All throughout my childhood I was called strange and abnormal. I wasn’t like other boys. I didn’t play sports. I wasn’t interested in girls. I was always reading. They were usually books about magic, mythology and the occult.
The library was a place of refuge for me. I would grab a few books, sit in a comfy chair and read for hours, sometimes until they closed, since I dreaded going back home. One book that really made an impact in my younger years was “Escape to Witch Mountain”, by Alexander Key. It seemed to touch upon a lot of things I was feeling at the time. It is the story of two children who had unusual gifts. They were different from everyone else. They were strange. They were abnormal. They were “Other”. They were looking for their own people, those who were like them. I happened to randomly discover this book in 1975 on a library shelf. I was 11 years old at the time. I had no idea that a movie version would be released just a few weeks later. It seemed I was fated to read it, that it had a message, that I had been guided to it somehow. It seemed to give me glimpses of things to come. While I loved the film version, it was very different from the book, which had a more mystical quality. It seemed to have been written just for me. There were sequels and TV spin-offs but they were all crap and didn’t have the same effect. Escape to Witch Mountain, the book moreso than the film, had a huge influence on me in my pre-teen years. It gave me the sense that I was not alone, that there were others like me. The children in the book had adopted the last name ‘Castaway’, which was sort of how I felt back then. An unwanted castaway who didn’t belong and everyone thought was weird. It would still be some years before I connected the dots that I was a witch.
More recently, the Harry Potter stories had a massive impact on me. There were so many connections to my own life. Like myself, Harry endured verbal abuse growing up and had been called “strange and abnormal”. Like myself, he was 11 years old when he began his magical discovery. His story inspired me to stop using my birth name and start using the name Potter. His story affected me deeply. Just because Rowling made those comments doesn’t mean I have to suddenly turn my back on all of it. She’s not the first famous author to have unpopular opinions. She may have given birth to Harry and his story, but the way I see it, the Potter fandom now exists independently of her. We’ve sort of taken it over and made it our own. “We’ve eclipsed her”, as a friend so succinctly said. The Wizarding World has meant a lot to me and still does. Harry will always mean a great deal to me. Harry Potter was one of the things that helped bring my mother and I closer together. I have used the name Potter for over 20 years. My father’s last name meant absolutely nothing to me. I hated it. The bullies in school used it against me as a slur, an insult. Everyone I remember from my dad’s side of the family were either alcoholics, fiercely racist and homophobic, constantly in and out of jail, or all of the above. I severed myself completely from the whole lot of them. The name Potter suits me just fine, thank you. I consider it my real name even though it is not the name on my birth certificate.
People still think I’m strange and abnormal. I’m perfectly okay with that.
Portions of this article came from my new book “Spells and Scars: Confessions of a Gay Pagan”, available now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.