Questions for discussion

Driving home from the youth service trip yesterday, we were delayed by a major accident on I-5; what should have been a six-hour trip turned into a nine-hour trip. We spent a lot of time talking, and one of the more interesting conversations was a long discussion of the Harry Potter universe.

Here are some of the questions we discussed (spoiler alert: plot twists are revealed in these questions):

(1) J.K. Rowling has said she thought of Dumbledore as being gay, but when she started publishing the books it wouldn’t do to have GLBTQ characters in books aimed at young people. We speculated that other characters might actually be GLBT or Q. Question for discussion: Which characters did you picture as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or questioning, and why?

(2) At the end of the series, we learn that Harry marries Ginny. There has been, of course, lots of online discussion about whether Harry should have married Hermione. But Harry could also have married one of the minor characters, instead of one of the central characters. Question for discussion: If Harry had to marry one of the minor characters, which one would he marry, and why?

(3) Final question for discussion: If you could be any character or creature in the Harry Potter universe, which one would you be?

13 thoughts on “Questions for discussion”

  1. Wow, I can’t resist this one. Great questions. Spoilers are here too.

    (1) Which characters did you picture as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or questioning, and why? I never did. But now that you ask, the major characters who come to mind are Sirius and Professor McGonagall. And Harry clearly finds girls appealing, but I can see him realizing he’s bi. It happens to plenty of people post-age 17.

    BTW, I don’t think Rowling herself has ever given a reason why she didn’t hint at Dumbledore’s sexual orientation in the books. It was just part of the backstory she had in her head. I suspect you are right about the reason it stayed there.

    (2) If Harry had to marry one of the minor characters, which one would he marry, and why? Is Luna a minor character? I like the connection that develops between her and Harry, and I could see it growing into romance and marriage because they share certain experiences (the death of a parent, witnessing someone’s death–well, by the end of the books, everyone’s had the latter experience) and she has an integrity and sense of self that are much like his.

    (3) If you could be any character or creature in the Harry Potter universe, which one would you be? Tonks. Pure wish fulfillment: I’m in love with Lupin. But then I’d be dead, so, not the best choice. I’d like to be an Animagus–none of the characters in particular who are (though if I were McGonagall I could also live at Hogwarts, very appealing), but just someone who can turn into an animal.

  2. agreed – what fun!
    1) Professor McGonagall, for sure; I definitely think of Tonks as queer and statistically speaking, it’s likely one of the Weasley clan is too. Maybe Ginny? I think Parvati may be as well, and there’s the self-loathing and surrounding himself with males who will be close to him but not question him that makes me think perhaps Draco. I do not think Severus – I think he really just pined for Lilly all his life, although Rickman’s excellent portrayal of him in the films just made him seem a little stereotypically queer. Sirius is a real contender, though. Oh! And Professors Flitwick and Grubbly-Plank??

    2) I think the argument for shared trauma makes the match between Harry and either Luna *or* Ginny make sense. But part of me thought that after everything they had been through, Harry might have sought out a partner from someone completely outside his Hogwarts clan. Maybe even (gasp) a Muggle.

    3) Way too many choices to decide!

  3. Oooh I love this kind of stuff.
    1) I know this is conforming to a stereotype, but Madam Hooch is clearly a member of the committee, as even those dopey filmmakers figured out. I agree that McGonagall seems likely — I was disappointed when JKR released that whole back story on Pottermore about her marriage. I always liked the idea of the much-discussed Sirius/Remus love affair, but there really is no basis for it in the books. Mad-Eye Moody seems gay to me, but that might be because I think that no woman in her right mind would go near him, whereas men will do anything. Of the kids, Neville’s gay, Luna’s bi, Percy’s gay (of the Log Cabin variety), and Millicent Bulstrode will sleep with anyone who dares come near her, and owns a lot of, um, equipment.
    2) Harry wants, more than anything else, to be part of a loving family, and there’s no family he loves more than the Weasleys. His marriage to Ginny is at least as much about wanting to be a Weasley as it is about Ginny herself.
    3) I love Dumbledore, but I don’t think I could ever be him. I aspire to, though. I’d sort of like to be Hermione, except that I wouldn’t want to be in love with Ron. It might be fun to be Luna Lovegood, except that she’s pretty lonely. I think I’d be happy just working in Flourish and Blotts.

  4. (1) Which characters did you picture as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or questioning, and why?

    I agree with a lot of the ones people have already suggested, though I think both Neville and Luna are both bi AND asexual and their relationship makes sense to me as a rather platonic/romantic one. Draco’s clearly got some internalized homophobia going on, and probably has a secret crush on the local muggle postman. Percy “ping”ed my “dar” as we would say in the colloquial speech of my community, as did Sirius.

    A LOT of the professors seemed like “family” to me. Which makes Hogwarts a place of refuge in a different sort of way. It’s a place where it’s acceptable to be single as an adult, which means it can also be a place for those who simply aren’t interested in being partnered for whatever reason, or who have lost their partner and want to create family and parent children who aren’t theirs biologically. It is a “queer” place in a number of ways.

    (2) If Harry had to marry one of the minor characters, which one would he marry, and why?

    Oh! Hmmmm. It’s hard to say because he wants to be a Weasley so badly and Ginny is clearly the best match for him in that family. I could see him connecting with someone we didn’t meet in the books, who was fighting against the dark arts on another continent at the same time- someone he meets as a Auror later while they’re on a mission together.

    (3) If you could be any character or creature in the Harry Potter universe, which one would you be?

    I’m a McGonagall, I think. I love to teach, I’m an institutionalist, I’d love being Dumbledore’s right hand, and it would be super fun to turn into a cat. She’s fierce.

  5. 1. Maybe my imagination is narrow. I never thought of LBGT at all when I was reading the books. I was initially surprised that the pairing was not Harry and Hermione, but, given their histories, Harry and Ginnie seemed very possible, too. I was, however, quite surprised at how boring their married life was described to be for both couples. They were adventurous spirits.
    2. Never gave it much thought.
    3. Definitely Neville. His is the only character that really changes and develops throughout the books. The others, including Harry, Hermione, and Ron, grow older, but really stay the same throughout. Neville goes from being an overprotected, scared little boy, with no sense of his own strengths and self-worth. When he develops skills with plants, it’s not hot and sexy, so he still feels inadequate. By the end he is a student leader, with strength and imagination. Harry always goes it alone. Neville gathers others and pulls the community together, which then has strengths greater the the sum of the parts.

  6. Caitlin, I was especially struck by your comment about Hogwarts being a place where “it’s acceptable to be single as an adult,” etc. As someone who has been proudly UNmarried to the same woman from 25 years, I feel that way about my UU community — it’s a place where different kinds of families are embraced into one big (sometimes mildly dysfunctional) extended family.

  7. I am very glad I wasn’t drinking anything when I read Caitlin’s comment that Draco “probably has a secret crush on the local muggle postman.” It would explain a lot.

    I wonder if the Hogwarts staff trigger an LGB alert because none of them has a hint of a partner except Hagrid. It’s a grand place to be single, but is it a good place to be married? OTOH, why not . . . it’s such a big castle, with so many secret rooms, that one would imagine a whole family could probably live very happily free of the entanglements of one person’s school job. The house-elves would send up food every meal.

  8. It is odd that they all seem single and none seem to have children or in fact any kin enrolled in the school which is odd given this is supposedly the only school in Great Britain. As for the questions

    1. Voldermort doesn’t have any sexual interest in anyone.

    2. Luna seems one choice for Harry. She always treats him as Harry not as the boy who lived and she can understand being the odd person.

    3 Hermione.

  9. I, too, was struck by Caitlin’s comment about Hogwarts. Primarily this statement: “Which makes Hogwarts a place of refuge in a different sort of way.”

    A friend of mine in our UU congregation has a transgendered teenage daughter. When she was a little boy, and her “differences” were becoming apparent, my friend was very supportive. Although, living in the Bible best as we do, she realized that there was a safety issue involved in encouraging her young son to dress in “girl’s clothes” and be otherwise open about who he understood himself to be, so she offered him the following perspective. “Think of the neighborhood and school as the Muggle World. It is important to appear to be like everyone else so they will not be afraid of what they don’t understand. Home and Church are like Hogwarts. There you can be your true, magical self, and everyone will Love you for it.”

    J.K. Rowling created a masterpiece of metaphor, which lends itself to application in so many situations. A place of refuge in a different sort of way.

  10. 1. All of them. But it is possible that boarding school is less fun than I imagine.
    2. I’m team Luna as well.
    3. I’m an aspiring McGonagall. But I have a long way to go.

  11. 1. Draco, Crabbe, and Goyle. Sybill Trelawney. Gilderoy Lockhart. Peter Pettigrew. Dolores Umbridge. And, last but very far from least, Tom Riddle.
    2. Luna Lovegood, for reasons given above, and also because my daughter identifies with her.
    3. A Centaur.

  12. 1. Not too sure how to answer this one without falling into stereotyped thinking.

    2. If Harry married anyone else, I think it might have been Luna.

    3. Molly Weasley. I love her mama energy and strength.

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