Hello everyone and welcome to Brain Food, wherein today I review the newest book from Denny Upkins, West of Sunset!
To check out Denny’s website, go here.
And to check out more awesome music by Black Violin, go here, and buy their music too!
One of the most frustrating and heartbreaking things to encounter as part of the LGBTQ sections of various fandoms is the Straight Until Proven Guilty assumption. It’s as though a character possibly being read as LGBTQ is an accusation that must be defended against, such that all characters are “no homo!” until proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Y’know, so that the authorities and the general public can determine whether or not a character, by virtue of their queerness alone, is or could be a threat to society. I mean, it’s obvious that all us gays are plotting the downfall of civilization and are aggressively recruiting innocent straight people–real and fictional–to spread our gay disease that apparently makes the bubonic plague look like a mild hay fever.
But if you’ve read Ars Marginal for, oh, two minutes, you know that this is some bullshit. For real, what exactly is inherently straight about chasing monsters, driving fast cars, saving lives, or otherwise being amazing and looking good while doing it?
Nothing, right? Exactly.
Sometimes a character being straight is important because there’s some shit that’s really only for straight people.
So, riffing off my buddy Danny Bowes, who gave us 5 roles only white actors can play, I’m giving you 5 types of characters that you can feel completely comfortable labeling as unambiguously straight (and even then, there are exceptions).
1. Outright homophobes
This goes without saying. Characters who genuinely hate and fear us have got to be cisgender and straight. These are the ones carrying the signs that read, “God Hates Fags” and “Adam and Eve Not Adam and Steve,” the ones preaching hellfire and brimstone on LGBTQ people, the ones who want to make sure that we can never get married or be left alone around children. Characters going on about how homosexuality is unnatural or sinful need to be straight. Yeah, there is a trope where virulent homophobic bigots are secretly gay themselves, but who wants to inflict them on the LGBTQ community? Feel free to say this kind of character is straight.
2. Characters who use Mars and Venus to describe gender
Granted, gay men and lesbians are not immune to gender essentialist bullshit like “man equals penis” and “woman equals vagina.” But when folks come out their mouth with, “Men are protectors while women are nurturers,” as though you may as well be talking about different species from other planets, as though that’s how it always is and how it always should be, we’re talking about a firmly entrenched cishet mindset. If a character goes out of their way to spout shit like this, calling them cisgender and straight is not doing any of us LGBTQ folks a disservice.
3. The naively ignorant
Unlike the outright bigots above, the naively ignorant don’t mean any harm, but they can’t keep their mouths shut about how ignorant they are. This is the character who would ask a lesbian couple, “So which one of you is the man?” They don’t mean anything by it, but they just don’t have a clue.
Sure, a lot of LGBTQ folks can have a lot of internalized bullshit with gender and sexuality, but the ones who say that shit out loud and in public with no shame whatsoever? Rest easily in assuming that such a character is a cis, straight person.
I was originally going to put virulent misogynists on there, but that would only confuse people because they wouldn’t know if I was talking about men in general or the entirety of Western civilization. But, nah, dudebros are a special case.
Dudebro culture is based on the idea that women are the ones who get fucked and that being a man means rejecting anything “feminine.” Unlike homophobes who hate gay and trans people because–take your pick–it’s against God’s plan and/or the natural order, dudebros hate LGBTQ people because we threaten their masculinity simply by existing. You know that character who would flip out and scream, “She’s a man!” and have a personal crisis because of it? Nobody’s going to be mad if you use such a character as your poster child for talking shit about the things men, straight people, and cis folks do.
5. Men who watch “lesbian” porn and women who write m/m slash
If you’re LGBTQ and have ever read m/m slash or watched “lesbian” porn, you know why I put this here. Point-blank, that shit is not meant for us.
No matter how conscientious or well-informed the creators are, at the end of the day, it doesn’t come from their own experience of how desire, pleasure, intimacy, or relationships work. When it comes down to it, “lesbian” porn and m/m slash are ideas or fantasies of what happens when two men or two women have sex or form a relationship.
So if a character is a man who’s ga-ga about “lesbian” porn or a woman who can’t get enough of writing m/m slash, feel free to say they’re straight. Just to make it clear: there is a difference between being interested in a relationship or sexual encounter that happens to be between people of the same gender and reducing LGBTQ people to who puts which parts where.
What does it all mean?
Looking over this list, you may notice something. None of the types of characters on this list are marked by where they come from, who they date, what they wear, how they make a living, their political leanings, or any other thing you can tell about them just by looking at them.
You might even be inclined to say, “The only thing these types of people have in common are that they can have screwed up notions about gender and sexuality that come from living in a heterosexist, homophobic society.”
BINGO! That’s exactly what I’m saying.
Conspicuous absence: The character who says they’re straight.
Why didn’t I count the character who asserts their heterosexuality or the one who mentions nothing about their sexuality?
Because the closet. Because Stef Foster. Because Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Because Russia. Because “ex-gay.” Because sometimes “the lady doth protest too much.”
Need I go on?
Not to mention, who does it hurt to think of a fictional character as possibly LGBTQ? Nobody, that’s who.
And who gets helped by allowing people to interpret and relate to a character as LGBTQ? A whole lot of people, that’s who.
Besides, straight people have the whole world to cater to their dreams and fantasies. What’s so wrong with letting us have ours?
Hello everyone, and welcome to yet another installment of Brain Food, which has been a long time in coming.
At any rate, I have not one book, but a list of recommendations that you should all watch because they’re good and they’ll bring you joy.
Here are the links for the series I talked about in the video:
And you can order Hero by Perry Moore on Amazon in both paperback and for the kindle.
Hello everyone, and welcome to episode 4 of Brain Food, which has almost nothing to do with the book as Brad Pitt runs around the world to try and save it.
Apparently, only WHITE people did something to fight back against the zombie plague. Everyone else is nothing but victims. >_<
Anyone who has spent any amount of time in the realm of Fantasy Fandom is bound to come up against a most foul lot who would crusade for marginalisations and non-representation in fictional worlds based on myths of Medieval Europe. “HISTORICAL ACCURACY!” is what they would bellow shrilly, believing that they have triumphed with their superior yet concise reasoning. Yet they fail to perceive history’s lack of frail folk whose ears are tipped and who often are caricature of the supposed supremacy of the supposed white race. Nor do they question the existence of terrible winged and scaled worms who vomit the element of fire: creatures which have not been proven to have lived in the Middle Ages.
The Concept of Fantasy is, however, not powerful enough to destroy this wretched enemy. It must be wielded with its twin, the Uncovering of Historical Lies, in order to strike the Dudebro Inquisition at its very foundation. For you see, the great irony is that their Historical Accuracy is inaccurate.
Now is where I drop the gimmick and say that this shall be the first post in an irregular series which tries to debunk myths about history. Specifically, history which is drawn upon by works in the fantasy genre. This one, as the title says, will be about homosexual attitudes and behaviour in Medieval Europe.
If there were no homosexuality back then, why would the Church have rules against it? Did they throw charges of sodomy at everyone they did not like without knowing what the word meant? Of course not. Homosexuality was heavily suppressed during the Middle Ages, but there’s a difference between that and total non-existence. It is possible to create a culture where a people who once normalises or glorifies homosexual acts would come to lose the ability of same-gender attraction. But to completely eradicate these impulses which are so natural that they are observed in about 1500 animal species? Impossible.
Well, there are certain genres of media that automatically assume that GBLT people couldn’t possibly have existed, especially if it’s set in the future (especially in dystopians. I tell you guys, us GBLT folks are super freaking tasty – the zombies and aliens go right for us!) and especially if it’s set in the past. Because we all arrived in 1960, don’tchaknow.
This erasure annoys me, it truly does. But do you know what annoys me even more?
When they remove already existing gay characters to sanitise a work for television. To have those few tiny crumbs we’ve actually managed to achieve removed lest it hurt the delicate fee-fees of the poor straight world.
So when Tanya Huff’s Blood Ties series of books became a TV show, bisexual Henry became straight and gay man Tony was replaced by a straight woman. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a big fan for the portrayal in the books – but that doesn’t excuse cutting them out entirely.
Or did you know that in the Walking Dead comics, there were actually gay characters in the prison? Again, I actually hated how they were portrayed because they were a mess of homophobic tropes – but they were there. TV show? 3 series now and not one damn GBLT character.
Even Troy crosses the line with a very straight retelling of the Illiad.
To rub some more salt in the wound, we get an extra straight washing when it comes to historical portrayals
Some are “subtle”, like Enigma which is pretty-damn-obviously-based on Alan Turing, only without all that icky gay.
Or Shakespeare in Love with a very straight Shakespeare. Yes, he was one of ours, deal with it – no it’s not controversial, he wrote love sonnets to men for crying out loud.
Now we’re getting Da Vinci’s Demons, that would be Leonardo Da Vinci, he was repeatedly accused of sodomy, never married, was never connected to a female lover, but repeatedly with men, drew erotic pictures of them and left his most valuable painting in his will to one of his live-in “apprentices” Da Vinci. It’s an act of wilful ignorance to not realise Da Vinci played for our team. In fact, if you don’t want to include us icky gay people then you probably need to stay away from Renaissance painters – especially Florentine Renaissance painters! But Da Vinci’s Demons? Well his love interest has been cast (a woman) and the trailer shows lots of naked sexy times between them. But, fear not, the writer has assured us that there may, sorta, kinda be some male flirting. FLIRTING!
I’m not nearly drunk enough for this.
Then let’s throw in some historical settings. Ancient Greece? Straightest of straightopias that ever declared the overwhelming joy of vaginas and penises being united! Really. Or so 300 tells me and Troy and so many more – I’ve actually read over 5 series using the Ancient Greek gods that are entirely straight. One actually has a homophobic Apollo. Apollo, homophobic. It makes me want to beat someone round the head and shoulders with a mythology text.
It’s not like these examples are one offs, straightening history has been a major habit of the media’s for a very long time. In fact, straightening us in general seems to be a massive requirement and reason #866 why I don’t watch these dancing reality shows is I’m sick of seeing gay celebrities shoved automatically into opposite sex pairs for dancing.
For that matter, straightening history has been a major part of society and academia for a long time. References to GBLT people throughout history have long been buried by academia and that’s on top of the forces of homophobia and transphobia that forced our predecessors to hide and closet themselves when they were alive.
Our past is often hidden from us. Those who come before have been removed from history or been forced into a closet that has lasted decades or centuries after death – perhaps even forever. Our heroes, our past, our foreparents have been lost, taken from us, and that is a terrible loss. It becomes hard to almost impossible to find those who came before us as not only has the closet forced individuals to hide their sexuality, but for much of history denied the existence of the identity itself and denied us a coherent language with which to define that identity and personhood (which is why I really really have no patience with anyone saying “but they wouldn’t have called themselves gay” excuse people love to trot out. For so much of history the only mainstream words for people like us were insults or euphemisms).
And once we’ve found those of us who were rendered invisible it becomes extra impossible to reclaim them from under the tide of heterosexism, cissexism, homophobia and transphobia. So much of the world resists any indication that GBLT people existed in the past (or exists today for that matter). Society also continues to consider being GBLT to be some kind of terrible, shameful thing meaning any attempt to try and find our forbearers is regarded as an attack or attempt to corrupt previous figures. Just look at the Greek lawyers threatening lawsuits on anyone who dared to suggest that Alexander the Great may have loved men.
Most tellingly, they will often say “this person is dead, they can’t defend themselves” because, y’know, being GBLT is an accusation you need to defend yourself against. Or it’s considered “demeaning” because whatever the figure did is suddenly rendered moot by us spilling the icky gay on them! Whatever achievements or brilliant reputation they managed to maintain can only possibly be preserved if they are straight.
It’s hard enough to try and dig up historical GBLT people in the first place with our prejudiced society, harder still to hold them out of the closet and present them as they were with the constant forces deciding to bury us or hold that we’re too obscene and need to be hidden from, well, everyone.
I am British. I went to a British school. I went to a British school during section 28. I didn’t know who Alan Turing was, imagine that for a second. Never mind Shakespeare, Marlowe and Da Vinci, I thought Oscar Wilde was straight. I was taught Oscar Wilde was straight. I didn’t know GBLT people were holocaust victims. There has been a movement for GBLT equality in the UK since even before the Mollies of the Victorian period. I still don’t know enough about it, I can’t find enough about it or the brave heroes involved, I certainly was never taught their names. I never knew Polari existed. I never heard of Edward Carpenter, John Symonds, Labi Siffre, Magnus Hirschfeld, Mother Clap, Roberta Cowell, Jeremy Bentham, the Lily Pond and so many others whose names and places are lost to history.
So this is my context. Our history is not only lost but actively removed and vehemently silenced. And then I turn on the television and find not only erasure, not only straightwashed characters who dared to be gay in books but was a step too far on the screen, but actual historical figures, one of the precious few we’ve managed to reclaim, being straightened for public consumption.
So I dithered about posting on these because I don’t like bringing the authors any additional publicity. For many books, the worst enemy is obscurity. But I had to share my pain, folks.
I bring you the latest Foyt-esque forays from two other authors. You’re welcome.
Because it did not exist.
Yes. There was no such thing as heterosexuality back then. Nor homosexuality or bisexuality, for that matter. There was only sexuality and, as far as I know, we had (and still have) a gender binary system so sexual attraction was seen as something akin to flavours. Sometimes you want snails, sometimes you want oysters. You may like one better than the other or you may only like one of them or you may like neither, but you would not make an identity out of it.
This is also pretty much the Japanese view before the Meiji Restoration. Many of what I will be discussing can be applied to the Japanese as well, but I want to focus on my own experiences towards my own culture and history.
With all that business about the Best Sailor Venus Cosplay Ever, Triple J mentioning the Sailor Starlights in the most recent episode of Brain Food, and my own posting on the issue of whitewashing and dubs, how can I ever hope to stop having Sailor Moon on my mind.
Just kidding. I always have Sailor Moon on my mind.
I love the anime for a variety of reasons, and one of them is –you guessed it– the romances. Using only my memory, I can identify four significant romantic relationships throughout the five seasons of the anime. While all of them are flawed, it is pretty notable that the queer relationships make up the majority of all the romances.
While I will be focusing on the anime, I would also be making a few references to the manga to perhaps give things more of a perspective.
Firstly, let’s start with the headlining romance. Spoilers are sure to follow.
Hello everyone, and welcome to a special episode in which I discuss actress Ginnifer Goodwin’s homophobic comments about the fan ship, SwanQueen, which si the pairing of Regina Mills and Emma Swan.
And here it is again on blip.tv.
Look at more of Linnpuzzle’s artwork here.
Look at more of hamstr’s artwork here.