Homophobia in Fandom

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See also: Misogyny in Fandom, Ableism in Fandom, Race and Fandom, Judaism and Fandom
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Homophobia in fandom shows up in many places:

In fanfic characters

Blatant Homophobic Remarks: The character makes some classic remark like "I'm not gay, I'm too much of a man to be gay." Or his friends say "George? C'mon, look at him. He couldn't possibly be one of those."[1]

Internalized Homophobia? When characters in slash stories say, "We're Not Gay, We Just Love Each Other," they could mean that they're a 0 or 1 on the Kinsey sexual orientation scale, unlikely ever to be attracted to another same-sex person. Or they may have internalized homophobia to the point where they can be happily sucking another man's cock while thinking of themselves as straighter than Harry Potter's broom. (As you can see from the link, this is a complex issue having to do with self-identity and other factors, not necessarily with hatred or prejudice toward gay people.)

This can be a useful plot point, one more obstacle the characters must overcome to be happy (or fail to overcome, for a lovely angsty unhappy ending).[2][3]

In some slash authors

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[4] 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.

In some fandoms

Homophobia exists in fandom:

  • When fans say that slash is "sick."
  • When fans insist that even G-rated slash has to go into adult zines or archives.
  • Insisting that slash can't possibly fit in canon, while accepting stories with unlikely non-canonical heterosexual pairings.

In most cases, education is the answer.

The occurrence of this attitude has declined, likely due to a combination of a decline in the social acceptability of homophobia and a rise in consciousness. People are more likely in the 2010s to be aware of what homosexuality is and what it means to be gay. However, it is still not uncommon for stories with the same acts to be given higher ratings (Mature, R, and so on) if they occur between same-sex couples. This reflects a cultural subtext or undercurrent of children as needing to be "protected" from knowing about homosexuality, while male-female affection (say, in cartoons or Hallmark films) is considered "family friendly."

In meta discussions about fandom

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 were 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 fandom as if taking for granted that all fans are straight women denies the existence of these fans and their contributions.

Biphobia

When characters have good sex with a same-sex partner once after years of happy opposite-sex coupling and think, "Wow, I'm gay," it 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 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.

The essay Bisexuality, Visibility, and Fanfic Labels, or, Being the Blue M&M has a more in-depth discussion of biphobia in fandom, with links to other essays on the subject.

See also: Queer Minstrel Show

Activism

References

  1. For a beautiful TV example, see the All in the Family episode "Judging Books by Covers".
  2. If it's you, it's okay on the Television Tropes and Idioms wiki.
  3. The evolution of slash, LiveJournal post by giandujakiss, Sept. 19, 2007.
  4. For example, a couple of early K/S slash stories had Kirk bringing Spock breakfast in bed and calling him "darling" and "honey".
  5. Q - Queer, or Questioning, U - Unidentified, Uncertain, or Unisex, I - Intersexed, L - Lesbian, T - Transgender, Transsexual, B - Bisexual, A - Asexual, or Ally, G - Gay, or Genderqueer