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Build not your house upon sand - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
Build not your house upon sand

Oh, dear. JKR has given another interview.

It was, what? A month or so after Book Seven was published? Just that, I think: it was perhaps a month or so after Book Seven was published that she stated that she had once believed that Neville and Luna weren’t likely to fancy one another, but that she was now rethinking that possibility. Now she’s decided that he’s married Hannah Abbott, and lives over the Cauldron, presumably commuting to Hogwarts by Floo. It would make much more sense, even in the context of her remarks (for which read, ‘random maunderings’) to have had Hannah take over the Broomsticks, and perhaps that’s what she meant, but, there, that is rather the point: the woman will say anything, and it varies from week to week. Damned careless, really.

And that is why I persist in holding that only what is typeset and published, is canon. To take the interviews as canon is a proceeding destined to disappointment and fraught with danger: you embark upon a twenty-chapter epic, and before you’ve posted Chapter Three, she changes her mind. Tiresome. We all recall the promised revelations we expected in the last book: learning who on the staff was married, seeing a Squib suddenly acquire his or her magic late in life, and All That. We are still, and will now forever be, waiting.

And this of course brings us to Albus Dumbledore.

What is unquestionably canon is that Elphias Doge had a quite devoted pash of which Albus was the object; that Albus in turn had a pash upon Gellert Grindelwald; and that Albus was, shall we say, markedly disinterested in women. La Rowling’s remarks really add little or nothing to this.

My dear, learned, and incisive friend, [info]flamewarrior, has said, 



Dumbledore being gay is such a huge gay-positive statement, far more so than any other character being gay, because Dumbledore is a headmaster, and not just any old headmaster, but the headmaster of the only school in the British Wizarding world. He has responsibility for almost all the Wizarding world’s children.

This is really radical stuff.

One of the most common and most pernicious false beliefs about queer people, particularly about gay men, is that they are ‘a danger to children’. Here is the good character in the canon HP universe, the only one who has spent his whole life protecting and caring for and educating children, and he’s gay.

In that context, I don’t even care that his love for Grindelwald was unrequited. I don’t doubt for a moment that he’s had other, entirely consummated, loves in his long lifetime. JKR rocks!

And that is, in the main, true. What I should have added, was, that it is gladsome to see a gay headmaster who is clearly simply gay, not a pædophile, an ephebophile, or a man with an unnatural interest in caning lads. For, after all, public school headmasters have, wait for it, form. Nicholas Udall, the author of Ralph Roister Doister and headmaster of
Eton from 1534 – 1541, was convicted under the Buggery Act 1533 for committing sodomy with two of his pupils. Under the Act, he should have been hanged upon conviction; instead, they put him in stir for a year and then made him headmaster of Westminster School (same thing, really). Keate was head beak at Eton from 1801 – 1834, and once caned as many as eighty boys in one day, although his sexuality is presumed to have been heterosexual. And then there was Anthony Chenevix-Trench, headmaster of Eton from 1964 – 1970 (and of Fettes thereafter): C-T was a drunken fladge-fetishist at best, and there are no few claims by Old Etonians that he interfered with them, or attempted to do. And then there were the Uranian masters who never became headmaster: Wm Johnson Cory, Oscar Browning….

Equally, at that place on the hill, the one named for an agricultural implement – ‘Harrow’, that’s it – the headmaster from 1844 – 1859, when he was forced to resign, was the pæderast Chas Jno Vaughan, DD, who was also forced to turn down the bishopric of Rochester in 1863: all as the price of not being exposed and prosecuted by the father of Jno Addington Symonds. And the Uranian
poet Fabian Strachan Woodley was an English master at Wellington.

Of course, in a world so small as the Wizarding world, with more offices to fill than people to hold them, everyone’s necessarily a pluralist: Albus was not only headmaster of Hogwarts, he was also, in effect, Lord Chancellor, Lord Chief Justice, Speaker of the House, HM Ambassador to the UN, and Secretary-General of the UN, all at once. And people went on asking him to become PM as well (I am deliberately using Muggle equivalents here). Well, formal or effective heads of government in British and English (pre-Union) history have been generally known or assumed to be gay, after all, from Buckingham to the Younger Pitt to Ted Heath.

And thus, whilst cheering JKR’s late remarks upon Dumbledore alongside the rest of you, I don’t know that I regard those remarks as being anything save confirmation of the only actual canon there is, that is, the text; I’m not sure to what extent this is radical on her part; and I don’t consider her remarks on Dumbledore, anymore than I consider her remarks on Hagrid’s marital prospects or Luna’s career or Nev’s choice of wife, to be canon or in any way binding, however welcome they may, as regards Albus, be.


ETA: We’ve all had characters who, proverbially, Took On a Life of Their Own.  I note that what JKR actually said was not, ‘I wrote him as gay’, but, rather, ‘I always thought of [him] as gay’.  One pash as a sixth-former is not dispositive: she has left herself an ‘out’, pardon the pun, and by next week's interview he may have been married to Minerva for forty years.  Would that the woman would simply put a sock in it.

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24 comments or Leave a comment
From: tree_and_leaf Date: October 20th, 2007 08:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
I quite agree with you - interviews are not canon† - despite the fact that I was unable to resist writing fic about it. It's a very oblique comment, though, which you may take as you will....

† I don't mind the interviews, though; sometimes I like the ideas, and if not, I capriciously ignore them.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: October 21st, 2007 03:50 pm (UTC) (Link)

And lovely fic it was, too.

And your footnote is, really, all one need say on the subject.
From: tree_and_leaf Date: October 22nd, 2007 06:45 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: And lovely fic it was, too.

Thank you; I enjoyed writing it, though I'm not sure whether there are any conclusions to be drawn from the fact that it emerged from my subconscious when I was listening to Vierne. Possible therapy for writer's block?
sgt_majorette From: sgt_majorette Date: October 20th, 2007 09:15 pm (UTC) (Link)

Would that the woman would simply put a sock in it...

Probably no one wishes that were possible more than our Jo her very self. What with people asking her for the minutest of details on the most obscure of characters, she is always popping out with details she obviously hasn't thought about.

I feel her pain, as small children are always asking me what my dolls are saying to each other; as I put them in the poses they hold, it might be reasonable to assume I know what they're up to, but I don't always. Sometimes I take JKR's route and make something up, and sometimes I just tell the kids to ask the dollies what they're doing.

We also know about her "over-the-shoulder" pages: stuff she writes because she has to get it out of her system, but that she knows she won't get away with so she crumples up the page and tosses it over her shoulder and proceeds to write the "real" chapter.

She only outed Dumbledore because the movie scripter was about to take him out of character...
wemyss From: wemyss Date: October 21st, 2007 03:51 pm (UTC) (Link)

Oh, surely.

My only quibble is when she then fishes the discarded rubbish out of the bin....
sgt_majorette From: sgt_majorette Date: October 22nd, 2007 01:37 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Oh, surely.

Really, she only fished that particular bit of rubbish out of the bin because the scriptwriter for the sixth movie had written a line for Dumbledore about a girl with beautiful hair, and she scrawled "Dumbledore is gay!" in the margin by way of explanation for crossing out that line.

Besides, there's probably some hard-core stuff in that rubbish bin. I'd buy it, if she chose to publish it under an assumed name.
tudorpot From: tudorpot Date: October 20th, 2007 09:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
Would that the woman would simply put a sock in it.Well said.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: October 21st, 2007 03:52 pm (UTC) (Link)


Obliged to you, m'dear.
serriadh From: serriadh Date: October 21st, 2007 12:22 am (UTC) (Link)
The really interesting question is: was he openly gay, or was it one of those things that most people knew and no-one talked about, or was he wholly closeted? Doesn't dear Rita make a few nasty insinuations about how close Harry and Dumbledore are?

From what we've seen, the WW is not the most tolerant and progressive of places, so if Dumbledore had one doomed tragic love affair and then lived a closetted life thereafter, pursuing that flighty temptress Adventure and wearing purple high-heeled boots, I wouldn't be surprised.
sgt_majorette From: sgt_majorette Date: October 21st, 2007 05:22 am (UTC) (Link)

You can't be closeted and wear purple high-heeled boots

What's the name of that guy who wrote all that droopy effete aristocrat {hearts} lusty country lad stuff that gets made into Merchant-Ivory movies? Wasn't everybody in England gay back then?

Why is everybody having the vapours over this? Too gay, not gay enough? That's why the Good Lord gave us fanfic, and that's why JKR is one of the few authors who encourages it.

wemyss From: wemyss Date: October 21st, 2007 03:55 pm (UTC) (Link)

EM Forster?

Not EVERYBODY. We'd none of us be here had they all been.
sgt_majorette From: sgt_majorette Date: October 22nd, 2007 01:42 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: EM Forster?

EM Forster, that's the stately one...

Well, but there's this other guy we read about back when all this was funny, who became impotent on his wedding night when he discovered that women had pubic hair. It took him quite some time to get himself together to Do His Duty For England.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: October 22nd, 2007 01:55 pm (UTC) (Link)

Ruskin, I believe.

And didn't that result in an annulled marriage? Perhaps not.
eagles_rock From: eagles_rock Date: October 22nd, 2007 03:46 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: EM Forster?

This may be one of those times when the truth is even better than the story; he didn't get himself together, no consummation was had and then the artist Millais joined them. Now there'a a man can make a woman look good. In a dead, under-water sort of way.

A link about the whole sorry set up, with a killer final line.


sgt_majorette From: sgt_majorette Date: October 22nd, 2007 08:46 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: EM Forster?


Well, at least somebody involved increased and multiplied...
nineveh_uk From: nineveh_uk Date: October 21st, 2007 05:46 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: You can't be closeted and wear purple high-heeled boots

That would be E.M. Forster, whose Maurice, one of the most appallingly cringe-worthy novels I have ever read, was, I think, published only after his death. I assume that this was because he was embarrassed by the prose rather than the subject matter.


On the other hand, after the register of worthies above, I really am going to have to pop back to the secondhand bookshop tomorrow to grab "The Captain's Fags. A Tale of School-Life".
wemyss From: wemyss Date: October 21st, 2007 06:09 pm (UTC) (Link)


... have won the intarwebs.
sgt_majorette From: sgt_majorette Date: October 22nd, 2007 01:46 am (UTC) (Link)


...was a miniseries on TV, the kind of thing we used to get together and watch while wasted, gagging and screaming and falling about the room, as they used to say.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: October 21st, 2007 03:54 pm (UTC) (Link)

Nor I.

I imagine it was one of those open secrets, of the 'everyone in the Westminster Village knew but the mere public wasn't let in on it' sort.
ellie_nor From: ellie_nor Date: October 21st, 2007 10:49 am (UTC) (Link)
I, too, wish she would just put a sock in it, for the most part. I also don't think that JKR was being deliberately or consciously radical - she has seemed singularly unaware of the implications of her words, written or spoken. I do think that the 'fact' itself is radical, but as you say, it's not canon because it's not stated openly in the books - more's the pity.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: October 21st, 2007 03:58 pm (UTC) (Link)

'Singularly unaware' is a nice touch.

And of course, yes, to all yr points. I just wished to note that the overseas readers seizing upon yr squee might not realise that schoolmasters as such are by no means new to gaydom, and, more pertinently, that JKR could have an entirely different view in a fortnight.
ellie_nor From: ellie_nor Date: October 21st, 2007 07:41 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: 'Singularly unaware' is a nice touch.

schoolmasters as such are by no means new to gaydom

That's true, but usually not in a positive way, as you outlined for us.

JKR could have an entirely different view in a fortnight.

::cackles:: Oh dear, JKR, what a woman...
eagles_rock From: eagles_rock Date: October 21st, 2007 06:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, I'm pleased about Albus, and agree with ellie_nor on the importance of said. I don't think he'll be straight in a fortnight.

I am a bit put out though, about Aberforth, and if I'd been asked about his goat habit yesterday morning, I'd have said his Patronus was a goat because he produced it by thinking about herding goats with his sister (she was calm when herding goats etc.), and that his inapproriate charmwork was trying to turn a goat into Adriana. But hey, what do I know.

I do wish she'd put a sock in it re: Neville etc. Has the feel of spurious nonsense about it, and I have much sympathy for you fic writers. One thing I'd like to see, though, is Lucius as a scheming father-in-law of Harry; a good one of those would have me gripped.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: October 22nd, 2007 01:53 pm (UTC) (Link)

How bona to varda your dolly old eek!

Yes, yes, and quite. My, but it's good to see you here again.
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