But given J.K. Rowling’s problematic comments about trans issues, is it too, little late?
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Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore

Warning: This article contains minor spoilers for Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore.

Almost 15 years after J.K. Rowling first declared that Albus Dumbledore is gay, the new Fantastic Beasts movie has finally made it canon.

The Harry Potter author first made headlines in 2007 when she revealed that she "always thought of Dumbledore as gay," speaking to fans at a post-publication event for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Since then, the Hogwarts headmaster's sexuality has been a hot topic, sparking discussion among fans and pop culture pundits alike for the last decade and a half.

Now, years later, Dumbledore's sexuality is finally being acknowledged outside of Rowling's Twitter account or the occasional offhand comment. Jude Law stars as the bearded wizard in Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, and the film clearly refers to Dumbledore's past relationship with ally-turned-enemy Gellert Grindelwald (played in Secrets of Dumbledore by Mads Mikkelsen, who took over the role after Johnny Depp departed the franchise).

Jude Law in 'Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore'
Jude Law in 'Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore'
| Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

One of the film's very first scenes is a meeting between Dumbledore and Grindelwald, where the pair discuss their childhood friendship and Grindelwald's current rise to power over a cup of tea. The two disagree over politics — Grindelwald wants to exterminate all Muggles, while Dumbledore decidedly opposes that plan — and Grindelwald asks his former friend why he's changed his mind. After all, he says, the two men made a vow to help change the world together.

Dumbledore blames it on youthful naivety. Besides, he adds, "I went along because I was in love with you." Later in the film, Dumbledore also tells other characters that he was in love with Grindelwald when they were both teenagers, and he alludes to their intense romantic relationship.

On one hand, it's surprisingly refreshing to see a mainstream tentpole movie with a canonically gay title character — especially one who acknowledges his sexuality on screen. At the same time, it's hard to see Fantastic Beasts as a particularly great step forward for representation. For one, Rowling has a long, looooong history of discussing Dumbledore's sexuality but never actually depicting it, either on screen or on the page. Not only is Dumbledore's sexuality never mentioned in any Harry Potter book or movie, but there have also been several films and a Broadway play — all of which have featured Dumbledore — since Rowling first made the declaration in 2007.

More importantly, Rowling has become a polarizing figure, especially when it comes to the LGBT community. The once-beloved author has come under fire for her repeated comments about trans people, comments which many have decried as transphobic. Several Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts cast members have denounced her views, as have leading LGBT organizations like the Trevor Project and GLAAD.

Dumbledore's dialogue also isn't in every edit of Fantastic Beasts. Warner Bros. has reportedly edited six seconds out of the film for release in China, cutting one line where Dumbledore tells Grindelwald "because I was in love you" and another where he refers to "the summer Gellert and I fell in love." Warner Bros. told Variety that the studio made the cuts to "comply with local requirements, but the spirit of the film remains intact."

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is in theaters now.

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