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Forever Changing

How Harry Potter Has Influenced My Life

By Stephanie HoogstadPublished 11 months ago 3 min read
Forever Changing
Photo by Tuyen Vo on Unsplash

I know what you’re all thinking: ugh, another mushy “the Harry Potter series saved my life” piece. Had this been a few years ago, I probably would have written something along those lines. The Harry Potter books did not save my life, per se, but they did define me, shape me into the person that I am today—and then revisiting them through the lens of what their author has become tore me down and made me rethink everything that I had thought that I had ever stood for.

I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone when I was five years old. I was hooked from the start. The magical world, characters who fit in because they were different, what wasn’t there to love? As I grew up, the series grew up, too. Starting with Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the series tackled many messages about love and acceptance that I incorporated into my very core. This series and its depiction of acceptance, particularly towards social outcasts, was one of the major reasons why I took such a staunch stance against issues such as racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and overall bigotry.

I didn’t just stop there. I molded my entire life after these books. Besides Disney, the Harry Potter books had the biggest influence on my life. They taught me that we all have a little dark and a little light in us, that it just depends on which path we decide to follow. They taught me tolerance, love, and acceptance, as well as the fact that family does not begin nor end with blood. They gave me something to hold on to when the rest of the world seemed like it was sinking into madness—and quickly.

Then J.K. Rowling opened up her mouth on her feelings regarding transgender individuals. Normally, I would try to separate an author from their work, but it made me wonder what I had missed in the series that exposed Rowling’s attitude. While nothing in these books necessarily pointed towards transphobia—other than a complete lack of transgender characters—there were other problems that arose that I had not noticed before. Although there was some diversity in the minor characters—SOME—there was generally no notable diversity in the main cast. They were mostly, if not all, white heterosexual cisgender characters. Even Dumbledore, who J.K. Rowling said was gay, was only gay through her admission; his sexuality was never overtly shown nor discussed in the books. There were also issues with how Rowling handled overweight characters, and even her female characters did not stand up to scrutiny.

So, I started to wonder, what kind of person was I that these books had been my go-to for morality lessons for so much of my life? Was I more of a bigot than I had realized because I hadn’t seen these flaws in the books before? Was I just as much a product of the negative aspects of the book as I was the positive?

The answers to these questions still evade me. With everything going on in the world and everyone and everything exposing both their bad and their good sides, I will probably always be questioning myself. One thing I do know from this experience is that the influence of books is never-ending. Have I given up the influence that the Harry Potter books had on me just because I see a different side to them now? No. I keep the good part but acknowledge that there is more to the books—and to me—than meets the eye. And maybe that’s another gift that these books have given me, even when I find myself at moral odds with their author: they keep me growing. Whether I’m five years old or thirty, they keep me thinking about the kind of person I am and who I want to be, and that is the greatest gift they could have ever given me.


About the Creator

Stephanie Hoogstad

With a BA in English and MSc in Creative Writing, writing is my life. I have edited and ghost written for years with some published stories and poems of my own.

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Comments (3)

  • Hannah Moore11 months ago

    This is such a balanced exploration of the differing avenues to growth we have open to us, I really commend this piece and the discussion with ourselves it provokes.

  • Ava Mack11 months ago

    Wonderful meditation on what HP has meant to you, Stephanie, how it's shaped your life, and the questions the author poses to us all. If you're not already listening to it, I have to recommend the Harry Potter and the Sacred Text podcast led by Vanessa Zoltan! It completely changed my life and my relationship with HP. It takes the stance of separating the author from the work and also approaching the texts with a critical eye, two things you mention here!

  • You are absolutely right about us learning that Dumbledore was gay only from Rowling's admission. All the things that happened with how she sees trans people kinda bugged me but thankfully didn't change my love for the Harry Potter series. I enjoyed reading this!

Stephanie HoogstadWritten by Stephanie Hoogstad

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