Harry Potter fans, an extremely devoted bunch, love coming up with theories to expand upon and fill gaps in the narrative, and one of these, concerning the beloved character Severus Snape, recently caught the internet’s attention in a big way.
The theory in question, which dates back a number of years and has widespread support in Potter fan communities, is that there are clues in the text pointing to the possibility that Professor Snape may actually be transgender.
A 2011 essay by Racheline Maltese, on the subject of female heroism in the series, notes that from the moment Snape is introduced in the books, almost every description of him seems to be in feminine rather than masculine terms.
The author goes on to say that Snape’s preferred weapon is poison and that he is a spy rather than a fighter, both characteristics that might be associated with female characters. The essay finds feminine references dating back to his childhood:
Not only does Harry note the handwriting in the Half-Blood Prince’s book looks like that of a girl, but in the memory presented of Snape’s first meeting with Lily Potter he is described as wearing something that looks like an old women’s blouse. This is not only the second reference the series gives us to Snape in women’s clothes (the other being Lupin’s encouragements to Neville to picture Snape in his grandmother’s wardrobe to defuse the boggart that has taken on the potions master’s appearance), but it references a common piece of generally British slang. To call someone a “girl’s blouse” is, according to Urban Dictionary, to call them “a male displaying percieved feminine characteristics through actions which cause his peers to think less of him.”
Bloggers like Ensnapingthesenses, who support the transgender Snape theory, have frequently referenced the essay on Tumblr, where the idea of a trans Snape is so popular that some users set aside the first week of August to celebrate it.
Speaking recently to Broadly, Ensnapingthesenses expanded on the theory, saying:
“I can’t fathom Snape not being trans. The contextual clues all point to it. Snape is a character who inhabits a fluid, ambiguous position for most of the narrative – always between two worlds, and often quite literally lurking in the shadows of a room, outside looking in. Snape reads as someone in the closet, and tragically so.”
We’ll definitely look at the books in a new light from now on. All we can really add is that it’s a very cool thing to see yourself represented in your favourite stories, and it’s great that Snape continues to live on in the imaginations of fans now that the books are done.