The inherent homophobia of the Harry Potter series

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I feel like every time I talk about Harry Potter I have to start the conversation with, “I love Harry Potter, but…” in the way that one talks about a relative who used to get us good birthday gifts but now we realize are a bigoted piece of shit. It’s a too accurate comparison, since I’ve always felt that this series played as big of a part in my childhood as my family did. And, just like with many of my relatives, my relationship with the Harry Potter series is strained by the fact that I’m a woman who likes women, and JKR, like these subtly and not so subtly homophobic family members, doesn’t seem to like queer people very much.

To be fair, Joanne K Rowling doesn’t seem to like abuse victims, fat people, people of color or the mentally ill very much either, but I digress.

I have a Harry Potter tattoo. I own a bunch of Harry Potter merchandising, and the books, and a couple movies, and some of the video games too. And yet, my relationship with this series that has been so integral to my life since I was six years old is now tainted by bitterness. The recent premiere of the Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them has only increased this resentment.

I think this is a good time to review the homophobia that’s plagued the worldbuilding of the Harry Potter universe from, at the very least, 1999, the year Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was released.

Remus Lupin, Fenrir Greyback and predatory gays

A screencap of Remus Lupin as portrayed in the Harry Potter movies.

A screencap of Remus Lupin as portrayed in the Harry Potter movies.

Though this has always been public knowledge, both because of the blatant intent easily caught by critics when the third book of the Harry Potter series and from what JKR has repeatedly said in interviews for over a decade. Yet, with seventeen years worth of chances to realize just how homophobic the metaphor is, JKR still insists that lycanthropy is a metaphor for AIDS. In a recently published e-book (“Short Stories From Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship, and Dangerous Hobbies”) she writes:

“Lupin’s condition of lycanthropy was a metaphor for those illnesses that carry a stigma, like HIV and AIDS,” Rowling writes. “All kinds of superstitions seem to surround blood-borne conditions, probably due to taboos surrounding blood itself. The wizarding community is as prone to hysteria and prejudice as the Muggle one, and the character of Lupin gave me a chance to examine those attitudes.”

The reader might now ask (as many of those who insist on defending JKR’s character have), “how is this homophobic?” Well, it all begins with a long withstanding urban myth that appeared in the late ‘80s: the “pin prick attacks” and similar stories.

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supernova

¡mi amor! la vida recién empieza
acercate
tenés la piel como sol de enero y
la sonrisa en llamas,
las tardes envidian tu calor

no te apagues
sonreíme que no me quedó verano y no me quedaron soles
desmantelame
soy ofrenda soy silencio soy todo lo que quieras
mientras pueda ser en tu sonrisa

el invierno se arrastra largo
de chaparrón en chaparrón
de ausencia en ausencia
y yo te busco en los cielos grises
en las plazas, en las avenidas

es un arte
(el estar acá cuando todo lo que quiero es estar allá
arriba
donde el sol, donde tu sonrisa)

supernova

my love! life has just started
step closer
you’ve got the skin like january sun and
the smile aflame,
the evenings envy your warmth

don’t let yourself grow dim
smile at me –i ran out of summer and i ran out of suns
dismantle me
i’m an offer i’m a silence i’m anything you want
as long as i can be within your smile

winter drags along too long
from downpour to downpour
from absence to absence
and i look for you in the grey skies
in the parks, in the avenues

it’s an art
(being here when i only want to be there
higher
where the sun, where your smile)

All men

All men are misogynists. All men are pieces of shit. I’m scared of all men. I’m distrustful of all men. I hate all men.

All men expect me to take the time to say “not all men are pieces of shit”, but none of them are willing to fight for my rights, none of them want to clean the machismo off their language, none of them is defending the women in their lives, none of them stands up to other men, none of them suffer what we suffer.

They want me to worry over whether my “I hate all men” hurts their feelings but they don’t care about the state of everlasting terror in which I live, in which we live.

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Todos

Todos los tipos son misóginos. Todos los tipos son una mierda. Les tengo miedo a todos los tipos. Les tengo desconfianza a todos los tipos. Odio a todos los tipos.

Todos los tipos esperan que yo me tome el trabajo de decir “no todos los tipos son una mierda”, pero ninguno está dispuesto a militar por mis derechos, ninguno está dispuesto a limpiar su lenguaje de machismo, ninguno se pone a defender a las mujeres en su vida, ninguno se le planta a los otros tipos, ninguno sufre lo que nosotras sufrimos.

Quieren que yo me preocupe por si mi “odio a todos los tipos” los hace sentir mal pero no se preocupan por el estado de constante terror en que vivo, en que vivimos.

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Árbol de Diana

3

only the thirst
the silence
no encounters
beware of me my love
beware of the silent traveler in the desert
of the traveler with the empty glass
and of her shadow’s shadow

6

she strips in the paradise
of her memory
she disavows the savage destiny
of her visions
she’s afraid of not knowing how to name
what doesn’t exist

                           Alejandra Pizarnik (Argentina, 1936-1972)
translated by Andrea C.