Most fans applaud Rowling's "outing" of Dumbledore

TORONTO Mon Oct 22, 2007 4:43pm EDT

Harry Potter novels sit on display at the Barnes & Noble bookstore before the midnight release of ''Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows'' by J.K. Rowling in Manhasset, New York July 20, 2007. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Harry Potter novels sit on display at the Barnes & Noble bookstore before the midnight release of ''Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows'' by J.K. Rowling in Manhasset, New York July 20, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

TORONTO (Reuters Life!) - The Muggle, or non-wizard, world is agog at author J.K. Rowling's bombshell announcement that one of the main characters in the Harry Potter books was gay.

By Monday afternoon, after a weekend of gossip about Rowling's "outing" of Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore, there were almost 6,000 comments on the issue on two popular Harry Potter Web sites, www.leakynews.com and www.mugglenet.com.

"Mostly people are happy that she has done this," said Melissa Anelli, webmistress of the Leaky Cauldron site, admitting that the site has seen a small subset of vocal readers unhappy at the revelation.

"I think it's great, I think the way she handled it was that this was just another fact about him, the same way that he's a teacher, he likes bowling, chamber music. And if more people were like that, we'd have less of a problem today."

Rowling unveiled her news in New York's Carnegie Hall on Friday, in answer to the question of whether Dumbledore -- a believer in the prevailing power of love -- had ever fallen in love himself.

"I always thought of Dumbledore as gay," she replied, explaining that Dumbledore fell in love with his brilliant friend Gellert Grindelwald, who later became a powerful dark wizard whom Dumbledore defeated.

In the book that describes their friendship, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows", one character says the two "got on like a caldron on fire."

"To have one of the coolest, most respected wizards in history and mentor of Harry Potter as gay, is the bravest move JKR has ever made. I salute her," a fan identified as "Shain" wrote on the Leaky site.

"Deathly Hallows" was the final installment of the Harry Potter series, where an orphan child wizard is pitted against the evil Lord Voldemort.

The series has already courted controversy for its themes of witchcraft, and is on many banned lists.

Dr. Solomon Shapiro, a child and adolescent psychiatrist who heads the Gender and Sexual Orientation Service at Toronto's Hincks-Dellcrest Centre said the revelation could be positive for gays.

"There's a paucity of gay characters in literature, especially in children's literature, which reinforces a belief that being gay is unusual and not normal."

"Having a positive gay role model in a popular children's series can help thousands of young people who are gay, or think they might be gay, come to fully accept themselves as they are."

Rowling, who appears in Toronto on Tuesday, said her books were a plea for tolerance.

"The Potter books in general are a prolonged argument for tolerance, a prolonged plea for an end to bigotry," Rowling said during the Carnegie event.