Sexuality in K/S Fiction: Internalized Homophobia

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Title: Sexuality in K/S Fiction: Internalized Homophobia
Creator: Linda Frankel
Date(s): Summer 1985
Medium: print
Fandom: Star Trek: TOS
Topic:
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Sexuality in K/S Fiction: Internalized Homophobia is an essay in Not Tonight, Spock! #10. Its author is Linda Frankel.

Some Fiction Discussed

The essay uses several Kirk/Spock fanfics as examples:

first page of this essay

The Series

For the seven other essays in this series, see Sexuality in K/S Fiction.

Excerpts

Many K/S stories show either Kirk, Spock or both being inhibited by internalised homophobic assumptions. This is not to say that the stories or authors are homophobic, but that their characters are embodying a pre-conscious stage that exists in gay men before the formation of a positive identity. In "Desert Heat" by Gayle F... pon farr provides the perfect scenario for homosex performed as a grim duty. "No one is asking you to enjoy it, mister," Kirk says to himself as a rebuke. It hasn't occurred to him that it's possible for him to enjoy it. His mind has dismissed the idea that he might have an inclination toward homosex. Perhaps this is because he has been attracted to women. The homophobic assumption involved here is the theory that any man who is attracted to women or who is even capable of having sex with women can never have a homosexual component in their make-up.
Spock often makes the assumptions described above about Kirk on Kirk's behalf without consulting him about the matter. His basic assumption in such stories is that a man like Kirk would not have any inclination toward homosexuality. Why not? At the back of this is some internalized image of what a homosexual is supposed to be like & that image doesn't include someone like Kirk. It doesn't occur to Spock that there is no such thing as one particular kind of individual who has same sex attraction in his personality. We are quite diverse. But a Spock suffering from internalized homophobia can't know this. The response of a Spock who believes that Kirk will never reciprocate is to flee either physically or mentally. The pre-Reform Vulcan stories that came out of the first NAKED TIMES story contest have Spock fleeing to pre-Reform Vulcan. In "The Lorath" by Ray Newton, Spock actually "takes the veil". Although he doesn't become a nun, I think the terminology is no accident. Nuns withdraw from the world & are expected to give up whatever sexual identity they may have had. The veil is a sign of humility before their deity, who is now their only spouse. Spock, however, does not "take the veil" to practice poverty, chastity & obedience. Nevertheless, the veil of Newton's pre-Reform Vulcan warriors hides them in a uniform anonymity. In becoming one of them, Spock is attempting to hide from his feelings for Kirk. He is ashamed of them. The veil is meant as a closet for Spock in which he can practice homosexuality safely without Kirk ever knowing.
In the winning pre-Reform Vulcan contest story, "The Wise One" by Fiona James (NAKED TIMES2), Kirk also makes assumptions on Spock's behalf. He assumes that in his right mind, Spock would regard homosex as perverted. When Kirk thinks this about Spock, he is re-directing his own belief. He thinks that homosex is perverted himself, or he would have no grounds for assuming that Spock would think so. He hasn't asked Spock, after all. Spock's assumptions about Kirk in "The Wise One" are basically the same as in "The Lorath"—only more explicit. He states that he thought Kirk would consider homosex effeminate, even though it is regarded as the essence of manliness among the warriors of pre- Reform Vulcan. In Kirk's culture this would not be so & Spock thinks that Kirk's macho image of himself, really Spock's own internalized image of Kirk, would suffer. At this point I think I ought to put in a SPOILER ALERT for those who have not read "The Wise One" & don't want to know about its truly astonishing ending in advance. All those to whom the warning applies shouldn't read this paragraph. When Spock discovers that Kirk really does want him, he is doubly knocked for a loop in this story since it's not only his internalized image of Kirk that is disturbed. We learn toward the end that Kirk, who had been preaching peace & harmony to the Vulcan warriors, is the man who was called "Surak". Spock had been brought up to worship Surak's memory. It is staggering to find out that a man you have loved is really a legendary hero. Someone with internalized homophobia, like Spock in this story, would find it hard to deal with the knowledge that this vastly superior man who his entire culture placed on a pedestal, sexually desires him. After all, homosex is supposed to be inferior. It is helpful to Spock that the pre-Reform Vulcan warriors don't believe this at all. He is thus more able to reconcile his images of Surak & Kirk with homosex, than if he had been confronted with this necessity while in the 23rd century. A supportive environment is a significant factor in overcoming internalized homophobia. END SPOILER ALERT.
In the last analysis, the personality re-integration that is required by accepting homosexuality within yourself is a long & difficult process. As Mirror Kirk tells Mirror Spock in "Sometimes When We Touch" by Crystal Ann Taylor, "Some things take time, Spock. No matter how much you want them." Eventually, Kirk & Spock can move beyond internalized homophobia, but there are no miracles & no simple answers that will get them there. When they finally do reach the goal of self-acceptance, they appreciate it all the more than if there had been no obstacles a long the way. I salute the writers who show Kirk & Spock as maturing & changing human beings. They have given us wealth indeed.