I’ve loved the Harry Potter books for nearly all my remembered life. Getting lost in the Chamber of Secrets my solace and my fortitude on that wet night in September 2005 when I stayed at a friend’s house because a flood had destroyed our apartment. Harry’s scream of primal rage in Order of the Phoenix “THEN I DON’T WANT TO BE HUMAN” reverberated through my soul and has validated my grief at so many losses, as has his quiet devotion when digging a grave by hand in Deathly Hallows. The joy, elation, and camaraderie of friendship at the Quidditch World Cup in Goblet of Fire is something I treasure, as it shows just how good things can be even when they can also go so, so wrong. And throughout the books, every feeling, every emotion, every lesson learned, big and small has been internalized until I have felt it in my bones, woven it into the fabric of myself. In many ways, Harry Potter taught me how to be.
And yet, it wasn’t really the books that taught me that, was it? Because the thing is, so much of what I learned from Harry Potter, I also learned from outside Harry Potter. So many of the lessons I learned from the series were not quite things I learned from the books directly, but because I took my love of the books, and sought out others like myself. At the ripe age of nine I decided to claim 1986 as my birth year of choice and went on an adventure through all the forums I shouldn’t have been allowed in, making friends, reading fan theories and essays about the next book, about the philosophy of Harry Potter, and what it all really meant in the end. The foundations of my theology and epistemology became focused not only on this boy wizard, but also on the rules of his world. I started to categorize all people and all actions in terms of Slytherin/Hufflepuff/Ravenclaw/Gryffindor, I adopted the ideas of what was good and what was evil, I valorized love — but the way I did that wasn’t even precisely based on the series itself. My philosophy was instead modeled on the essays and blog posts I read and the themes of my favorite wrock songs.
At a certain point, I started to internalize frameworks from the fanfiction I read — reading books and watching television shows because they had either been in a crossover story or because they had been heavily referenced by a character in the fic. I started listening to musical artists because they were referenced in songfics that I read. It got to the point where I sorted out my life and my actions based on the latest fanfic I was reading, and I had almost stopped reading original content entirely if it hadn’t been referenced by a fanfic first. I spent all my time reading and writing about Harry Potter, in Harry Potter forums, and when I was old enough, I started attending wizard rock concerts, events, and conventions.
All that said, one of the most important things that engaging with Harry Potter gave me was the ability to engage with my identity in a way that felt both tangible and healthy. Despite my family and friends, I grew up feeling alone and isolated, no matter how much or how often I was reassured that I was loved. I felt like the odd one out, and like if anyone knew the truth of who I was I would be shunned for the rest of my existence. Those were very dark times. I was like Harry in Order of the Phoenix, hiding from the Weasley’s and Hermione because he assumes if they knew he was possessed by Voldemort and held a piece of the Dark Lord inside of him they would hate him. In that moment Harry is disgusted by his very self, exactly as I was.
In the end, Harry goes through many trials, his friends and mentors help him, guide him, fail him, help him to thrive, and help him to fall. And some of them die. But in the end Harry is happy and healthy and fulfilled, and not only achieves a victory, but also in the end has the life and family he has always wanted. I can nitpick and say that there are things that I do not like about the way the series ended, the pairings, the children’s names, what have you. But what Harry’s journey helped me internalize was that I, like Harry, am strong enough to come out on the other side. And what fandom made me realize is that there are thousands of ways to tell a story. Millions. There are so many different Harry Potters in this world, so many ways to be. And the Harry Potters that I like best? Are hella queer.
The first time I ever realized that queer folk had fully realized existences, experiences, and a presence in the world was in Harry Potter fanfiction. Fanfiction, for me, was my first foray into queer sex ed. Many fics leave much to be desired in this regard, but by the time I was in middle school or thereabouts I had a computer in my bedroom and even though my Wi-Fi USB stick (and if you don’t know what that is you’re lucky) got taken away at night I had long since learned that I could save webpages as files and have a split desktop & encrypted files my mom didn’t know about. (Sorry mom! I know you will read this.) A lot of the fic was… not great. But over time, many fics started to self-correct. And the stories themselves would debunk myths that I hadn’t even realized I was being taught wrong in school, but once I looked into it, found out that the fanfiction was right and the teacher was wrong, about ALL kinds of sex. (I am looking at you, broken hymens, and blood on the sheets.) Fanfiction exposed me to all kinds of relationships and dynamics, including rather importantly ones that had healthy boundaries. There are all sorts of awful fics that do not do that sort of thing, but those are not the kinds of stories I tend to read.
As I got into high school and my fanfiction reading increased, I also became more involved with listening to wizard rock & I became heavily invested. I bought merch, frequently commented on videos, and engaged with others on forums and social media, and was thoroughly enthralled. I started going to shows, and in late high school and college going to cons, when I could afford it around my class schedule. In college I joined my university’s Quidditch team and their chapter of the Harry Potter Alliance, and through all of this I was meeting so many fellow queer people. So many other people who had seen themselves in Harry Potter. Some of my best relationships with people have been fostered by a Harry Potter connection, the icebreaker question — what is your Hogwarts house? I got the bravery to come out as nonbinary while at the Granger Leadership Academy, a conference organized by the Harry Potter Alliance and absolutely full of fellow queer folx who made me feel absolutely at home. Harry Potter is not everything to me, but it means so, so much to me.
Hogwarts is my home, but while I sometimes go there by page or big screen, it is more often by Discord, Slack, or AO3. Hogwarts is a group chat with college friends labeled with the word “Fanfiction” and a rainbow emoji. Hogwarts is Saturday night trivia. Hogwarts is being packed into a standing room only club and singing our hearts out because these days are dark, but we won’t fall. Hogwarts is puppet shows and podcasts and protesting because BLACK TRANS LIVES MATTER. Hogwarts is not a billionaire with a Twitter account.
The weapon we have is love,
P.S. I write queer Harry Potter fanfiction! You do not have to read it, but just in case you are interested….
The Houses of Zabini — A story about Adriana and Blaise Zabini; centering a young trans character who lives in the Wizarding world and goes to Hogwarts just like his peers
Waltzing to the Heart of the Matter — Harry and Hermione go to the Yule Ball together in queer solidarity
Celestial Messengers — Luna joins Harry, Ron, and Hermione on the Horcrux hunt and she and Hermione fall in love.
The Original Trio of Tricksters — A canon-compliant story in which Lily, James, and Sirius are all in a polyamorous relationship. Takes place during the first war.
Places to donate that benefit Black Trans folx:
Note: I usually post on Wednesdays, but I felt like this needed to be said sooner rather than later, hence why this post is two days early.