless Harry clinically notes her beauty, and she’s terrifying.  Her thrall to Voldemort, shown in GoF,  keeps her from even glimpsing at her husband during her trial.  When escaping from the department, Voldemort is careful to draw Bellatrix to himself and take her, when her crazy ass could’ve easily been neutralized back in Azkaban with his less favored minions.  The only act even resembling affection that Voldemort shows (and I don’t think it’s any more than an affection coming from amusement and ego-stroking, but still) is towards one of his few women, who is La Sex.

And with all the disdain for compulsory heterosexuality, with none of those pesky evil calories, is Harry’s train wreck of a relationship with Cho.  The reader doesn’t even see the initial kiss, we just hear that Harry thought it was “wet” (wet!).  And that he likes her and wants to go to Hogsmeade with her, but as usual, it can go immediately on hold for the war effort.   But we’re not out of the shadow of Cedric and his death, and they eventually break up.  I’m in total sympathy with poor Cho, she should’ve been hauled off to therapy the instant the Hogwarts Express pulled into London (so should Harry, for that matter).  Yet we’re consistently reminded of both of their deep, conflicted feelings for Cedric.

Also, the Room of Requirement – the Come and Go Room, it’s really almost too easy – is a fantastic comment on the author’s opinion of adolescent sexuality in general.  J. K. Rowling has, in several interviews,  made it clear that she thinks sexuality is a positive part of life, and that it’s okay for young adults to explore their romantic selves.  And it’s damn near impossible to imagine that there’s not any sneaking in after curfew.  I bet the NEWT kids have a schedule up somewhere.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Or, Harry Potter and the Gay, Gay Plotline.

We get to the Burrow and see Fleur again – again, Ron’s stunned in her path, Harry’s chillin’ with the girls.  It’s not that Harry doesn’t respond at all, but he recovers mighty quickly, especially, again, in comparison to Ron.

Who does he respond to?  Young Riddle.  Riddle is handsome, he oozes charisma, and while Harry doesn’t ever cease to see Riddle for what he is, he’s constantly attuned to Riddle’s emotions and physical presence.

Tom’s story is another searing comment on dirty, dirty breeder love.  Merope, desperate to escape her loveless familial life, gives Riddle, Sr. a Love Potion (a jumped-up date rape drug, see Harry Potter and the Feminist Fairy Tale), and he ends up never even finding out he has a son until his murder.  Marvolo and Morfin, as well as Riddle and Merope, are defined by their heterosexual baby-making instincts, and not in a good way.

Our first Potions class with Slughorn introduces Amortentia, and with it, overt sexuality.  Harry’s reaction to the Potion is wonderful, in terms his growing maturity, foreshadowing his relationship with Ginny, and – of course – our beloved subtext.  Harry smells “treacle tart, the woody smell of a broomstick handle and something flowery he thought he might have smelled at The Burrow (HBP, “The Half Blood Prince”).  The scent of Amortentia is a blatant expression of the individual sexuality of the person smelling the potion, and Harry thinks of a genderless treacle tart, a feminine flowery scent, and the wood of a broomstick handle.  (Again, with the too, too easy.)  Yes, all of those things add up to Ginny – and to any number of other Weasleys.  He pointedly didn’t smell the flowery fragrance at Hogwarts, where he’d have noticed Ginny’s perfume, or whatever it was.  After the sensual description of the fragrance, he leans over and looks not at some bootylicious Ravenclaw, but at Ron.  Yes, that’s the kind of thing I share with all my buddies.  And for Ron not to be drooling towards Hermione in the presence of the Potion is an odd step out of his usual behavior.  Ron’s generally not very subtle about his Epic Love for Our Heroine.  Kind of like how the ocean is really not very dry.

And speaking of Love Potions.  How painfully well-adjusted, or fully oblivious, is Harry, to be actually unconscious of his fan club?  They’re not exactly subtle, nor do any of them sound unattractive, even.  But he sure as hell knows that Ernie MacMillan trusts him, but Zacharias Smith, not so much.  Harry’s not a sexist thug.  He respects McGonagall, misses his mother fiercely, knows he’d hed be six feet under without Hermione.  He just doesn’t notice women in the same way he notices men.

Enter our new second tier baddie, Fenrir Greyback.  Fenrir’s a fascinating phenomenon.  He’s not the reason people hate werewolves – people fear the Other – but he’s sure as hell the excuse for Remus’ suffering at the hands of the Ministry.  He’s a comment on the author’s concept of choice.  It is not an inherently immoral thing to be a werewolf, but it is an inherently immoral thing to intentionally cause others that particular suffering.  What does this have to do with queering the magical world?  Well, we’d have heard if there was more than one Fenrir.  Oh, Remus tells us the werewolves don’t like the Ministry, but is careful to explain to us that there’s good reason for that.  For every one psychopath in an outsider group, there’s many insiders and aspiring insiders who will use that psychopath for politcal gain, or for the simple pleasure of being Not Them.  We shouldn’t judge the Remuses of the world based on their associated Fenrirs, the narrative tells us.

Harry himself grows up a ton in his sixth year, and we finally see him having a functional relationship.  Harry’s relationship with Ginny is sweet.  No fireworks, no tears…but, well, no fireworks or tears.  Harry’s desire is clearly established in canon, and I am not arguing that it does not exist, simply that his relationship with Ginny is not the alpha and omega of Harry’s sexuality.  I am no literary critic, nor am I a total fool who missed the clues.  But there’s just not the fire on Harry’s part that we see in his fierce friendships, in his burning hatred, in his passionate respect for his few role models.

Or his enmity with Draco.

Much like Ron and Hermione can always draw each other out, Potter and Malfoy just love to take each other’s bait.  They play the same Quidditch position, and fight on the field!  They snipe at each other’s clothing!  They throw around vicious insults!  They “YOUR MOM” each other without even a hint of irony – and when that happens, something must be afoot.

Harry’s fascination with Draco Malfoy, which flutters in and around the storyline for the entire series, suddenly comes to a head.  Draco is now a necessary part of Harry’s trials for the year as he attempts to let the Death Eaters into Hogwarts.  The language around Harry’s investigation of Draco is clearly sexual.  Hermione and Ron ask if he is “obsessed with Malfoy,” Harry-the-narrator admits he’s “rapidly becoming obsessed with Draco Malfoy” not too long after we have been introduced by Slughorn to the dangers of “obsessive love.”  (“I want to see what Draco Malfoy is doing inside you”?  I call it scandalous.)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

DH is inarguably the straightest book in the series (though I’m not sure that’s saying much), but characters with queer undertones in their stories do tend to continue as such.

The Muggle-Born Registration Commission, although it has many tragic historical parallels, can serve as a forceful reminder of the House Un-American Activites Committee in the US during the Cold War.  Just as being poor, or admiring of Dumbledore, landed witches and wizards in front of Dolores Umbrige, queer individuals in 1950’s America risked being labeled as Communists, losing any prospect of gainful employment.  (Umbridge’s claim of the locket as “proof” of Selwyn blood, thus, is quite the parallel to J. Edgar Hoover’s habit of hiding his drag.  I may never recover.)

Although I read neither character as heterosexual, I did enjoy Lupin and Tonks as a couple, and found that it fit within my reading of the two characters.  Lupin’s behavior in HBP and DH, after all, is more emotional than we ever see him – a man under the stress of war, and also a man who’s just lost a loved one.  His pervasive misery in HBP and his bizarre decision-making in the first half of DH were, to me, oddly reminiscent of Harry during OotP after Cedric’s death.  Their relationship problems in DH (which we do only hear about from Lupin), both internal and external, come partially from Lupin’s grief over Sirius, but also from the fact that they’ve violated an unjust sexual taboo of their culture.  Lupin tells us at Grimmauld Place that “[m]y kind don’t usually breed,” and that “[e]ven her own family is disgusted by our marriage” (DH ch. 11).  They are a man and a woman, yes, but they are facing the fear of the Other that many gay couples still have to endure.  Bellatrix’s utter loathing of her niece is partially obsequience to Voldemort, and partially because Tonks is the product of an “unworthy” relationship, who is in an “unworthy” relationship.  The message of Lupin and Tonks is not that everyone should get married and make babies, it’s that only the truly cruel will begrudge us those that we love; only the actually deranged would deny us our families.  That’s a message that matters to everyone, but is particularly critical for queer-identified people.

Harry himself, of course, ends up with the Lovely and Talented Ginny Weasley.  Again, I don’t look to deny their relationship, just to argue that it’s simply not all there is to Harry and his sexuality.  In distinct opposition to the dynamic between Ron and Hermione, where they balance and rely upon each other, Ginny is notably far down the list of People Harry Needs.  (And yes, I am an Evil Woman who giggled when Draco’s wand felt “friendlier” in Harry’s hand.)  I don’t begrudge Harry his Happily Ever After – I just don’t think it’s all there is to him.

Am I arguing that Harry’s gay?  That the story is gay, but the character isn’t?  Both, sort of.  Harry’s working through his relationship with the world around him, and his feelings about the people in it, in the same messy way we all do.  The narrative necessity of telling the story through Harry’s eyes, along with the unflagging innocence and self-consciousness of the character himself, ensures that the reader can draw her own conclusions, which will be different every chapter, every time.  Harry’s struggles fit into an outsider narrative because he is an outsider by nature of his world, his individual experience, and his inherent self.  Because of this outsider status, and specifically because of representations of the people in Harry’s world, the series can have a queer reading.  The author has depicted the hero’s journey in such a way that can include all of our heroes.

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