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Luna Lovegood Should Have Been a Lesbian

Discarding Dumbledore: How Rowling Seamlessly Cheapened yet Another Character's Impact by Making Her Straight


In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the fifth installation in the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling introduced Luna Lovegood.  Many readers were instantly infatuated by her quirky and often whimsical quips and characterisations, viewing her as a tribute to the weird.  However, Rowling went on to sell readers short on two accounts: she failed to address Luna's clear neurodivergence, and she lazily paired up Luna with the never-before-seen Rolf Scamander in an afterword to the series.  If lesbian readers did not deserve outward confirmation of Luna's lesbian status, they at least deserved not to have this identification dashed.  Luna's "otherness" is reflected in literary tradition surrounding lesbians, her social experiences in the isolation many lesbians experience, and her political interests in the methods employed by the lesbian community to invoke social change.

Luna Lovegood shares traits with a witch of a different sort: Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Willow Rosenberg, a confirmed lesbian.  Both women present lonely figures, isolated by their independence of thought, who are scooped up and subsequently rehabilitated by a "chosen one."  Where the first sign that Willow is a lesbian arises in Buffy's season three episode, "Doppelgangland," when a hidden side of Willow emerges in the form of her sexy, vampy, undead alternative self, it also follows that one of Luna's first defining moments is shrouded with the not-quite-dead: she is seen tenderly feeding a Thestral, a skeletal, winged horse only visible to those who have witnessed a death.  This is not a thread unique to Willow and Luna: the association between lesbians and the undead predates both works by over a century, originating with Joseph Sheridan le Fanu's 1871 novel Carmilla, which details a female vampire's love for a young woman.  Since Carmilla, the undead have been used repeatedly to allude to lesbianism in fiction without creating the social unease generated by using actual, human lesbians.  It surely follows that the use of Thestrals to define Luna's tenderness places her within the literary tradition of the undead being used to illuminate lesbianism where it is otherwise considered unacceptable.

In the real world, of course, lesbians are human—and Luna's own sense of standing within the open threshold of a house nobody wants to enter invokes the isolation felt by many adolescent lesbians.  When I was 14, I knew for sure that I was a lesbian.  Though comfortable with this, I felt firmly aware that I was set apart from my peers: of our 90-girl year group, three of us identified as either lesbians or bisexual.  Even among friends, it seemed that if I ever mentioned that I was gay, a swift subject-change would be initiated, much in the same way that even Harry Potter's protagonists are hesitant to ever label Luna as strange to her face out of some notion that it would be impolite even to acknowledge the difference.  When friends let me express the fact that I was gay just by talking about it, I felt as though they had stepped over a threshold that would always have welcomed them; they were letting me let them in to an integral part of my social and cultural identity.  I can understand, then, why Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows shows us Luna's bedroom ceiling adorned with intricate portraits of those who are willing to let her speak as herself rather than just be herself, and why they are linked together with one word: "friends."  Luna symbolises a shared lesbian experience of knowing what it is to be allowed to participate in the world rather than just to exist in it, particularly in the heat of adolescent identity-hunting.

Finally, then, Luna also represents the sociopolitical actions taken by those in the lesbian community.  She is an advocate for social change, opting to supplement the popular "Daily Prophet" with the much maligned "Quibbler," the latter being a key component that links her with her community.  She later uses The Quibbler as a means to support Harry himself in the fallout of a negative media storm, being sure to offer copies to classmates and speaking up against negative perspectives expressed by her peers.  Much as Luna expands her allotted social space into the supposedly neutral ground of Hogwarts to advocate for the socially maligned, so do lesbians circulate publications like G3 and GO, mostly amongst ourselves but with the options present for people outside our communities.  Luna makes herself unmissable as a member of Harry Potter's band of politically correct renegades, Dumbledore's Army, whilst lesbians organise "Dyke Marches," paying attention to minority groups within our community so that they might find a safe platform from which to voice their concerns.  Luna Lovegood's social and political behaviours are a microcosm of the lesbian community's similar political methods: we exist as a section of society making every effort to integrate into a world that does not always listen.

Thus, in all ways except for the fact that she is not a lesbian, Luna Lovegood is excellent lesbian representation.  She behaves in keeping with literary, introspective, and sociopolitical lesbian experiences, but Rowling deprives her—and us—of the explicit label.  We must, then, work to avoid this happening in other stories, perhaps by overcoming the fear of censure that seems to paralyse J.K. Rowling's expression of any non-status quo views to ensure that we are vocal about our representation.

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Luna Lovegood Should Have Been a Lesbian
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