Letter about Hogwarts Houses and Labels

13th of September 2019

Hi A

So I have wanted to write this exact letter for a while. Because it’s something I have been thinking about for a long time now. But also because I hope to get away from just writing about how I am doing and writing about other things too. So this might be a bit different, but I think it’ll be a good different.

I am from the generation that grew up with the Harry Potter books. And for a lot of people a part of that is caring a lot about your Hogwarts House. And in a way I find it fun. I like that so many people know exactly what it means when someone says I am a Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw. It’s a little fun to care deeply about something like that and you learn something about people when they tell you what Hogwarts House they belong in. Both in the house they tell you, but also the way they tell you and whether they picked that house for themself or because they took the quiz on Pottermore or because someone made them take an online test and they don’ really care that much.

Most of my friends know their Hogwarts House and have some sort of feeling about it. I know a reluctant Gryffindor, a proud Slytherin, an indifferent Hufflepuff and a lot of shy Ravenclaws. And for a while recently I have been hanging out with a friend who cares a lot about her Hogwarts House. She is a very proud Slytherin and this has brought on a lot of conversations about Hogwarts Houses and especially my Hogwarts House.

I find myself unwilling to settle on one. I know I can cheat a little and combine two and be a Slytherclaw if I want, but that’s not my problem. My problem is that I want to be more than just one or two things. And I am. I am a lot of things. I find pieces of myself in every Hogwarts House and I don’t want to have to make any of those parts of myself more or less than the others.

Every time (and I mean every time) I take an online quiz I get Slytherin. And I am okay with that. I believe I have a lot of amazing Slytherin qualities that I am happy about. I am ambitious and driven. I’m reasonably self-assured and prioritise self-preservation. I am very resourceful and determined. I am not sure I am cunning, but I do consider myself loyal.

But everyone around me asks me why I am not a Ravenclaw. And that always makes me pause and wonder. Why am I not in Ravenclaw? I am intelligent, I value knowledge and creativity. I often care more about good questions than answers. I love books and learning. I have an open mind. I am a lot like a Ravenclaw. But still. I have not chosen to disregard what the online quizzes say and declared myself a Ravenclaw.

And yet there are two more houses. I am often surprised at my own courage. I have some kind of bravery. Even if it probably looks more like Neville Longbottom’s than most other Gryffindor characters’. And that’s okay for me. But it is a part of me. An important part. And even though I know Gryffindor probably wouldn’t be my primary house, I feel weird being ask to say I could never be a Gryffindor and especially to think of myself as someone who would participate in the rivalry between Slythrin and Gryffindor. To me the traits these two houses represent are not at odds with each other. I also thing stubbornness might be a Gryffindor trait, and I have so much of that and find stubbornness a good and beautiful trait, where most others talk about it as a negative thing. I am a little surprised by how few Gryffindor traits there are or that I identify with.

Finally Hufflepuff. A house I for the longest time didn’t have any idea what stood for. But the more I learn about Hufflepuff the more it feels like the house of empathy and kindness. Things I value a lot. It’s the house of hard work, dedication, fairness, patience, honesty and doing what is right for no other reason than because it is right. And these are things I strive for. The strong moral code and sense of right and wrong are a part of me I am very grateful for. The patience and dedication are things I know other recognise in me too. I sometimes feel as though the things that define Hufflepuff are the things that are the least inherent to me, but at the same time are the things I have come to value the most in life. And yet when I read about the traits of Hufflepuffs I find that they are things I relate to a lot.

So I find it difficult to pick a Hogwarts House. And I am less interested in picking a house to be proud of and buy merchandise from, than I am in paying attention to when I use the different parts of me. Where do my Gryffindor bravery kick in, when do my Ravenclaw mind get to shine, where do I actively choose Hufflepuff kindness and when do I feel my Slytherin ambition? I once told my proud Slytherin friend that I liked that I had so many different qualities and that I liked being able to pick and choose from them, I can be different things and don’t have to fit in one box and can adapt to what I need. And her answer was to tell me that was the most Slytherin thing she had ever heard. So maybe I am a Slytherin or a Slytherclaw. Or maybe it’s okay that I don’t feel the need to choose.

The thing is that Hogwarts Houses is very fun and great when it’s just getting to know yourself and others a little better. I actually hate the idea in the books. I hate that they take eleven year olds and tell them “You are this.” and then let them spend the next seven years close to people who are just like them and that it feels like these kids don’t get encouraged to grow and become what they want to and that they are not asked to empathise with people from other houses, but to compete with them. And bravery, cleverness, ambition and kindness are in my opinion not the best indicator of very much in a person’s life or a good system for separating children into groups.

This is very much a fictional system, from a fictional school, in a book written by a woman who no longer holds the respect she used to. (and I’m not the only one who is tired of JKRs attempts to get representation point for representation she is refusing to actually give minorities and the casting of Johnny Depp as Gellert Grindelwalt in the Fantastic Beasts franchise is not okay).

The books are good, but there are way better books out there. And I understand the nostalgia and love that Harry Potter fans have for the books that made them fall in love with reading. I know they grew up at Hogwarts and that that is a very special thing. I myself just didn’t grow up at Hogwarts the way they did. I came to visit, but was always very aware that I was a visitor in someone else’s favourite book series. I grew up in Narnia. A fictional world I still love, but recognise have serious flaws and learning that it was a Christian allegory broke my heart. It took years to go back and not feel the story was ruined. My favourite book series is His Dark Materials, a book series I will always hold in much higher regard.

So sometimes when people ask me to pick a Hogwarts House and it feels a little too serious, a little too much like my desire to not be put in a box is being overridden, I get angry and frustrated. It stops being fun and a way to understand each other. Suddenly it feels like I am being forced to like Harry Potter more than I do or to choose who I am based on the wrong criteria.

And even more frustrating is that sometimes the people who want to put me in a single Hogwarts House are the same people who tells me labels don’t matter. People who will actively tell me that they don’t care about my sexual and romantic orientation or that my autism diagnosis is irrelevant. And that makes me even more frustrated and annoyed.

My identity as aromantic, asexual and autistic is important to me. They inform my everyday and my entire life. These parts of me are important to me and they are parts of me that I spent too long not even having words to describe. I felt like I was broken and wrong and a mistake because I didn’t have those words. I know not having those words were a big part of why I spent most of my life suicidal, thinking I would never have a place in this world. Not having these words cause me so much pain and trauma. Things I still live with the effects of today.
This year I went to Pride with an asexual group. I walked under so many asexual pride flags and felt seen and welcome and belonging. And people saw the flags and the banner and made us feel welcome. And that was so important. I missed seeing aromantic flags, but I am hopeful that I will in the future. I finally got diagnosed with autism last autumn and I cried all the way home from the psychiatrist, because I finally felt seen and like my challenges had been recognised.

I never feel like these parts of me are seen or notices by others in my everyday life. I never feel like others think it’s important that I am these things. And it makes me a little sad. And I get it. There isn’t a lot of conversations to have about me being asexual or aromantic and my autism might not be the most happy subject. But it feels weird that these very important parts of me are never acknowledged or seen. Even though I feel them every day. They feel invisible or ignored. And they are so ingrained in who I am that I sometimes feel like I am in some way invisible.

So when people tell me labels don’t matter or that it shouldn’t matter what my sexuality is or that a diagnosis isn’t something I should focus on, I feel like they do not understand me or even see me. And that in itself is okay. I don’t need everyone to. I also feel sad, and that’s okay too. But when the same people care a lot about what Hogwarts House I belong in and pressure me to pick one, it stops being okay. A fictional label is okay for them but a real one is too painful for them to look at?

Labels can be tool. It’s great to pick one up and use it if you need it and if it makes sense for you, and it is okay to put it back down an pick another one at a later time. It’s also okay to choose not to use them. But it’s never okay to force labels on or off someone else. When people around me don’t feel like their sexuality is important that’s great, when their neurotype isn’t important to talk about that’s cool too. When someone loves their Hogwarts House and feel proud of it I am happy for them. I am all for people choosing what labels are important or what boxes they want to live in. All I’m asking is that other people allow me the same and that we can respect that the boxes that are important to us can be vastly different.
It can be beautiful to consider boxes. I love the feeling of finding out you have a home in a box you never knew existed (like I feel about the word aromantic). Therefore talking about these things feels important to me. I also love that I get to glimpse a lot of different boxes by talking to people who have different needs for labels than I do. Sometimes those conversations lead me to find new boxes that I like to inhabit. I can also decide that in this case I feel better off not choosing any of them (like with Hogwarts Houses) or choosing to live outside the boxes (the way I feel about gender).

Finding boxes that feels like home, made me realise that I have a place in this world. I am allowed to occupy space and be my own person. I am allowed to define myself and choose who I am and who I am not. I know that this had been one of the biggest steps to finding a way to live my life and those words still help to guide me on a path away from suicide every single day. I belong. I am allowed to exist on my terms. I get to decide what defines me.

And when I think of the part of me that fights for the right to exist as I am, to have the words I use to understand myself recognised and acknowledged, the part of me that is just a little arrogant and confident, I think of that as my inner Slytherin. And then I think that it’s really nice that I have friends who will talk about Hogwarts Houses. And that those conversations lets me understand and explore other parts of myself. Sometimes it makes me think about what qualities I am not utilising as much or if there are any of the house traits that I would like to focus more on for a while. I often really like the conversations that comes from talking about Hogwarts Houses. I just prefer when the door is left open for me to explore them all, instead of feeling like I get boxed in to one. And I also think it’s great when I meet people who are confident and proud of their house and I am a little envious of the fact that they know what merchandise to buy. I never know if I should buy a Slytherin or Ravenclaw scarf.

I hope this letter was okay. I liked writing something different and hope that I will have more things like this to write about in the future.

Looking forward to hear from you

Letter about not having language and how surprised I am by the hopefulness

6th of September 2019

Hi A.

It was good to see you yesterday. I hope you made it home safe.

I have so many ideas I want to write about, and now it Friday, I’m supposed to upload a letter for you and I have no idea what to write. All the good ideas feel so far away.

About our book. About the things we write about. The man I write about. It takes up a lot of space in my mind. He takes up so much space. Even now. Five years later. He still shows up in my nightmares. His voice and his hands are still so clear in my memory I sometimes forgets he isn’t here.

He was the first person to make me feel loved and cared for. He gave me hugs and comforted me when I was sad. He let me have meltdowns and shutdowns and just held me tight till I was calm again. He carried me to bed if I fell asleep on the couch. We fell asleep together watching movies and the closeness was nice. And I miss something like that a lot these days. And every time I miss a hug, or falling asleep close to someone, or someone who will hold me while I cry and make me feel cared for and not alone in the pain, I think of him. And I hate him.
All the things I miss is a reminder of him and what he did and how much I never know if I’ll ever feel safe again. Because safe isn’t safe. I felt so safe with him and I was the opposite of safe. And now I don’t know how to trust that feeling ever again. I don’t know if I could ever trust physical closeness again. I don’t know if I’ll ever be free of him for real. It feels like I can never have the need for closeness and care fulfilled. In part because I have no idea how to become close with a person and I don’t know if I’ll ever find a person I could become close with. But mostly because I can’t imagine any closeness that isn’t a reminder of him.

Language is very important to my understanding of the world. I know some people have it differently. But for me language is how I understand everything and the limits of my language becomes the limits of my understanding. That’s why finding the words aromantic and asexual was so important to me. I finally understood myself. I finally felt like these parts of me that had always existed stopped being some indefinable thing, hiding by shadow, and became something tangible that I could pull into the light and talk about. That’s why giving myself permission to talk about myself as autistic was so important, and the diagnosis was an important step. So much of myself was things I didn’t understand because I didn’t have language. And I feel like I grew and became more myself as I found the words that describe me.

But on the other side of that, is that I never named the actions of the man who raped me. I never talk about it. I say and write the word rape. But the specifics of what happened is left in that dark place where language doesn’t exist. Because I didn’t have language for it at the time and I never wanted to have the language. I rejected the words needed. My mind doesn’t contain the words for the body parts involved or for the actions he did or made me do. And even though I remember it I don’t understand it. In a way I am still trying to dissociate away from it, even in such a small way as how I think of it.
I dissociated away from so much. So much that happened and was real. And I chose to not be present and to do my best to forget. I never repressed it. I didn’t name it rape, and therefore I didn’t understand it as wrong. I didn’t name it sex either. I just pretended it didn’t happen. That the time he spend doing those things to me wasn’t real or that I wasn’t real during those times.
I don’t know how to chose to have language for these things when I’m not sure I want to understand the reality of this. If I truly understand I won’t be able to run from what happened. And I’m still running. No matter how much I pretend not to.

There is a quote from Doctor Who that I love.

“There’s a lot of things you need to get across this universe. Warp drive… wormhole refractors… You know the thing you need most of all? You need a hand to hold.”

I love that quote. I think that the whole you need a hand to hold thing is one of the biggest things I’ve learned in the last couple of years. It’s not that I don’t believe that some people feel better on their own or that no one can make it on their own. It’s just that I used to believe being alone was the best thing for me, that I never needed anyone else. There were years when just the idea of a hand to hold made me feel disgusted. And now (in part because of the man who raped me) I have learned that I am more social than I ever knew, that I might actually like a hand to hold and that travelling through life might be a whole lot better, healthier and more amazing for me if there is someone I can share the journey with. Someone who also needs me to hold their hand and share their journey sometimes. And that’s very new, and very scary and very hard to admit. And as weird as it might sound it became so much easier to admit when I found the word aromantic. It makes sense to me, but I don’t feel like explaining this here now.

I am surprised by how positive and hopeful these letters turn out. It’s not because I feel as hopeful as I might sound. I think it’s because I know you don’t have a lot of hope right now. And I can’t sink into despair knowing you need hope. And if you need hope I’ll try to find some and carry it for you like a light in the dark. Because you are my friend and no matter how dark it gets, if you need light I’ll find light, and when you need hope and someone to believe in you and this and in getting better I will find those things too.

I know this might sound stupid, given what I just wrote. But I don’t think I am capable of lying in writing. Not these letters. When I have to write of light I have to find and feel the light, to write it. When I tell you I believe in you, I feel that in every fiber of my being. Because I can’t write it if I don’t. And that is why writing feels like such an emotionally draining thing for me. I can’t get the words to flow out of my fingertips if I don’t feel them and believe them. They need to feel true. And I am telling you this because I need you to know that these letters matter. That you matter. That even if you needed it or wanted it I wouldn’t lie to you here.

I am not saying I am surprised by the hopefulness of these letters because the hope is false, but because I don’t feel the hope very much in the rest of my life. But I feel it here, I believe in it here. Maybe because I try to carry hope for you and know you’ll call me out if I don’t find a way to extend that hope to myself even just a little.

I feel like so much is so dark right now, and I don’t want to add to that darkness. I refuse to pour more darkness into the world right now. I can’t do that. I might feel all the darkness, but pouring it out into the world and spreading it feels untrue to who I am and who I want to be. I want to make the world a better place. I don’t do that by letting the kind of hopeless darkness I contain spread. I do that by carrying light and hope despite the darkness. And these letters help me (and force me) to do that right now. And I never imagined that would happen. I imagined letters full of darkness, and it feels wrong to write all that darkness and give it more space than it already has. And that is why I am surprised.
I can’t promise that won’t change. That there won’t be days I need to vomit all the darkness out in words on these pages. And if that day comes I hope there will be space for that too.

That’s all for this week. I’m thinking of you.

Looking forward to hearing from you.