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
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.