Daniel’s Journal #35 – The Big, Queer Post
It’s like I told my coworker this morning as he was calling another gay like his mind’s trapped in seventh grade: Why is that even an insult?
OK. My opening statement is a little off target. I have some opinionated knowledge to drop here. Some of it concerns writing, some of it concerns the perceptions of LGBTQ individuals, and all of it pertains to nothing in general.
Oh, and we’re going to talk about Harry Potter before we’re through.
I had a back-and-forth with a few people on social media over the weekend. We talked mainly about representation of queer characters in writing. “Inclusion” or “inclusivity” being the keywords. I believe in this, including all walks of life into my own stories. But I do have opinions that are somewhat unpopular.
The first is the touting of your character’s sexuality. The way it was explained to me (and I had them clarify so I know I got it), was that you need to be straightforward with what sexuality your character is. So if your character is gay, bi, ace, or anything else, you’re announcing this from the start.
I’m going to disagree here. Not in every case, obviously. Take Father Matthew from Blood Drive for example. He is gay, and it’s a big part of his character. The reader learns this in his first chapter. I have other characters in upcoming books of various orientations. One such character never reveals the fact that he’s gay. It’s in the subtext, subtly hinted by another’s POV, and it has little to do with the plot in general (though it explains a bit of why he does what he does).
In the second case, the character in question never has his own POV, so he can’t reflect on who he is and why he hides it. In this case, I did wrong based on the original assessment that all queer characters need to be identified outright.
But I’m not using my books to “queerbait” for LGBTQ readers. That’s a term I learned during this conversation too. My characters are who they are when the story shapes itself in my mind. I’m not using queer characters to garner attention from the LBGTQ readers community, and I don’t market it as such.
And here’s my second unpopular opinion of this post: My books shouldn’t be judged by the sexuality of my characters. Yes, Blood Drive has as number of queer characters, but it’s not an LGBTQ book. It’s a vampire action-comedy. My upcoming book Lost Women features gay and bisexual characters as well, but I won’t market it like that either. It’s a humorous ghost/horror story.
And therein lies my issue with this kind if rhetoric. Why shouldn’t regular books feature queer characters? Why should I have to market my books as LGBTQ products? It feels like I have to shove them into a completely different genre instead of the genres they were meant to be part of accepting them, queerness and all. Shouldn’t my queer characters be on par with those in books with all straight characters?
I’ll bring myself to the last point I want to make. And yes, we’ve come to the promised Harry Potter portion of this post. Sorry, but it’s a long one.
A few days ago, author JK Rowling made some comments on Dumbledore and his homosexuality. Turns out he’s a hardcore gay into some hardcore shit. OK… Maybe she didn’t say it quite like that, but still…
This is what bolstered the conversation about queer inclusion and inclusivity. She has no problem outing her characters in interviews after the story is over. I read the Harry Potter series multiple times. I got from the context of Dumbledore’s backstory from the last book to know he was gay. I even figured out he was gay for Grindelwald. It’s pretty obvious, even if it was supposed to be subtle.
So why wasn’t Dumbledore’s gayness told in the meat of the story? That’s what people are asking now. I figured he’s an educator and head of a school, and the magical world may frown on it. You hear nothing in the series of other gay or bisexual characters. It’s a big school, and I’m sure the older students would at least experiment. But no one is even a tad bi-curious.
Maybe there’s a homophobic witches and wizard movement like with muggles. Maybe some controversial right wing wizards brew potion that cures homosexuality. If Mike Pence was a wizard, I’m sure he’d fight to make taking said potion mandatory.
I took that too far, but you get the point (I hope).
So why bring it up now? Remember that term I used earlier? “Queerbaiting”. That’s what Rowling is being accused of all over social media. I don’t disagree. She’s using a character’s sexuality to get attention without outright saying in the books or movies he’s gay. It’s there, in the subtext. In the latest Fantastic Beasts movie, it’s more than clear Dumbledore is in love with Grindelwald, even if he doesn’t shout it from the highest tower of Hogwarts.
I have issues with JK Rowling and how she needs to drop Harry Potter bombshells once or twice a year. Dumbledore is gay. Harry should have ended up with Hermione. Hermione was black. Etcetera. I can write a whole post just about her pulling this shit, but I’ll save you that for now. I have a theory she wasn’t even the one who wrote the books.
There are tons of fan theories of who else in the Harry Potter universe could be queer, and I read a few of the popular ones. Ginny Weasley is bi. Percy Weasley is gay. Malfoy is trans. Tonks is a lesbian. But they’re all forced into straight relationships to fit the narrative. But none of this supports or opposes my argument, so let’s move on.
Let’s go back to my subtly written gay character from a book I have yet to publish. I think JK (or whoever wrote Harry Potter) was going for the same thing with Dumbledore. Yes, he’s gay, but it’s not something they address because of their position or societal restraints. When pressured by the fans, JK blurted out that he was, in fact, gay, something that should have been left to speculation since Dumbledore’s sexuality had nothing to add to the story. But him hiding it spoke volumes of the wizarding world’s anti-gay agenda. Hell, it wasn’t even a chapter in Rita Skeeter’s book: The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore. That’s how homophobic their society is. That would have been some juicy gossip for that tabloid book.
But JK can include or exclude as she sees fit in the books when it’s all said and done. It’s easy for me to talk about my out characters compared to hers since my books don’t have movie series, video games, Lego sets, Lego video game series based on the movies, or a theme park in Orlando attached to them. All I’m saying is out your characters in the books/movies or not at all. All you’re doing by bringing it up years later is queerbaiting for attention.
And that’s the point of all this. She wants people to talk. She wants us to pore over her books, looking for the evidence, the subtle clues. She wants some blogging independent author ranting about it. This is how she stays relevant, and she’ll use whatever people she can to stay that way.
I’m spent. I don’t know what else to say. If you want to join the discussion, comment here or harass me on Twitter: @daniel_aegan. The underscore is for the void in my soul.
If you need me, I’ll be working on my hardcore gay Dumbledore fan fiction.
Want more fun with queer characters? Check out Blood Drive by Daniel Aegan!