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ISSUE 121 VOL 6 PUBLISHED 11/2/2007

Wizard waves a rainbow flag

By Hannah Hayes
Staff Writer

Friday, November 2, 2007

What if Stan Lee, the co-creator of "X-Men," announced that Wolverine and Nightcrawler had engaged in a secret love affair?

How would you react? Or what if your favorite boy-band member, whose photos plastered your middle school-era bedroom walls, suddenly came out? Oh wait ...

Would the news change anything? Would it make them less admirable, desirable or commendable? Maybe it wouldn't matter at all, or maybe it would matter too much.

At Carnegie Hall on Oct. 19th, J.K. Rowling did the equivalent by outing Albus Dumbledore, head of Hogwarts.

It's almost unfathomable how much her series has meant to people around the world, but her billion-dollar bank account might give you some idea.

Harry Potter and all of the other characters that Rowling has created have become the heroes of today's young adult readers and then some, which might explain the uproar of support and contrasting complaints that arose from her response to a fan's question, "Does Dumbledore find true love?"

The reaction to "Harry Potter" has been overwhelmingly positive, motivating even the laziest of sixth graders to finish a 700 page book in two days.

But there have always been the Christian activist groups, which preach that Harry Potter is a multi-page advertisement for witchcraft; they are probably the same people who burned and stomped on Beatles records.

Needless to say, a gay character at the forefront of children's literature will only add fuel to their book burnings.

So was this public outing a jab at the Christian extremists? Was Rowling imposing her views on the public in hopes that they will accept homosexuals just as they accept Harry, or was it really a response to a simple question?

Even though Rowling claimed Dumbledore has always been gay and that she has always known it, other people, including fans, are a little skeptical.

Regardless of Rowling's motivations, the announcement might cause more confusion and humor than immediate tolerance.

Parents are suffering from night sweats, fretting over the moment their children ask, "Mommy, Daddy? What is 'gay?'"

YouTube videos of Dumbledore dancing the "YMCA" are eminent.

Melissa Anelli, the creator of the Harry Potter fan site "The Leaky Cauldron," has received 3,000 comments on this issue alone.

The comments range from "A gay character in the most popular series in the world is a big step for gay rights" to "J.K. Rowling should go back to the devil who spawned her."

But for those of us who find ourselves somewhere in the middle, tolerant but not convinced that this could be the last piece of evidence for Congress to approve gay marriage, we are motivated to question our assumptions and standards when it comes to characters in movies, television or books.

Did we never realize that Dumbledore was gay because he was more interested in fighting the dark side than deciding which pair of shoes he should wear?

Sadly, I think so.

When our pop culture exposure to homosexuality is limited to "Will and Grace" or Stanford on "Sex and the City," it is easy to spot the gay guy.

If Dumbledore had been drinking Cosmos in his office or hitting up the gay bars down the street from the Leaky Cauldron, then maybe we wouldn't have been so surprised.

I'm not overly "sunshine and rainbows" to call Dumbledore's homosexuality benign. We are too quick to define people by their sexuality rather than accept it as only a part of their larger identity.

I guess that sounds a little Pollyanna, too. In fact, I feel ridiculous using a fictional, 126-year-old wizard to illustrate the larger issue of representations of homosexuality in the media.

But maybe it does in fact take a fictional, 126-year-old wizard if that wizard is recognized in 65 different languages – spanning from the United States to Portugal to China – to promote acceptance in future generations.

Apparently hotties like Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger couldn't get the job done.

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