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Sympathy for the Werewolf

If you’ve been following my essays as I detail my journeys and struggles as a minor-attracted person (MAP), you’ve seen that there has been a surprising amount of support for me. I know there are a lot of people reading, though, who have trouble understanding why anyone would be so sympathetic to my situation. After all, how can people have such a positive outlook on someone who is a potential threat to children? Don’t they worry that I’m dangerous?

These are legitimate questions, and I think the answer lies in familiarity. Most, but not all, of those who have sent me supportive notes or emails knew me on some level before this announcement. Many were friends. Some were family. Many have read my novel and thus have seen the hopes and fears I wrote into that. They knew me, the person, before they had to encounter me, the MAP. It makes a difference.

I’ve wondered for weeks now how I could achieve that level of connection with strangers, or even with people who knew me in the past but now see me only through the filter of the occasional Facebook post. How can I change the perspective so that you see the whole man and not just the MAP?

The simplest answer is to introduce you to someone else who has struggled this way but who is positively known. Unfortunately, there aren’t any sympathetic figures. Every real-life MAP is either still tightly closeted or has been outed by reprehensible actions. Even in fiction there’s almost no representation of MAPs. I understand why that is the case, but it makes it hard to find someone to connect with.

There is one fictional hero, though, whose journey resonates with my own. I have many characters in fiction whom I love, but only one whose journey has spoken to me in ways that no one else’s situation has. This is someone who I felt an immediate kinship with upon discovering his story. If you’re a fan of J.K. Rowling, you know him well: Remus Lupin.

In the Harry Potter series, Lupin is first introduced to us as Harry’s Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher in the third book of the series. He’s a kind and patient man who is intelligent and shows compassion for Harry and his classmates. He’s arguably Harry’s favorite teacher during his time at Hogwarts. Overall, Lupin is a good man.

He’s also a werewolf.

This makes him dangerous. During the full moon, Lupin transforms into a feral beast with little restraint. A magical potion helps keep him under control during most of the novel, but he forgets it during the story’s climax. This neglect almost causes him to harm Harry and his friends. After this incident, word spreads of his nature, and he is forced to leave the school.

I first read that book back in 2001, and Lupin’s situation struck me even then. He’s a good man fighting against a part of himself that he does not want and actively detests. His greatest fear, as revealed in the story, is the full moon, symbolizing his fear of losing control. Though loved by those close to him, his nature is too much for outsiders who fear he will harm the kids at the school. This fear is the impetus that forces him out. Lupin is even a werewolf because he was bitten by a man named Fenrir Greyback, who specifically preys upon children.

I can’t believe that Lupin was intended as an allegory for non-offending minor-attracted people…but he fits that mold extremely well. The fear of failure. The fear of being outed. The part of himself that he hates but can’t be rid of. These are hallmarks of the MAP life, and intentionally or not, Rowling portrays them well.

It goes even deeper than that, though. Lupin’s choices make him who he is. He wants nothing more than to help but is hated because of his nature. This is a stark contrast to Greyback, who delights in his curse and specifically hunts out children to bite and transform. Greyback wants to destroy as many lives as possible so that he can justify his depravity.

This is another analog for life as a MAP. We have the potential to be dangerous because of what we are. That said, there is strength in our choices. How we choose to live and what we choose to value should matter more than our natural instincts. It helps us become men instead of monsters.

If you’ve read the Harry Potter books, you’ve encountered Lupin. Did you like him? Was he a character you were rooting for despite his nature? Were you pleased when he found love and started a family, and devastated when he died in the final battle?

If the answer to those questions is yes, then you understand loving me (and people like me) a little better. This is what it is like to love someone who is deeply and terribly flawed. Lupin provides an emotional blueprint on how to love someone whose nature might otherwise lead us to hate him.