The Gay Romance In The Cursed Child: A Letter To JK Rowling

Dear Ms. Rowling,

My name is Jack, I’m a twenty year-old Gryffindor from the United States, and I just finished reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Well, okay, in all honesty every test I’ve taken says I’m a Ravenclaw, but I self-identify as a Gryffindor, and I think that’s what should count. It’s what you know to be true that matters, and that’s kind of why I’m writing.

I’m posting this letter with the understanding that you will undoubtedly never see it. And if by some miracle you do, it will hardly stand out from the mountains of correspondence you receive every day. But after finishing The Cursed Child, I feel like I have an obligation to reach out to you in this smallest way, even if it does nothing. To say something, if not on my behalf, then on behalf of the characters in your own story.

My life, like the lives of so many millions of people, has been profoundly changed by your stories. Your writing is a lens through which my reality will be forever refracted. Every streetlamp sparks a little more vitally since that first scene outside Privet Drive, poised on the edge of put-outer flight. Every star flares a little closer: is it a million miles away or just overhead, painting itself across an enchanted castle ceiling? And every pair of kind eyes blooms from behind a set of unseeable, undeniable half-moon spectacles.

But along with being a Harry Potter fanatic, I’m gay. Which brings me to why I’m writing. I read The Cursed Child in just a few hours, swept along by the magic and mystery, the old friends and the new ones and your triumphant return to the Wizarding World. But I was particularly captivated by the love story you wrote between Albus Severus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy. Because it is a love story, Ms. Rowling––a romance that blazes through the first 95 percent of your script before being suddenly snuffed out by the last 5 percent. At the end of Act Two, Scene Nine, Scorpius is “heartbroken” as he watches Albus walk away from him (120). In the beautiful Act Two, Scene 12 staircase scene, the boys are “lost and hopeful” as they look at each other, and when Albus breaks their gaze he breaks our hearts, too, because there’s something more than friendship there (127). Your characters are connecting in a way that only becomes clearer and more affectionate when Albus tells Scorpius he’s “the best person [he knows]” in Act Two, Scene 16 (143). Scorpius responds that he “didn’t much like [his] life without [Albus] in it either,” (143) and how can your heart not melt at that declaration of devotion? In Act Three, Scene Nine, Scorpius thinks of Albus to ward off dementors––a gesture of affection made overtly romantic by the fact that Snape uses his great love, Lily, to do the same. Snape has already pointed out that Scorpius is “giving up his kingdom for Albus” (193)––another act of devotion, sacrifice. And in Act Three, Scene 19, Scorpius is Albus’s emotional weakness.  Albus’s affection for Scorpius is the strongest way for Delphi to bend him to her will––more powerful than Albus’s regard for his father or even for his own life.

There are many more examples, Ms. Rowling, but the point is that Albus and Scorpius are more than friends. They’re falling for each other. And then the end of your script insists that they aren’t. Scorpius likes Rose, it says. Albus is looking for a girlfriend.

I don’t want it to hurt. I would love to laugh off my expectation of a gay romance, to sweep it aside as the pining of a young gay man for representation he doesn’t need. But I can’t, and it does hurt, because the relationship you crafted between Albus and Scorpius does more than ignore an opportunity for LGBTQ representation. You wrote a gay romance. You pulled us along by the power of that romance. And then you told us it was unacceptable. The more-than-friendly magnetism between the boys felt real. The strictly straight conversation at the end felt false, contrived. But the script sides with the straight, and in doing so it tells us that there’s a way things are done in this world. That whether you buy into it or not, heterosexuality is what’s normal and natural and inevitable.

This is not unusual. Our heteronormative society begs us to ignore the truth we feel in romance between men, to belittle anything outside heterosexuality and call it friendship. But the ubiquity of heteronormativity does not make it less painful, nor does it excuse the newest installment of the Harry Potter series from buying into it.

Ms. Rowling, I respect you immensely, and I know you to be a strong ally of the LGBTQ community. It means so much to know that Dumbledore is gay––that you have invited such an exceptional character from your novels into our community. But in writing a gay love story––or devising a gay love story and having Jack Thorne put it on paper––and then asking us to ignore that love, you are undoing some of the good you’ve done. Because your LGBTQ readers deserve better than to have the rug snatched out from under their feet.

I know that the script is finished: the books are printed and sold, and the play is flaming anew each night in the theaters of the West End. But if you cannot change your script, it is at least important to know what it does. I like to say that I self-identify as a Gryffindor because, all joking aside, I believe that the ability to define ourselves is our most fundamental human right. You created characters who clearly understand themselves to be falling for each other. To wrap up their story by suggesting it all meant nothing denies them that right––to define themselves––and endorses such denial to the rest of the world.

Respectfully,

Jack the Gryffindor

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