Commentary

Six Signs Your Story Is Queerphobic

We’ve talked about racism and sexism before, but bigotry against non-straight folk is just as important. Most storytellers know not to use blatant stereotypes these days, and yet queerphobia persists. To prevent these toxic messages from creeping into our work, we have to search for queerphobic tropes and remove them from our stories. We’ll start by focusing specifically on problematic depictions of sexual orientation. We’ll cover transphobia in another piece, so it can receive our undivided attention. Without further ado, here are six common signs that your story may be queerphobic.

1. Everyone Is Straight

Korra blushing at her soon to be girlfriend Asami. This blush was welcomed by many.

The first hurdle queer folk have to face when browsing media is simply finding representation. Even now, when queer characters are clearly permissible, many stories have large casts that are entirely straight. This happens even with well-intentioned storytellers who don’t think of themselves as queerphobic. Making a character queer is seen as a statement, something that shouldn’t be done unless it serves the plot.

But being queer isn’t a statement; it’s just who people are. A character’s sexuality or gender identity doesn’t have to be linked to the plot. Storytellers have been casually demonstrating straight romances and sexuality for as long as there have been stories, and it seems natural to us. We all know that a character mentioning their heterosexual partner doesn’t have to be a major part of the story, and we need to apply that same nonchalance to queer characters. In fact, if you’re straight like me, it’s better to avoid stories that revolve directly around a character’s queerness, because it’s easy to make a mistake and send the wrong message.

Does your story have a lot of romance? Including queer romance is easy, I promise. Just follow the example set by Laurie J. Marks’ Fire Logic. The protagonist of that novel has a touching romance with another woman, but Marks focuses on how the lovebirds are kept apart by an evil army, not that they’re both women. If you’re more of a TV person, then Legend of Korra has your back. In that show’s final season, we see two characters of the same gender fall in love, and the emphasis is on the struggles and hardships they’ve been through together, the same way it would be with a straight couple.*

When queer folks aren’t represented in stories, it reinforces the idea that they are strange or rare in real life. That’s something we need to get past.

2. The Villain Is Queer Coded

Scar from the Lion King. Scar is also coded as a Leninist revolutionary.

Queer coding the villain is a tradition as old as Disney. Okay, it probably happened before Disney, but that’s where many of us were introduced to it. This is the practice of giving the villain queer-associated traits in order to make them more threatening. From Scar in the Lion King to the Shadow Man in The Princess and the Frog, to Jafar in Aladdin, our childhood cartoons have built an association between queerness and evil.

Coding villains in this manner is a self-perpetuating cycle. Queer traits were seen as scary by the straight majority, and so they were put onto villains. Now these traits are seen as scary because we associate them with fictional villains. And so the cycle goes on, reinforcing itself with each iteration.

As you might imagine, associating people’s identity with evil doesn’t have great outcomes. In real life, queer folk are often seen as dangerous or degenerate in some way. This leads to laws discriminating against queer couples who wish to adopt, people losing their jobs when it’s discovered that they’re queer, and a whole host of other problems. Queer coding villains doesn’t force people to be queerphobic in real life, but it reinforces their existing prejudice.

This isn’t to say your villains can’t ever be queer or have queer traits. Villains are a vital part of storytelling, and they should represent all groups of people. But queer heroes must come first. If you make your protagonists openly queer, then if you have a queer villain, it won’t seem like they are a villain because they’re queer.

Once we have more queer heroes, it’ll still be important to avoid problematic descriptions. The Lion King stands as such a clear example of villainous queer coding because Scar is slight and effeminate, whereas Mufasa* is big, gruff, and hyper masculine. Even if Mufasa was canonically gay, the story would read as a confrontation between traditional masculinity and queer femininity.

3. The Comic Relief Is Queer Coded

Lefou from Beauty and the Beast. Lefou doesn’t make jokes because he is the joke.

If villainous coding is one half of a coin, comedic coding is the other. Instead of using queer-associated traits to make a character scary, it’s done to make them ridiculous. Beauty and the Beast’s Lefou is a classic example. In the cartoon, he’s coded as the stereotype of a gay man fawning over a hyper-masculine straight man. His comedy is derived not from any jokes he makes, but because it’s supposedly amusing to watch him debase himself. The live-action film keeps this dynamic, except with the slightest hint that Lefou might actually be gay.

Like queer coding villains, this is a self-perpetuating cycle. Queer traits are seen as funny because they deviate from the norm, so they’re used to make a character comedic. Later, even when those same traits are no longer considered extreme deviations, they’re still seen as funny because comedic characters have them.

Note that there’s a big difference between using queer coding to mark a character as comedic and having a funny character with queer coding. Lorne from Angel is a clear example of the latter. His flamboyant style is obvious queer coding, but he’s funny because he makes funny jokes, not because he dresses fancy.

Coding queer traits as humorous makes queer people objects of ridicule. It’s degrading in the same way it’s degrading to make short men the butt of constant jokes, and it isn’t a business that storytellers should be involved in. Queer people have enough trouble getting their issues taken seriously, being seen as inherently comedic only makes that worse.

4. Being Queer Is Turned Into a Joke

Kara from Supergirl. I may be an alien with laser eyes, but a lesbian? That’s just ridiculous!

This problem is similar to comedic coding, except more blatant. Instead of simply implying that queer people are funny, some stories will use queerness itself as a joke. Recently, storytellers have developed a bad habit of joking about the possibility that a character might be queer. In the first episode of Supergirl, Kara is trying to tell her friend Winn about her superhero persona. As she struggles to find the words, Winn preempts her with “Oh my God, you’re a lesbian.” Cue Kara awkwardly explaining that no, her secret is that she’s Supergirl, not that she’s queer. The scene is played for comedy, because isn’t the possibility of a lesbian superhero hilarious?

Supergirl’s joke about Kara being a lesbian is especially mean spirited, because queer superheroes are even rarer than queer protagonists in general. A lot of people would have really liked to see a lesbian Supergirl, and the writers dangled that possibility in front of them before snatching it away. Fortunately, the show does eventually have a touching story about Kara’s sister Alex coming out, but that doesn’t justify opening with queerphobia.

In real life, being queer is not only serious, it’s often dangerous. Queer people all over the world face violence for who they are, and turning that identity into a joke is insulting.

As I mentioned in the previous section, none of this means queer characters can’t be funny, but the comedy shouldn’t come from their queerness. If you want a queer character to be funny, write them the same way you’d write a funny straight character. That’ll be hard work, like any good comedy, but it’s worth doing.

5. The Romance Baits Queer Audiences

Stiles from Teen Wolf. Maybe in another six years they’ll let him kiss a dude?

It’s no secret that queer audiences are badly served in representation, especially when it comes to onscreen romances. Some storytellers are aware of this, and they want to turn queer demand into viewership, but they aren’t willing to actually show queer relationships in their work. They might be scared of backlash from bigoted fans, or their own prejudices might get in the way. Either way, this is called queerbaiting.

For a real-life example, you can’t do better (or worse) than BBC’s Sherlock. The first season in particular is full of hints and jokes about how Holmes and Watson might be into each other, until the writers rush to reassure us that they’re both straight.

Lest you think this is a British problem, American TV loves queerbaiting too. MTV’s Teen Wolf has a handful of queer side characters, but the main cast has remained entirely straight. That hasn’t stopped the writers from dropping hints that Stiles, everyone’s favorite snarky detective, might be bisexual. This has been going on for six years now, and yet Stiles has only ever shown serious attraction to women. That doesn’t mean he’s not bi of course, but it shows pretty clearly that the writers won’t ever commit to it.

Queerbaiting is offering something you know people want and then refusing to deliver. It’s a cynical ploy to build a bigger audience without taking any risks. Once upon a time, these kinds of hints were necessary because censorship wouldn’t allow for openly queer characters, but we’re past that now. If you want queer audiences to see themselves in your story, write queer characters. If you have characters you know are straight, just leave them that way. Don’t make a show of queer representation if you don’t plan to follow through.

6. Queer Characters Die

Korra and Asami snuggling. This trope is sad so here’s Korra and Asami again.

There’s a long history of queer characters being killed off at a higher rate than their straight counterparts, and when there are so few queer characters to begin with, this leaves an impression. This happens so often that it’s earned the name “bury your gays.”

A well-known example of this trope is the brutal murder of Tara in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, an event that proved season six could contain no joy. But it’s not just late 90s shows; modern TV is more than happy to get in on the action. Just last year, The 100 killed off fan-favorite Lexa in a scene that seemed to intentionally parallel Tara’s death.

There are already so few queer characters in media, reducing the number isn’t a good idea. That’s why killing queer characters is problematic even in TV shows known for killing important straight characters. Straight fans have lots of other stories to go to for representation; queer fans don’t.

This doesn’t mean queer characters can’t ever die in fiction, but first queer representation must be examined from every angle to ensure it’s more than adequate. In The 100, a gay couple was introduced in the same season Lexa was killed off, and a queer woman was briefly featured. The show-runner probably thought that was enough. However, these characters weren’t as central as Lexa. On top of that, while straight love interests were also killed off in The 100, central straight couples got at least half a season of just being a couple before tragedy struck. Lexa was killed immediately after she hooked up with the show’s lead. Even when straight storytellers think they are treating queer and straight characters equally, they often aren’t.

In addition, storytellers must consider how the character dies. Queer characters are often the victim of violence, giving their deaths a heavy emphasis on tragedy. All too often, this is done to create drama for a largely straight cast. These deaths send the message that queer lives aren’t valuable in their own right. Just like central straight characters, queer characters should die heroic deaths that emphasize their power and virtue.


This list isn’t comprehensive, but keeping watch for these signs is a good place to start. If you get feedback that your stories aren’t friendly to queer readers, even if you’re following my advice precisely, the best practice is to listen and look for opportunities to do better.

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Comments

  1. Spark

    Personally I only consider the first one to be a problem. The rest are just representation which in my mind is a good thing.

    I think you also completely misinterpret the Supergirl joke. It’s not a stab at it being wrong if Supergirl is a lesbian, it’s a joke about her being unavailable and Wynn’s infatuation. Compare it to the joke “Omg, you’re married aren’t you”. None of the jokes are particularly funny, but they both stem from the fact of unavailability, not that being married or lesbian is wrong.

    Going after the wrong battles is not productive. Let the writers who try to give good representation do their thing and let’s not give them impossible missions to have a certain undefined percentage of queer villains, queer romantic baits that is impossible to live up to. I’d be really mad if queers weren’t represented among villains or among bait relationships that fail. Those things are core to plots, and queers should be represented. Pushing an opinion about what percentage that representation should be from all the screen writers as a collective is – I’m sorry – a Don Quixotic endeavor.

    • Cay Reet

      Really? Only villains and comedic reliefs in children’s stories with a lot of reach are queer (or queer coded) is not a problem? Show me one Disney movie where the main character is gay or lesbian.

      And the whole ‘bury your gays’ trope is just as bad, as is baiting the audience (which includes LGTB+ people) with a possible representation onscreen, just to never pull through with it – or even turn it into a joke. ‘No, you don’t finally get an openly queer superhero, that was just a joke, ha ha ha.’

  2. SunlessNick

    Winn preempts her with “Oh my God, you’re a lesbian.”

    It also makes Winn look kinda bad, because he follows with the presumption that oh course that explains why she wasn’t into him. (Of course he doubles down on that something rotten later on, and never really gets called on it).

    Regarding Korra and Asami, I’ve only ever seen season 1, which put me off the show – but the time Asami took Korra out in the racing car *glowed* with romantic chemistry to the point where I couldn’t consider them anything but a natural couple.
    (Though apparently this was before they’d decided to do it – it was even before they’d decided not to make Asami a villain).

    • Oren Ashkenazi

      I totally get why season 1 would put you off Korra. Season 2 is even worse, and season 3 is only okay, but season 4 is legitimately really good, and if you can get through the rest I would recommend it. The Korrasami romance is just one element of how good it is.

  3. SunlessNick

    Oh, and regarding Sherlock, let’s not forget how the previously described as gay Irena Adler straightens for him.

    • Oren Ashkenazi

      Fortunately, I *think* that was only something Moffat said in an interview, right? It’s certainly terrible, but just watching the show as I recall it looks like Alder is just bi. Granted there are other problems with her character.

      • Cay Reet

        Adler herself claims to be into women, but she could be technically bi. A dominatrix doesn’t have sex with her clients, so dealing with men in this job doesn’t mean she has to like sex with men at all.

        I still would say that Irene and Sherlock have a similar relationship in the series as they REALLY (read: the story “A Scandal in Bohemia,” not any of the movies) have in the original story. They are equals in mind, she is as devious as he is and can actually trick him successfully. ‘Brain is the new sexy’, as she puts it in the series. Even the suggestion that he saves her at the end of the episode doesn’t mean sexual attraction as a such.

        But, yes, Moffat and women is an unending horrible topic.

        • Nikita

          I think they were trying to imply a sexual/romantic relationship in the series. I think the whole “deep intellectual connection” idea was ruined when Sherlock called her out for being attracted to him as her “weakness”. I think the problematic part(or at least one of them) is that she claimed to be a lesbian earlier in the series but then falls for Sherlock anyway. If they wanted to make the relationship between Sherlock and Adler sexual/romantic, they could have just made Adler bisexual. But instead they had to do the whole “lesbian turns straight for a guy” thing.

  4. AndrewR

    You forgot “Characters who come out as gay in second or later seasons/books after previously being in happy heterosexual relationships”.

    Not only does this seem to show a lack of courage by making sure the show/story has enough of a following before adding “controversial characters” (not that queer characters should be controversial but this trope indicates they must be) but by making the character “Totally Gay” rather than Bisexual (despite having been shown to have been attracted to the opposite gender before hand) it adds to Bi Erasure.

    It also adds to the idea that sexuality is a choice and that people can switch from one to another later in life.

    • Ninyv

      “It also adds to the idea […] that people can switch from one to another later in life.”

      Well, it happens in real life so why not in fiction too?

      • Cay Reet

        In most cases, those who ‘switch’ later in life ignored or hid their homosexuality before for society’s sake. It’s not switching, it’s coming out and living the way you want to live.

      • Oren Ashkenazi

        So, just to be clear, people can absolutely switch sexuality, gender, and sexual preferences and still be valid.

        As Cay Reet pointed out, a gay person might pretend to be straight in order to avoid bigotry. Alternatively a person might be straight for a while, then realize they’re now only attracted to people of their own gender. That doesn’t mean they were wrong before, they were straight then and they’re gay now.

        Unfortunately, it’s very easy for media to erase bisexuals when portraying this. That’s why it’s important to have characters who are clearly bi.

        • Rivers

          The important thing when trying to show a fluid change in attraction is to actually show it was a fluid change in attraction rather than the writers being too lazy or forgetful to put together a cohesive narrative.

          If you go from straight to gay in two seconds but it’s glossed over as if the character was always gay (without any coherent or reasonably implied explanation for previous actions), then it contributes to bi erasure.

          If the character was in the closet or they’re attraction changed, the narrative needs to show that. It’s lazy writing to do otherwise.

  5. Lin

    Quite like the Malec-ship in Shadowhunters (the TV-series, I haven’t read the books so I can’t say anything about that).

  6. Laura Ess

    I also get annoyed at characters who seem to be queer as an “afterthought”, as if making them so adds a bit of extra spice to their character. J.K. Rowling’s declaration that Dumbledore was gay, at a convention and after he died in that series, seemed like just an afterthought.

  7. jane

    Isn’t the term ‘queer’ in itself derogatory?

    • Oren Ashkenazi

      “Queer” has been used as a slur in the past, and no doubt still is by some people, but as a whole the community has reclaimed it as a self identifier. It’s much more practical as an umbrella term to cover people who are not straight than the somewhat unwieldy and ever expanding acronyms.

      • Rivers

        It also doesn’t have a lot of the same community baggage as the other terms tend to have.

      • jules

        Respectfully, saying the community as a whole has reclaimed the word is an exaggeration. Especially given the recent wave of people using the word to id despite not being a part of the LGBT+ community (i.e. BDSM, straight people who do anything remotely GNC, in some particularly egregious cases Pedophiles, ect.(and note every example has to do with sex, further exemplifying that non-LGBT+ people believe the whole of being gay is sex or sex related)) Personally, every time i see that word i flinch. i will never be able to extricate it from the experiences i’ve had, or from the inherent meaning of the word.
        some people in the community id as such, and i respect that. but i dislike the word being thrown around like it wasn’t and isn’t a common slur, and more so by straight people. Your choice to title this article as such as opposed to signs your story is homophobic” doesn’t make sense to me. Every example was homophobia. Just to be clear, this isn’t an attack, i’m only trying to say my piece.

        • Adrienne Ladd

          So I want to hop in here and also state that queer is aplicable to gender as well as sexuality. Sometimes we use terms like genderqueer to represent this but queer by itself is as valid.

          on topic though, I find that queer is primarily been reclaimed by the younger members of the community that is LGBTQIA, since our acronym has gotten a bit long. queer just works as an unbrella term as well as so many don’t know which of the things we fall under more closely, and in some cases it is easier to just say you are queer than having to explain what being ace is.

  8. GY Haney

    I can get down with the general premise of this article, but I’ve never once heard anyone allude to Scar being a queer character, especially not with the sole evidence of him being “slight and effeminate.” He’s Jeremy Irons. He’s British AF. He COUNTERS Mufasa in size, demeanor, and method. That’s what good villains do. They want the same things the hero wants only they’ll get it by different (often ruthless) means. They use their strengths. Mufasa’s is his size and raw power. Scar’s is his cunning. This is a very typical trope. In my mind, whatever the sexual preference of this talking lion might be (since the context of the movie doesn’t actually give us any clue whatsoever), he’s a wonderful villain, a true Shakespearean gem.

    Not trying to be a dick at all (seriously), but aren’t you also “coding” Scar by stereotyping him? I can’t help but think that there might be a lot of rugged and masculine queer dudes wondering why a dude is assumed queer because he is “slight and effeminate” or oddly resembles Prince. In the same token, one of the most effeminate guys I know is a heterosexual. Let’s maybe take what’s given in the story and work with that rather than inferring a bunch of other stuff into it based on the perceptions we take to the story. I think that’s what we’re all after, really. Better understanding.

    • Cay Reet

      ‘Slight and effeminate’ is often coded queer. Which is the point, since Scar is not queer, but he’s shown in a way that suggests it. Same goes for Jaffar, too. Both do not show any queerness, but they are coded in a way in which most people (especially those who despise queerness) would put down the ‘typical’ queer person. No, there is no typical queer person, but that doesn’t stop predjudices any more than there not being a typical woman or a typical man stops predjudices about how a man or a woman should look and/or behave.

    • American Charioteer

      I have to agree with you and Dana. Disney has had plenty of stereotypical masculine villains: Gaston, Hans, the Huns. Even in the same movie as Jafar we have the tough-guy palace guards. To not also have an assortment of physically unimpressive male villains would suggest only strong men can be bad.

      Furthermore, characters like Jafar and Scar who are physically slight but clever and manipulative just make for more interesting villains than a one-dimensional ball of muscle. This isn’t something Disney invented, either: Shakespeare’s Richard Plantagenet and Iago are some of the greatest villains in literature, with traits similar to Jafar and Scar. The modern idea of the effeminate, exclusively homosexual male didn’t become common until after Shakespeare’s time, so it’s hard to call his villains “gay-coded.” Even trickster characters from myths around the world tend to follow a similar template: weaker but also cleverer than the heroes. When writing it’s villains, Disney was just sticking with what works.

      • Cay Reet

        The problem with villains like Jafar and Scar is that there is no ‘good’ version of them in the Disney movies. Princes don’t look or act like Jafar and Scar. They might look like Gaston or Hans (who originally was meant to be a hero), but not like the less ‘normative’ masculine characters. You only see the body-type of Jafar or Scar as evil, not as good.

        Effeminate has been coded gay long after Shakespeare (beginning of the 20th century and slightly later, I’d say), so pointing out that at that time it was different isn’t changing anything.

      • American Charioteer

        There is no ‘good’ version of Iago or Richard Plantagenet, either. Nor does ancient myth have ‘good’ versions of weak, cunning tricksters (mythical characters famed for their cleverness, like Theseus, Gilgamesh, and The Monkey King, were still the epitome of masculinity and relied more on strength than wit). Even Christian eschatology (a major basis for Western literature) pits a cunning Devil against an all-powerful God destined to win in the end. I pointed out that modern gay stereotypes are relatively recent to show that this trope doesn’t have homophobic roots. Strength=good and Cunning=bad is a timeless trope that Disney uses because everyone uses it.

      • Oren Ashkenazi

        So an issue I’m seeing here is that we’ve started including “cunning” in the list of traits that make a character queer coded when it isn’t. There are lots of traditionally masculine heroes who depend mostly on their wits.

        Aladdin is actually one of them. He’s clearly a cunning hero, not a strong hero, but he’s not at all coded queer the way Jafar and Scar are.

        • American Charioteer

          I don’t understand what makes Jafar and Scar queer-coded, if it isn’t their weakness or their manipulative behaviour. It could be their gestures and manner of speech, but again if you watch a performance of *Richard III* or *Othello* you’ll see villains acting very similarly. Jafar seems to be modeled of off Shakespeare’s Iago, as their roles are quite similar and Disney even kept the name Iago for Jafar’s bird.

        • American Charioteer

          Furthermore, in American literature aristocrats are almost always villains. Jafar, Scar, the Duke of Weselton, and Governor Ratcliffe are clearly meant to be aristocrats, and some traits associated with aristocrats may be what you see as queer coding (refinement, elegant attire, snobbishness, effeminacy, aversion to labor, weakness, and a high, quiet voice and high-class speech). I don’t think the queer-coding was intended by Disney at all, they were just continuing nearly universal tropes that have no root in homophobia. If one were trying to queer-code Scar, Jeremy Irons is about the last voice actor they’d pick.

        • Oren Ashkenazi

          If you want to understand what makes Jafar, Scar, and other Disney villains queer coded, I’d recommend reading what other people have written on the subject. This is a decent primer:

          http://www.marginsmagazine.com/2015/12/18/fabulously-fiendish-disney-villains-and-queer-coding/

          Of course there’s always Ursula, who was based off Divine, a real life drag performer. But most cases aren’t so literal.

          • American Charioteer

            Thank you for sharing that article Oren, and writing this one.
            I still don’t think that Disney had any idea their villians would be seen as queer-coding. I think the problem is that traits once associated with cowardice and avarice have become associated with gay men (largely through attempts to portray them that way), and most of popular culture (including Disney) don’t do anything to fight that image by providing explicitly queer characters.

          • American Charioteer
          • Cay Reet

            So you do agree that the traits which are often used to define villains have also been put on gay men by people who don’t like gay men.

          • American Charioteer

            Yes. I just don’t think the problem is active homophobia: Disney never considered that their villains might appear gay-coded. I think the problem is passive homophobia: Disney NEVER CONSIDERED that their villains might appear gay-coded, because they rarely consider anything about the LGBT community. Passive homophobia is really just ignorance, which is why representation is important.

  9. dana

    I don’t get the Lion King thing, or saying that a skinny male character represents as gay. Maybe if they had given him more characteristics, like a softer voice. There’s nothing wrong with being skinny. The key difference between the two wasn’t the size, it was that one was corrupt and the other wasn’t.

    I get what you’re saying, (1. don’t put stereotypes onto your characters 2. don’t use queer stereotype tropes as a negative) good points and things to be aware of – I’m sure some do it without meaning to – but maybe it’s just me being naive, I think some of your examples are a stretch. Sorry.

  10. Nikita

    I agree with this article. The reason I think a lot of these tropes happen however is because media companies are slowly trying to introduce the idea of having gay people in fiction. For example, queerbaiting and giving small roles to queer characters to me, seems like an attempt to slowly introduce queer people in fiction without causing major backlash. I am not saying it’s right or that the above article is wrong, but that’s how I’ve always interpreted those motivations.

    All of that being said, I think another harmful stereotype is the idea that homosexuality between women is threatening to men. I’ve seen this in tropes where men are upset that a past love is with a woman now, or that a very domineering, threatening female character is also a lesbian. I also get annoyed when all bisexual people portrayed in media are very promiscuous, which seems to imply that bisexual people can never commit to a relaionship. Not that promiscuity is bad, but it paints the entire group of people with only that one trait.

  11. Tony

    For a few positive examples to contrast with these tropes, look no further than Orphan Black.

    Felix is funny not because he’s gay, but just because he’s a funny guy. And a pretty badass guy to boot.

    Also one of the queer characters APPEARED to die, but they fortunately brought her back in the next season and gave her a happy ending with her same-sex love interest.

    It would’ve been nice to see more of Tony Sawicki (the transgender LEDA clone), though. At least more than a single frickin’ episode.

  12. Becca

    It horrifies me how much I love Supernatural as a Bi+ female and still can see every single one of these red flags in the show. I don’t watch it for its queer representation though so… … I have mixed feelings about this because I love that show, on the other hand, it horrifies me how queerphobic it is.

    • Oren Ashkenazi

      It’s okay to enjoy flawed media. We all do it, and frankly there is no perfect media out there. The important part is that we recognize the flaws, even in things we love, and demand better.

  13. William S Moye

    I think in time this problem will sort itself out because those who are gay are now more accepted in the community (thank Ra) and are going to be creating more demand for those types of stories and creating those types of stories themselves.

    I am straight but if I were to write a gay man as a character, I’d write it like a straight man who happens to like guys. I don’t know what it’s like to be a gay man but I’m guessing it can be just like being a straight man except for who you like.

    I think trying to make that character sound or look gay would come across and ignorant, insulting and insincere on my part, and I have no desire to intentionally hurt anyone –except for a little heartache from a good story.

  14. Marzipan

    In writing, I find it problematic to write in LGBTQ characters just for the sake of it. In life, I don’t see people as their sexuality, so I tend to think of all my characters as flexible depending on how their sexuality might develop the plot. I’m not going to mention it unless it’s relevant, and sometimes it might not be relevant until book 3. I think that writing (and reading) layered characters is more important, and feels more natural than shoehorning them into specific boxes, when we don’t identify with people just based on a single characteristic. It’s the same way I won’t mention a character’s ethnicity unless it’s relevant or descriptive.

    I disagree with what you said about Buffy’s Tara. It had to happen to move Willow’s character along, and she ends up with Kennedy, a Slayer. The only thing Tara did differently to other characters is not come back from the dead.

    The Supergirl thing, that’s more Wynn being petulant, and it’s a nod to real life, where conversations like that really happen. For a straight guy who likes a girl, it is kinda worst case scenario.

    Doesn’t anyone else see the opposite side to the cunning, slim, ‘effeminate’ villain trope, as the geeky, nerdy, four eyed bumbler hero who wins the day and gets the girl because he’s smart and sometimes brave? Atlantis’s Milo anyone? Or Daniel Jackson from Stargate (mainly the film)?

  15. Jason Stone

    Just for the record I am also straight however I do find this article reads like a manifesto….if every writer worried about conforming to this list (and others like it we would have even more paint by numbers tick box works than we already do.

    I am reminded of a comment the Producer (or writer) of Starsky & Hutch said in a documentary retrospective 20 years ago or more…”Whenever you put ANY perceived minority character in a major TV series sooner or later SOMEONE will complain it’s a strerotype”.

    The only thing on your list that really annoys me is the “bury your gays” trope which has always fed into the notion that gay characters are disposable or tokenistic. It also all contributes to the historic idea that a gay lifestyle is undesirable or miserable..not messages that should be sent out bearing in mind historically what LGBT have suffered with….I also think you have a point (overstated a little maybe) about Queer Coded Villains (the gay traits having become established as “stock villain(ish)” over the years.

    But I really think your complain about being queer being beyond a joke is problematic ..It depends ON THE JOKE. But whenever ANYONE says someone or something is sacrosanct and should not be subject to humour I get concerned…the point about the Supergirl joke being comparable to the “OMG you’re married” comment (as featured in the Tim Burton 1989 “Batman” movie (and others) has been made, however I think your points about Sherlock in particular are unfair…..

    Mark Gatiss who writes Sherlock IS gay and whilst I do not think that necessarily makes him bullet proof when it comes to such criticism, I have always considered the running “I am not gay” gag to be a reference to the historic questioning about Sherlock and Watsons relationship (even when the original Magazine stories were published in the 1880’s and certainly in more recent decades). Lets be honest if two unmarried men of their age cohabited for so long eyes WOULD have been raised in the real world and in more recent times it is not at all rare to find people presuming such things about same sex cohabitants.

    Concentrate upon being fresh and surprising in writing ..let other people make their own judgements.

    • SunlessNick

      if every writer worried about conforming to this list (and others like it we would have even more paint by numbers tick box works than we already do.

      If this list is paint by numbers, then the things it calls out can only be more so.

      • Jason Stone

        The list is obviously not painted by numbers but my point was that as a writer or any kind of creative person you cannot spend a lot of time or thought worrying about what is going to offend this or that particular group of people then that is going to stimy your vision.

        • SunlessNick

          Offence isn’t really the point (especially how many people get offended at art that embraces diversity).

          The point is twofold. First, that a continual stream of queerphobic art does do actual damage to LGBTQ people’s lives – most individual pieces aren’t going to do a measurable amount themselves, but they *will* be part of the sum that adds up into that stream – and the sanctity of your vision doesn’t change that.

          Second, queerphobic tropes (and racist and sexist ones) are the norm – the autopilot. Going against them is the more creative choice, and can take you to creative places you might never have considered otherwise.

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