Ars Technica published an article by me on Pride Day (yesterday, traditionally the last Sunday in June) entitled “Coming Out as a Slytherin.”
In the article I detail how there have been a series of “closets” whose doors I have had to kick down, from coming out as bisexual in the 1980s, to coming out as a pro who also wrote fanfic in the 2000s, to, eventually, realizing I had to come out as Slytherin, too.
In the article I talk about the pervasiveness of the anti-Slytherin bias in the books, which carries right through from Harry’s first hearing of the word through the epilogue:
“One of the magics of the Potter books for me was that as I read them, I was transported back to feeling like a kid again. … My journey as a fan… started from a childlike devouring of the books where I took Harry’s journey at face value. Harry hated Snape and Draco? I hated Snape and Draco. Harry thought all Slytherins are bad? I thought all Slytherins are bad. It’s a book for kids, right? A simplistic worldview is appropriate and comforting.”
“But the moment I leapt into fandom headlong was also when book six, Half-Blood Prince, came out. In that book, Harry keeps on thinking that Snape and Draco are villains. It’s also a book where many adult readers started realizing that Snape and Draco are victims. I went back and re-read the entire series through Snape and Draco’s eyes and what I saw was very different.”
“I guess you could say it was the Potter fandom equivalent of being woke. The anti-Slytherin bias throughout the series was so strong, and yet I had never noticed it before. It was so pervasive. Harry takes the word of various characters throughout the books as “truth” so long as the person saying it was considered one of the “good guys.” Take Hagrid for example. When he tells Harry in the very first book “There’s not a witch or wizard who went bad who wasn’t in Slytherin,” Harry believes him and so do we.”
“Hagrid probably believes it, too. But it’s not even true within the books. We meet plenty of non-Slytherins who “went bad,” including Peter Pettigrew (Gryffindor) and Gilderoy Lockhart (Ravenclaw).”
“And in the epilogue, 19 years later, although Harry himself seems to have finally decided that Snape was a hero and all Slytherins aren’t bad, the rest of the Wizarding World has clearly fallen right back into the old bias. His son’s angst about being Sorted basically boils down to “Daddy, what if I’m in Slytherin?”
“Try replacing that with “Daddy, what if I’m queer?” Harry has the good-parent response: we’ll still love you. But society won’t.”
The barriers we erect in our minds, and between people in society, are imaginary. But as Dumbledore tells Harry in the “King’s Cross”/limbo scene, just because something is all in your head doesn’t make it not real.
In the article I also talk about how in my college campus activist days bisexuals were seen as “only half gay” and for that reason I felt only “half welcome” in the queer community at first. Part of my journey as an activist was learning that I couldn’t let that bias keep me from participating and that the main gatekeeper I had to get past wasn’t in “the community” but in my own head.
So this article is for all my Slytherin peeps out there, whether your road to self-acceptance was hard or easy! It’s because of you I was able to see how that bias had shaped my worldview and to take pride in the qualities in myself that make me a Slytherin at heart.