Well, lucky for you, I'm here to save the day and take things to a whole new level. I think (and I'm not alone here) that this revelation raises very interesting questions about the ontology of fiction. Yes, that's right: we're going to go from discussing whether or not Dumbledore is gay to discussing what philosophical issues it raises to ask whether or not Dumbledore is gay. Awesome.
This discussion started over at Show-me the Argument, the blog of the University of Missouri philosophy department (which is, I just realized, titled with a pun). Here's the quote that got this whole thing rolling:
The big revelation of the night came when she was asked if Dumbledore had ever found love. With a sigh, she seemed on the verge of saying no, but then revealed, “my truthful answer to you… I always thought of Dumbledore as gay.” After a collective gasp, the audience roared with applause. Rowling was clearly astonished by the positive reaction and exclaimed, “if I’d known it would make you so happy, I would have announced it years ago!”Scott goes on to note that this implies a very interesting question with two possibilities. The first:
...the question came up as to whether Rowling’s revelation changed the truth of the matter or the text stood alone as a sole authority. For those who accept textual authority, something like the following conditional is affirmed:In other words, Rowling is not the authority on her own work--she has no more say as to whether or not Dumbledore is gay than I do. While it's true that she did have the freedom to say one way or the other during the course of the series, the fact that she didn't now means that she's lost her opportunity--once her work left her own mind and entered the "collective consciousness," she lost any privileged access to it, and became just another reader. The other possibility, as outlined by Scott:
(TA) A proposition p about a story S (revealed by a text T) is true only if (1) p is explicitly stated in T or (2) p is entailed by other propositions explicitly stated facts in T.
[Y]ou could hold the Lockean view that the truths about the Harry Potter world are all “in the mind of Rowling” and what she has chosen to reveal in the seven books are only a portion of the story. I think this view is supported by the quote above: “if I’d known it would make you so happy, I would have announced it years ago.” This seems to suggest that Dumbledore’s sexuality was a fact about the story that she already knew – but chose not to explicitly reveal.
More support is gained for this Lockean picture:
Rowling told the audience that while working on the planned sixth Potter film, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” she spotted a reference in the script to a girl who once was of interest to Dumbledore. A note was duly passed to director David Yates, revealing the truth about her character.
I think this second position is more compelling, but there are many other issues raised here. To explore them, I have to bring in Han Solo and Star Wars. Yes, wizards and Jedi in the same post. Am I going down hill? Here's a revised and expanded copy of my comments from Show-Me:
I see the question as a matter very much related to the question of non-existent intentional objects, which most people seem to accept as a legitimate field of philosophical investigation. This question, briefly, goes something like this: when I have a belief about (say) Albus Dumbledore, what exactly is the content of my belief? If I believe, for instance, the proposition 'That cat is white," it seems fairly easy to parse my intentional state--I have a belief about this creature here (a cat) involving certain color properties (its whiteness). The same, however, cannot necessarily be said of fictional characters. If I believe the proposition 'Dumbledore has a three foot beard," what do I really believe? I can't literally believe 'Dumbledore has a three foot beard,' because there is no Dumbledore really, and thus he doesn't have a three foot beard (or anything at all)--it seems akin to saying 'The present King of France is bald.' Still, it seems that I really do have a belief about something.
While this is an interesting question, it's not the one I want to address here. I only bring it up in response to critics who might try to argue, as commenter David did on Show-Me's post, that:
I was quite surprised when I first realised that there is a serious philosophical discourse concerning fictional objects, apart from the usual problems with any non-existent intentional objects. It struck me as a complete non-issue. There is no truth, no fact of the matter, concerning what happens in fiction - that’s what makes it fiction. Fiction happens when we use the forms of language that we usually reserve for reporting truth to say something that everyone knows isn’t true (but has some value for us anyway) [...] This is not to suggest that there is no problem of intentional objects. Just that there is no extra problem of fictional objects.
It seems to me that the question being posed here is a question concerning "fictional ontology"--which is to say, a question concerning the nature of fictional characters. This question, I think, is a natural extension of the question of non-existent intentional objects.
The "Han Shot First" debate, I think, really gets to the heart of this, because it's a situation where both the first instance (H1, where Han shot first) and the second instance (H2, where Han shot second) are "canon"--that is, they both originated with the creator of the franchise. If we want to buy the Lockean-ish view and reject TA, how can we reconcile the fact that the "author" of the series (i.e. Lucas) created BOTH H1 and H2, since H1 implies not H2 and vice versa? In other words, if we're right that the author of a series has some kind of privileged epistemic and ontological access to the world he creates (i.e. he knows the way the world is, and by knowing simultaneously makes it the case that the world is that way), how can we deal with an author changing his mind?
As far as I can see, there are three ways we could go with this. First, we could say that H1 is true because it was the original decree by the author. This approach has the advantage of parsimony--it is quite clear in any given dispute which account is the correct account (just check which one the author advocated first). It does, however, break down in more borderline cases: what if the author just hints at something, but later decides that the opposite of what he hinted at is true? Does this "law" only apply to explicit assertions? How explicit? This also seems to be in conflict with the "author as the final authority" stance on fictional ontology, which is something we've already accepted (at least for the sake of discussion)--if the author really is the ultimate authority on his work, then it seems like he must always have the option to revise his account.
Second, we could say that H2 is true, because it is the most recent account offered by the author. I'm more inclined to lean toward this one, but it carries problems of its own. If we accept the proposition that an author is always (and infallibly) correct about the universe he creates, then if he changes his mind when does the old account cease to be right and the new one begin to be right? Rowling touched on this when she said "If I'd know it would make you so happy, I would have announced it years ago." To get back to our original case, suppose for a moment that instead of no clues to Dumbledore's sexuality, we'd been given subtle hints that he was heterosexual (think of the hint mentioned above as part of the movie script). If, despite these hints, Rowling were to come back later and say "Dumbledore's gay, and those hints were just red herrings," would it be correct to say Dumbledore was gay or straight? If Rowling has known for some time that Dumbledore was gay, when did he "become" gay? Was it when Rowling decided he was gay, or when she announced it publicly? If the latter, what is so special about giving the idea over to the public (again, to the "collective consciousness") that makes the proposition become true?
This might incline us toward the third possibility, which is that he's neither gay nor straight until it's explicitly stated one way or another. While this might seem tempting at first, I'm not sure if this position will ultimately turn out to be viable, as it simply pushes the dispute back a step. If Dumbledore's sexuality is indeterminate (Schroedinger's.....no, let's not go there) until it's made explicit in the fictional world, how might it be made explicit? Again, it seems like we're forced to take one of two horns: either he's gay if and only if Rowling says so, or he's gay if and only if Rowling says so in the original text. Back to square one, and forced to grapple with the dilemma again. Additionally, we still don't know how to handle cases like H1 vs. H2, when the author explicitly states one thing, then explicitly states another.
How might we resolve this dilemma? It seems to me that we can break this problem up into two parts: the epistemic problem of fiction and the ontological problem of fiction--separating it into these to constituents might get us closer to a resolution.
As I said, I'm inclined more toward an H2 style explanation--that the author is infallibly correct in any statement he makes about his fictional universe, up to and including when he revises earlier accounts. On this account, there are two things that must obtain before I can truly utter the proposition 'I know that Dumbledore is gay' (leave aside for the moment questions concerning the content of that belief): it must be true that Dumbledore is gay (a question of fictional ontology), and I must have access to that information (a question of fictional epistemology). To put it simply, it seems that we've got some conceptual confusion here between the question of whether or not Dumbledore is gay (which depends on what Rowling thinks), and whether or not you and I know that Dumbledore is gay (which depends on what information Rowling has revealed).
This sort of view is supported, I think, by the Lockean account that Scott touched on: that which has made it into the Harry Potter series is only part of the story (only the relevant part for the events Rowling wanted to convey, perhaps). There are untold details (ranging from minutia like the color of Harry's shirt on any given day to larger issues like Dumbledore's sexuality, or the date on which Harry was married). Now, I think it is fair to say that if these details haven't been specified at all (one way or another), they are indeterminate--that is, when I say 'Harry Potter got married on June 27th,' I'm not saying anything true or false, because it hasn't been determined what day Harry Potter got married. However, once Rowling has decided on a date (supposing that she hasn't already), then it becomes true that Harry got married on that date, simply because Rowling just is the ultimate authority on her universe.
However, this is a far cry from saying that we know the date Harry got married. Until Rowling decides to reveal that date, I still can't really say anything meaningful about it, though there is now a fact of the matter. In contrast to the above case, my statement 'Harry Potter got married on June 27th' is now devoid of meaning not because it isn't truth-functional (once Rowling decides on a date it becomes either true or false that Harry married on a certain day), but because my statement, one way or another, just isn't verifiable. If this sounds a little too much like logical positivism for your taste, you might be right. I don't claim to have thought this through extensively, but rather am thinking it out as I write this; I'd welcome comments saying why this account doesn't work. It seems that once Rowling has decided on a date (but before she's revealed it), any statement I make about Harry's marriage is essentially akin to saying 'There is one and only one sphere made entirely of gold with a diameter greater than one foot in the Universe:' it's certainly truth-functional (that statement is either true or false), but there's no real way to tell, and thus the statement is rather empty.
This account also seems to let us address the "Han Shot First" debate. It was originally true that Han shot first, as that's what Lucas decided upon and that's what he told us (via the medium of film). However, at some point after the movie was made, Lucas changed his mind, and began to endorse the proposition 'Han shot second.' At this point, the ontology of the matter changed, and it became true that Han did shoot second. It wasn't until the movie was released, though, that you and I were in an epistemic position to know of the switch--just as if my house is robbed while I'm on vacation, and I (incorrectly) believe 'My computer is on my desk' until I return home, we incorrectly believed 'Han shot first' until Lucas told us otherwise.
So, to answer the original question: yes, Dumbledore is gay. He's either been gay all along (if Rowling decided he was gay when she first began), or his sexuality was indeterminate for a time, then he "became" gay when Rowling endorsed the proposition 'Dumbledore is gay.' As I said, I'm far from confident that this account is perfect, and would love to hear some comments. What do you all think?