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
Jace