Homophobia in Fandom
|Related terms:||Transphobia in Fandom|
|See also:||Misogyny in Fandom, Ableism in Fandom, Race and Fandom, Judaism and Fandom|
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Homophobia in Fandom covers several different topics. It can refer to the critical analysis of creative works to highlight harmful tropes that are homophobic, biphobic or transphobic. Fanwork creators may also include fictional depictions of homophobia in their works.
Homophobia in Fandom can also refer to accusations or examples of homophobia within fan communities, such as submission rules excluding any works featuring queer relationships.
Fanfiction Tropes & Warnings
Homophobia appears in several fanfiction tropes, and this is often (but not always) an intentional creative choice by the author. It is particularly common in works set during a time period when LGBT people and relationships were viewed negatively by the dominant culture, or in fandoms where there is homophobia within the source material. This can be used as a plot device, one more obstacle the characters must overcome to be happy.
Many authors have begun using tags and warnings to alert readers to possibly distressing content when their work features homophobia.
We're Not Gay, We Just Love Each Other
We're Not Gay, We Just Love Each Other (WNGWJLEO) is a trope in early slash fanfiction. The original trope did not have a name until readers began to call out the inherent homophobia in this trope.
When the author makes it clear that in her mind that "They're Not Gay, They Just Love Each Other," this can be read as authorial homophobia, although in some cases, it is difficult to tell if the author or the character is expressing the viewpoint. An interesting example of trying to discern the character's homophobia as opposed to the author's is The Professionals story Two-up, and the responsefic, Two-up Truly Queered.
Sometimes what appears to be authorial homophobia is actually some level of ignorance about homosexuality. The extremely high visibility of Gay Liberation, Gay Pride and other movements has led people to believe that there are certain behaviors, manners of dress, speaking and interests, which constitute "the gay lifestyle". They may think that if a character is acknowledged or spoken of as gay, he would have to behave like that even if that were not his nature or disposition. Thus they may insist that the character is not "gay" even if he is portrayed as having romance or sexual relationships exclusively with other men.
Biphobic Tropes in Fanfiction
Readers have also highlighted several possibly biphobic tropes in fanfiction. When a character begins their first same-sex relationship after previously only having relationships with the opposite-sex, the character may declare that they are now gay. This may read as either a realistic depiction of the characters attitudes about sexual orientation; or as biphobia, or ignorance of bisexuality on the part of the author. It has become more common in many fandoms to depict characters in slash/femslash pairings who have opposite-sex relationships in canon as bisexual, but there are still stories in which the author seems to be treating "gay" and "straight" as the only two possible choices for sexual orientation.
Some fans also feel that characters in fanfic who are identified as bisexual (either in canon or within a story) are often portrayed negatively as either promiscuous and likely to be unfaithful or as sexually manipulative and predatory.
Other Tropes & Warnings
- Internalized homophobia generally involves a character struggling to come to terms with their sexuality.
- Period Typical Homophobia is a common warning applied to works set in canons or periods where homophobia is common. This trope can also overlap with internalized homophobia as a character may have been raised in an environment where their sexuality or gender identity is not accepted. Within fandoms with period settings, there may be fannish discussions about the queer culture and homophobia of the time, providing education on LGBT history and valuable research for fic writing.
Homophobia in Fan Communities
There are several forms of homophobia that have appeared in fan communities. Some examples include:
- When fans say that homosexuality or any other non-heterosexual orientation is immoral, and treat it as comparable to things like pedophilia and incest.
- When fans engage in harassment and cyberbullying of people who headcanon characters as queer
- When fans attempt to ban all LBGTQIA+ content from fannish spaces.
The occurrence of these attitudes generally declined during the 2010s, likely due to a combination of a decline in the social acceptability of homophobia, as well as a rise in consciousness and education. As mainstream media became more willing to acknowledge LGBTQ identities and depict them in a positive light, and - in the case of fiction - portray characters as canonically not straight, more audiences were gradually exposed to the idea that being gay, bisexual, or some other non-heterosexual identity was normal. This led many people to become more tolerant and accepting of diverse orientations.
However, it is still not uncommon to see some people in fannish spaces expressing hostility toward any depictions of queerness they see, whether it’s in canon or fanworks.
Because of the growing public acceptance of queer people and the push for greater LGBTQ rights, media that features characters who are canonically gay, bisexual, or some other orientation will sometimes be accused of shoving a political agenda into the story, or of pandering to SJWs.
Some fans who make such posts also demonstrate a tendency to assume that the only reason a creator would feature LGBTQ characters in their book, movie, tv show, or video game is if they were forced to do so by The Powers That Be, and deny the idea that the creator might genuinely want to include queer characters or same-sex relationships.
In fandoms where these behaviors are relatively common, some fans will get aggressively hostile when a male character they like is interpreted by others as not being straight, to the point of leaving unwanted comments on posts which headcanon that character as gay, bi, pan, ace, etc. to argue that the character is unquestionably heterosexual. There is an element of projection in this type of behavior, as some fans have admitted that they consider the suggestion of the character being LGBTQ, even as only a headcanon, to be the same as saying that they are not straight.
Posts expressing hostility toward depictions of queerness, whether in canon or fanworks, also employ a variety of common double-standards, including:
- Treating queerness and same-sex relationships as inherently sexual while recognizing that there is more to heterosexuality and opposite-sex relationships than sex. This reflects a cultural attitude that homosexuality is inappropriate for children and something that their parents must proptect them from knowing about, while male-female affection (say, in cartoons or Hallmark films) is considered "family friendly." Fans who interpret characters as queer will sometimes receive comments accusing them of sexualizing those characters, or insisting that such interpretations will never be canon on the grounds of the source material being made for an audience of children. It is also not uncommon for stories with the same acts to still be given higher ratings (Mature, R, and so on) if they occur between same-sex couples than with opposite-sex ones.
- Complaining about the increased visibility of queerness in fiction with comments such as “why does everything have to be gay?” or “everything is gay now”, while ignoring the fact that not only have depictions of opposite-sex romance dominated media for hundreds of years, but that stories with canon queer characters are still vastly outnumbered by ones where every character is assumed to be straight and all canon pairings are het.
- Treating queer readings of the source material as inherently biased and lacking any basis in canon while automatically treating a heterosexual reading as objective and credible.
- Claiming that same-sex pairings "violate canon" while at the same time supporting heterosexual couples involving characters who barely or never interact in a series.
A common pattern in posts expressing hostility toward depictions of queerness is the the attitude that the existence and opinions of queer fans and creators do not matter, such as:
- Saying things like “nobody wants this” about the idea of characters being confirmed as queer in canon, whether it actually happened or other fans are simply expressing the desire for it.
- Saying that queer fans are not “real” fans of the source material in response to those fans interpreting a character as being like themselves.
- Insisting that a character who is popular with queer fans should be killed off because of that, arguing that LGBTQ people are the only ones who would be upset if that happened.
In fandoms surrounding asian media such as Anime and Manga, a vocal segment of fans from English-speaking countries view homosexuality as a phenomenon that only exists in western countries such as the United States. This attitude has been criticized for ignoring the existence of LGBTQ people and communities in asian countries, as well as the efforts by artists in those countries to make media that canonically depicts homsexuality and same sex relationships. Nevertheless, fans with this mentality continue to comment on queer interpretations of works to insist that such readings have no basis in canon on the grounds of cultural differences. They also frequently accuse other fans who interpret a piece of asian media as queer of trying to push western ideology onto the source country and not understanding that country’s culture. And when characters in non-western media are confirmed to be canonically queer, some fans opposed to depictions of LGBTQ identities will come up with excuses to deny that the character’s queerness is a canon fact.
Queer readings of a work that does not currently feature any characters who are queer in canon are also frequently treated as less credible and legitimate than heterosexual readings. Fans who interpret a story, character, or relationship as queer are also frequently mocked by fans who do not, and their opinions are dismissed as irrational and obsessive. They are frequently accused of looking at the story with slash goggles, or will be mocked as delusional and told that any queer subtext only exists in their imagination. Suggestions that this subtext is not only present, but intentional on the part of the creators are treated as conspiracy theories.
[Note:Section for discussing homophobia in submission rules (for zines & websites) and community rules for message boards, forums, servers etc.]
- When fans insist that even G-rated slash has to go into adult zines or archives.
Because many conversations about queerness happen in relation to discussions of a character’s potential romance options, homophobia is often present in shipping circles as a source of conflict between fans of same-sex ships and fans of opposite sex ones. Much of the rhetoric against depictions of queerness found among fan spaces in general is most commonly used by shippers of M/F pairings to troll and harass those who ship M/M or F/F couples involving either character.
Some fans will try to propose shipping all characters together as an OT3 as a way to peacefully resolve the conflicts between fans of same-sex and opposite-sex pairings that compete over the same characters. However in some fandoms, like Kingdom Hearts, this approach has been criticized by fans of the same-sex pairing for acting like the disagreement is solely about who the shared character should be with while ignoring the anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and attitudes that they and other fans of their ship receive from fans of the opposite-sex one.
A common stereotype of fans who desire queer representation is that all of them are slash-obsessed Fangirls. For this reason, fans of same-sex pairings are frequently accused of fetishizing homosexuality and same-sex relationships.
Some very early writing about fandom provided some evidence that slash fandom was largely made up of heterosexual women. This observation specifically applied to slash, and was not indicative of the demographics of fandom in general.
Even if it was true that slash fandom was originally composed of heterosexual women, it certainly isn't today (See Slasher Demographics). What has increased is visibility. There have always been active fans who are bisexual, lesbian, gay, or asexual. There have always been cisgender and transgender male fans, along with transgender female fans, and genderqueer, gender-fluid, or nonbinary fans. They were closeted, perhaps "passing", via The Postal Service long before the internet. To speak of slash fandom as if taking for granted that all fans are straight women denies the existence of these fans and their contributions.
Biphobia in Fandom
Posts that headcanon characters as bi will sometimes receive comments insisting that the character is a different identity. This tends to be in the form of people arguing that the character’s canon opposite-sex relationships are proof that they are definitively heterosexual, but is not always the case.
Many fans who are hostile toward queer readings of a character will use the existence of an opposite-sex love interest in canon as proof that the character is heterosexual, treating the character’s attraction to someone of the opposite sex as mutually exclusive from attraction to the same sex.
The essay Bisexuality, Visibility, and Fanfic Labels, or, Being the Blue M&M has an in-depth discussion of biphobia in fandom, with links to other essays on the subject.
See also: Bisexuality and Fandom, Queer Minstrel Show
Lesbophobia in Fandom
Transphobia in Fandom
See also: Transphobia in Fandom
TERF & Gender Critical Co-optation
Accusations of homophobia by gender criticals and TERFs often rely on outdated and transphobic rhetoric, and though transformative fandom appears to be much more liberal-minded as a subculture than the mainstream, gender criticals and radfems are still present and their rhetoric can be found in fandom spaces, whether intentionally or not. The co-opting of terms such as 'lesbophobia', like suggesting a headcanon of a cis lesbian falling in love with a trans woman is as such, is a topic that has been brought up in fandom many times, especially by trans fans.
- queerlygen, a dreamwidth community for gen fanworks about queer characters "because some of us are queer all day long"
- LGBT Fest, a LiveJournal community, hosting a fest once a year encouraging fanworks that depict characters being on the QUILTBAG spectrum (whether they be canonically so, or not).
- ^ If it's you, it's okay on TV Tropes
- ^ The evolution of slash, LiveJournal post by giandujakiss, Sept. 19, 2007.
- ^ For example, a couple of early K/S slash stories had Kirk bringing Spock breakfast in bed and calling him "darling" and "honey".
- ^ A response to a gimmick account posting a bisexual headcanon of Sora from the Kingdom Hearts games claiming that Sora is not bisexual because he "simps for Kairi"
- ^ A second response to the same post expressing the same sentiment
- ^ Another response to the same post with the same argument
- ^ A particular Sailor Moon author back in the day objected heavily to fans pairing Nephrite with Jadeite, citing it as "stupid and wrong" and going against Naoko's visions, but she herself paired Jadeite with Minako, a pairing with little to no interaction in the anime or the manga.
- ^ A reply to a Tweet by the official Final Fantasy XIV Twitter account admonishing the account for calling attention to official art showing two female characters holding hands
- ^ a response to the "Sora is bisexual" tweet saying that all Kingdom Hearts characters are actually asexual and panromantic
- ^ Q - Queer, or Questioning, U - Unidentified, Uncertain, or Unisex, I - Intersex, L - Lesbian, T - Transgender, Transsexual, B - Bisexual, A - Asexual/Aromantic, G - Gay, or Genderqueer